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first tuning attempt..some notes.. #2849810
05/19/19 04:36 AM
05/19/19 04:36 AM
Joined: Apr 2019
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girflush Offline OP
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So a little while back we purchased a cheap clunker upright piano which I always thought was a great piano to try to learn to tune with, so I’ve finally gotten around to working on it and per some recommendations of the forums here, I gave the Reblitz book a read, acquired a few of the assorted tools – student grade tuning lever with head and tip, rubber wedge mutes, a felt temperament strip, and a 3 needle voicing tool to attempt to mellow out the hammers later on..

So here is what I did roughly, along with some general notes, for my first tuning attempt:

1.) Tuned A to 440 with a tuning fork. After practicing at tuning unisons this was easy enough and similar to tuning unisons, just instead of tuning a string to another string, it was a string to the fork. In fact this seemed so easy to get correct that I thought that the simplest and most accurate thing to do theoretically would be to have 88 tuning forks, and just tune each note individually to a standard reference, cleaning up the unisons after of course. But as I understand it, which is admittedly not all that completely at the moment!, is that such a method at the time of writing of the Reblitz book at least, is not practiced for a variety of reasons, “inharmonicity”, differences between individual instruments, efficiency etc. Now things may have changed since the publishing of the Reblitz book, readily available clips of pure tones on youtube, free online tone generator programs apps etc, but glancing around the net seems no techs are tuning all 88 notes to a standardized pitch..usually just the A or sometimes C…perhaps things have changed?

2.) Tuned the A below A440.

3.) Tuned the F below that lower A. The book instructed to listen for beats and tune this F/A major third to a particular beat rate, 7bps if I recall. Well I was having some trouble hearing any beats at the time, let alone counting them to any particular bps rate. So I just tuned it by ear until it sounded like a major 3rd. Then I tuned some other sequence of notes which consisted of major 3rds and 6ths that was supposed to in the end give the entire temperament octave, but it did not come out sounding satisfactory, so that is definitely an area to improve on should I continue this possibly ill advised foray into piano tuning! And if I do, I’d definitely want to learn how to tune by ear in that manner the “old school way” as most seem to say that a good ear tuning sounds best. Seems it would also be the most efficient way in terms of time, least amount of gear to carry, etc.

4.) So…Due to the unsatisfactory sound I instead decided to tune A440 to the fork, tune the A an octave below, and then just do the rest of the octave by ear until it sounded correct. This worked out with much better results, but it took a lot of back and forth adjusting and tinkering, and so did not seem particularly efficient, and while the results were much better, some relationships were still a bit off, and it wasn’t just the unisons.. So I was hesitant to go on tuning octaves for the rest of the piano..

5.) So instead what I did was take my “88 tuning fork” idea, but instead of tuning all 88, just tuned an octaves worth of notes to standardized tones via youtube clips and a free online tone generator program. I then finished the piano tuning the octaves to the temperament I had set. This yielded the best results although some intervals and combinations still sound slightly questionable, I can tweak them. And although this sounded roughly OK, I wonder if this is an acceptable or widely practiced method?

Overall the sound is greatly improved from how out of tune the piano was initially, and I have definitely learned quite a bit, especially in regards to the basics..And I've a newfound appreciation for a well tuned piano, and how easily they can get get entirely out of tune.

I’ll also be trying to voice the hammers soon as they are rock hard and fairly harsh and I much prefer a warm mellow tone. They may need replacing altogether, they are original hammers so from 1970’s afaik..not sure how often, if ever, hammers generally need replacing…

Oh and I did manage to break one string. Hey, it's a right of passage, and I lived to tell the tale. And I wasn't on the wrong string afaik, it was just dead and I kept turning it without knowing at the time how much I was needing to turn the lever.. Amazing how little the lever needs to be turned. I'm sure it differs from piano to piano but sometimes its so little I was worrying a bit that simply removing the lever from the pin was going to alter the string!

