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Techniques for stability
#1703378 06/28/11 02:25 AM
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Aside from installing climate control, what are your techniques for increasing stability of a note?

I've been tuning my own piano for a while, and I've experimented with moving toward the target pitch from a bit sharp, playing the note while putting torque on the pin to nudge it toward the target, and just pounding it until it doesn't move. Within hours, however, most of the notes would still move a bit.


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Re: Techniques for stability
PianistOne111 #1703388 06/28/11 03:30 AM
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you are not turning the pin in the wood, the wood around the pin is twisting as you put pressure on and bang the string over the bridge. The wood will slowly twist back raising the pitch again. You must turn the pin in the wood and 'set' the pin back in the opposite direction to keep the plank happy. This way your tuning will stay put a long time


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Re: Techniques for stability
PianistOne111 #1703436 06/28/11 07:08 AM
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Unless the pinblock torque is pretty high, I believe a smooth pull from below pitch gives the most accurate tuning and the best stability IF the necessary overshoot is dealt with properly.

The twist in the pin, that is a result of overcoming the torque from the block, will cause the pitch to drop as the pin "unwinds". One way to deal with this is to tune a little high and assist the the strings in finding thier proper place with a few hard blows to the key, and perhaps a little reverse torque on the pin. Another way is to use a combination of hammer position and flagpoling to manipulate the pin so that no overshoot is necessary.


Jeff Deutschle
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Re: Techniques for stability
PianistOne111 #1703438 06/28/11 07:17 AM
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The art of obtaining tuning stability is dependent on several things. I won’t go into the pros and cons of ETD vs aural tuning, because there seems to be a huge debate on this subject that really makes no difference to the aspect of stability. However, I must add that I write this not ever having any experience of ETDs, so can’t explain stability using any of the terms associated with them.
Firstly, there are complexities of the skills required to “Set the pin”. The general rule is to always turn the pin, not bend it! You should aim to pull the string up a little past where you want it to be, making sure that you have turned the whole length of the pin, not merely the top section that we can see. Having achieved that, we now have to bring the pitch down and slightly below where we want to be to ensure that any twist in the steel tuning pin is taken out. Assuming you have turned the whole pin firstly to take the string sharp, and now taken the string slightly below, the natural twist in the wrestpin should want to take it sharp again ... and the gentlest pressure on your tuning lever should be enough to encourage the string to pitch exactly where you need it to be. It’s at this last stage of pin setting that a firm striking of the note will help to ensure that any “tension lag” is equalised. I must admit that if I were to tune with an ETD, I would find it extremely difficult to judge, because it’s a mechanical “feel” of what’s happening to the wrestpin and looking at a ETD display simply can’t give any idea about what is physically happening to the tuning pin. In my humble opinion, the ETD confuses the issue, by making the tuner look at its display too much ... The first part of tuning i.e. taking the string above, and then slightly below by moving the entire length of the pin is the most important part of obtaining tuning stability, and only when this has been done does the tuner then have to pay close attention to the display to get the best possible result.
Secondly, it must be realised that every individual string altered has a knock on effect to the other strings ... So the more out of tune, or below pitch the instrument is, the greater the knock on effect is. It’s pointless worrying about a perfect tuning if you are making large tuning adjustments. Far better to get the overall tension on the soundboard by doing a rough tuning first without worrying that the tuning sounds awful , rather than concentrating on getting notes perfect, and then having them all wander out of tune again as the soundboard is subjected to increased down-force. This again is something that I can’t comment on with regard to ETDs – I believe that they have the ability to calculate “stretch” , and should be more than capable of indicating the amount required to achieve the finished result. However, it’s once again a question of “Setting” ... but this time it’s a question of “setting the soundboard”.
Tuning stability is affected by many things, temperature and humidity change cause the biggest fluctuations in pitch, but the initial stability comes down to the tuner’s skill in setting both the wrestpin and soundboard. These skills are paramount in becoming a top class tuner and sadly it is simply not possible to learn these skills either aurally or by using an ETD. Practise and experience are the only ways to ever obtain the “feel” and result of a good professional, and stable tuning.



