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#651919 - 04/20/04 03:30 PM Troubled setting 3rds
perfectpitchpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/04
Posts: 61
Loc: North Wilkesboro, NC
Alright! So I tuned my first piano today. I noticed that while setting the temp., I was having a problem with the 3rds turning out nicely. I must say, I constructed a killer F3-F4 chord (arpegio...sp?). After setting the temp. through your steps, Bill, I went back every few notes or so and noticed the 3rds weren't quite as good as I liked. I probably spent 3 hours or so on this piano, and didn't finish it. I'm a perfectionist, and wouldn't press on until I was COMPLETELY satisfied with how it sounded. And it was getting distressful the longer I sat there. lol So, I need some help here.
_________________________
Ryan Marlow
Certified Piano Technician beginning at age 18.

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#651920 - 04/20/04 07:14 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21275
Loc: Oakland
I tell people I can show them how to tune a piano in a day, and then it takes four years of practice to get it right. (That's not my estimate; that came from an interview with Henry Steinway.)

Be patient. Tune your piano every day for the next couple of months. You'll get it.

Incidentally, the difference tone (the beat on the fundamentals) of a major third is the fourth below the lower note. So when you tune a major third, you are actually getting a triad. (A fifth gives the octave below, and a fourth gives the fifth below.) These are approximate in a tempered scale, but should be close enough to be recognizable. Close enough for jazz, as we tuners say.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#651921 - 04/21/04 03:36 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
perfectpitchpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/04
Posts: 61
Loc: North Wilkesboro, NC
Practice makes perfect, huh? lol Who woulda thunk it? I'll just keep at it, and it'll come to me I suppose.
_________________________
Ryan Marlow
Certified Piano Technician beginning at age 18.

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#651922 - 04/21/04 04:07 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
RonTuner Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 1618
Loc: Chicagoland
Hi Ryan,

The fun is just beginning!

Just to make sure, you realize that all of your thirds will beat at a different speed? In strict equal temperament, they will get faster as you go up, and slower as you go down chromatically, by an even amount.

If you choose another temperament, some will sound real peaceful, (your F3-F4 chord?) while others will be pretty grungy. It's impossible to make everything sound peaceful, the math just won't work out with only 12 steps in an octave.

So, take breaks, and press on!

Ron Koval
_________________________
Piano/instrument technician
www.ronkoval.com
@ronkoval

my piano videos:
http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=drwoodwind


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#651923 - 04/21/04 06:09 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
perfectpitchpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/04
Posts: 61
Loc: North Wilkesboro, NC
Why didn't you say so?! Only kidding. That's a great help, Ron. Good to know I'm not as bad as I thought. I pin-pointed the main culprit, and it always seems to be the Ab3-C4 3rd that sounds a bit odd. Come to find out, every piano I've played doesn't have a wonderfully sounding 3rd right there. So maybe I'm not so inadequate as I thought.
_________________________
Ryan Marlow
Certified Piano Technician beginning at age 18.

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#651924 - 04/21/04 09:15 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3834
It takes tuning about 5000 pianos to get to the concert level. Only 4999 to go!! Be patient. Some pianos are more difficult than others to get a good temperment. Some scales are so bad, a good temperment can't be had, no matter what.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#651925 - 04/23/04 11:50 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
perfectpitchpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/04
Posts: 61
Loc: North Wilkesboro, NC
I went back and completely reset the temp. and tuned the entire piano. This time it didn't take as long, and it turned out GREAT! I was so proud when I finished. My first fully tuned piano, with a great outcome.
_________________________
Ryan Marlow
Certified Piano Technician beginning at age 18.

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#651926 - 04/24/04 01:06 AM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21275
Loc: Oakland
Good. Now do it again, and try to get it even better.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#651927 - 04/24/04 10:04 AM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3184
Loc: Madison, WI USA
Ryan,

Sorry I haven't been around this week to help, very, very busy. But it sounds like you pulled through on your own. There are many tasks which are better done when repeated. I try to tell all the beginners that but most think to themselves, "Tune TWICE!!!??? I can barely manage to get through it ONCE and you want me to do it AGAIN???!!!"

