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I'm a tech, so am familiar with how piano technicians evaluate a tuned piano...

Could you share what you as a player notice when you sit down at a really nicely tuned instrument? I know how some of my clients evaluate a tuning - do you have anything specific that you listen for?

Or does every decently tuned piano sound the same?

What, if anything makes you think "this isn't tuned quite right", or "the tuning is starting to go"?

I really am interested in input from musicians on this topic - thanks!


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Unisons first - unisons that are sour or wavy or beating or not clean - pick your descriptive term - any unison that is out of tune with itself is a real problem for me.

Then octaves that are out. If I play an octave in either hand and it makes me cringe I am not happy.

But I can't really pick out a bad temperament. I don't play fifths around the circle of fifths looking for ones that stick out.

While we are on this subject - not really part of tuning - but dampers that aren't damping, or a damper pedal that is thumping when released are problems too. Small problems that the tuner should at least mention to the owner.

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For me, it's the same as Sam - I'm not too pedantic chromatically, but unisons and octaves are what tips me off. Also, unevenness of tone across the keyboard, harshness or brittleness, especially in the highs. Not a matter of tuning per se, but keeping hammers in shape is also part of the routine affecting the everyday satisfaction when playing.


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I do not listen for anything in particular, it is very subjective and I do not possess a sharp enough ear to discern much more than the obvious anyway. I tried a few tuners over the last couple of years but have returned to the man who tuned my piano for over fifteen years previously. There is definitely such a thing as a tuning personality or character and it is not as straightforward as testing intervals and dealing with simple faults; all tuners can get those right more or less. For me it involves a general recognition of response to touch and idea flow from the whole instrument which is very hard to couch in objective terms. I suppose to a certain extent it might just be what I am used to, that aspect cannot be excluded.


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Thanks all! This is all useful information. Tuners often get 'lost' in details that may have little to no effect on the result for the people that are actually playing the piano...

Anyone else?


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Originally Posted by RonTuner
Thanks all! This is all useful information. Tuners often get 'lost' in details that may have little to no effect on the result for the people that are actually playing the piano...

Anyone else?

I've been thinking about this since you posted it.

I've tuned at concert and recording studio level for 40 years, but I've played jazz for 50+ (self taught amateur, no pro aspirations at all, just fun). Trying to answer *just* as a player was harder than I thought.

I suppose after turning my tuning brain off, the simple answer is that when I sit and play, the absence of very clean dead unisons immediately grabs my attention.

Clean pure dead unisons, like really really clean pure and dead, cover and mask a vast multitude of other sins in temperament and octave tuning; conversely, if the unisons are even slightly out, no matter *how* brilliantly the temperament and octaves were done, it's not satisfying.

That's my answer as a player and not as a tuner.

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>Or does every decently tuned piano sound the same?

No. There is levels of tuning. I think I heard the term "concert tuning" versus "normal tuning".

Also I have had different tuners tune my piano.

It makes huge difference who tunes my piano.

I'm sure all tuners I had can do a "decent" tuning and much better.

Yet there is only 1 tuner that nails it. The others are good but not nailed. So I suppose that 1 tuner is tuning at 'concert level' while the others are at 'domestic level'. These tuners probably all claim they can do 'concert level' but in fact only very few can.

I can HEAR it when tuning is nailed, but I can't explain exactly what the difference is technically or how it sounds differently. To spot such fine details I would have to have two very good pianos next to each other, one tuned concert level the other normal.

What I hear is that if the tuning is nailed, the piano sings. If it's not nailed, it sounds ok but not really nice. It's a bit dry or something. Maybe you can hear it in my recordings. Many say they really like my piano sound. The good tuning contributes also to this.

With some tuners the piano de-tunes quicker. This might be related to nailing the tuning, I dont know.


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This thread got me thinking whether you could do anything to minimize the the dissonance of an out-of-tune piano? Would you voice chords differently, for example?

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
This thread got me thinking whether you could do anything to minimize the the dissonance of an out-of-tune piano? Would you voice chords differently, for example?

Light, detached playing, plenty of finger work, not too much holding or pedal and lots of complicated harmony disguise it better than loud, simple stuff, or so I have found when recording just before a tuning was due.


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Thanks!

I've been thinking that the current push (at least with some apps) to focus on absolute progressive M3rds might be a bit misguided. Unisons, of course are up to the skill of the individual tech with the tuning lever - whether aural or using an electronic device.

Octaves... Now there is the real topic in my mind! Something that seems like it should be easy becomes more and more important and complex with the smaller pianos. But that is where I think the 'magic' that players feel is found.

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I just posted a longish new thread in the Turner's area of the forum, about the strange noise that some keys have on my piano, even straight after tuning. It's not that it's out of tune, just that it kind of "coughs" as it plays, like a raspy twangy noise. My tuner came and he fixed the worst one and explained it was the hammer staying slightly forward instead of retreating completely back to its resting spot after the key had been played. Unfortunately since he left, other keys are now doing it. You might like to read my post.

As for what I would like to hear, no raspy twangs obviously, just a sweet mellow tone. I have a German piano and they tend to sound more mellow. I like to play Baroque music and easier Bach pieces so it's perfect for me.


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Hi Bach
I’m sorry to hear you are going through this problem, and I’m glad you posted this problem on the tech forum. If you can post an audio, you will get some experienced advise. Not to worry, there will be a solution 😀


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