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Hello everyone. I've been tuning my pianos for the past 7 years, and 3 years ago I started tuning by ear, and I've encountered a weird "phenomenon", and my theories to explain it, so I thought I would share and see if anyone experience the same things.... Hope you all don't mind.

First of all, from 2013-2017 I was using verituner. The first thing I noticed is if my entire piano is sharp or flat even by a little bit, I would literally have to manipulate EVERY pin.
After doing so, the entire piano would be within approx +/- 0.3 cents of the verituner calculated target.

After this type of tuning, I would notice that the piano sounds "stiff". Hard to explain, but it's as if the sustain pedal is pressed half way, even though I press all the way. In other words, the sustain on all notes is shorter.

After a few days of such tuning, the sustain would come back and I would have long and free sound. Of course - after 3 days, the humidity would change and maybe now piano is 1 cent sharp or flat, so I'd have to do another tuning to zero out everything, and then again - the piano sustain sounds "stiff". So it's a vicious cycle.

Keep reading, I promise it will get more interesting smile

So in a way, I was a "slave" to the verituner.
Then I started tuning by ear. I still did my temperament with the machine because it's so perfect! But then I would turn off the machine, and do octaves up and down, and double check them with 4ths and 5ths, making sure everything sounds good

After about a year of practice, I think I got pretty good. After tuning the piano up and down from the temperament octave, I’d go and see how I did against the machine, and I’m usually within 2 cents of what the machine “thought” I should do.

Interestingly, when I tune by ear, the whole piano sounded more “natural” but it’s hard to explain.

As I got better and more confident tuning by ear, I can clearly notice that some decisions by the verituner are BAD and don’t sound good. Like for example, if by ear I set my C5 against the C4, the verituner suggested maybe 2 cents lower, but at 2 cents lower maybe the octave did not sound good, or the 5th against the F4 was too narrow. So in essence, for some reason, I think the verituner sometimes made some bad decisions for one reason or another.

But here is my main point. Finally!

When tuning by ear, I wouldn’t have to ALWAYS zero out the piano. I’d go check the temperament octave and if all of it is 2 cents sharp, I’d just leave it alone! And then I’d go up and down and do my octaves and check my 5ths and 4ths.

I would find maybe 10 notes outside the temperament octave that didn’t “fit” right and adjust them, but overall, I would leave like 80-90% of the pins untouched.

So now after a tuning, the piano did not sound “tight” or “stiff” and the piano sounded in perfect tune, with a free long sound!

So to explain again, when tuning by ear, I am more able to leave many pins un-touched.

So what is happening? Why is it that when we turn all the pins and put the piano in perfect tune, it doesn’t sound good? I have a theory. (just a theory)

It’s all about the kinks in the wire.
When we unstring a piano, we can see the kinks that go through the agraffe right? And the kinks in the wire that go over the bridge etc…

Lets call the portion of the string from pin to agraffe the 1st segment, and from the agraffe to bridge the 2nd segment aka – speaking segment.

Imagine if we put on a fresh string, and tune it to pitch, then immediately undo that string and take it out of the piano. What would the kink look like where it went through the agraffe? I think the kink will be much less prominent than a string that has been on the piano for 10 years. We’ve all seen it.

So I think the kinks are of huge importance on sustain, especially the kink at the agraffe and the kink on the first hitch pin of the bridge. Basically, the 2 kinks of the speaking length.

So what happens when we tune? This is mostly effecting the kink that goes through the agraffe (or under the capo bar). When we have to pitch up, the kink moves towards the pin, and now we have to WAIT a few days for a new good kink to form.

When we pitch down, we move the kink slightly towards the speaking length, (away from us) and now we have a small kink in the speaking length, and again, we have to wait some days or weeks for that kink to un-kink, and the new kink in the agraffe to take good shape.

I drew a diagram attached, obviously it’s exaggerated on the drawing so you can get what I am trying to explain.

But my point is, and theory, is that the piano wire kinks are important for good termination, and when termination is good, the sound is longer and free-er. And when we turn the pins un-necessarily, we move the kink, and have to wait for the piano to form a good new kink, and stretch out the old bad one.

A person who tunes by machine only, pretty much always has to turn all pins to zero out the piano, because they don’t listen and can say – hey, this A6 is +2 cents, but it still sounds good with the A4, D5 and E5, so I don’t need to touch it (and keep the good kink).

Gosh, I’m so sorry for this being so freaking long! And I’m sorry for anyone who had to read this, especially if I have no point at all here.


