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Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY

Posted By: Jorge Andrade

Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/04/17 07:51 PM

Hi all,

I want to learn how to tune pianos, I have 2 I can practice on. Any recommendations on a tuning lever I should by? I don' know if that matters much but I don't even know if I'm going to like it or continue doing this, but I don't mind spending a little more if the benefits far outweigh the cost. I did try searching for this topic before posting but I didn't really see anything that would help me out. Thank you all.
Posted By: Nauwelaerts

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/04/17 08:36 PM

I use a Jahn tuning lever (a handle combined with a L-form tip size #3). They are very solid and they fit very well on the tuning pins.
They are not expensive and they work much better than the most extension levers, which flex a lot!
Jahn levers will last for always: they don't break. If you also buy an extra long L-form tip, on a grand piano you can keep tuning in the highest treble in a comfortable position.
This is the lever I use. smile

Jahn website
Posted By: rysowers

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/04/17 09:01 PM

The Levitan Classic from Pianotek. It's not cheap but it has big advantages in control and feel. Last I checked it was around $175.

Posted By: DanS

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/04/17 10:42 PM

I researched this quite a bit about a year ago. Fujan and Faulk seem to be very popular (I have a Faulk and I like it a lot-my teacher busts my chops because it looks fancy, but he admits it's a good lever). People also have had positive things to say about Levitan and the Mother Goose Tools Plateau Lever, which are both less expensive. I've been considering getting the Mother Goose Tools lever...
Posted By: Bosendorff

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/05/17 02:46 AM

Hi Jorge,

I tune my own piano too and decided to buy all basic tools needed for tuning and regulation some years ago. About the tuning lever itself, if your budget is limited you can start with a cheaper one if you want, but do not buy the gooseneck type. On the other hand, you need to buy a tip of good quality. So it's best to invest more in the tip than in the lever if they come separated. Got a Watanabe one and it's very solid.
Posted By: kpembrook

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/05/17 02:48 AM

The Mother Goose lever will put more tip on the pin than some because of the height of the handle above the point of contact with the tuning pin.
Posted By: Mark Cerisano

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/05/17 06:53 AM

More important than tuning lever is understanding how the tensions, elastic deformation of the pin, and friction all affect stability. I still use a basic extension hammer after 17 years tuning professionally.
Posted By: Gadzar

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/05/17 09:18 AM

If I have been asked this last year I have said buy a carbon fiber tuning hammer because of its rigidity and lightness.

But now, after trying the tapping technique with pleasant results, I say buy a student tuning hammer, it makes no difference.
Posted By: HelloMrZebra

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/06/17 05:32 PM

You should do a video for the tapping technique. I can't get good stability with this technique. How do you set the pin or compensate for overshooting the pitch??
Posted By: Gadzar

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/06/17 10:51 PM

I do not set the pin. I just tap on the hammer, up or down to pitch, with my extended fingers, perpendicular to the shaft. If I overshoot then I tap on the opposite direction. I love this technique for minute changes in pitch (less than a cent) to tune unisons for example.

I check stability only with test blows, I do not touch the tuning hammer, never.

I have now at my shop a birdcage piano I'm repairing. It has very loose pins, difficult to tune because you easily overshoot. I'll make a video tuning it with a student tuning hammer.
Posted By: Gadzar

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/06/17 11:56 PM

Here it is.

I'm doing a 600 cents pitch raise. In this pass I'm raising 100 cents approx. I strip muted the whole piano and tuned the center string of each unison.

Now I'm going to tune the second string of each unison by strip muting every other unison.

[Linked Image]

So, I tune the left string of the first unison, then the right string of the next one, then the right string of the next, etc... left, right, left, right...



Lol. This is not a Goldilocks piano! Eh Jeff?


P.S. At 3:45 I cheated. I used my nudging technique to raise pitch instead of tapping on the lever. crazy whome
Posted By: HelloMrZebra

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/07/17 04:14 AM

Thanks for uploading the video! I've used this tapping method before on a very tight pinblock, and I couldn't get stability. So with the tapping method you don't have to account for the twisting or bending of the pin? Just tap up or down to pitch? Hammer angle doesn't matter?

