Piano Tuning and the Tempered Scale

Piano Tuning and the Tempered Scale

Tuning a piano is an art form that takes time. If you’ve ever watched a piano tuner in action, you may have wondered why they start in the middle of the keyboard.

The initial task of a piano tuner is to set the temperament. This involves tuning the middle section of the keyboard to an equal tuned temperament. Once this is done, the rest of the strings can be set by tuning octave intervals up and down the keyboard.Piano Tuning and the Tempered Scale

As the tuning progresses, tuning is adjusted between notes over a two octave range, starting with a single C tuning fork. You don’t have to have a perfect sense of pitch for this to occur. There are systematic methods of setting the temperament, which depend on setting intervals to natural harmonics. From there, you adjust them sharp or flat by listening to and adjusting for the specific beat rate.

Beat rates can be adjusted to the speed of a metronome and can be measured quite accurately. When a tuner is armed with a good sense of timing and an ear that knows what to listen for, he can very accurately set the temperament from a single pitch reference.

When a highly skilled tuner finishes adjusting the piano, something interesting happens. The middle of the piano will be close to perfect. But somewhere above the second octave, the notes will gradually become more sharp, while below the octave will be some flattening of the notes. The effect is known as the stretching of the upper and lower octaves. It is because a string won’t always vibrate at perfect natural harmonics. A vibrating string tends to be sharp of the natural harmonic series and becomes more pronounced as the string is made shorter or thicker.

When the tuner is tuning octave intervals up the keyboard, they tune for the best sound, compromising between the string fundamentals. A piano tuned with the upper and lower octaves stretched simply sounds better. The shape and degree of the stretching depends on the instrument in question. Pianos with longer bass strings require less stretch in the lower end.

There are algorithms and software available which will calculate a temperament for a given piano based on inharmonicity measurements. There are also tuners that can do this properly by ear.

The goal of musical instrument adjustment and tuning is to produce an instrument that sounds good. A great sounding instrument will be one that gets more play time. And that’s truly what matters most.

Is Piano Repair Really Necessary?

Is Piano Repair Really Necessary?

When was the last time you repaired your car?

It probably started with a small noise. If you ignored it, the noise escalated. And if you continued ignoring it, eventually the car stopped working, and the repair became a major event. What started out as a simple fix – replacing a belt for instance – became a major repair – replacing the engine.Is Piano Repair Really Necessary?

The same holds true with your piano.

A piano first shows signs of a problem in simple ways. A note goes out of tune, or a piano pedal sticks. If you ignore the problem, it escalates to the point of severe damage.

In many cases this happens when people are living on a tight budget, or if they stop playing the piano and it becomes a piece of furniture they ignore. Pianos need tuning and repair to keep them in top playing condition, whether they are played regularly or not.

Hire A Piano Technician As Soon As Possible

The right time to hire a piano technician for tuning is at the first indication something is not right. A qualified technician can repair it quickly and bring it back to proper condition. A large number of piano owners realize the potential savings regular tunings have on the quality of their piano, and choose to have their pianos tuned twice per year. This will ensure a quality sound all the year through, and provide you with a quality instrument that can be passed down from generation to generation.

Hire a Highly Experienced Piano Technician

Unlike today’s cars that can be plugged into a computer to show the technician what is wrong, a piano requires a personal touch. Although a piano player may pick up a few things about tuning as they play over the years, there is a difference between doing it yourself and hiring a professional with many hours of experience. A professional learns the fine tuning skill by practicing and learning and working on a variety of pianos. He understands what indicators to look for and what sounds may need further repair. Never judge a piano technician by price alone. Instead, find out how many years they have performed piano tuning, and how many hours they have spent in the process.

Why Tuning Is The First Step Towards Repair

In general, the first indication of a problem begins with piano tuning. A piano technician will spend time working with each note to ensure it is properly in tune. As he works through the process, he may indicated other problems – felt that is loose, or a potential problem with a hammer. As he notices things, he will make you aware of the situation and decide the best course of action to ensure your piano remains at optimal level.

Typically a quality piano tuning process will take anywhere from one to three hours. Anything less may be an indicator that a piano tuner doesn’t understand his job.

If you have any questions about the piano tuning process, give us a call today.

What Is A Pitch Raise?

What Is A Pitch Raise?

How long has it been since you hired a technician to tune your piano?