Concert Tuner & Technician for the past 52 years in the United Kingdom
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Re: Techniques for stability
MU51C JP #1703936 06/29/11 12:09 AM
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If You tuninig this piano for the first time. Be care and tuninig much slow. Strings checks on quart and quint , octave.

Re: Techniques for stability
Maximillyan #1704277 06/29/11 12:55 PM
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One of the most important things to remember if you want to improve on stability is paying attention on every string to the feedback your getting. Target shooters that try to improve their scores refer to this as "calling the shot". They do this by noting exactly where the sights were when the bullet left the barrel. It pinpoints a problem to do with you, rather than the many other factors that can also have a role to play. Its of little use a week or month later to note that pitch has moved here and there on some notes if your not sure what you did with those notes to possibly let this happen. Several good methods are to pound the note in after tuning it and look for shift in pitch, the direction it shifts can also help pinpoint the nature of the cause. Wiggling the hammer ever so slightly left and right and up and down on the pin can also reduce the tendancy to leave the pin in a twisted or leaning position.

It is also important to compare your tuning to a decent proffesional tuning as a benchmark. All pianos begin to go out of tune the moment you finish...not by much, but they still do. If you have less than ideal torque holding the pins, poor climate or submit the piano to heavy playing it will go out of tune quicker than normal, regardless of how well you tune.

Because of the different directions relative to the bridge face that the hammers hit the strings on uprights and grands, on uprights, make sure to use more force in pounding the key when you initially pull sharp of target pitch...this assures that the backstring gets up to or slightly over the target pitch tension. Your aiming to get the tension equal on both sides of the bridge when your finished.

Pulling directly on the lever also relays both rotational and leaning forces to the pin. To limit the pin leaning I twist the handle like a motorcycle throttle in the proper direction to counteract this tendancy on smooth pulls. I won't comment on whether smooth pull vs taps or nudges work better because I incorporate all of them depending on the response I feel in the pin. I have seen stable tunings form others using either method.

Some people have used impact tuning levers with good effect and this can also be an option farther down the road. Personally I think they put unnecessary wear and tear on tuning pins and hammer tips under less than ideal conditions, so I don't use them.

Good luck with your endeavors.

Last edited by Emmery; 06/29/11 01:04 PM. Reason: added ifo

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Re: Techniques for stability
Emmery #1704291 06/29/11 01:27 PM
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Thanks for your details on proper pin setting technique Emmery.
That is the one thing that has so far stopped me from tuning my grand.
I used to tune my old upright without any issues but I've yet to do so on my grand because I thought I should absorb as much info on various aspects of pin setting technique that I can.
That said, I may still never attempt tuning on this piano but the details you provided are appreciated even by us non-"techs".

Re: Techniques for stability
PianistOne111 #1704436 06/29/11 05:12 PM
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There are many different ways and methods to achieve good results so none are really exclusive of any of the others. Eventually, experience and feedback will sort out what works best for each situation.

The ETD can be a great tool for feedback on progress also since some of them (when set to the highest level of sensitivity) will measure a shift in pitch less than the 1/3-1/2 cent sensitivity our ears are limited to. With an aural test you unfortunately have to strike two notes to get a comparison(or two strings of a unison) and then the questions arise; which note shifted (requiring more test notes), or did both notes settle equally giving the impression nothing changed ect...




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Re: Techniques for stability
PianistOne111 #1705919 07/01/11 10:04 PM
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Owen Jorgensen wrote out his techniques in one of his books (I don't remember which one, but it's on pages 13-15). I don't have the experience to comment on them. Roughly summarized:

1) "The tuning hammer handle should always be nearly parallel to the direction in which the strings are going from the tuning pins to the hitch pins" because "if a tuning pin is unavoidably bent ... either towards the bass or towards the treble), it will not alter the tension on the string... when the tuning pin straightens up again."

2) "the tip of the tuning hammer should be as short as possible" and "the tip's hole should be loose enough to allow the tip to get very close to the coils of the tuning pin"

3) "one should stand up while tuning grands and large uprights. It is permissable to sit down .. only while tuning spinet pianos" etc.

