tuning stability

Posted by: peabody

tuning stability - 04/01/13 09:29 PM

I have had my piano tuned five times now since it was new 14 months ago. I had hoped it would become more stable with the last tuning which was about a week ago. Tonight I was playing it and realized it is pretty out of tune already, especially the unisons in the middle octave. Should I be concerned?
Posted by: shaolin95

Re: tuning stability - 04/01/13 09:44 PM

Im far from an expert but is your humidity level controlled? From my research that is one the first things to check and my 1977 Baldwin is able to keep in tune for a long time so i cant complain about my humidifiers
Sorry if its a noob question smile
Posted by: BDB

Re: tuning stability - 04/01/13 10:09 PM

Likely suspects are the newness of the piano and the tuner.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: tuning stability - 04/01/13 10:45 PM

How long does the tuner take to tune?
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: tuning stability - 04/01/13 11:50 PM

Well, what's your playing style like? It could be the piano, sure, and it could be an inexperienced tuner. But, depending on what your playing habits are, that could be contributory or even the main culprit.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: tuning stability - 04/02/13 07:51 AM

The fact that concert pianos are tuned daily and sometimes between performances the same day leads me to believe that any and all pianos, even the best of the best, can be played hard and knocked out of tune in short order. It is not abnormal, so to speak.

I play my pianos hard and tune them often; and, I don’t worry if a unison is knocked out of sync slightly due to playing some hard-driving boogie-woogie. smile

Rick
Posted by: patH

Re: tuning stability - 04/02/13 09:03 AM

Originally Posted By: shaolin95
Im far from an expert but is your humidity level controlled? From my research that is one the first things to check and my 1977 Baldwin is able to keep in tune for a long time so i cant complain about my humidifiers
Sorry if its a noob question smile

Seconded.
I had my Yamaha C2 tuned for the first time after having it for about 8 1/2 months, but for a new instrument it had kept its tuning pretty well in my opinion; and the tuner said that he noticed that I use an air humidifier. 40% - 60% is recommended.

So: Get air humidifiers, and a hygrometer.
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: tuning stability - 04/02/13 01:45 PM

One more question, it's spring in the northern hemisphere, so humidity can shift significantly in just a day. If the weather has been very changeable in your area that would explain the tuning instability.
Posted by: peterws

Re: tuning stability - 04/03/13 01:22 PM

"I play my pianos hard and tune them often; and, I don’t worry if a unison is knocked out of sync slightly due to playing some hard-driving boogie-woogie. smile"

Blimey, I wouldn`t be smiling` if my ole Joanna went out o` tune so quickly - some pianos only get boogie played on `em . . .imagine a honky tonk being blasted back into tune. Not on, is it?

Seriously, don`t you think this problem should`ve been alleviated years ago? Is the steel in the strings not up to it? It is a metal frame holding everything in synch so to speak . . . or not as it happens. . .Why should humidity alter things?

I just know someone`ll put me right in no uncertain terms . .
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: tuning stability - 04/03/13 04:44 PM

Originally Posted By: peterws

Why should humidity alter things?



Humidity causes the piano's components to expand and contract as moisture is absorbed and released. This changes the string tension, thus, the tuning changes.
Posted by: Furtwangler

Re: tuning stability - 04/03/13 07:27 PM

Originally Posted By: peterws
"I play my pianos hard and tune them often; and, I don’t worry if a unison is knocked out of sync slightly due to playing some hard-driving boogie-woogie. smile"

Blimey, I wouldn`t be smiling` if my ole Joanna went out o` tune so quickly - some pianos only get boogie played on `em . . .imagine a honky tonk being blasted back into tune. Not on, is it?

Seriously, don`t you think this problem should`ve been alleviated years ago? Is the steel in the strings not up to it? It is a metal frame holding everything in synch so to speak . . . or not as it happens. . .Why should humidity alter things?

I just know someone`ll put me right in no uncertain terms . .


Peter

The same thing can happen to one's keyboard! I once heard of a bloke whose keyboard was exposed to too much humidity and his apostrophes (') started mysteriously looking like backticks (`)

Think of it!

Blimey.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: tuning stability - 04/03/13 11:13 PM

My wife's big Sty A never has a unison get "rolly" for many months-as do many of my customers pianos. If the humidity of the environment is steady by having Dampchaser W/humidistat and no kitchen steam or similar humidity peaking events-a seasoned piano tuned by a skilled Tech who spends about three hours tuning/voicing/regulating/cleaning a piano twice a year will not get many if any obviously wowing unisons.