I've been using the smooth pull method where I bring it over pitch and then reverse direction pushing and striking the key really hard to settle it back down. Smooth pull is very time consuming for me and hard on the ears. Sometimes it may take me 5 mins to tune a 3 string unison. Although with the smooth pull I can feel the torsion going down and the key striking decreasing the torsion. So I can feel whats going on better??
Posted By: Gadzar

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/07/17 04:48 AM

In verticals I place the lever in an angle that locks the tip against the tuning pin, between 10:00 to almost 12:00 O'Clock for lowering pitch and between 2:00 to almost 12:00 for raising pitch.

I tap with my fingers at a right angle to the lever.

In grands I place the lever between 10:00 to almost 3:00 O'Clock in order to lock the tip to the pin in the desired direction (CW or CCW).

I do not set the pins. I feel the resistance opposed by the pin, I feel when it moves, tough sometimes I hear the pitch changing without feeling any movement of the pin. When I'm unsure it's stable I play forte blows to check and retune if it moved.

Yes, I tune directly to pitch. Well, I strive to land directly at the wanted pitch. No setting of the pin, not making the string render, just tap to pitch.

No matter how tight or loose the pins are in the pinblock, just tap with the needed heaviness or lightness to make them move.

This is a true impact technique. I do not grab the lever in my hand, I do not push/pull on the lever. I just tap on it.


In this case, this piano, with these old rusty strings, I would be afraid to break strings if using a smooth pull to raise the pitch a whole semitone.

P.S. As you can see in the video, I'm not fast using this technique, I still have to think before doing. I am too used to my nudging technique amd I must be aware of not using it. Speed will come with practice.

Posted By: Chris Leslie

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/07/17 09:24 PM

Rafael, if you placed the hammer clock position opposite to what you are doing in the video then there will be a short period of lost motion for each tap before the tip actually engages with the pin. That is actually how it work for proper impact hammers. The theory is, I think, that the lost motion enables speed and inertia to build up before the impact happens which should provide a more intense and sharper impact. In the case of your piano, the pins appear to be so loose that it would not be work well I think, but how about for tight pins?
Posted By: Mark Cerisano

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/08/17 12:37 AM

I encourage everyone to consider NSL tension, how it's affected by hammer technique, how it is changed when the hammer force is removed, where it needs to be after the hammer force is removed.

Adherence to any one technique means you will find pianos that don't behave the way you expect. Understanding NSL tension means you can change what you are doing, and know how it will improve stability.
Posted By: Gadzar

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/08/17 03:24 AM

Originally Posted by Chris Leslie
Rafael, if you placed the hammer clock position opposite to what you are doing in the video then there will be a short period of lost motion for each tap before the tip actually engages with the pin. That is actually how it work for proper impact hammers. The theory is, I think, that the lost motion enables speed and inertia to build up before the impact happens which should provide a more intense and sharper impact. In the case of your piano, the pins appear to be so loose that it would not be work well I think, but how about for tight pins?


Have you tried impact tuning with a non impact hammer?

I mean impact tuning hammers are not designed to have a loose fit between the tip and the tuning pins. They have a free play between the lever and tip. And they have the required mass in the lever, which can be adjusted up and down to produce the desired intensity in the impacts.

This is not so in this case, with a student lever and a very large tip for the size of the pins of this piano. This lost motion is precisely what I want to suppress by placing the hammer the way I do. The speed and inertia are provided by my forearm, wrist, hand and fingers, which I can control much better than a lever.

Yes, these pins are so loose that in some cases the pitch moves only by puting/removing the lever on/from the pin. See my video at 1:06, The pitch was almost imperceptibly flat but when I removed the hammer and put it back on the pin with the lever at 2:00 O'Colck the pitch droped flagrantly.

About tight pins: I just have to put more energy in my taps, with my forearm and wrist, it works fine even for very tight pins. In fact it works better with tight pins, I have more control on the pitch and can tune right on pitch, without overshooting.

P.S. With this tapping technique you do not have to worry about the NSL tension nor about the setting of the pins.