There is just as much of a knack and art to rough or coarse tuning as there is to fine tuning. You asked about using the muting (also called "temperament") strip. This is one of the topics on which people disagree sharply. It is also an example of where you'll find people with the opposite point of view both have a valid point of view. Everyone has to find what works best for oneself.

I learned how to fully mute out a piano (not just the temperament octave or midrange) at the PTG Annual Convention in Minneapolis in 1979. I've used the techniques I learned there ever since. Fortunately, one of the instructors that was there is still alive and still enjoys helping new students to the profession learn the art. The two instructors, Jim Coleman Sr., the late George Defebaugh produced a video tape which many people have found helpful and it can still be purchased from Jim Coleman. I suggest you write to him with the subject heading, "Coleman/Defebaugh Video" to inquire about it. He gets lots of mail, so you'll want to be sure he reads yours.

Jim Coleman, Sr.'s e-mail address is: pianotoo@IMAP2.ASU.EDU

The tape will show you lots of helpful procedures in tuning. I'm not sure how well the beats of either slowly or rapidly beating intervals will come across in this antiquated analog format but you'll still get a lot out of it for a very affordable price.

You'll soon find that felt strip that American sent you will wear out. My suggestion or muting strip material is what piano supply houses call "action cloth" and more specifically, "abstract or sticker cloth" in the Schaff piano supply catalog. If you can get some of this material (what is sold as "3 strips" will be enough), either the Coleman/Defebaugh tape or I or others here can tell you how to cut and trim it and how to mute off the whole piano with it.

By the way, there is a difference between felt and cloth although both are made of wool. Felt is simply fibers pounded together wile cloth is woven. Naturally, cloth holds up better and longer. The felt will get ragged and break fairly soon.

The use of muting strips can help you get the piano into a closely approximate tuning that will be capable of accepting a fine tuning with efficiency and much less stress than trying to go one string at a time. If you have found that notes you have previously tuned are now out of tune as you go, it is probably not the "pins slipping" as you might suspect. You have to learn how to make an end run around the way you know the piano will behave in order to make it do your will.

Keep up the good work.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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#651928 - 04/24/04 02:21 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
perfectpitchpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/04
Posts: 61
Loc: North Wilkesboro, NC
I'm still trying to understand what you mean by fine tuning and a rough tuning... Therefore, I am re-reading the article you sent me, hoping to find answers to some questions. lol
_________________________
Ryan Marlow
Certified Piano Technician beginning at age 18.

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#651929 - 04/25/04 01:53 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
Ron T Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/26/04
Posts: 4
Loc: California
Hi all,
I'm new to posting here and there is some great info. I too have just gotten into the business. Actually my second time and hopefully it will work this time. I certainly have learned a lot reading Bill B's post to you PP so I hope I'm not treading on anyones turf. I think what he means by a rough tuning is just that. The first time through is to get it as close to in tune as possible but as you go through the piano Physics kind of take over and things move a little so the second time through really sets the Piano into a more fine tune. I know I have problems with unisons drifting after the first time through. So as a practice I do two full tunings and then I walk through each set of unisons one last time.
Bill??? Does pulling the Bass up pull the other parts of the piano down a little? I've started by setting a temperment then doing the bass Then I come back and redo the temperment check the Bass, make adjustments then I do the rest of the Piano. I play guitar and I know if I tune my upper strings first them the bass strings my G B and high E string move a little. I realize the instruments are construted differently but physics are physics and I have always wondered if tuning the Bass last does the same thing on a piano.

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#651930 - 04/25/04 02:51 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21275
Loc: Oakland
I tune with a temperament strip in the center, tune up to the top, tune down to the bass, and then pull out the strip and finish in the center. I find this stresses the piano evenly. The area that seems to be most affected by the stress of the tuning is one octave above middle C to maybe a couple of octaves above that.

