The common piano usually has 220 strings. These strings play a very important role in determining the quality of the piano sound; thus, it is essential to carefully pay attention to them. Over time, due to pressure, these string might stretch longer. As a result, the sound quality of your piano is not good. In order to help your piano always in good condition as well as maintain its value, it is best to know how to tune a piano properly by yourself.
Nevertheless, having a tuner tune up your piano can cost you a lot of money. Instead, you can completely do that work on your own to make your piano back into nice tune while saving your budget. My below instruction on how to tune a piano will be definitely useful for you!
Why Your Piano Is Not Always in Perfect Tune ?
There are various elements which can change the tuning of your piano: moving, humidity, playing, aged or worn materials, and temperature.
Moving The Piano
Whenever you move your piano, whether it is across the country or across just the room, it will disturb the tension, thus altering the dynamics of the string. Your piano tune is not only affected by “bouncing around,” but it might be affected by the different temperature.
Imagine how your piano will be if you move it from a clement house to a cold truck and then back to your house with new moisture levels. Surely, you’re the sound quality of your piano will be impacted remarkably.
The change in humidity levels is considered as the most important cause leading to changes in the tune of your piano. When the bridge, soundboard, and pinblock are in humid conditions, the wood cells easily absorb the humidity and swell up. When all the moisture is absorbed, they make the strings even tighter; therefore, the tune is sharp.
On the contrary, if your piano is put in a room with drier atmosphere, the wood cells shrink, and thus causing the strings loosen and go flat. Sometimes, the worse thing is that splits, as well as cracks, can open wider and start to buzz. Therefore, depending on different changes in every season, you should notice and change your piano’s tuning.
Playing The Piano
Even a professional tuner won’t make the piano’s tuning perfect forever. With each strike of the key, the more you play your piano, the more it likely goes out of tune. That is the reason why most piano teachers or professional piano players will have great tuners adjust their pianos sometimes a year.
It cannot be denied that most materials can get worn or aged after several times of use. Wood is generally the most popular material used in the piano because of its tuning stability.
In addition, people also use metal in some parts of the instrument. So, what happens if these materials become worn out over time. Especially, the pinblock can be easily cracked, or the tuning pins can be loosened in their holes from wood shrinkage or repeated tuning.
Moreover, the bridge of the piano can also split, normally along the line of the bridge pins. The reason for this lies in the fact that the strings become tighter while tuning, then the pins move and cannot keep the piano wire in place. Hitch pins, V-bars, and agraffes sometimes can move as well as bend.
How to Know Your Piano Is in an Out-of-Tune Condition ?
It seems to be hard for you, a non-technician, to know whether your piano is out of tune or not. Luckily, you don’t have to become a technician to be able to solve this problem. Below are 4 easy tips that you can use to test your piano yourselves.
Do Basic Main Chords Sound Harmonious?
Normally, a basic, 3 or 4 main chord has a nice and harmonious sound. All of the notes of a chord sound as if they are mixed together. If there is just one in those notes off, your ear can easily find out the dissonance.
Are Single Notes in Tune with Themselves?
When you try to play every key on your own piano, it’s best to carefully listen for any fluttering or “wavering” effect. It should sound like a single note and steady. If you listen and find out that the notes sound strange, then it’s time for you to tune your piano.
Is Your Piano at The Right Pitch?
In order to know whether your piano is at the correct pitch or not, you will have to make a comparison between your “A” note and an exact reference note – for instance, a tuning fork. When your note is likely to be in right tune, it vibrates 440 times a second – therefore, A-440. This is considered to be a vital method to determine if your piano is at the correct pitch.
Do The Octaves of The Piano Blend into One and Other?
As your piano is in right tune, the octaves of a note “line up” with one and other correctly. And finally, you are playing the same note…just an octave lower or higher. Simply put, an “octave” is the frequency of a note and all its multiples (or halves).
Tools For The Piano Tune
Your piano will always be in good condition if you have suitable piano tuning tools. Owning a set of appropriate tools for tuning your piano will help you to save your budget.
All you need to equip are ear muffs or ear plugs, some rubber wedges, one or two tuning forks, a tuning lever (also known as tuning hammer), and a felt muting strip. Nowadays, professional tuners often use electronic tuning tools; however, there is no need to pay attention to them as they seem to be not efficient for the amateur.
Also, know as a wrench or tuning hammer, a tuning lever is a particular tool that is made to help with piano’s tuning. It’s recommended that you should not try to replace it with a socket wrench or any other makeshift set-up. A suitable tuning needs a secure and a clever touch hold on the pin. Without the two factors, if lucky you will get a bad tuning result and it’s worse is that you can forever damage the pin or even your own piano.