And with the smooth pull technique controlling the NSL tension is half the things you must control to achieve a stable tuning. The other half is in controling the twisting/flexing of the pin, i.e. the setting of the pin.
Posted By: Chris Leslie

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/08/17 09:36 PM

Slightly off-topic, but do you plan to treat the tuning pin holes with CA glue for that Birdcage piano?
Posted By: Gadzar

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/09/17 04:06 AM


Originally Posted by Chris Leslie
Slightly off-topic, but do you plan to treat the tuning pin holes with CA glue for that Birdcage piano?


Yes, I did it last night. After finishing the 100 cents pitch raise.

[Linked Image]






The pinblock has several cracks like this one, I poured some CA in them, I don't know if this will help to stop further damages.







Here is how it sounds after the 100 cents pitch raise






After seeing the condition of the pinblock I decided to leave it at this pitch, approx. 220 cents flat from A 440.


I will tune it again after refinishing the cabinet and then I will see the effects of the CA treatment.

The owner of this piano asked us to refinish the piano, it has a very nice rosewood veneer and it has genuine ivory keytops and ebony sharps. It will be a nice piece of furniture.

Posted By: Chris Leslie

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/09/17 06:13 AM

Great. I always these days do the bridges at the same time. It is amazing how many high treble false beats get eliminated when the bridge pins are tight.

I like your applicator tip.
Posted By: HelloMrZebra

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/10/17 10:01 PM

Rafael can you perhaps upload a video of how you do steady pull tuning technique on pins?
Posted By: Gadzar

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/11/17 04:12 AM


Steady pull is not my prefered tuning technique, but see the following videos of Isaac Oleg, a very fine French piano technician who uses this technique, explaining how to "charge" the tuning pins.





Here are more videos of Isaac Oleg tuning Equal Temperament in an upright piano, he tunes fifths and fourths checking with thirds and sixths, the sequence is: A4, A3, D4, E4, B3, F#4, C#4, G#4, D#4, A#3, F4, C4, G4.







Posted By: Gadzar

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/11/17 04:44 AM

For this kind of tuning technique, steady pull, it is very important to have absolute rigidity in the tuning lever in order to exactly feel what is happening with the tuning pin. You must feel when it's twisting and when it has turned in the pinblock. If your lever flexes then you can not know if what you feel is the lever flexing or the tuning pin twisting.

So for this tuning technique a carbon fiber lever is the best choice because of its high rigidity.

Posted By: Charles Cohen

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/11/17 10:32 AM

OK, a dumb question:

. . . Why not make a tuning lever with a large-diameter, tubular aluminum shaft ?

Likely much cheaper than carbon fiber, and lighter than an equivalent steel tube.

I checked some catalogs, but didn't find any.

I think the idea of tuning with a torque wrench (which is _designed_ to have its shaft bend) is a hoot. I suspect that the lesson is:

. . . If your fingers and ears know what they're doing, _anything_ will work.

Posted By: Ed A. Hall

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/11/17 11:26 AM

Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
OK, a dumb question:

. . . Why not make a tuning lever with a large-diameter, tubular aluminum shaft ?

Likely much cheaper than carbon fiber, and lighter than an equivalent steel tube.

I checked some catalogs, but didn't find any.

I think the idea of tuning with a torque wrench (which is _designed_ to have its shaft bend) is a hoot. I suspect that lesson is:

. . . If your fingers and ears know what they're doing, _anything_ will work.



Charles,

The original Fujan tuning lever was made out of large aluminum tubing. They then switched over to carbon fiber. The carbon fiber version is much nicer IMO due to less weight. When you're tuning many pianos each day, weight does matter.
Posted By: Mark Cerisano

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/11/17 01:59 PM

For slow pull, you do not need a rigid shaft. Twist and bend is a constant as is untwisting and unbending after the force is removed.

All that is needed is to choose the correct hammer angle so that the unbending/untwisting doesn't leave the non speaking length too flabby.

It's really not as difficult as some people seem to think. When you make the right angle choice, you just pull up to pitch and leave it. It is very fast.

You do not need a rigid shaft because the tuning pin doesn't know how stiff the shaft is. All it knows is that it's being twisted, bent, and turned. And then this force is removed and it untwists and unbends.