I remember many years ago tuning for a concert where there was also a harpsichord. The person tuning the harpsichord (with an ETD) started in the bass and tuned to the top. It sounded awful, probably because it wasn't stressed properly. But harpsichords are more subject to stresses like that than pianos.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#651931 - 04/25/04 03:51 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3184
Loc: Madison, WI USA
Thanks for posting, Ron. Your ideas are most decidedly correct and you are not treading on anyone's turf. This forum is for everyone; some people would just rather read than post. Rough or course tuning could be described generally as a "pitch correction" tuning but just as you do, I still tune twice the pianos which most people would only do once and I *always* find previously tuned strings which have drifted, especially in the unisons.

But let's take a typical tuning situation, not a drastic one but a typical piano, which is what I call "seasonably" out of tune. In most of the USA, winter is cold enough that heating is required which dries the air out and in summer, the relative humidity is much higher. The piano undergoes a shift from low humidity to high every year. Let's say we are tuning a piano at the end of winter: The low tenor will be the furthest out of tune, except if there are wound strings in the low tenor, those will not be so bad.

If you start tuning in the middle of the piano as most people would, you can't just pull each string up to where it ought to be and keep moving and expect it to stay. If you are using muting strips, you will have to tune strings which are flat 33% higher than your target pitch. Let's say your A3 sounds about 3 beats per second below the fork. You'll have to tune your A3 1 beat per second sharp of the fork in order for it to settle in where you want it to, matching the fork exactly.

Now, as you progress higher through the piano, you will cause everything above where you started to go even flatter than it already was, so you'll have to tune even sharper. If you want your piano to end up with some beautifully stretched octaves, it means that your pitch correction tuning must get exponentially sharper as you progress towards the top. And yes, when you pull in the bass, it will flatten the treble.

So many beginners struggle and struggle unnecessarily trying to get a piano into tune. They believe that when they find what they had previously done so carefully has now gone flat that the tuning pins must have slipped backwards. While this can happen, it is most often not the case. Yes, there can be a little string "rendering" or settling. You go by what you hear when tuning but if you haven't given the string a firm test blow, it can move by itself back a little from whence it came.

There are many forces which come into play which cause the piano to react to what you're trying to do and try to go back to where it was. The trick to defeating this natural and inevitable reaction is to accept first of all what *will* happen and compensate for it. In electronic tuning, you can calculate your "over pull" easily and ETD's do help get a rough tuning done which leaves the piano close enough to get a fine tuning the next time through that will hold. But good rough tuning can be done aurally too, I did it for over 20 years before I got my ETD.

Of course, you can overestimate and pull the piano too sharp so that upon the next time through, you've got to do a pitch lowering correction before you'll be able to fine tune it. The high treble is often the most difficult part to estimate correctly. Very often, when I'm tuning a typical console piano, I may have boosted my 7th octave 30 or 40 cents and I find that upon attempting to fine tune it, I still haven't tuned sharp enough. Other times, I find that I overestimated and if I don't do a quick pitch lowering of that area, I'll end up with a high treble which screams from being too sharp.

The thing to admit to yourself and accept is that if you have any part of the piano which is all running either sharp or flat upon your second pass, you should just bite the bullet and do a pitch correction of that area first or you'll end up struggling and with poor results.

How do you do a rough, coarse or pitch correction tuning? You set your starting pitch quickly by putting in your estimate of how sharp or flat you need it to be for it to come out on pitch once the first pass has been accomplished. You do this quickly, you don't get into all the elaborate rapidly beating test interval stuff. You just tune your note a beat or two sharp, whatever your estimate is and move on. You pull in the notes of your temperament octave in the same order as you would in fine tuning but again, you don't do any elaborate checks or proofs.

When tuning your octaves above the temperament octave, you simply tune an audibly stretched octave, put a beat or two in the octave depending on how much you are trying to correct the pitch. The higher you go, the more beats in the octave you put. I learned to do octaves in whole steps from Jim Coleman, Sr. I still do them that way today. It makes for a very efficient and low stress way of tuning. When pulling in the octaves below the temperament octave, just pull them up to approximate pitch without over pulling since the string you are tuning to has already been tuned a little sharp.

With experience, you can get each note to approximate pitch with only one or two strokes of the tuning hammer. If you can do this, get each note approximately to where you want it within a stroke or two, you can get through the whole piano in about 15 minutes. After this 15 minute or so correction, now your piano is so close that your fine tuning will only take about 30 minutes and not be a struggle at all. Many beginners find it incredulous that I could tune a piano twice in 45 minutes but it is my usual time on a typical piano without rushing or stressing.

