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#623539 - 11/13/05 06:34 PM Naive tuning question
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
Being in the position of being obsessed with tuning accuracy, I have read a number of tuning articles here. As an ignoramus, non-technician, I feel perfectly qualified to ask a stupid question.

With few exceptions, most pianos have 88 notes going up in a set pattern of semitones and tones in an established tempered tuning system (with occasionally some system variations, apparently, according to taste).

My guitar tuner, a professional model (in my case usually a Korg GT-T2), has a needle dial and lights which show when a string is in tune. It recognises any note played into it, and signals whether it is sharp or flat. The needle dial is easy to use for precise tuning. In fact I am at the point when it is quicker to rely on this than tuning by ear.

Question: Is there such a thing as an electronic tuner that does a similar job for a piano, going through all 88 notes sequentially or in some appropriate order? I cant help thinking that it is not beyond the wit of man to produce a device that enables one to tune an entire keyboard in this way.

I would quite like to tweak the tuning on my own piano, rather than have to wait for a few weeks for a tuning appointment. I am not seeking to put professional tuners out of business, just to have some ability to experiment with tuning.

Kind regards

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#623540 - 11/13/05 06:59 PM Re: Naive tuning question
curry Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/02
Posts: 3769
Loc: Hamilton Twp, NJ
AJB, warning piano tuning is an art. It takes many years and hundreds of tunings to come close to being a competent tuner.Learning to touch up unisons is fine, if you have some lessons.
On tuning devices, there are several, ranging in price from $700-2,800.
The Petercon Strobo-Tuner
TuneLab Pro
Reyburn Cyber Tuner
Veritune
The Sanderson Accu-Tuner lll
_________________________
G.Fiore "aka-Curry". Tuner-Technician serving the central NJ, S.E. PA area. b214cm@aol.com Concert tuning, Regulation-voicing specialist.
Dampp-Chaser installations, piano appraisals. PTG S.Jersey Chapter 080.
Bösendorfer 214 # 47,299 214-358

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#623541 - 11/13/05 07:00 PM Re: Naive tuning question
Piano World Offline


Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5528
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (originally N...
AJB,

There are a number of electronic tuners on the market, designed for tuning pianos.
(One ex: Peterson Strobe Tuners )

And yes, they can be used to set all 88 keys.
However, that said, it is still a good idea to have some knowledge of counting beats, setting pins, stretching octaves, and smoothing unisons.

I believe you can find various discussions here in our Tuner-Technicians forums, in the Piano Technicians Journal, and probably on the PTG web site http://www.ptg.org/ about the pros and cons of electronic tuners, and about non-tuners tuning their own pianos.

Best,

- Frank B.
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#623542 - 11/13/05 08:04 PM Re: Naive tuning question
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20751
Loc: Oakland
I think it is harder to learn to set the tuning pins properly than it is to hear what you need to hear to tune a piano. If that were not the case, you wouldn't be thinking of tweaking unisons! But learning to tune a piano takes lots of practice. I often tell people that the talent that you need for this business most of all is the ability to sit down and do something 88 times over. (I know that's an understatement!)
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#623543 - 11/13/05 08:42 PM Re: Naive tuning question
Roy123 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/20/04
Posts: 1695
Loc: Massachusetts
Tuning a piano is more difficult than rebuilding a piano, IMO. Of course, rebuilding takes a lot longer. Tweaking unisons as suggested already is a good way to start, and may allow you to need professional tunings less often.

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#623544 - 11/14/05 08:01 AM Re: Naive tuning question
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
Thank you for the advice. I will investigate further. Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#623545 - 11/14/05 09:24 AM Re: Naive tuning question
Keith Roberts Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/04/04
Posts: 1984
Loc: Murphys, Ca
I agree with BDB. Tuning hammer technique is the key to tuning. If the string doesn't stay where you put it, how can you say you tuned it? The electronic tuners don't change so you can measure with extreme accuracy any change. Pound the string with the hammer. I don't mean that literally. A series of firm, strong blows. I can "pop" the string with such a fast blow I understand how some players break strings. I don't need to tune that hard as a general rule.

kpiano
_________________________
Keith Roberts
Associate, PTG
Keith's Piano Service
Hathaway Pines,Ca

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#623546 - 11/14/05 12:54 PM Re: Naive tuning question
palley Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/05
Posts: 708
Loc: Binghamton, New York
My dad had a tuning hammer and a 440 fork. So I tried to tweak a nasty note on the baby grand in my stepmother's house. How hard could it be? \:D

Can you say INSTANT BROKEN STRING??

