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touching up your tunings
#2871506 07/22/19 02:58 PM
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It was suggested that I start this thread to get some tips about touching up the tuning on my new Weber upright. My tech lives a state away (63 miles to be exact) and has to schedule his tunings in groups to help defray cost..rather than one at a time. That's cool, but it occurred to me that there might come a time when I would need to "slightly tweak" a string that's unacceptably out from the rest. Maybe that will not happen, but i'm just planning on the possible future.

What tools would you suggest I get to do this? Any particular tuning hammers to stay away from? Any that are better than others?

Any advice on how to go about it?

I've seen folks do it in videos and I do get the "concept" of how to go about it including setting the pin and all (like I said...I understand the "concept" is all) I won't do anything drastic and If I get in over my head, I'm fine with calling the tech and telling him what happened and to make another trip to tune my piano.

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Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871515 07/22/19 03:21 PM
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Seems risky and likely to result in an outcome worse than one note sounding a bit off. Rickster does it, but he has experience (though he started with none, I suppose!). I just wouldn't start tinkering on a brand new piano and break a string, but I'm not in your shoes.

Re: touching up your tunings
dhull100 #2871519 07/22/19 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by dhull100
Seems risky and likely to result in an outcome worse than one note sounding a bit off. Rickster does it, but he has experience (though he started with none, I suppose!). I just wouldn't start tinkering on a brand new piano and break a string, but I'm not in your shoes.

What specific risk and what worse outcome?

I ask because I've seen lots of folks do a LOT more in videos than I'm suggesting and not one of them was dissatisfied with the outcome.

I'm really looking for folks who do it and can shed light on tools, techniques and such...not a debate about the merits of whether a person would recommend it or not.

Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871520 07/22/19 03:44 PM
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Bob I am not sure but it would affect your warranty if you started trying to tune.
I know if it was myself the dealer would not be happy.Imagine if something went wrong
your piano perhaps starts buzzing.They call in a technician,he sees something and
realised you have been trying to tune ?
When is your next tuning? New pianos need about at least about 6 tunings over 18 months
before they settle down.Strings for a start have to stretch.

Last edited by Lady Bird; 07/22/19 03:50 PM. Reason: Missing word
Re: touching up your tunings
Lady Bird #2871524 07/22/19 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
Bob I am not sure but surely it would affect your warranty if you started trying to tune.
I know if it was myself the dealer would not be happy.Imagine if something went wrong
your piano perhaps starts buzzing.They call in a technician,he sees something and
realised you have been trying to tune ?


I guess my question is; what is the scenario in which touching up a string would cause buzzing?

What events would lead to that outcome?

Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871526 07/22/19 03:54 PM
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I am not sure it will cause buzzing but anything could happen.
You could bend the tuning pin if you used the incorrect tool or
movement.

Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871528 07/22/19 04:00 PM
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I would never, ever do this on my piano. The recommendation is that you work on an old "clunker" that no one wants until you get some sort of feel for how to wield the tuning hammer and how to tune a string. But it's your piano; you can do with it what you will.

You will need a tuning hammer and a couple of mutes (to mute one of the strings while you get the other two in unison). It is much more difficult than you might imagine (How difficult can it be?) to tune a string and set the pin so that the string stays in tune. Then, when you get the two in unison you find out that the third string is out of tune. What happened? So now you tune the third string to the other two and then find out that that all three strings are out of tune with their octaves. Did you start by tuning the wrong string or tuning it up instead of down, or did it slip after you "tuned" it? Now, where do you go from here? There's no "reset" button to get you back to square one. It just goes downhill from there, believe me. (Been there, done that - more than once!)

The first precaution is to make sure that you are turning the right tuning pin for the string you want to tune. With three strings per note in most cases, and with the tuning pins so close together, it's very easy to start turning the wrong pin. There goes a string! There is a real art in knowing just how to turn the tuning pin that no novice can appreciate.

I can almost guarantee you (How difficult can it be?) that you are going to be worse off with your attempt at touching up than if you just left it alone until your tuner comes again.

Your questions might be more professionally answered if you post your query in the Piano Technicians - Tuners Forum. And all those dudes on YouTube tuning their own pianos as demonstrations on how to do it - believe me, they've been through the trials and errors (and probably some broken strings, too) before showing off their expertise on their videos.

What can go wrong? Let us know!

One thing you can do - if you dare - is consult with your tuner the next time s/he comes to tune. See if the tuner is willing to give some pointers on "touch-ups" or whether you are cautioned to leave well enough alone. On the other hand, letting you at it with a couple of pointers might just be an opportunity for him to make more visits to correct what went wrong when you tried.

Most encouraging, aren't I? Still, at the risk of breaking a string or worse, bending a tuning pin, be aware that it can be a risky enterprise.

Cheers!


BruceD
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Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871533 07/22/19 04:08 PM
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I bought a cheap tuning hammer (square socket, detachable tip) and a few rubber mutes with wires to do this as a teenager...and proceeded to break a couple of bass strings on my upright.
In my 20s and early 30s, I used the same tools to touch up unisons on pianos. If the unisons were really egregious, I could make them sound better. If the unison was just a little bit out of tune, it would usually sound worse after a short while (once I tried to "fix" it).
Once I got some better tools (a rigid tuning hammer with a good quality tip, mine was $150ish) and a mentor, and really committed myself to learning how to tune, then the results improved.
However, once you learn how to tune, you become much pickier and analytical about the sound of everything as you improve...it becomes a sort of vicious cycle of increased perception/sensitivity demanding higher levels of refinement and stability.
Most of those online tutorial videos sound lousy to my ears (not just the "before", the "after"), and would not recommend copying the tuning technique that is demonstrated in the majority of these videos for the best stability and outcome.