4) "A string which is being tuned should always be sounding whenever the tuning pin is being turned in either direction"

5) "Before the actual tuning operation is done on a string, the tuning hammer should be turned to the left a very short distance in order to lower the string a small amount flat"

6) "In order to compensate for ["the twisted tuning pin"], the string must be brought up to pitch and then beyond pitch to the sharp side. The degree to which the string should be tuned sharp is determined by experience and instinctive feel. After the string has been brought up to this minute degree sharp, then a gentle backwards nudge on the tuning hammer handle will allow the tuning pin to quickly untwist, and the string will flatten to the correct in-tune position."

7) "... it is far superior to move the hammer by means of tiny, quick jerks rather than slow, steady pulls or pushes. The hand and fingers should be relaxed, and they should be near the end of the handle for good control."

8) "... it is also extremely important to be playing the piano key with a louder touch than that which the concert artist will use during performance."

"One should feel the tuning pin move in the bottom of its hole while also sensing the movement of the string over the various bearing points all through the handle of the tuning hammer."

Re: Techniques for stability
PianistOne111 #1706798 07/03/11 06:51 PM
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Excellent replies! It seems like my weakest link is my feeling through the lever. Also, I get a squishy or springy feeling. Is that mostly the pin or wood twisting or is my lever too soft?


One111
Re: Techniques for stability
PianistOne111 #1706801 07/03/11 06:52 PM
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A cheap lever bends.


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Re: Techniques for stability
Emmery #1715971 07/18/11 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Emmery
Personally I think [impact tuning levers] put unnecessary wear and tear on tuning pins and hammer tips under less than ideal conditions, so I don't use them.


Please elaborate. What kind of wear and tear on the pins? What's less than ideal? I use an Otto keyes impact hammer with a well-fitting tip.

Re: Techniques for stability
hard2tune #1716021 07/18/11 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by hard2tune
Originally Posted by Emmery
Personally I think [impact tuning levers] put unnecessary wear and tear on tuning pins and hammer tips under less than ideal conditions, so I don't use them.


Please elaborate. What kind of wear and tear on the pins? What's less than ideal? I use an Otto keyes impact hammer with a well-fitting tip.


Simple law of physics. If your applying the same amount of force and movement to the pin but in a fraction of the time (impacting) the wear will increase on both the pin and hammer tip proportionally. Materials such as metal under inpact conditions behave like they are more brittle then what they actually are.

Look at a set of normal wrench sockets and impact ones; the main difference is that the impact ones are built tougher to handle the spikes in force from the inpact. Surface finish is also usually black oxide instead of hard chrome or other plating because the incidence of surface spalling is more likely with impact forces.

Less than ideal conditions would for example be a small amount of play between the tip and the pin...this compounds the above mentioned problem. Common star tips by design only contact a small portion of the pin near its corners...again most inpact tools like sockets are hex sided like nuts to get full contact...not like 12 point sockets. Another less then ideal condition would be nickel plated pins since the plating would be susceptable to spalling from repeated impacts.

The forces are not only on the pin and the hammer tip but would also make it more likely to break rusty or old strings, even if your inpacting to lower tension first. A 10 lb test fishing line will easily lift 9 lbs gently...try lifting half that weight with a quick jerk using the same 9 lbs of force and the line will snap.




Last edited by Emmery; 07/18/11 11:16 PM. Reason: added info

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Re: Techniques for stability
Emmery #1716046 07/18/11 11:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Emmery
Originally Posted by hard2tune
Originally Posted by Emmery
Personally I think [impact tuning levers] put unnecessary wear and tear on tuning pins and hammer tips under less than ideal conditions, so I don't use them.


Please elaborate. What kind of wear and tear on the pins? What's less than ideal? I use an Otto keyes impact hammer with a well-fitting tip.


Simple law of physics. If your applying the same amount of force and movement to the pin but in a fraction of the time (impacting) the wear will increase on both the pin and hammer tip proportionally. Materials such as metal under inpact conditions behave like they are more brittle then what they actually are.

Look at a set of normal wrench sockets and impact ones; the main difference is that the impact ones are built tougher to handle the spikes in force from the inpact. Surface finish is also usually black oxide instead of hard chrome or other plating because the incidence of surface spalling is more likely with impact forces.