Most tuners want to tune in less than two hours and the results are less stable. Of course the three hour service/tuning will cost aprox $300.
Posted by: King Cole

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 01:59 AM

Sounds like you got street tuner... I remember using them because they were cheaper but when I got certified one to do some regulation just 3 months later he told me the piano was so out of tune it sounded like hadn't been tuned in years haha. I knew it was out of tune but I had no idea it was that bad. Major difference when he tuned it correctly. Much more solid colors came from the keys!
Posted by: R_B

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 07:31 AM

I would like to take this up;
"Seriously, don`t you think this problem should`ve been alleviated years ago? Is the steel in the strings not up to it? It is a metal frame holding everything in synch so to speak . . . or not as it happens. . .Why should humidity alter things?"

Leaving the sound board aside for the moment, my naive question is;
Why DO pianos go "out of tune" with humidity changes ?

At least from an overview of the design and construction of a piano the "tuning" is dependent on string tension and the strings are stretched across a metal frame.
Temperature change should affect the tension far more than humidity (METALS).

Unisons ? Those strings are SO CLOSE TOGETHER that whatever environmental changes affect one SHOULD affect the other equally - given equivalent materials, they are even in/on the "same bits of wood".
Why do those go out of tune (relative to each other) with humidity changes ?

OK, bringing the sound board back into the picture.
I can see its resonant frequencies changing with humidity, but strings aren't tuned to the soundboard - Concert A 440 (or some other standard).

Basically I think I'm saying that a piano SHOULD at least stay in tune with itself, the whole thing may go sharp or flat, but why do unisons drift with humidity ?

Just trying to understand this - not "arguing" any points here.
TNX
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 08:19 AM

Would an upright be susceptible to humidity changes?
I don't have one yet but I have 2 acoustic guitars and people are always banging on how humidity can affect the guitars tuning stability.Ywt mine rarely go out of tune,and they're in a centrally heated room! Thing is winters tend to show an increase in humidity here (wet winters) yet I'm warned about a decrease in humidity in winter!
Posted by: Rickster

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 08:24 AM

There have been times on the PW forum when I should have just listened rather than talk/write… this may be one of those times, but what the heck, we live and learn.

There is a difference between “tuning stability” and a piano remaining in perfect tune for extended periods of time (which is usually not the case). No piano, regardless of how fine or how skilled the tuner may be, will remain in perfect tune for an extended period of time.

I don’t have the reference in front of me, but I read about an experiment done by a very well known, highly regarded piano manufacturer, in order to test the relative tuning stability of its pianos. If my memory serves me correctly, the piano, placed in a controlled environment, was tuned to perfection and then not played, but left alone just to test the tuning stability at static conditions. Test were done periodically to measure the tuning and it was found that the piano began to drift flat within days of the perfect tuning, without any playing or pounding at all. Was the piano new? Yes, most likely.

To me, tuning stability has to do the just how far out the piano will drift over time, even in a controlled environment. Things can be done, like adding a DC, or what every, but pianos drift out of tune naturally over time.

Yes, some tuners are better than others, and a good tuning will last longer, but no piano will remain in tune perpetually.

If this is unacceptable, get a digital. smile

Just my .02.

Rick
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 08:55 AM

Quote:
Leaving the sound board aside for the moment, my naive question is;
Why DO pianos go "out of tune" with humidity changes ?

At least from an overview of the design and construction of a piano the "tuning" is dependent on string tension and the strings are stretched across a metal frame.
Temperature change should affect the tension far more than humidity (METALS).

Unisons ? Those strings are SO CLOSE TOGETHER that whatever environmental changes affect one SHOULD affect the other equally - given equivalent materials, they are even in/on the "same bits of wood".
Why do those go out of tune (relative to each other) with humidity changes ?

OK, bringing the sound board back into the picture.
I can see its resonant frequencies changing with humidity, but strings aren't tuned to the soundboard - Concert A 440 (or some other standard).

Basically I think I'm saying that a piano SHOULD at least stay in tune with itself, the whole thing may go sharp or flat, but why do unisons drift with humidity ?

Just trying to understand this - not "arguing" any points here.