Anyways just thought I’d post this up so experienced tuners can possibly shake their heads, get a good laugh, and maybe share some of their thoughts and experience! Feel free to comment on any or all of these concepts. Let me know if I’m generally on the right track here or if perhaps I should instead run away as fast as possible!

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Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2849828
05/19/19 05:57 AM
05/19/19 05:57 AM
Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,628
Strong, Maine
David Jenson Offline
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David Jenson  Offline
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Ah. 'Takes me back.

Simply put, the 88-tuning-fork idea is too imprecise to render good results as you discovered. It's just too easy to be off-pitch and not realize it, and the errors would "compound" as you proceed up and down the scale.

What HAS changed is the introduction and recent improvements in Electronic Tuning Devices (ETDs). Your goal of ear-tuning is good, but you can get some good underpinning in the learning stages with an ETD. It'll show you visually where you need help and will train the ear in the process. I don't use one (too fiddly and slow), but I have a couple in my phone that I sometimes use in two-piano tunings, or as an aid in radical pitch changes.

Keep at it.


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----
Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2849876
05/19/19 08:51 AM
05/19/19 08:51 AM
Joined: Jan 2019
Posts: 166
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jsilva Online content
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Definitely work toward hearing the beats between intervals for your temperament. I can remember the struggle with that but keep at it.

I might second David’s advice on using an ETD as reference. I have never used one to tune a piano but like him I have some apps on my phone. For many years I used a tuning fork to set A and then tuned from there but the past few years I’ve started using my phone to set A. Occasionally I’ve used it to quickly rough-set a temperament on a piano that’s particularly out of tune. Recently I bought Peterson’s iStroboSoft and it’s actually quite good even with the phone’s built in mic.

Anyway, you could use the ETD to set, say, the A and F and then listen for the beating and get used to that sound.

Regarding your #1, you should appreciate that a piano’s tuning needs to sound good with itself. Different pianos can tune differently. Using 88 ‘standard’ reference pitches wouldn’t be ideal for probably any piano.

Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2849949
05/19/19 11:21 AM
05/19/19 11:21 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 4,008
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Hakki Offline
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Quote
In fact this seemed so easy to get correct that I thought that the simplest and most accurate thing to do theoretically would be to have 88 tuning forks, and just tune each note individually to a standard reference, cleaning up the unisons after of course.


For that you only need 1 tuning app (instead of 88 forks) that you can download to your phone or tablet. smile

Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2850109
05/19/19 06:33 PM
05/19/19 06:33 PM
Joined: Jan 2011
Posts: 1,625
Canberra, ACT, Australia
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Chris Leslie Offline
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I think you are on the right track.

If you wish to tune aurally then hearing beats is essential. If you can get a unison in then you are really hearing beats. You just need to apply it to other intervals.

If not already, you need to strip mute the centre part of the piano where you are tuning a temperament because hearing beats is much easier with only one string per note.

Try this with the F3/A3 major third: After tuning the A3, rough in the F3 as a major third using you musical sense if you like. Then move the F3 slightly sharp or flat and try to hear the beat getting faster or slower. It is much easier to recognise the beat when the speed is changing. Same as it is easier to see a snake when it is moving.

When you can identify the beat then it should be much easier to proceed with all other intervals except that 4ths and 5ths beat very slowly or not at all. Then, get back to us and we can point you in the right direction using some of the many various methods to tune all the notes in the temperament.


Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au
Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2850150
05/19/19 08:57 PM
05/19/19 08:57 PM
Joined: Oct 2011
Posts: 760
Lincoln, NE
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That Guy Offline
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Quote
And if I do, I’d definitely want to learn how to tune by ear in that manner the “old school way” as most seem to say that a good ear tuning sounds best. Seems it would also be the most efficient way in terms of time, least amount of gear to carry, etc.