(This was about 40 years ago.)

I learned to leave it to you pros!
_________________________
Phil

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#623547 - 11/14/05 02:16 PM Re: Naive tuning question
Spritle Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/18/05
Posts: 8
AJB,

There are electronic tuners out there, but that's just the start of tuning. If you tuned the piano based entirely on the machine, it would sound off, because our brains don't process tones with the perfection of a machine. Good tuners compensate for our fallible brains by tuning upper and lower registers ever so slightly flat/sharp, which sounds absolutely perfect to our ears.

I agree though that they should be able to build a tuning machine that incorporates this phenomenon into its circuitry.

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#623548 - 11/14/05 02:59 PM Re: Naive tuning question
curry Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/02
Posts: 3769
Loc: Hamilton Twp, NJ
Spritle, these tuning machines already exist. Several of the ones I mentioned above take inharmonicity readings, and can compute a custom tuning for any piano, including a precisely defined stretch. It is the tuners responsibility to aurally correct any errors that do not agree with his ear when using any of these devices, which is hard to do sometimes as they are very accurate.
_________________________
G.Fiore "aka-Curry". Tuner-Technician serving the central NJ, S.E. PA area. b214cm@aol.com Concert tuning, Regulation-voicing specialist.
Dampp-Chaser installations, piano appraisals. PTG S.Jersey Chapter 080.
Bösendorfer 214 # 47,299 214-358

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#623549 - 11/14/05 08:10 PM Re: Naive tuning question
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3036
Loc: Madison, WI USA
Just wait until you read that our minds don't think in Equal Temperament either. That's right, the notes shouldn't be evenly spaced. That is why there is no black key between E & F and between B & C. Yes, there are devices that can handle this too but you have to know how to program it to do what you want. The machine should not tell you what to do, you need to know how to tell it.

Then, of course, you will have to learn that we don't use those wrenches to *turn* the tuning pins. Machine or no machine, that part will take the longest and be the hardest. When you finally realize that what I am saying here is true, you could have spent the money on a professional piano technician who already knows all of this.

The piano contains no user serviceable components inside. Seek only professional service.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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#623550 - 11/15/05 09:22 AM Re: Naive tuning question
masaki Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/02
Posts: 374
Loc: Tokyo, Japan
 Quote:
The piano contains no user serviceable components inside. Seek only professional service.
  If the cheek blocks are fatened by screws that can be removed without any tools(e.g., wind screws are used to fasten the blocks), we pinao users reckon the pian has many of user serviceable components inside it.
  If the cheek block are fatened by screws that can be removed by conventional tools such as slotted screw drivers, we piano users reckon the piano has some user serviceable components inside it.
  If the check blocks are fastened by screws that can only be removed by tuning hammers, we piano users reckon the piano has no user serviceable components in it.

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#623551 - 11/15/05 11:35 AM Re: Naive tuning question
Casalborgone Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 1046
Loc: San Francisco Area
 Quote:
Originally posted by masaki:
 Quote:
The piano contains no user serviceable components inside. Seek only professional service.
  If the cheek blocks are fatened by screws that can be removed without any tools(e.g., wind screws are used to fasten the blocks), we pinao users reckon the pian has many of user serviceable components inside it.
  If the cheek block are fatened by screws that can be removed by conventional tools such as slotted screw drivers, we piano users reckon the piano has some user serviceable components inside it.
  If the check blocks are fastened by screws that can only be removed by tuning hammers, we piano users reckon the piano has no user serviceable components in it. [/b]
You are, of course, joking.
_________________________
Mike
Registered Piano Technician
Member Piano Technicians Guild
Not currently working in the piano trade.

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#623552 - 11/15/05 08:55 PM Re: Naive tuning question
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3036
Loc: Madison, WI USA
Some manufacturers such as Steinway deliberately put hard turning screws in the keyblocks just to keep would be do-it-yourselfers out. So, if a pencil slides down the fallboard and into the action cavity, you have a "secure deposit", time to call a tech to get it out. If the piano owner manages to undo the configuration, it is a sure fire bet that the owner will never get it back together, (at least without putting several ugly scars on the sides). Even piano techs have to be shown exactly how to take it apart and put it back together. I can remember in my early years wondering why a manufacturer would make a piano that was virtually "impossible" to reassemble. It's actually quite easy if you know exactly what to do but you can only learn how to do this from someone with experience and patience. Some concert techs replace those screws with Yamaha type wing nuts for ease and speed in on stage, emergency service.

But this goes outside of the point of this particular discussion. Many piano owners wish that they could tune the piano themselves. They wish that there might me some kind of "meter" which would tell them when each note is "right" if they could just get one of those fancy "socket wrenches" they could use to "turn" that "peg" until each note is "right". (A tuning hammer is, in fact, a specialized socket wrench but don't get the idea that your Sears Craftsman Socket Wrench set will actually work).

Forget it.

Either call a piano tech or become one. There is no middle ground.

Watch your English spelling, Masaki, you could easily make a clown out of yourself.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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#623553 - 11/16/05 09:21 AM Re: Naive tuning question
masaki Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/02
Posts: 374
Loc: Tokyo, Japan
Guys,
I had been wondering how I could measure tuning pin torques without using any of pinao tuning pin torque wrenches, and found a hint in this forum.
Today, I tried connecting several Sears/Craftsman socket wrench pieces and succeded in assemblying a makeshift torque wrench.
Yes, I found a solution. The makeshift torque wrench nearly fits the tuning pins of my pianos.



a would be do-it-yorself piano owner

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#623554 - 11/16/05 12:32 PM Re: Naive tuning question
Roy123 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/20/04
Posts: 1695
Loc: Massachusetts
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bill Bremmer RPT:

Then, of course, you will have to learn that we don't use those wrenches to *turn* the tuning pins. Machine or no machine, that part will take the longest and be the hardest. [/b]
Bill, you've got me confused. To change string tension, you've got to turn the pin, or bend the pin enough to cause the string to slide over its bearing points. What have I been missing all these years? Maybe it's just a semantic confusion.

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#623555 - 11/16/05 01:42 PM Re: Naive tuning question
Casalborgone Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 1046
Loc: San Francisco Area
"Turning" the pin is not a simple act of turning. Many different techniques are appropriate, but many effective ones depend upon motions that are much more like applying a series of impacts to the tuning pin rather than turning it. Thus, the development of impact tuning wrenches, etc. The string doesn't simply need to slide over the bearing points, but also the tension in the string segments needs to reach a state of equilibrium so that the string won't slide later as the segment tension equalizes entropically. A third point is that the torsion in the pin itself must be in some sort of equilibrium so that the pin won't itself twist to equalize its own forces entropically.

There many further complexities regarding good tuning technique which have to do with means of dealing with pitch changing and overall string tension change, bridge rotation, etc.

These are some of the reasons why an amateur may learn the basics of tuning, but is very unlikely ever to learn even to tune his own piano really well.
_________________________
Mike
Registered Piano Technician
Member Piano Technicians Guild
Not currently working in the piano trade.

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#623556 - 11/16/05 01:53 PM Re: Naive tuning question
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20751
Loc: Oakland
Masaki, I hope you are not using an ordinary straight-sided square or eight-point socket on your tuning pins. This will damage them and make them difficult to tune. There are tuning pin sockets available, and you can use an ordinary torque wrench with one of them, but you need the correct socket.

The proper tools for piano work are inexpensive. There is no reason to improvise.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#623557 - 11/16/05 10:19 PM Re: Naive tuning question
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3036
Loc: Madison, WI USA
Mike, your wisdom on this matter could not have been better stated. In one of the many books I have on tuning, Floyd Stevens stated, "We shall not tune pianos by *turning* tuning pins!". I puzzled over this statement for a long time, years before I ever really understood what it meant. I even asked the author about it when I met him once. One thing you should NEVER do is *bend* the pin!

When you tune a guitar, you "turn" the peg. Even when you tune a harpsichord, you *turn* the peg with a key. In a piano however, you turn the tuning pin when you are stringing it and pulling the wire up to approximate pitch. But even during pitch raise tuning, you don't really *turn* the pin, you cause a minute rotation to occur. Some technicians do use a slow pull technique and somehow get the job done but the best techs use a kind of impact technique which not only jars the whole length of the tuning pin at once but the entire length of the string too. (See Mike's post).

To address the subject of this post, if you have a needle type electronic tuner and simply *turn* the tuning pin until the needle indicates the note is "right" (HA HA HA), you'll end up with the worst sounding piano you've ever heard! The whole process is infinitely more complicated than that, yet a professional piano tech can make it look easy and indeed, make it appear that it is nothing more than that. But it takes years of daily experience to acquire this kind of skill, the same as it takes years of experience to get what you would call music anybody would want to listen to out of a violin. Violin playing is far more than dragging a piece of taught horse tail hair across a piece of tightly stretched cat gut. Piano tuning is far more than *turning* a tuning pin!

The art of piano tuning is full of contradictions and no piano is ever entirely perfect in tuning, alignment, voicing or regulation. Those closer you get to a state or perfection, the better the piano sounds but the more difficult it becomes to make it better. A needle type electronic tuner is simply not sensitive enough nor does it provide even remotely the right information. It doesn't even do that for the purposes for which it was designed. Just ask any professional guitarist or violinist. They only make them for the people to buy who are foolish enough to believe that they do.

Semipro is also right about using a standard socket from a socket wrench set. DON'T DO IT!!! Get a tuning pin socket from a piano supply house which costs only a couple of bucks to put in the torque wrench. That is, if you really feel you need to do this. Any professional tech knows when a pin is too loose simply by the feel and behavior of the pin. A torque wrench can't give you any good information about what is known as a "jumpy" pin either but a professional tech will readily know when a piano cannot be tuned with precision.

The only people who ever use a torque wrench are rebuilders who want to confirm early on in the process that they have an acceptably high degree of firmness. I doubt that many very experienced rebuilders for whom the art of rebuilding is their mainstay ever need to use one. Like mine, their torque wrench is buried among the many tools they may have but rarely if ever use.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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#623558 - 11/18/05 10:27 AM Re: Naive tuning question
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
Some very interesting posts here. I have also had a couple of PM's that suggest that amateurs should have few fears if they wish to undertake tuning themselves, as long as they understand the process and have the right equipment. And perhaps with the caveat that they do not have a "problem" piano.

I have a supplementary question:

Having looked at the extensive web material available on a variety of electronic piano tuners, several of them claim to be able to memorize a number of specific instrument tunings.

If this is true, then one of the criticisms in this thread, that electron tuners do not give a natural tuning sound across the range, is surely capable of being overcome?

If the piano is nicely tuned by a professional tuner, then surely the equipment can be used to record the pitches that he has freshly set. Stored in memory these pitches can be used whenever tuning adjustments are required and hence overcame the limitations of the machine as it will exactly match the frequency choices selected by the professional tuner.

There are presumably only two aspects to tuning (as opposed to voicing and regulating) a piano, and they are 1) getting the strings in tune and 2) making them stay in tune for a reasonable period.

The tuning device should be able to take care of the former. So that leaves learning how to handle the pins to achieve the second objective?

Kind regards

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#623559 - 11/18/05 12:34 PM Re: Naive tuning question
PianoGrappler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/15/04
Posts: 57
Loc: San Clemente, CA
About using a machine to tune a piano. A theoretical octave is an exact doubling of frequency, but an octave in the middle of a piano (where the temperment is set) is a bit more than exactly double. To make it more complicated, it's a different amount on different pianos. To perfectly space an equal temperment, that extra amount must be taken and evenly distributed over all twelve notes. That's why you can't just take a set of dedicated tuning forks and tune a piano. A machine can be used to set temperment, but the octave must be measured and that extra distance spread over the twelve steps.

Of course, as many techs here have pointed out, the real difficulty lies in the movement of the tuning lever. While you might learn all there is to learn about hearing in a month, you'll spend your whole life perfecting the movement of the lever.

But, that's no reason not to learn to tune. Many good musicians can learn to tune competently. I'm not worried about them taking my job though, because it's going to take them hundreds of pianos to get their time down to even twice what mine is now.

After all, if the hearing part was really so special, only tuners could even tell if it was a good job or not. That might be the situation in some tuners' fantasies, but in real life, many people can tell the difference. Not just between a good tuning and a bad one, but between a good tuning and a great one.

A few more thoughts on machines vs. the ear, and I hope I don't make any enemies here. In terms of accuracy, I think machines are theoretically capable of a slightly more accurate temperment than we do by ear, when used properly. On octaves, they're about the same as the ear. On unisons, machines are often less accurate than the ear, especially on low tenor notes where the beats can be very slow.

There are other, more important uses for tuning machines though. The best use mine gets is in pitch raises. With a machine I can sometimes raise the pitch of a piano a very long way and still get a decent sounding tuning, sort of a playable pitch raise. I do that by raising all the F's (say) on the piano, then all the C's, then the G's and so on through the cycle of fifths. After a few notes, I check back to see how much the first notes have slipped down and recalibrate the machine to that slip.

Another good use for the machine is for saving your ears from excess volume in high treble unisons. I tune one string to the octave below, zero the machine and tune the other two to it. That way I'm never hearing the volume of two high strings together.

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#623560 - 11/18/05 09:18 PM Re: Naive tuning question
masaki Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/02
Posts: 374
Loc: Tokyo, Japan
BDB,
 Quote:

Masaki, I hope you are not using an ordinary straight-sided square or eight-point socket on your tuning pins. This will damage them and make them difficult to tune. There are tuning pin sockets available, and you can use an ordinary torque wrench with one of them, but you need the correct socket.

The proper tools for piano work are inexpensive. There is no reason to improvise.
Before I made the silly attempt to assemble the makeshift torque wrench, I searched the web looking for tuning pin sockets that fit ordinary tool handles but could not find any. But, after reading your post, I searched again and have found one, but it is too expensive and I can not afford. I have to search cheaper ones.
Thank you very much worrying about my using the makeshift helpless tool on my piano. I have not yet used it.
----
Ratchet Head Socket- Speeds up removing and driving in new
tuning pins- Use an automotive application 3/8ths inch ratchet
wrench- Star head- eight points for more positioning choices SH23 $ 35.00
----

I had been hesitating to use this makeshift torque wrench only because the ordinary square socket is machined by cold-hammering and has sandy surfaces which may be harmful for the tuning pins.

I carefully studied the Craftsman square socket and a Hale piano 8-point tuning socket and realized that the cross-section of the hole has to be tapered. The straight hole of the ordinary socket is seemingly also harmful for the tuning pins. Am I right?

The pinao tuning socket hole is apparently machined by cutting.

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#623561 - 11/18/05 09:31 PM Re: Naive tuning question
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20751
Loc: Oakland
Yes, if the hole is not tapered properly, you cut ridges into the tuning pin when you use it.

Frank may be able to get you the proper socket, but I'm sure they would be available from suppliers in Japan. International Piano Supply has them on their website. However, tuning pin torque is not a burning issue, as you can see. I've gotten tuning pins that visually slip if you don't set them properly to hold by using careful technique.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#623562 - 11/18/05 09:53 PM Re: Naive tuning question
masaki Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/02
Posts: 374
Loc: Tokyo, Japan
Adrian,
Seems you are interesed mainly in machine vs ear thing.
I learned how to handle tuning hammers and setting the pins by my piano tech and I think I have known how to do this, but I do not think I would buy a machine or train my ears. As BDB wrote earlier, setting pins is more difficult than hearing or using tuning devices for me and do not want to tune all the notes. I sometimes do touch-up tuning. Only one string at a time. It takes 20-30minuts 1)find a wrong string out of three, 2)tune it and set it, 3)verify it is really set and repeat the steps if necessary.

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