Tuner - Tuning piano's

Learn about pianos and how to maintain them

Postby inkmon » Sun Sep 09, 2007 5:43 pm

I thought I would share this. I guess most of you that have computerised music teaching systems use them to play real piano's, as does my wife. One thing is that the piano has to be tuned from time to time. This is very expensive. I am no musician or expert but just reacently I bought a guitar tuner, an electronic device on approval. Well first I tried it on the Miracle and it accuratly displayed each note played even the sharps and flats over the full range. It even indicated that one note was a bit high in pitch. I then placed it on the piano and when I pressed the middle c it showed it to be slightly flat (what my wife expected) I then pressed a key that was definatly out of tune and sure enough it was out alright. So with nothing to lose i found a socket to fit the nut and in seconds had it right on tune. (Now in wife's good books).

Now before I attack the whole tuning of the piano I thought I would make some enquiries and make a softly, softly approach. I find I can re tune it to a higher or lower pitch by setting the base calibration pitch level. Remember this is a Guitar tuner so although to my ear the note I fixed sounds ok I would like to do the job correctly. and as I said I am no musician, I am more the gaget freak and computer geek.

The piano I am about to work on is my wife's other one, an old upright. If I get that right she say's she will let me tune her baby grand, baby is right, she has me on a 1 meter exclusion zone around it
Terry a guy from Oz
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Postby inkmon » Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:06 pm

Just as well I checked before I jumped in. Apparently there are 3 strings per note and a pianotuner isolates eah to tune strings individually and then checks the tuning by a resulting beat frequency if the strings are not in tune. Anyway I am not musical only an engineer, my approach will be to isolate each string and tune that string then repeat for the other two.

I did this to the one note that was way out, even I could detect that. Using my socket set and a modified crocodile clip(There are probably correct tools for the job) I tuned the strings and the result seems ok at least I cannot detect any audible beat frequency or that the note is out of what ever sequence it was out of.

As I dabble with programming I am thinking of creating a music recognition program that converts a text score to a midi or wave file that will play on media player. That way I do not have to learn how to play an instrument which I don't. It will work simular to a text recognition program. It should be no more difficult that text to speech.

Anyway the Guitar tuner appears to work and the font fix software (The reason I came to the forum) did the job so I thought I would give something back ie my posts.

Two many hobbies prevent me from learning the piano presently, maybe one day if I have a minute or two, allright three.

Terry
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Postby Tranquillo » Wed Oct 03, 2007 6:05 pm

??? I poccess a piano myself. Tuning isnt as easy as its cut out to be. A tuner goes through many years of training and many pianos to tune. The piano is an instrument required a lot of maitenence.
If you want to get into tuning the piano yourseld as far as I know there are special instruments out there that are sold. These include a specialised piano tuner like the guitar tuner but if you find the guitar tuner works then you might as well stick with it.




Edited By Becibu on 1191456426
Music is organised sound
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Oct 04, 2007 10:00 am

We strongly advise that you not tune a piano yourself, unless you're properly trained. A good tuning is a complex process (see our article Piano Tuning - How It Is Done and Who Should Do It for more information), which should not be attempted by non-experts.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu Oct 04, 2007 10:11 am

I agree with Becibu that there is a lot more involved, and that's why tuners go through those years of training. Tuning isn't as straightforward as it seems from a musical point of view, though since for piano the tuning is "compromised" I imagine it can be approached more mathematically. There are at least three tuning systems (so to say) and piano tuning is one of them. Here is a general overview to get an idea: Temperament Scroll down to "Well Tempered and Equal Tempered" - pianos are equal-tempered. The frequency of the notes are divided a certain way. They are also tuned to fifths. That means your piano tuner is listening for the interval of fifths with a practised ear, as well as the "beats" of those three strings you discovered.

Notes to do not play in isolation: they interact with each other in harmony, and in sequence. That is what has made tuning a problem. It is also why the article says it has been difficult to transpose music to certain keys. The harmonies end up sounding dreadful unless the piano is tuned a certain way. The way pianos are tuned now, no note combination in a particular key sounds dreadful. However, they are not ideal, becuase what is ideal in one key is horrid in another.

As a strings student as well as playing the piano, I have learned to differentiate between a G# and Ab, even though they are enharmonically equal (on the piano). Exactly how sharp or flat to make a G# to the cent depends on the key, the role in harmony, and the role in the melody. The subtonic and tonic tend to be a closer semitone than elsewhere, and this carries musical movement. This is a means of expression called "tone color" which is lost on the piano, but made up in other ways since a piano can play chords instead of being limited to single notes like some instruments.

In physics terms there is a difference between a computer-generated tone and the behaviour of an acoustic piano, and the tuner will keep these properties in mind. There are ways that the strings vibrate and interact with each other in "sympathy", and vibrational action of the wood, which will travel along the surfaces and in the air waves sort of three-dimensionally. Tiny differences in tuning, to the cent, which also involves the inter-relationship of the notes, can set up physical reactions. An inert string is not necessarily inert. A good musical ear will be able to hear some unnamed quality in texture. This is probably less important on a less good (potentially responsive) instrument or general playing, but it does make a difference.

Certainly, if a string on a piano is grossly out of tune, it makes sense to be able to bring it into tune using a guitar tuner as a point of reference. There are even "tuners" available on the Internet that can be made to ring to any pitch you want through your computer speaker.

As a physicist, if you get into tuning and the acoustic properties of instruments, you will probably find it endlessly fascinating.
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu Oct 04, 2007 10:14 am

Dr. Zeigler, I see that we have posted at the same time. Your advice states it much more clearly and pragmatically. It is fascinating to read even those few details of what is involved in tuning a piano.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Oct 11, 2007 8:51 am

pianissimo wrote:It is fascinating to read even those few details of what is involved in tuning a piano.

Dr. Leland and I spent some time thinking about just what that article should cover. On the one hand, we wanted to give people a sense of how challenging it is to tune a piano properly. On the other, we didn't want to provide such a detailed accounting that we might inadvertently encourage people to do exactly what we were advising against -tuning the piano themselves.
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu Oct 11, 2007 9:17 am

On the other, we didn't want to provide such a detailed accounting that we might inadvertently encourage people to do exactly what we were advising against -tuning the piano themselves.
Good assessment of human nature, and how true! It's a well written and informative article. I suppose that in some cases it could even lead to injury and should be left to professionals. I have an even greater respect for piano tuners than I did before.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Mar 20, 2009 10:49 am

A point that the article I mentioned earlier makes is that there is a difference between a tuner, who can bring a working piano in good condition into tune, and a technician, who is qualified by training, experience and certification to repair or recondition a piano. A tuner should not attempt repair or reconditioning. Most certainly, a piano owner should not attempt or even think about repairs himself!
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