Less than ideal conditions would for example be a small amount of play between the tip and the pin...this compounds the above mentioned problem. Common star tips by design only contact a small portion of the pin near its corners...again most inpact tools like sockets are hex sided like nuts to get full contact...not like 12 point sockets. Another less then ideal condition would be nickel plated pins since the plating would be susceptable to spalling from repeated impacts.

The forces are not only on the pin and the hammer tip but would also make it more likely to break rusty or old strings, even if your inpacting to lower tension first. A 10 lb test fishing line will easily lift 9 lbs gently...try lifting half that weight with a quick jerk using the same 9 lbs of force and the line will snap.

Interesting.

In practice, does one ever encounter problems due to this kind of damage to the pin?

Kees

Re: Techniques for stability
Karen A. #1716058 07/19/11 12:25 AM
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Karen,

Thanks for the Owen Jorgensen summary. Of course, he was my greatest mentor of all. I only disagree with one concept and that is about the necessity of the tuning hammer being parallel to the string, especially in light of the comments about quick movements of the tuning hammer versus a slow pull method.

If a slow pull method is used, perhaps the parallel position of the tuning hammer may be of more importance. A slow pull by its very nature will twist the tuning pin. That will require that an "untwist" technique must follow. A quick movement of the tuning hammer by contrast, will more likely cause the whole pin to move as well as most, if not all segments of the string.

I know this based upon more than 30 years of experience after having seen the tuning demonstration by Jim Coleman, Sr. and George Defebaugh way back in 1979. It was a life changing experience for me. George said at the time that it was the most "mechanically correct" way to manipulate a piano string.

Not only is it mechanically correct but it is the most efficient. One stroke does it for me for many of the strokes that I take with my tuning hammer. A slow pull would only slow me down in the tuning process many times over.

Therein lies the answer to why some technicians can complete a fine tuning in 45 minutes to an hour and it takes others twice as long. Jim Coleman, Sr. never put his hammer parallel to the string in such an awkward and debilitating position, why should I? I never have done that in over 30 years of full time, professional practice.

In my opinion, the position of the tuning hammer is completely irrelevant as long as the most mechanically correct manipulation of the tuning hammer is employed.


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
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Re: Techniques for stability
DoelKees #1716096 07/19/11 01:25 AM
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Originally Posted by DoelKees
Originally Posted by Emmery
Originally Posted by hard2tune
Originally Posted by Emmery
Personally I think [impact tuning levers] put unnecessary wear and tear on tuning pins and hammer tips under less than ideal conditions, so I don't use them.


Please elaborate. What kind of wear and tear on the pins? What's less than ideal? I use an Otto keyes impact hammer with a well-fitting tip.


Simple law of physics. If your applying the same amount of force and movement to the pin but in a fraction of the time (impacting) the wear will increase on both the pin and hammer tip proportionally. Materials such as metal under inpact conditions behave like they are more brittle then what they actually are.

Look at a set of normal wrench sockets and impact ones; the main difference is that the impact ones are built tougher to handle the spikes in force from the inpact. Surface finish is also usually black oxide instead of hard chrome or other plating because the incidence of surface spalling is more likely with impact forces.

Less than ideal conditions would for example be a small amount of play between the tip and the pin...this compounds the above mentioned problem. Common star tips by design only contact a small portion of the pin near its corners...again most inpact tools like sockets are hex sided like nuts to get full contact...not like 12 point sockets. Another less then ideal condition would be nickel plated pins since the plating would be susceptable to spalling from repeated impacts.

The forces are not only on the pin and the hammer tip but would also make it more likely to break rusty or old strings, even if your inpacting to lower tension first. A 10 lb test fishing line will easily lift 9 lbs gently...try lifting half that weight with a quick jerk using the same 9 lbs of force and the line will snap.

Interesting.

In practice, does one ever encounter problems due to this kind of damage to the pin?

Kees


I've only tried an impact lever once and I presume with practice, for tuning, its effective at doing what its intended to do. I serviced a piano who's past tuner used an impact hammer on it for the last two years and the pins' corners look a bit more battered then what I'm used to seeing. It could be that his hammer tip was worn, or the impacting done it, or both. My reason for not using one is that one can use a similar impact technique on a normal hammer by nudging, without the abrupt forces a mechanically weighted system uses...also, I doubt tuning pins were ever designed or made with impact hammers in mind.