I proved this at an international PTG convention by tuning a stable string using a torque wrench.




Posted By: Robert Scott

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/11/17 02:24 PM

Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
OK, a dumb question:

. . . Why not make a tuning lever with a large-diameter, tubular aluminum shaft ?

Likely much cheaper than carbon fiber, and lighter than an equivalent steel tube.

I checked some catalogs, but didn't find any.

I think the idea of tuning with a torque wrench (which is _designed_ to have its shaft bend) is a hoot. I suspect that the lesson is:

. . . If your fingers and ears know what they're doing, _anything_ will work.


Here is an explanation of why use carbon fiber, from an industry source.

Weight for weight, carbon fiber offers 2 to 5 times more rigidity (depending on the fiber used) than aluminum and steel. In the case of specific components that will be stressed only along one plane, made from one-direction carbon fiber, its stiffness will be 5-10 times more than steel or aluminium (of the same weight).

In the case of a tuning hammer, the orientation of the force is known, so a comparably-stiff aluminum tuning hammer would weigh 5-10 times as much as the carbon fiber equivalent. Of course that is only for the parts that are made of carbon fiber. Some of it has to be made of steel, and those parts are pretty heavy too, so the comparison is not quite as bad it seems.
Posted By: Robert Scott

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/11/17 02:37 PM

Originally Posted by Mark Cerisano, RPT
For slow pull, you do not need a rigid shaft. Twist and bend is a constant as is untwisting and unbending after the force is removed.

That depends on the ratio of sliding friction to static friction. In many pin blocks, they are not too far apart, and a slow controlled movement is possible, even through a fairly flexible shaft. But some pin blocks and the string rendering is very jumpy. The static friction is much higher than the sliding friction. For those cases, once the pin begins to move, it will continue to move fast until the spring in the shaft unwinds to the point where it goes below the threshold for sliding friction. The more flex in the shaft, the greater this jump will be. In that case what I think an experienced user will do is deliberately tune away from the correct pitch a certain amount and then try to "jump" back into the correct pitch. Arbitrarily small corrections are not possible in those conditions.

Fortunately, even the more flexible tuning hammer shafts are reasonably stiff. The springiness in the flesh and muscle of the user will dominate the springiness of the tuning hammer itself. So it is hard to make a solid comparison by user experience alone. But one way to test the theory that "you do not need a rigid shaft" is to add even more flexibility to the system and then try to tune a jumpy piano. For example, you could wrap the tuning hammer handle in three inches of foam rubber and then try tuning with all that foam rubber between your hand and the handle. I don't think slow-pull will work very well with that much extra flexibility added. So there is some limit to how flexible a shaft can be. The only question is where is that limit?
Posted By: Beemer

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/11/17 03:23 PM

Why is it assumed that a pin that has high static friction relative to its kinetic friction cannot be moved a small amount? If the pin is given a slow increase in torque is the corollary that the transition, of static to kinetic friction, is always a large jump?

My understanding is that once the static friction has broken then the friction thereafter is constant. So lowering the string first then bringing it up just after the static friction has broken will allow the tuner to approach the desired "slightly above" tuned position. The final postion then being adjusted by controlling he NSL tension.

Ian
Posted By: kpembrook

Re: Tuning lever tips for beginner DIY - 02/11/17 04:28 PM

Originally Posted by Beemer
My understanding is that once the static friction has broken then the friction thereafter is constant.
Ian


This is true ... except for "jumpy" pins. I'm not sure of the exact scientific/engineering explanation, but "jumpy" pins have a radical difference between static friction and sliding friction preventing smooth, controlled movement.


Nonetheless... excess flex in a tuning lever is not desirable. A certain amount can be coped with quite well--without even conscious thought about it. But excess flex will tend to "mask" what's happening with the pin -- including the pin's own torsion.


I agree that a highly rigid tuning lever is not necessary -- and I don't happen to use one -- but I can understand why some people like them. Also, in testing tuning pin torque with a torque wrench one necessarily de-tunes the attached string. Using the torque wrench to re-tune the string is how I have experienced the unpleasantness of "too much flex". I do it -- but it isn't pleasant.
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