Monday, 22 February 2016

Fine Tuning

Tuning is not as easy as we'd like it to be. If the piano is to be brought up to pitch, then we can expect the piano to fight back. Pianos do not seem to like change! The construction of the piano, especially the soundboard and the strings, presents the tuner with a challenge. Raising the pitch creates pressures and counter pressures within the piano so there is little hope it will stand in tune for very long until the new stresses have had time to stabilise. 

If only piano strings stayed at the pitch we leave them! In theory, keeping a piano in perfect tune is a never ending job. Practically speaking we are left to do the best we can with any given piano. A tuner's work involves making compromises which are unique for every piano we tune. The more we know a specific piano, the more straightforward the task but we still have to make judgements on what the piano can give us. Some pianos, without serious rebuilding work will never sound good, but thankfully, most pianos allow a significant improvement in the tuning.

Because piano strings stretch, there is no point fussing too much when we first get to work raising the pitch of a piano. The middle section of the piano seems to fight the pitch raising more than the high treble and low bass, so it is worth, first time through, just tuning this section. Whatever method you use to fix the pitch, be sure to tune it well sharp at this stage.

Second time through, tune the middle section again taking more care with accuracy and maybe tuning a further octave up and down. Third time through is where we can fuss all we like to achieve our goal of the finely tuned piano! 

When I was learning to tune, the old tuners used to talk about 'setting the pin'. Never quite got a clear explanation of what this actually meant but it sounded rather mysterious and seemed to be understood only by the enlightened few. 

Of course, there is no mystery. Experience teaches keen learners how to manage a stubborn and unyielding piano. Pianos with very tight tuning pins are not easy to tune.
 Our aim is to get both the pin and the string to embrace the changes we make and to be happy about it! 

Happy pianos make happy pianists!

Tuner's Journal