I've seen it written many times, "Twice in 45 minutes!!!??? How can you *possibly* get through a whole piano in 15 minutes???!!! It takes me at least 2 hours to get through it even once!!!" Around 25 years or so ago, a PTG member, Steve Fairchild made the Guinness book of world records by doing a pitch correction tuning of a piano in under 5 minutes.

Here is one thing that anyone can do to demonstrate to oneself how long it would take to move through a piano and rough tune it under ideal circumstances. Set a stop watch or timer (or just look at your watch and note the starting time), starting in the low tenor, put your tuning hammer on the first pin, then pretend to make a movement (but don't really move anything), remove the hammer, put it on the next pin, and repeat. Keep your eye on the *next* pin to be "tuned", not the one you're on. Move through the whole piano as quickly as possible and then see how long that took you. It should be under 10 minutes.

That should give you some perspective. Yes, of course, as a beginner, you do not have the high speed skill and dexterity you will have after years of experience. It may take you a whole hour to get even a rough tuning done and that's fine. Just take a break after that, let it sit a day if you want and try again. If you've done a good rough tuning, you should find that your fine tuning goes a lot easier and that it can now be done in about an hour. 2 hours would not be an excessive amount of time at all. Many seasoned professionals spend that much time although I think that with the right tips on skills and procedures, they could cut their time in half.

As a practical matter, many of the pianos you service when just starting out will need other services besides tuning. Going through the piano quickly first, you will get a good idea of what else you will need to do. Do those services next, then finish off with your fine tuning. You can often get two pianos per day serviced this way as you are starting out. And even if you only charged $50 for each (far below the national average), you would still earn a cool $30,000 in a year. You'd have expenses, of course but you could manage on that amount and as you get quicker and surer, increase your work load and get your fees up to the current national average of $75 and eventually go beyond that.

My rule of thumb for when a piano will need 3 passes (and an additional fee) is 20-40 cents flat (or sharp), and beyond that (and an even still higher fee), 4 passes. I can still perform a 1/2 step pitch raise with 4 passes in about 1 hour 15 minutes. The first pass takes about 1/2 hour because each pin takes 3 or 4 strokes rather than 1 or 2. Each of the subsequent passes takes less time.

If I am doing a concert tuning on a seasonably out of tune piano as I do several times a year for a particular theater I service, I plan on doing a 3 pass tuning in about an hour. Even though this particular piano gets tuned about 8 times a year, it has no humidity control and is *always* off pitch. I would be foolish to think I could get by with tuning it only once, even if my last time was only a few weeks beforehand.

The rule George Defebaugh taught back in 1979, "You can tune a piano a lot faster and easier twice than you can fight with it once" always echoes in my mind. It applies to the concert tuning too. I know I can get my whole tuning scheme and unisons far more perfect and stable if I simply do it 3 times than if I fight with it on the second pass.

The moral of the story is and will always be that you *cannot* tune a piano very well unless it is already almost very well in tune.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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#651932 - 04/25/04 10:50 PM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
perfectpitchpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/04
Posts: 61
Loc: North Wilkesboro, NC
Wow. Bill, can I just say "thanks" for your inputs? I enjoy reading your replies, and always end up learning a great deal from them. That's awesome. Every day I learn something new about tuning, which in this case was that it's easier to get a better tune with 2 passes than with 1. I've been doing just one pass. Oy vay, that supremely stinks. Every day's a learning experience. Still yet, I love what I'm doing, and I love learning more each day. You're the man, Bill.
_________________________
Ryan Marlow
Certified Piano Technician beginning at age 18.

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#651933 - 04/26/04 08:29 AM Re: Troubled setting 3rds
junmer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/22/04
Posts: 397
Loc: United Arab Emirates
Mr. Bremmer, do you do more than one pass on a piano that is very slightly out of tune? How do you manage small hammer movements?
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JUNMER
Piano tuner / Piano teacher
Dubai
United Arab Emirates
0097150-6543009
0097155-6543009

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