A good aural tuning takes a long time to learn how to do, and if you enjoy the process it may be the way for you to go. But, if you're thinking about 88 tuning forks then you're basically talking about an ETA (Electronic Tuning App). There are many good ones but most are very expensive. One option I'd suggest is PianoMeter (Formerly known as Easy Piano Tuner). It's on the Google play store and is professional software. You've probably seen it talked about on these pages. Even if you continue to pursue aural tuning this app will help you hear the intervals. I think even those that tune aurally will agree that a tuning with capable software would be preferable to a bad aural tuning.

As far as the least amount of gear is concerned - if you have a smartphone this app will simply be on your phone. Nothing more to carry around.


"That Tuning Guy"
Scott Kerns
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com
Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2850190
05/20/19 12:39 AM
05/20/19 12:39 AM
Joined: Oct 2018
Posts: 7
Perth, Australia
T
ThePianoWhisperer Offline
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Don't get too hung up yet on getting the tune 'correct'. Try focusing on getting good unisons and a stable tune which means working on your hammer technique and concentrating on setting the strings and tuning pins.

Daniel Levitan's book 'The Craft of Piano Tuning' goes into excruciating detail on practical tuning. I found it packed with insight and good tips on developing your tuning technique.

Craig

Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2850194
05/20/19 01:08 AM
05/20/19 01:08 AM
Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 16
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girflush Offline OP
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Well thank you for all the well reasoned sensible replies. They’re definitely helping me get a better understanding.

The 88 tuning fork thing was a passing notion that occurred while tuning A440 to the fork.

I definitely want to be able to tune entirely aurally eventually. Perhaps it’s a bit of vanity, a romantic notion or whatever, but there’s something impressive, skillfull and admirable about an entirely aural tuning. And an aural tuning is inline with a major factor in what attracts me to the instrument itself, that is an entirely acoustic, analog non digital type of ethos…connection to the past before electricity, internet, smartphones and the like...

And should I ever want to get professionally certified, the exams require an aural tuning as I understand. So there’s that for a bit more practical reason.

But of course using the technology now sort of as a guide/training wheels while at the same time cultivating the skills required to aurally tune, (namely hearing and working with beats), seems to be the way to go here. Plus I’m sure there are often clients who may prefer a tuner who uses a lot of tech.

I suppose in the end as long as the piano sounds good and it didn’t take an excessively long time to do the job, then that is all that really matters. Anyways thanks again for sharing helpful feedback, advice, suggestions and experience!

Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2850247
05/20/19 05:42 AM
05/20/19 05:42 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 4,008
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Hakki Offline
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Quote
(namely hearing and working with beats)


You can play the interval (major third, sixth or tenth related to the temperament) and measure the actual beat rate in real time using the tuning app, and check your aural skills.

Here is a video I made that shows measured actual beat rates of temperament intervals. You can calculated the beat rates of fourths and fifths from these measurements:

https://youtu.be/DV_Uu0OCDSo

Last edited by Hakki; 05/20/19 05:51 AM.
Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: ThePianoWhisperer] #2850292
05/20/19 08:11 AM
05/20/19 08:11 AM
Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,628
Strong, Maine
David Jenson Offline
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David Jenson  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,628
Strong, Maine
Originally Posted by ThePianoWhisperer
Don't get too hung up yet on getting the tune 'correct'. Try focusing on getting good unisons and a stable tune which means working on your hammer technique and concentrating on setting the strings and tuning pins.

Craig


Absolutely! Hammer technique is so fundamental that we often forget to emphasize it.

'Another thing ... tuning is something that you need to do a lot of to keep in practice.


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----
Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2850627
05/21/19 07:28 AM
05/21/19 07:28 AM
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Hakki Offline
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girflush, IMO it might be better if you start with a fourths-fifths temperament.

Here is one:

All fourths should be wider than just and beat less than 1 bps.
All fifths should be narrow than just and beat less than 1 bps.
Fifths should beat slower than fourths.