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Re: Techniques for stability
PianistOne111 #1716106 07/19/11 01:39 AM
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How do you learn to tune with stability?

Tune unison and check next day? What if they all dropped in pitch?

Tune 1 string with ETD and check next day? What if humidity changed?

As far I've seen (and I've looked at all the obvious places) there is no "learn to to tune stable" tutorial.

As many people posted stability is more important than accuracy in temperament.

My own piano is annoyingly stable, but I don't know what I did to get it in that state. I must have done something right, but what was it??

Kees

Re: Techniques for stability
PianistOne111 #1716133 07/19/11 02:40 AM
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ETD is a great tool for monitoring stability; a saved and dated tuning file serves as a great benchmark for future reference. The seasonal fluctuations that cause stability issues tend to share similar characteristics in a repeating cycle. I tune pianos where I know exactly whats waiting for me 6 months later when I return.

A large humidity swing would take a week or two to effect the piano's soundboard from my experience. Many climates shift from humid to dry (or vice versa) from morning to night and you won't see the pitch change during this course of time.

Temperature is different, and big swings can effect the pitch quickly but not really in a haphazard way (eg. strong stage lights).

If you test the note with several hard blows after tuning and nothing shifts, you probably have the strings settled properly. If you get a feel for how much torque is needed to change the pitch and apply much less than this amount in either direction and the pitch changes, then your relaxing and settling the pin from a twisted state.

If poor hammer technique leaves the pin leaning, a small amount of pressure back and forth on the same plane as the strings will indicate this and help you find its proper stable position.

Stability is difficult to teach with books or descriptions. Watching a good tuner ply his craft can be useful if you note how they hold and manipulate the lever and pick up on the smaller more subtle mechanics involved.



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Re: Techniques for stability
Emmery #1716187 07/19/11 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Emmery

The forces are not only on the pin and the hammer tip but would also make it more likely to break rusty or old strings, even if your inpacting to lower tension first. A 10 lb test fishing line will easily lift 9 lbs gently...try lifting half that weight with a quick jerk using the same 9 lbs of force and the line will snap.





While that would certainly seem to be the case, I can report after a year of tuning solely by impact (verticals), that string breakage is most definitely down. And I think it's because impacting moves all segments of the string at once, jarring them past their bearing point, as opposed to a slowly-pulled string which might see one segment move considerably before another does. I have no proof or data for that, but I think it's a reasonable theory.


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Re: Techniques for stability
Emmery #1716219 07/19/11 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Emmery
A 10 lb test fishing line will easily lift 9 lbs gently...try lifting half that weight with a quick jerk using the same 9 lbs of force and the line will snap.


With all due respect, Emmery, this analogy seems flawed to me.

The second fishing line snaps only because of the inertia of the 9 lb weight. You are moving the line (which is slack!) at high speed, until it runs taut against the 9 lb weight, and suddenly the 9 lb weight has to be accelerated to the speed at which your hand is moving the line. The inertia of the weight exerts a force much higher than 10 lbs on the line, and it breaks. The inertia of the line itself, by the way, is negligibly small. You could never break it by making a whipping movement. You need the intertia of the 9 lb weight.

But there are no such weights in a piano - only the "lines", and what's more: they are already pre-tensioned, not slack. There's practically zero movement, and no weight to be accelerated, so inertia is definitely not a factor.

To make your analogy more realistic, you should rather imagine two taut fishing lines, each fixed at one end and going over a ratchet reel on the other end. In one experiment, you increase its tension from 8 lbs slowly, until the ratchet clicks in at 9 lbs. In the other, you jerk the tension from 8 to 9 lbs suddenly, by slapping the reel fast, just hard enough to flick it into its next ratchet gear.

Neither of the lines would break. Why? Because you're hardly moving the lines at all, so there is no inertia to speak of. At no point does the tension of either line exceed 9 lbs.

To give you another example: the trick of tearing off some toilet paper with one hand, by giving the paper some slack and then doing a quick flick, only works if the roll is reasonably full, because to break the perforation, one needs the speed of the slack paper impacting against the inertia of the full roll.


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