Well thought out. The answer to your questions lie with the critical points at which the string makes contact with the board.....primarily at the bridge pins. Think about it. The bridge is directly linked to both the soundboard and the string. When the humidity increases, the board swells and the bridge heaves up, ever so slightly, thereby increasing the tension on the string and sending it sharp. The reverse happens when the board releases moisture into drier air. At the other end, the tuning pin is in direct contact with both the pinblock and the string. When the humidity increases, the hole surrounding the pin swells and tightens, and could, conceivably, be affecting, ever so slightly, the angle and torque of the pin relative to the string. Since the wood's grain pattern and density from one area to the next at both these locations is variable, to some degree, you would then inherently have variability built into the system from string to string, no matter how close they are to each other. Add to this the constant upward pounding of the string, on a grand, from the hammer, and the resultant forces trying to move the string away from the bridge surface, and it's a wonder that most pianos stay in tune as long as they do. Finally, I have to commit what, no doubt, will be deemed heresy on this forum by seriously questioning the frequently proposed notion that a "great tuner" can somehow overcome these variables and create a "stable" tuning. First of all, what does that mean....."stable"? Some might agree that the "Concert" technicians are working at a higher level of competency than the "average" street technician. OK, if that is the case, why would they need to "retune" a piano in mid concert? If their tuning abilities were so superior, why did that tuning not even hold stable for even a couple of hours? They'll tell you that it's because they are being held to a much higher standard and the professionals put the piano through a much greater level of stress. So, in essence, their technique, no matter how good, CANNOT overcome the forces I've outlined above. As much as I know that my comments will generate a lot of heated rhetoric on this forum, I think the most important point is that the tuning be judged more on the technician's ability to bring each string up to it's intended frequency relative to the strings around it, then, make a second pass to correct any "drifts" that may have occurred as you change the string tension levels at the far ends.
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 08:57 AM

Originally Posted By: R_B
Why DO pianos go "out of tune" with humidity changes ?


Wood expands/contracts with the moisture
level in the air - this is the main issue.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 09:07 AM

R B,

I understand what you are you are saying about the frame and strings, but the soundboard always remains a major factor when assessing tuning stability. The strings don't just 'float' above the sound board (grand), transmitting the vibration to the soundboard through the air. They are directly coupled to the SB by means of the bridge. The atmospheric fluctuations of the RH greatly affect the wood of the SB, and that directly affects the tension of the strings. Thus, the piano goes out of tune due to the expansion/contraction of the wood. If the surrounding environment is kept at an narrow RH range, there is less direct on the SB. Hope this helps.

Larry, the generalization about 'dry winters' is a reference to a four season climate, rather than to the specifics of your area. Your friends in Austria might have a very different experience. Being a player of acoustic guitar, don't you find that you are checking tuning, and making small (fine) adjustments, on a daily basis? It would be unusual to not. Like with a violin or other similar string instrument, it is a constant process, rather than trying to attain long term tuning stability.
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 09:08 AM

Lots of us engaged in Simultaneous Typing Syndrome!
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 09:14 AM

Originally Posted By: Minnesota Marty
R B,

I understand what you are you are saying about the frame and strings, but the soundboard always remains a major factor when assessing tuning stability. The strings don't just 'float' above the sound board (grand), transmitting the vibration to the soundboard through the air. They are directly coupled to the SB by means of the bridge. The atmospheric fluctuations of the RH greatly affect the wood of the SB, and that directly affects the tension of the strings. Thus, the piano goes out of tune due to the expansion/contraction of the wood. If the surrounding environment is kept at an narrow RH range, there is less direct on the SB. Hope this helps.

Larry, the generalization about 'dry winters' is a reference to a four season climate, rather than to the specifics of your area. Your friends in Austria might have a very different experience. Being a player of acoustic guitar, don't you find that you are checking tuning, and making small (fine) adjustments, on a daily basis? It would be unusual to not. Like with a violin or other similar string instrument, it is a constant process, rather than trying to attain long term tuning stability.


Well not really. But part of the reason is that my guitars are laminate,not solid like the top end acoustics. Laminates are less susceptible to humidity than solid wood tops.
But who are my friends in Austria?? And my question is are upright pianos as susceptible to humidity changes as grands?
Posted by: Minnesota Marty

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 09:18 AM

LOL- Larry,

Your 'hypothetical, yet unmet, and soon to be,' friends.

All of the same principles apply to a vertical, acoustic piano.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 09:30 AM

This all brings up another interesting point that I would very much like to know the answer to. Have there been studies that conclusively show that the Steingraber Phoenix system, with carbon fiber soundboard, or the Luis and Clark carbon fiber string instruments, are inherently more stable than their wood counterparts, and, if so, by how much. In other words, if I place a string at a certain frequency on each type of instrument, how much longer will it maintain that frequency as compared to a wood version of that same instrument? Also, when it does drift away from the desired frequency, what is causing it to do so in a carbon fiber instrument?
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 09:46 AM

Originally Posted By: CC2 and Chopin lover
Also, when it does drift away from the desired frequency, what is causing it to do so in a carbon fiber instrument?