Tune A4 to fork
Tune D4 to A4
Tune A3 to D4
Check A3-A4 octave (it should be beatless)

Tune G4 to D4
Tune C4 to G4
Tune F4 to C4
Tune A#3 to F4
Tune D#4 to A#3

Tune E4 to A4
Check A3-E4 fifth. It should be narrow than just and slower than E4-A4 fourth.

Tune B3 to E4
Tune F#4 to B3
Tune C#4 to F#4
Tune G#4 to C#4
Check D#4 - G#4 fourth. It should beat less than1 bps.
If it is faster than 1 bps, make previous fourths and fifths beat faster.
If it its very slow or beatless or narrow then just, make previous fourths and fifths beat slower.

Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: Hakki] #2850935
05/22/19 01:40 AM
05/22/19 01:40 AM
Joined: Apr 2019
Posts: 16
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girflush Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Hakki
girflush, IMO it might be better if you start with a fourths-fifths temperament.

Here is one:

All fourths should be wider than just and beat less than 1 bps.
All fifths should be narrow than just and beat less than 1 bps.
Fifths should beat slower than fourths.

Tune A4 to fork
Tune D4 to A4
Tune A3 to D4
Check A3-A4 octave (it should be beatless)

Tune G4 to D4
Tune C4 to G4
Tune F4 to C4
Tune A#3 to F4
Tune D#4 to A#3

Tune E4 to A4
Check A3-E4 fifth. It should be narrow than just and slower than E4-A4 fourth.

Tune B3 to E4
Tune F#4 to B3
Tune C#4 to F#4
Tune G#4 to C#4
Check D#4 - G#4 fourth. It should beat less than1 bps.
If it is faster than 1 bps, make previous fourths and fifths beat faster.
If it its very slow or beatless or narrow then just, make previous fourths and fifths beat slower.


Alright thanks, I’ll print this out, save it and give it a try here sometime. Browsing through an older book yesterday I'm sure many are familiar with, (Claude Montel Art of Piano Tuning), there was a method which looked very similar to this one if I recall. I’ll be eager to give them a try.. Probably getting way ahead of myself overall but I’m sure I’ll try several different methods before settling in on one particular procedure...In fact I’ll probably print this whole thread out to refer to all the assorted tips, suggestions, recommendations and resources in the future. No doubt some will jump out to me at different times.

Already chris leslie's tip on lever movement has been a big help for sure. At first my tendency was to move the lever with two hands, one hand to stabilize the lever near the head and the other hand to turn it by the handle. But instead using one hand on the keyboard and one on the lever handle really sped things up. Fiddling about today, I was able to hone in on unisons really quickly that way. Much more efficient and easier to hear.. Snake in the grass..brilliant..a great analogy!

Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2850945
05/22/19 02:25 AM
05/22/19 02:25 AM
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Hakki Offline
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girflush, here is a video showing how to tune unisons. It should also give you an idea how to manipulate the tuning hammer.

https://youtu.be/mzoBH-HbKmw

Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2850955
05/22/19 03:08 AM
05/22/19 03:08 AM
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Posts: 4,008
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Hakki Offline
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Here is a video showing temperament tuning using fourths and fifths.
However the end result is not correct. Because his F3-A3 is beating slower than it should be (about 7 bps).
It is just to give you an idea.

https://youtu.be/09n-Inr7VSA

Re: first tuning attempt..some notes.. [Re: girflush] #2850979
05/22/19 05:21 AM
05/22/19 05:21 AM
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Posts: 4,008
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Hakki Offline
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I would also like to take your attention to some aspects of hammer manipulation.

In the Levitan video notice how he sets the pin. Setting the pin means equalizing the string tension so that the string will not go out of tune when played forte.
How he does that? First notice that he starts with lowering the pitch. That is good practice to follow so that you don't break a string accidentally if you are not on the correct string.
Secondly he raises the pitch just above the final target and finally lowers the pitch to the correct pitch. And also he gives a forte blow to check that the string is stable. Notice also that all his movements are small.


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