Usually, a basic piano tuning lever has four parts: the tip, the handle, the head, and the shaft. All pianos need a #2 socket, if your piano hasn’t been re-strung using bigger tuning pins.
The angle which is made by the tuning lever tip and head with the shaft plays a very importance role in selecting a right piano tuning lever. Of course, there is no possibility to let everyone know, however common piano tuning kits, as well as piano tuning levers sold widely on the internet, are of standard with a 5-degree angle at the shaft and head or tip.
Electronic Chromatic Tuner
You might need some kinds of external tuning references. Some professional tuners use a tuning fork; others use expensive electronic piano tuners that are specially designed for pianos.
As for the amateur, it is essential to only have an electronic chromatic tuner. In fact, this useful device helps to detect and display the pitch of musical notes which are played on a musical instrument. It will offer the reference for all the notes in the middle octave. It can “hear” the tone that is as nearly same as what you are playing, and automatically modifies the display to match with no need to press more buttons.
In addition, a very helpful accessory equipped with a chromatic tuner is an external contact mic. Electronic tuners can be distracted by the vibrations and extraneous sounds in the room. The closer you can access the source, the better your results are.
I prefer a hardware device rather than a software program, at least at my level, unfortunately, software tuners do exist. Notice that with any app solution or software, you also need an external mic to get perfect results.
The price of these rubber wedges is very reasonable, so don’t waste time trying to find out any replacement. Get different shapes as well as sizes because the position and size of the string vary within any single piano. Purchase them where you get your tuning lever. If you want, you can buy a kit that has a selection of mutes and a tuning lever as well.
How to Tune a Piano Properly
Step 1: Remove Cover to Access Tuning Pins
The basic thing you need to do before accessing the inside tuning pins is to open up the piano. In this process, it is necessary to remove some parts of your piano cabinet (it is completely conventional if your piano is an upright model. Consequently, choosing a place which is safe for this parts to put is really vital.
If your piano model is a grand one, it is rather easy for you to access the tuning pins just because the music stand which is above the keyboard can be taken out just by sliding them off. On an upright one, you just need to adjust the hinge designed on the piano to open it up and access the tuning pins below it.
As long as your piano is opened, you can do anything you want with it without any difficulty, including tightening screws, cleaning, spacing hammers and other adjustments.
Step 2: Tune One String
Before beginning, making sure that you have prepared all the needed good lighting and tools. Then, you can choose any of your strings which commonly is a set of three ones. What you need to do is to tune them to the middle octave (it can be middle C or C4). Next, choosing the pin to turn the string and firmly placing your lever on it.
If you want to remove or insert the mutes but you need to lift the dampers. First, the easy way is to hold your piano pedal by your foot. It also helps to protect its damper felts.
Next, firmly and gently placing your mutes without deforming the string. Using a lever counter-clockwise to turn the pin to make it slightly loosened. In this process, firmly striking the key many times is needed; therefore, you just use the lever as well as a pin clockwise to adjust to make it in tune.
In case the model you are using is Korg OT-120, it is easier for you to tune because of its automatic detection so it can tell you whether the note is in tune or not.
Step 3: Tune The Temperament (Remaining Strings)
What you need to do first is to use an electronic turner and tune all of the keys in the middle C to C’ and the middle octave. This is to set the temperament. It is relatively important because the temperament will be the base to tune the rest ones of the piano.
You should begin with choosing the first string from one of the notes and tune it. Apart from the extremely lowest notes, each of the other notes will have from two-three strings. On my piano, it only has two ones in the octave, but commonly it will have three. Then, pressing the key to identifying which hammer is moving and adjust the string to its corresponding pin.
After deciding which string to choose, you need to mute the rest strings. Next, wedging the rubber mute between the muted string and the next string over or the soundboard.
After that, using an electric tuner to tine the unmuted ones. This process should be carried out carefully in a completely silent room because the electric tuner can pick up the extraneous sound, even a motor.
The way to do is to put one of your finger on the key while placing on the lever with one hand and observe the electronic tuner with your eyes; then firmly strike the key. You should slightly move the tuner while still firmly strike the keys over and over. Turning the pin counter-clockwise if you want to lower the pitch or clockwise if you want it high. The more the needle on the tuner close to its middle, the better.
The next part is to tune the unisons. Unmuting one another string in its set and using your ear (instead of an electric tuner) to match the string which is not tuned to the tuned string. Do the same for the third one (you can also unmute all strings to make the third one properly match the other ones). Using your ear to match the strings will be more accurate compared to the electronic tuner.