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Re: touching up your tunings
BruceD #2871536 07/22/19 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
[...]
Your questions might be more professionally answered if you post your query in the Piano Technicians - Tuners Forum. [...]


Ah, I see that you've been there, done that!

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871538 07/22/19 04:17 PM
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The other day I saw an image on the technician's forum of tuning pins which had
snapped right off ! Just image trying fix that.Those strings are under awful pressure.
I know by the time my piano was tuned this last time it was getting on my nerves
as well.There were certain pieces I avoided playing because in those keys it seemed
worse.
You have a very nice new piano just try and be patient .
If do decide to tune you will need some training and all the correct tools.(also some
other old piano to learn to tune correctly on)

Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871545 07/22/19 04:27 PM
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I have been doing this for 30 years, and all the advice I can give is: Get a first class tuning hammer that will not strip the tuning pins.


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Re: touching up your tunings
ChatNoir #2871548 07/22/19 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by ChatNoir
I have been doing this for 30 years, and all the advice I can give is: Get a first class tuning hammer that will not strip the tuning pins.

Thank you...that's the sort of response I was looking for.

Re: touching up your tunings
ChatNoir #2871551 07/22/19 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ChatNoir
I have been doing this for 30 years, and all the advice I can give is: Get a first class tuning hammer that will not strip the tuning pins.

This is a new piano? Anyway go ahead I just hope you get the correct advice when things go wrong !
Perhaps it's just certain people like me who would never take these risks.

Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871559 07/22/19 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoWVBob
[quote=dhull100]
I'm really looking for folks who do it and can shed light on tools, techniques and such...not a debate about the merits of whether a person would recommend it or not.

In that case, best wishes!

Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871565 07/22/19 05:09 PM
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Bob! If you’re going to learn how to tune, start on a junker piano! DO NOT TRY TO FIX YOUR BRAND NEW PIANO!. Resist the temptation. You should probably give your new piano at least a couple months to settle in before it’s tuned again. Just don’t do it. Please.


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Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871575 07/22/19 05:46 PM
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When I took harpsichord lessons, the teacher showed me how to touch up unisons. I was like those horses that do arithmetic--I kept making a sequence of tiniest changes until my teacher acted satisfied (and a horse slowly clomps seven times, and would have kept going, but the human says, "That's it, 3 + 4 is 7!").

I did eventually learn sort of what I was doing. But, the tension is so low on harpsichord strings that it is not difficult to move and set pins. And, as someone said, it makes you spend all your time futzing with tuning instead of practicing.

I would never try to set a temperament or do anything at all on piano.


WhoDwaldi
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Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871584 07/22/19 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoWVBob

What tools would you suggest I get to do this? Any particular tuning hammers to stay away from? Any that are better than others?

Any advice on how to go about it?



I'm kind of like Rickster in that I have many skills and am not afraid to make mistakes to learn something. I bought the tuning kit from Pianoworld and am completely satisfied. Then I bought the Easy Piano Tuner software and forged ahead (after hours of watching youtube videos on tuning). I'd happily pay a tuner to come twice a year but we live a long way from any tuners and they don't like to come here. Anyway, my ear says I'm doing an ok job; however my wife is delighted. She thinks it's absolutely wonderful to have unison touch-ups every week or so. I suspect she's more sensitive to high overtones than I am. I'm leaning to tune on a Yamaha GC1 and after a year of tuning touch-ups haven't broken a string yet. If I do break one I guess I'll order a new one and replace it.


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Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871586 07/22/19 06:45 PM
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just buy a good tuning hammer... one that gives a lot of leverage, and a muting strip or two. I would suggest just focusing on fixing a unison that goes out (starts beating/gives that "whirling" or chorus-y sound). when you have a note with a unison that is out, use a mute to isolate one of the three strings so that only two are sounding together. Is the chorus-y sound gone or do you still hear it? If you still hear it, isolate a different string. If the sound is gone, you have found the string that is out or "beating". you would then remove the mute and use the tuning hammer to make that string match the other two. I find more often than not, the string has to be tuned "up" slightly as opposed to down, but if the weather is changing and getting humid, you could have to tune it slightly down; even so, you want the last motion on the hammer to be an "up" stroke if that makes sense, all the while playing the key quite hard... so you would tuned down a bit more than you have to and then tune up. Starting this way will train your ear to hear beats. Once you get good at this, you will never be happy with the tuning of your piano again. Good luck! =0

Last edited by sroreilly; 07/22/19 06:46 PM.
Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871593 07/22/19 07:18 PM
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Bob, I admire you, my friend, but this is a HUGE taboo subject here on the PW forums. And, I hope you are not thin-skinned, like I used to be. smile

But I've learned not to take some comments here personally. If you do, it will bother you and haunt you and cause you to lose sleep at night. Over the years, I've received some very harsh comments and criticisms for working on my own pianos. Comments like, "only a fool would represent themselves in a court of law, and only a fool would work on their own piano". And, that is mild compared to some of the comments I've received here over the years.

My advice? Do your research, your homework, and buy a high quality tuning hammer with a #2 tip, and don't talk about it here, unless you are prepared for the PW gauntlet line... smile

Good luck!

Rick


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Re: touching up your tunings
PianoWVBob #2871600 07/22/19 07:43 PM
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Seems to me the consensus response is first, don't do it, and second, if you're determined to do it, find a beater piano and practice on it before you tackle your new, workaday piano. I think even Rickster didn't start out learning the craft on his one and only best piano.


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