Playing it. No joke.
Posted by: R_B

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 10:02 AM

Thanks all,
I also have a couple of WOODEN guitars, those are just about all wood and do "drift" out of tune, but the strings tend to stay in tune with each other. If/when one drifts more than the others it is USUALLY a sign that it will need to be replaced fairly soon.
{There are other factors on nylon string guitars though, frets tend to "waist" strings, leading to local thinning and stretching.}

Yes, I "get it" that the sound board and all the other bits of wood have coupling effects, but for unisons in particular I would have thought that it is the same bit of wood, those at least should "stay together".

As far as the pin block goes and its grip on the pin - not sure I agree.
As a "machine" it is WAY less than 50% efficient, i.e. no amount of string pounding should be able to rotate a pin (in my uninformed opinion, etc.)

If all it comes down to is that wood is subject to environmental factors and is variable in its consistency my current conclusions are;
1) Wood can/could be carefully selected and matched, probably IS in top tier grands.
2) It could at least be SEALED on all exposed sides (& inside holes) and may be in some places.
3) It may be the WRONG material in many places - tradition aside.

I really am NOT trying to argue wood out of pianos - like there would be half a chance of doing THAT (-:

Ahhh, whatever happened to that "self tuning piano" ?
The invention that sent current through the strings (as wires) to get them up to some previously set tuning temperature (of 96 F as I recall).
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 10:07 AM

Quote:
Playing it. No joke.


Ahh, so that only goes further to prove my earlier point about the ability to "stabilize" a tuning,to any great degree , using some sort of "technique", such as "flagpoling", "tilting" or heavy strikes on the keys. If the simple act of playing sends even the "humidity proof" instruments, such as the Luis and Clark violins, violas and cellos, or the "humidity resistance" piano, such as the Steingraber Phoenix, out of tune, then no "technique" could overcome those mechanical forces for very long.
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 10:11 AM

Originally Posted By: R_B

3) It may be the WRONG material in many places - tradition aside.


I hear you... "Nerf" would be a great
material to make into cars.... but
that darn tradition thing....
Posted by: Scott Hamlin

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 10:16 AM

Originally Posted By: CC2 and Chopin lover
Quote:
Playing it. No joke.


Ahh, so that only goes further to prove my earlier point about the ability to "stabilize" a tuning,to any great degree , using some sort of "technique", such as "flagpoling", "tilting" or heavy strikes on the keys. If the simple act of playing sends even the "humidity proof" instruments, such as the Luis and Clark violins, violas and cellos, or the "humidity resistance" piano, such as the Steingraber Phoenix, out of tune, then no "technique" could overcome those mechanical forces for very long.


Correct - esp. if it's a well-used piano.
Posted by: R_B

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 10:24 AM

Originally Posted By: Plinky88
Originally Posted By: R_B

3) It may be the WRONG material in many places - tradition aside.


I hear you... "Nerf" would be a great
material to make into cars.... but
that darn tradition thing....


Pneumatic fenders with same/similar construction to tires ?
Yes, but those would put body shops out of business and probably ENCOURAGE fairground bumper car behavior.
Much as helmets and shoulder pads have made (American) football a MUCH more dangerous game.

MOVING existing problems is not the same as SOLVING them, or by design AVOIDING them (-:

We are getting farther from the topic here...
Posted by: LarryShone

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 10:27 AM

Any istrument that employs strings under tension is gonna be subject to detuning, whether played or not.
Posted by: R_B

Re: tuning stability - 04/04/13 12:14 PM

Originally Posted By: LarryShone
Any istrument that employs strings under tension is gonna be subject to detuning, whether played or not.


One could IMAGINE a string instrument that (by design) does NOT.

Lets see, the effect of increasing temperature on (most) materials that could be used for strings is to expand them, i.e. to reduce their tension and therefore the pitch.

OK, but that ASSUMES that the length remains constant.
I see no good reason to not design some way of changing the length to directly compensate - not that I have a solution, just the notion that it COULD be done.
("length" should probably be "speaking length" ?)

I know, I know, this may be impractical for "pianos" (as currently defined).

...and yes, the double negative probably COULD have been avoided.