Something happens to a piano when it is left untouched, untuned for a long period of time. With every year that passes, the pitch of your piano drops further and further from where it should be.What Is A Pitch Raise?

Overall, as a piano sits and absorbs the elements from the surrounding area, it will in general go flat in the colder winter months, than rise up in the summer, though in most cases the movement isn’t proportional. If this process continues time after time, it will be the job of the technician to bring it back into tune. And if and when you decide to tune it, it becomes more difficult for a piano tuner to pull it back up to its proper tension levels.

The piano contains over 200 strings, all that need to be adjusted during tuning. As a technician raises the tension of each string, it puts a lot of strain on the piano’s structure. It’s impossible to make a large jump and have a stable tuning in one pass. So the technician must spend the time raising each of the strings up to their average tension levels, then move forward once again to accurately bring it into tune. This is called a pitch raise.

The process continues until the piano is deemed to be in tune.

Also keep in mind that when a piano goes through this much adjustment at one setting, the likelihood of it moving back out of tune increases as well. It is recommended to have the piano tuned again within a six month period of time to help keep the tension level of the strings more stable.

Once a piano is back in tune, a regular tuning schedule (every six months to one year) will prevent the need for a pitch raise in the future. Like many things, regular maintenance will keep your piano in the best possible performance level.

Piano Tuning: Fact or Fiction?

Piano Tuning: Fact or Fiction?

If you are new to the world of playing the piano, the entire process can be a little overwhelming. Much has been written on how to buy a piano, are new or used pianos better, and what the impacts are of not purchasing a quality piano. But what about maintenance?

Owning a piano is for the long haul. If you are going to play it regularly year after year, your piano will require maintenance. But what does that mean? Can you do it yourself? Are people just trying to make money off the maintenance process, or is there really something to be said for hiring a professional to help you with your piano tuning process?Piano Tuning: Fact or Fiction?

A piano is constructed from 80 percent wood products, and withstands about 20 tons of pressure on an ongoing basis. Many things can impact that relationship – humidity, temperature, movement, and even standing alone over time with no movement at all.

A piano is a living breathing thing. As it changes, even minutely, it will change the tension, and therefore the playability of your piano.

When a piano tuner comes into your home, it may be confusing to watch what he’s doing. After all, he sits down and hits a few notes over and over again, while tinkering around on the inside of your piano. He sits there for an hour or two, and hands you a bill. In some cases his work is complete and will hold you for a few months. In other cases he may have additional recommendations for repair work required to bring your piano into full adjustment.

In either case, it is his responsibility to make sure you understand the process. It is your responsibility to ask questions and learn all you can about the process.

A tuner provides minor and major repairs, adjustments, will regulate the action, voice the hammers, and make recommendations to optimize the functionality of your instrument. This isn’t a process that is learned quickly. A good piano tuner will have thousands of hours in at piano tuning to develop the knowledge needed to understand what he is doing.

It can’t be learned from watching a video online, or reading a book over a weekend. It takes practice. It requires on the job training to learn to “hear” where problems exist, and what is required in order to bring it to the optimal working condition.

Is piano tuning a necessary part of regular maintenance? Only if you wish for your piano to be at its peak performance level whenever you desire to play. To schedule your routine piano tuning appointment, give us a call today.

What Skills Does A Piano Tuner Have?

What Skills Does A Piano Tuner Have?

With certain jobs, skill and knowledge might not have much of an impact. Take, for instance, the clerk down at the local discount store. They were hired to ring up sales, maybe answer a question or two about where something is in the store, and get as many people in and out in the quickest way possible. It doesn’t really matter is she knows where a certain product is; she can ask several people around her and provide you with the answer.What Skills Does A Piano Tuner Have?

But that mindset doesn’t follow through to all jobs. If you hire the right piano tuner, your piano will have a beautiful sound after he leaves, and carry that sound through many hours of play in the coming weeks and months. Hire the wrong one, and well … probably not so great results.

But how do you know? How can you protect yourself from piano tuners that aren’t in it for quality, just merely for the money? This is the the time to ask the right questions to find the right person for the job.

Question #1 What qualifications do you have?

There are several ways for a piano tuner to gain the qualifications it takes to be a great piano tuner.