Repeat tuning the temperament steps for entire middle octave.
Some Vital Notices About This Process:
- Choosing between long, steady movements of the hammer and a quick, short ones, the latter will be better because it can help to improve the stability while tuning. In that process, you might need to slowly move the hammer because it will help you easily listen to the beating and it is also great to train your ear to in identifying when the strings are properly in tune.
- Tuning the string by way of following the sharp directions is a great one to make the pin stay anywhere you put it. In case your string is flat, it will be simpler when you want to adjust it to pitch just by increasing the tension. However, it needs adjusting again after a period of time for use.
- Actually, it is not easy to adjust the needle accurately to the middle of the tuner. But on Korg, it will be easier because you can tune on your own just by hearing the tone played from it.
- To minimize the movement forward or backward of the pin causing a tension change on the string, adjusting the tuning hammer which is parallel to the string is best.
- With the support of the professional tuner, it will not be difficult to tune the lower octaves gradually flat and upper ones gradually sharp which also called “stretching the octaves.” It will give you a more pleasing sound compared to the one created when tuning to the equal temperament. This is because of the fact that there is a considerable difference between a short, thin, upper string and a lower one. Consequently, using a professional turner to help in tuning your entire piano will lead to a wonderful result. Besides, using your ear also greatly contributes to the effect of tuning.
Step 4: Tune The Octaves
After finishing the step 3, you only need to base on the previous tuned-octave set to tune the rest keys. In this step, using a chromatic turner is not needed.
Beginning by tuning the octaves above and below middle one by your ear and properly match them to the middle octaves, such as match B4 to B5 and A4 to A5.
Each time you work with the note, you only tune one string while muting the rest strings in its set (you can also unmute them because of the comparing purpose). Then, like the instructions in step 2, you will use that note as a reference to tune the rest ones.
After that, you can apply the step 3 to the rest octaves, form middle to outward which is from A5 to A6; after is A6 to A7, and so on.
Although it appears difficult and tedious firstly, only after a few octaves, it will become easier as you have hung off it. You, however, should also be careful with the pins because they might easily slip during this process. As a result, make sure to check the reference key and the key which you are tuning at the same time to get the correct sound.
How to Take Care of Your Piano
When you tune the piano, it is essential to take a really concern about it. Thanks to your concern, the piano’s lifespan will be extended, and its sound will be maintained. Below, there are some great advice for you to keep your piano in good conditions:
- Your piano should be kept tuning basically regularly. It is recommended by piano manufacturers that the piano be tuned four times throughout the first year and two times the following year.
- Fluctuations in humidity easily have effect on pianos. Low humidity can lead to wood cracking and high ones can bring about warping.
The sound’s quality depends mostly on the quality of pianos ‘material. The wood used to make piano is placed and crafted meticulously. Changes in the wood material may have influences on tuning. When you tighten or loosen the wood, the strings follow, and the sounds are emitted wrongly:
- You should observe your houses’ humidity and use dehumidifier or humidifier to alter. The ideal humidity is 40%.
- Besides, your piano should be placed somewhere far from windows as well as heater vents. In cases your piano room is near kitchens or bathrooms, close its doors.
- All windows of the piano room should be closed to hinder condensation. It is even more essential to electric pianos. You should also take care of the piano’s exterior, use a soft cleaning cloth to wipe dust from their surface, quite a wet cleaning cloth to clean their keyboard completely. Another important thing you should remember is to keep liquids including silicone furniture polish sprays, flower vases, beverages and even fishbowls away from your piano.
- You should not touch any pianos’ internal components. It is the job of a technician to service and clean the soundboard, strings and other internal parts of the pianos. You should bear in mind that you must refrain from the urge of scrubbing the piano and are not allowed to scrub it on your own.
- Usually play it to not only get more pleasure from them but also recognize sooner their tiny problems before them turning to bigger ones. Moreover, your music talent can be better more rapidly.
- You should ask for qualified piano movers to move your piano since moving it on your own can cause damage to your piano, yourself and even other people. Another thing you should concern is the quality of the movers. The movers should be professional accompanied with sufficient tools, knowledge, guarantee to make sure the transportation of your pianos from places to places is safe.
Q: How long does it take to tune my piano?
A: Every piano is different from others and has its own tuning demands.
- In the first year using your piano, you should tune it four times to prevent the strings overstretching and the hammers over compacting.
- It is fine that home pianos are tuned once a year in general. In spite of the increase in students’ skill level, it is necessary that your piano be tuned more regularly.
- For performance and concert pianos, they require to be tuned every three months or before each concert (whichever comes earlier)
- