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#634126 - 11/10/06 07:08 AM how to tell piano needs tuning
LeahG Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/02/05
Posts: 168
OK,dumb question. How can you tell if your piano needs tuning? I know the recommendation is at least twice a year, but since pianos can go very gradually out of tune, you may not notice it or realize that it could be sounding a lot better.

Do you just play until it sounds horrible to you, or do you automaticlly schedule a six month tune up regardless? In other words, is there an objective way to judge?

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#634127 - 11/10/06 07:45 AM Re: how to tell piano needs tuning
Robert Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/03
Posts: 268
Loc: Minnesota
Automatically scheduling a tuning every 6 months helps not only for tuning but for keeping on top of various other things that can go bad, like regulation, dampers, and sticking keys. But if you want an objective way to hear the need for a tuning without learning the trade yourself, just play the notes one at a time and listen for bad unisons. That is where the three strings that make up one note are not tuned exactly the same. The effect is that the sound of a single note will waver, or beat. The more noticeable the beat, the more you are in need of a tuning. The unisons are generally the first to go and the easiest for a non-professional to hear.

Robert Scott
Ypsilanti, Michigan
Robert Scott
Hopkins, Minnesota

#634128 - 11/10/06 05:55 PM Re: how to tell piano needs tuning
Kallie Swanepoel Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 7
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
If you haven't been practicing music for quite a while yet, and your not sure if the piano needs tuning or not, it's safest to have your piano tuned once in summer and once in winter, until you can distinguish by own hearing. And that takes some time to develop. From then on, you might want to have your piano tuned more often, to suit your own requirements. Notes have to be played in harmony with each other in order for the listener to tell if the piano needs tuning or not. If you play single notes in the first octave plus, you might not here that the notes are false, for there's no unisons to listen for, because in that part of the piano, there's normally only one string per note. If you play single notes higher up in the scale, you might be able to tell from the sound of the unison if the piano is false or not. If the unisons sound fine, play octaves in the middle and treble sections of the piano, and you might get the same effects like with the unisons. In some cases the unisons of single notes sound relatively fine, but if you listen to the octaves, you most probably might be able to tell if the piano needs tuning or not. My assistant is no musician or tuner, but he can tell if a piano needs tuning or not, but then, he is working on pianos now for nearly 25 years.
Kallie Swanepoel
Piano Tuner

#634129 - 11/10/06 06:37 PM Re: how to tell piano needs tuning
Jim Puckett Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/06
Posts: 251
Loc: Lubbock, Texas
I'll echo what you are hearing from others except to say this: The twice a year guideline is for a "normal" amount of use on a home piano that is in good shape and is kept in shape. A piano that hasn't been taken care of for the last 15 years may need more tunings in the first year. A piano that is used more heavily than "normal" may need more frequent care (i.e. piano teachers home, a room where a band practices regularly, a home where 4 kids take piano lessons and practice all the time, etc.)

Stability, in the long run, will come from regular care whether your ear says it's time or not....

I have recommended to several of my customers who haven't taken care of their pianos regularly- that they should just go ahead and schedule 3 or 4 tunings for the first year so the piano has the best chance of "catching up" with its new tension level. Even if the cost of 4 tunings isn't possible for them they will usually schedule 3.
Jim Puckett
Greater Lubbock Piano Care
PTG Assoc Member

#634130 - 12/09/06 05:00 PM Re: how to tell piano needs tuning
Randy Karasik Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/06
Posts: 498
Loc: Arvada, Colorado, USA, Earth
A piano can lose pitch and still sound relatively 'in tune' with itself. Until you know the normal behavior of your piano, and whether it holds pitch from season to season, plan on twice a year.

Once you know that the piano hold pitch extremely well, you can stretch out the time between tunings and still get good results with each tuning.

Most of my clients will go once a year, some every 2 to 3 years. My biggest issue when I return to tune a piano, is how far do I need to adjust pitch. If after 2 years the piano still only needs a 2 beat-per-second pitch adjustment, the tuning goes very easily and will be stable.

But many pianos, particularly those which are subject to swamp coolers, don't have such good stability and if let go long enough will require a pitch adjustment that will exceed that which will result in a stable tuning.
Registered Piano Technician
Serving Colorado Since 1978

#634131 - 12/09/06 06:34 PM Re: how to tell piano needs tuning
Jim Puckett Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/06
Posts: 251
Loc: Lubbock, Texas
Tuning is like the basic regular maintenance care of the piano. Like an oil change for a car. In addition to the piano sounding good - which seems to be reasonable for a musical instrument. The piano was designed to operate with the strings at a certain level of tension. When a piano is not maintained in tuning - especially for long periods of time - it will affect the performance of other elements of the piano's performance.

Also - the tuning time is the time where small problems can be noticed and fixed before they become big problems.
Jim Puckett
Greater Lubbock Piano Care
PTG Assoc Member

#634132 - 12/09/06 07:06 PM Re: how to tell piano needs tuning
jivemutha Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/06
Posts: 528
Loc: Portland, OR
A lot of what sound to me a little self-serving . . . Just wait 'til it starts to not sound in really good tune. Nothing bad will happen. I've played for 55 years. I don't schedule tunes. I wait 'til it starts to sound slightly out. You may hear it first with bad octaves, or more likely within one note you'll start to hear that there is more than one string. Though there are 3 per note (in the treble), your ear should not be able to tell. When you can tell, it's time for a tune.

If you have a piano known for tuning stability (e.g., Yamaha) you'll find one tune a year is often enough! In contrast, sharp shifts in temp/humidity will usually require a tune even if it hasn't been very long. JUST USE YOUR EAR! You'll save some $ and your pins will stay tighter longer.


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