[Linked Image]

Best regards everyone.
Noam

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I think your kinks are a part of the puzzle. But, I think they should be as round and natural as possible. I don't think they should be bent or sharpened. Personally, I find when putting a new string on, and it is left in its natural state, the tone is pure, it is easy to tune, and full of sustain. As the string ages, those naturally occurring kinks become more difficult to deal with. But, I also think there is a difference between the ETD and aural tuning in terms of technique. When I am tuning aurally, I am purposefully easing those kinks out by feel. With the ETD, I am more or less going straight to the target.

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So...

1. On any of the electronic tuning devices I know, it is easy to set a "global" pitch to allow for floating of the pitch. If your piano is overall a couple of cents sharp, just set the target to aim for +2 cents so that the minimum strings need to be adjusted - if that is your goal.

2. On most of the electronic tuning devices, there are user controls to go beyond the generic stretch parameters that are built-in to start. With that in mind, since the Verituner measures so much data, you should be able to match whatever your ear prefers by adjusting the settings...

I think the "kink" theory would really only apply to pretty large pitch adjustments, not just a couple of cents in either direction.

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Another amateur here...

I use TuneLabPro and tune only one string on the bichords and trichords with the ETD. The other one string (bichords), or two strings (trichords) I always tune by ear, except the last octave and half or so.

When I get to the last octave and a half, I use the machine on all three strings of each note. I do have a slight hearing disability and can't hear the higher pitched notes as well as the ETD can. It just makes the task easier.

As for the kinks you mention, I always like to tune just a hair sharp and then back to pitch while using hard test blows. I try to aim for a good sounding tuning and good tuning stability, although it is nice to be able to clean up a few unisons when needed.

I really need to spend more time working the kinks out of my piano playing. smile

Rick


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I was trained to tune by ear when I first became a tuner. A friend at the time bought a Sanderson Accu Tuner and I thought it was a good idea to buy one too. I never felt my tunings were as good with the machine as by ear so I quickly abandoned it. My customers also commented that my machine tunings weren’t as good.

So, one thing I noticed is when tuning unisons you can get them where they sound beatless but there is no sustain. They just die right out. Then if you work at it a bit more and get them spot on, the sustain comes back. I don’t know if this is what you mean about sounding “stiff” but it is a phenomenon I noticed.

When tuning by machine and we rely on the device to tune our unisons, it can’t hear that sustain and tells you you’re tuned but you really aren’t.


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IMO, unisons should always be tuned by ear.

Maybe except for the very high treble, where tuning each string to the app target might be beneficial.

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Originally Posted by WBLynch
I was trained to tune by ear when I first became a tuner. A friend at the time bought a Sanderson Accu Tuner and I thought it was a good idea to buy one too. I never felt my tunings were as good with the machine as by ear so I quickly abandoned it. My customers also commented that my machine tunings weren’t as good.

So, one thing I noticed is when tuning unisons you can get them where they sound beatless but there is no sustain. They just die right out. Then if you work at it a bit more and get them spot on, the sustain comes back. I don’t know if this is what you mean about sounding “stiff” but it is a phenomenon I noticed.

When tuning by machine and we rely on the device to tune our unisons, it can’t hear that sustain and tells you you’re tuned but you really aren’t.

Bill, thanks for the reply.
100% the tightness I'm hearing after tuning is NOT from dead on unisons but it was a great idea thinking maybe that's what I am hearing after tuning.
I am very aware of the short sustain from a certain kind of "perfect" unison, and when they do occur, my technique is to slightly adjust the left-most string, to get the sustain back.
In fact, I don't even need to listen to the entire duration of the sustain to realize that the note is "short" due to this type of unison, I can hear it within the first 1 second of the sustain, that it's going to be that "way".

After a fresh tuning, if I was going to just play notes individually, as to "test" out my tuning, I wouldn't really hear the "tightness of sound" I am speaking about from my original post. It's only noticeable when actually playing the piano after a tuning, so if a tuner who doesn't actually play the piano after a tuning, they may never notice the phenomenon I'm speaking of.

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Originally Posted by Hamburg-D
In fact, I don't even need to listen to the entire duration of the sustain to realize that the note is "short" due to this type of unison, I can hear it within the first 1 second of the sustain, that it's going to be that "way".

The correct term for what you are looking for is 'decay' or 'decay rate' which happens right after the hammer strike. Sustain is later.


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