  • They can receive training and become a registered piano technician through the Piano Technicians Guild, which provides classes and training for both beginning piano tuners and for those wanting to improve their skills. They also have a series of tests to be awarded with the certification of being a registered piano technician.
  • They can attend a school or training program specifically for piano tuning. Colleges, universities, even piano manufacturers put on classes for people to learn more about the art of piano tuning. This can provide training with many of the artists in the industry, and give a person hands on experience with a variety of instruments while being overseen by musicians that love what they do.
  • They can complete an apprenticeship with an experienced piano tuner. In some cases a love of the art and on the job training can provide the skills necessary to be a great piano tuner.

While any way can be valid, keep in mind that in many cases its about the drive to become better at what they do. You can tell if a person loves music and cares about quality just by talking to them.

Question #2 What experience do you have?

It seems like there are all kinds of start up opportunities out there right now with people trying to make a few extra bucks by setting up shop and undercutting people that have been in business for years. Its happening in all kinds of trades and industries, and its easy to be swayed by their low-ball fees.

In some cases it may be worth looking at. In other cases, not so much.

Imagine hiring a piano tuner that read an online manual and decided to open up a business on nights and weekends. Sure, they might be able to tune a piano, but what’s the quality and how long will it last?

Piano tuning is an art. It takes years to develop a sense about what to do in every situation. You have to continue to run into new problems, ask the right questions, and learn from people that have been in situations before to really get a feel for the right processes. Because its not just about tightening a string here or reducing tension on the strings over there. Its about the coordination of the entire process, and learning how one piece integrates with another to reach and maintain the perfect sound.

And all of that doesn’t come from reading a book and trying your skills out on a piano or two. It comes from learning from many other piano tuners and working on different pianos year after year.

In the end, finding and trusting the right piano tuner is a personal choice. When you get that “feeling”, you know you’ve found the right piano tuner for you.

Why Your Piano Needs Piano Tuning

Why Your Piano Needs Piano Tuning

From the time you bring a piano into your home, it requires regular maintenance to keep it looking and sounding its best. Part of it is cleaning it and keeping it dust free; that’s the part you can do regularly. Then there is the part that requires a piano to be tuned on a regular basis; that’s the part you’ll have to bring in a piano technician.

Why Your Piano Needs Piano TuningPianos are complex instruments. Because one part impacts another, and effects the overall sound quality, its important to keep everything in top condition. If you do not keep a piano tuned for musical purposes, consider your potential for selling your piano some day. Only a piano in great condition can be sold easily, and great condition means a piano that has had regular tunings and sounds its best.

Regular tunings prevent further damage. When a string tension is optimal, it will produce optimal sound. However, if the tension is lax or too tight, it can quickly impact the other delicate piano parts, and in some cases damage them to the point of needing to be replaced. Tunings help keep all parts running smoothly and working together, preventing damage from occurring to neighboring pieces.

In some cases its easy for a player to “hear” a problem. Run through a scale and when one or two notes sound “off”, you know you have a problem. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes the smallest of problems are difficult to hear, but without proper maintenance, a larger, more expensive problem is around the corner.

Not all piano tuners are piano technicians, meaning they might not be able to find and fix all the problems associated with keeping a piano in good working order. When you’re hiring a piano tuner, make sure he is experienced and can help you maintain your piano at its optimal level.

Regular tunings should start from the moment you bring your piano home. If it’s a new piano, or new to your home and its environment, it may take a few tunings a year to get it settled into its new location. As it ages, piano tuning frequency will reduce as well. The longer it goes in between tunings, the more severe the problems can be. If a piano goes two or more years without tuning, it may need things like:

Pitch Raising – a pre-tuning process that prepares the strings to be tuned. This takes expert guidance, as an incorrect process can negatively impact the piano’s timbre, impact the string vibration, and cause interference in the strings.

Double Tuning – a general tuning that is performed before a fine tuning process. The first tuning is crucial because if its not done effectively, it can cause weak strings to go further out of tune. Fine tuning is only performed when strings reach close to optimal level, and minor adjustments can be made.

No matter if you have a brand new piano in need of its very first tuning, or you’ve owned a piano for years and can’t remember the last time it was tuned, there is no better time than the present to start the process. Call us today; we’re happy to help you maintain your piano and keep it strong and healthy for years to come.

