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Monday, 24 June 2013

Tuning a Piano

The job of tuning a piano had remained pretty much the same until technology found its way to the heart of this most 'traditional' of trades. The piano still has a relatively short history - some of the earliest of pianos are lovingly preserved in museums and private collections. A piano dated from around 1811 appeared on eBay recently! Tuners from the early years of piano history would be fascinated to see an App that does most of the skilled part of their job, so easily available to anyone with a smart phone! (At the dawn of piano history, even the telephone was a piece of
science fiction.)

Back in the 1970s & 80s, before piano tuning aids were widely available, it was not uncommon to meet people who tried, with the help of a book, to tune their own pianos! A few tune-your-own-piano books were written and might still be found in libraries. Hopefully, they are no longer in print! Clearing up the mess after some DIY Piano Tuning sessions were mildly amusing! In one case, the would-be tuner felt the tuning pins were far too tight for him to turn - and so WD40 was used to 'loosen' them up! The sad result was a written off piano! If it were not such a skilled trade, DIY Tuning Books might have become permanent Best-sellers!
Sorry for the quality of the picture - the light was very poor.

This label was stuck to the inside of a piano which dates from the 1920s - when pianos really were tuned 4 times a year. These or similar labels are no longer stuck to the inside of pianos! 

Back in the golden decades for piano tuners, to be busy the whole year round, only 3 months of work would be required to set the ball rolling, as it were. After that, it was just repeat business - easy money! How many pianos have been tuned 4 times a year since the 1920s is impossible to know, but it would be interesting to calculate the amount of money that would have been spent on just tuning a piano 4 times per year.

Some of this imaginary pot of money - no longer spent on piano tuning - has been spent on the digital piano which has established itself as the low-maintenance alternative to the traditional acoustic piano.  

But thankfully, whatever happens in the world of technology and the digital piano, there are still genuine, old-fashioned Piano Tuners, willing to tune your piano (up to 4 times a year). There is still nothing quite like a traditionally-tuned, acoustic piano!

© Steve Burden

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