Monday, 3 February 2014

The Purpose of Tuning

As Piano Tuners, when our job is done, we leave the house, hall or studio until next time. The pianos, when we are gone, become tools of the piano-playing art for learner, student, amateur or professional. Although we hear nothing of the music played between our visits, we have an enormous influence on the pleasure felt by those who play and hear the piano. 

An extra dose of satisfaction for the tuner comes when we are able to listen to somebody - especially a professional - playing a piano we have tuned. At a public recital, the room becomes a place of intense emotion as the soloist fills the hall with wonderful, stunningly played music. The tuner hears every note, and listens carefully to be sure the tuning is holding up well. I love the sound of big, rich chords, held for a few seconds. The sustained harmonies hang in the air, like a choir trained to sing out their parts, loud and clear!  

The tuner gives shape to the harmonic relationships between every note. This finger-print-type interconnection of sounds is the palette of tones made available for the pianist to use during the practice session or the recital. 

However, the tuner is never the main event. It is the same when we tune a piano in a small terraced house for a nine-year-old who is learning to play! Truly, the main event is what happens when we leave to get to our next job. Does the player, young or old, rush to the piano to relish the fresh, in-tune sound, and thereby be inspired to climb another rung of the great piano-playing ladder? Or, does the player notice a few octaves and unisons that are not quite right, and lose some of the enjoyment of playing? - And perhaps, lose a little of the desire to succeed!

Tuners are often fussy and inflexible, but we should try hard not to be purists for the sake of it. Spending time fussing about minute details in one area of the keyboard is not always the best way to get 88 notes in tune. Our job is to restore structure and harmonic beauty to the full seven and a quarter octaves of the piano we have in front of us - or at least, as far as that piano will allow. 

We should strive to excel but know there will always be room to improve our abilities further!  

Tuner's Journal