Piano Tuning in Memphis Tennessee

Piano Tuning in Memphis Tennessee

Buying a piano? Once the piano is in your home, ready to make music whenever you sit down at the keyboard, it will need a little maintaining to keep it at top performing levels. A simple dusting with a soft cloth will keep in looking great. And in order to keep it sounding great too, you’ll have to hire a piano tuner on a regular basis.

Regular piano tuning is important to ensure the person playing it hears the Piano Tuning in Memphis Tennesseeproper tune. Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to learn a song and not having it come together because the notes are always out of sync. Part of playing the piano is listening and appreciating the music. If its doesn’t sound right, it becomes harder to play. This is one of the top reasons people quit lessons – if the music doesn’t sound right, the desire to continue playing diminishes rapidly.

To find a great piano tuning company, you can ask for referrals from your local community. Here in Memphis Tennessee, we have a strong music culture. You can find a great referral source just about anywhere, including neighbors, music schools, , local churches, or piano dealers like us that have been in the business for years. We work with the best and are happy to provide you with quality referrals whom we know will get the job done the right way the first time.

Many piano tuners will recommend tuning your piano twice per year. The tuning process is not dependent on how much you play. A piano will need tuning no matter if you play once per month or once per day.

Piano tuning is the process of making small adjustments to the tensions of the strings, to properly align the intervals between their tones. A tuner will start with the middle notes, and adjust both up and down from there to give your full range of notes an accurate tonal sound.

Fine tuning involves an assessment of the vibration interaction between the notes. This process is different for every piano. The sound depends on many things: manufacturer, age, quality, location. Which is why every piano tuner works by tone, and adjusts the strings to provide the richest, highest quality sound possible for your instrument.

Have questions about tuning your piano? Need to find a quality piano tuner to help you keep your piano in top quality? Give us a call today. With over 50 years in the piano business, we value reputation and will find the perfect person to meet all of your needs.

Railsback Curve and Piano Tuning

Railsback Curve and Piano Tuning

Have you ever heard someone play the piano when it hasn’t been tuned in a while? Everything is fine until they hit that one note. Ouch. The sound completely throws off your perception of great music because all you can focus in on is the sound of the piano.

That is why its important to have your piano tuned on a regular basis.Railsback Curve and Piano Tuning

Imagine learning to play the piano. You finally get close to playing a song to perfection. Yet you hit that one note over and over again, and the song just doesn’t have what it takes to make you proud to play it. It sounds off. The enjoyment is gone. And the desire to play goes away.

Piano tuning puts the notes back into perspective, and gives your piano a clean, crisp sound that has every note working together in a harmonious way.

For all of you piano techies out there, lets get into the nuts and bolts of piano tuning. There is a difference between having a normal piano tuning by a master tuner, and an equal tempered piano tuning.

The Railsback Curve is a measurement developed by O.L. Railsback, which expresses the difference between normal piano tuning and equal tempered tuning. For any given note on the piano, the deviation between the normal pitch of that note and its equal tempered pitch is given in cents (which is hundredths of a semitone).

The Railsback Curve shows that octaves are normally stretched on a well tuned piano. That means that high notes are higher and the low notes are lower than they are on an equal tempered scale. And not all octaves are equally stretched. So the octaves that occur in the middle range are barely stretched, while the octaves on either end of the piano will have more range.

Railsback discovered that most pianos are tuned the way they are because of inharmonicity in the strings. And this inharmonicity causes the overtones to be higher then they should be.

As a piano technician is tuning an octave, he reduces the speed of the beating between the first overtone of the lower note and a higher note until it disappears. Because of this inharmonicity, the first overtone will be sharper than a harmonic octave, making either the lower note flatter or the higher note sharper, depending on which note is being tuned.

So, to produce an even tuning, the piano technician will start with the middle octave of the piano, and proceed outwards from there. This gives the piano its overall rich sound. The notes on the upper range are not compared to the notes in the lower range because they would begin to sound “off”. Yet when combined as one unit, the overall sound remains at a constant.

The key to a great sounding piano is to have a piano technician that understands tuning and can masterfully adjust the sound by ear. He works to ensure your piano has the sounds and the tone that will make piano playing enjoyable for all.

Call us today to schedule your piano tuning session with our master technicians.

Piano Tuning and Piano Repair

Piano Tuning and Piano Repair

One of the most commonly asked questions we receive pertains to piano tuning.

A piano is a living, breathing instrument. Over time the sound adjusts based on the conditions around it. Climate, environment, where a piano sits, how often its played, all impact the overall sound quality. And around every six months or so, an adjustment helps keep it in quality condition, creating proper sound for the months ahead.Piano Tuning and Piano Repair

Piano tuning is the process of removing the tuning pins within the piano with a tuning hammer, then setting them to the appropriate tension in order to produce the correct sound.

The action, or the mechanics, of the piano are not regulated or removed during the piano tuning process. The way the piano plays will n0t be chanced. Tuning only refers to bringing the notes back to the correct sound. If the action of the piano had a problem before tuning, it will remain after the process unless repairs are made to correct it.

During the piano tuning process, if a tuner identifies a problem, he will notify the owner of the potential problem either before or during the tuning process. The owner can then decide how to proceed in order to bring the piano back up to full working condition.

Typically, a normal piano tuning process can help maintain a piano’s sound quality if it is tuned about every six months.

If a piano hasn’t been tuned in a year or two, or undergoes dramatic environmental changes between tunings, a tuner will typically perform a “pitch raise”, essentially a double tuning in order to bring a piano back to working condition.

If a piano hasn’t been tuned in years, before you schedule a piano tuning session, it may be wise to have it evaluated first for potential restoration and repair. The evaluator will be able to provide you with detail on how much work it would take to being it back to working order, or give you other options if you desire to have a quality piano in your life.

Have additional questions? The best way to proceed is to give us a call today to schedule the right service for your situation.

A Basic Guide To Tuning A Piano

A Basic Guide To Tuning A Piano

What does tuning a piano mean?

Have you ever watched a guitar player tune his guitar before he plays? He adjusts the strings to make sure they are perfectly in balance and create harmony while playing. That’s the same concept with tuning a piano. Tuning consists of adjusting the tension at which the internal strings are stretched using a tuning hammer. They are tuned to vibrate at a pleasing harmony to match in accordance with other instruments and to give it aesthetically pleasing sounds when played.

How often should my piano be tuned?

Tuning a piano is really determined by a variety of things. First, how sensitive to the sound are you? Some musicians are automatically attuned to notes and can instantly tell when a piano is out of tune. Depending on your environment, a piano is sensitive to climate and the humidity and may need adjusting in highs and lows. How much do you play? For most people, one to three times per year is adequate. For a professional musician or an instructor, more frequent tuning is necessary. Concert pianos are generally tuned before every performance.A Basic Guide To Tuning A Piano

Why does a piano need to be tuned after being moved?

When you move, a lot of changes and stress occur during the process. Your piano may experience bumps, thumps and impacts as it makes its way from your old location, into the truck, and into your new location. There may also be a change in climate and humidity. Vertical pianos may be affected by unevenness in the level of the floor, or differences in the level between old and new locations.

Should a piano be tuned immediately its in its new location?

There is an art to moving a piano and tuning a piano – they usually aren’t performed by the same person. And in most cases a piano adjusts over time to its move and its new location. A piano may sound fine when its placed in its new home, yet a week later sound out of tune. Its best to move a piano and let it settle in. Then a week or two later hire a piano tuner to bring your instrument up to its full potential.

Is there a “best” location for my piano in my home?

The best location for your piano is in an area where temperature and humidity will remain as constant as possible. Try to keep your piano away from big drafts, open windows and direct sunlight. You should also place your piano away from heating registers, radiators, windows or doors that will open and close on a consistent basis.

Can I play a piano that is out of tune?

Of course any piano can be played. Depending on your ear, you may not like the music that comes from the instrument. All pianos go out of tune continuously. If your child is trying to learn on a piano that is out of tune, she may not practice at the same level as if it were in tune. When she “hears” the way its supposed to sound at the instructors location, and has trouble making the same sounds in her home, frustration can soon set in. Quality does matter when trying to master individual pieces of music.

Is there anything I should do before a piano tuner comes to my home?

In order to tune your piano, the technician will probably need access to the entire piano. Remove sheet music, knickknacks, plants, decorations – anything sitting on any piece of the piano so access is quick. You may even vacuum underneath a grand piano, as the technician may have to lie under it to make an adjustment. Make a list of anything you’ve noticed. And make sure the surrounding area is quiet and well lit to allow the technician the easiest time possible to complete his work.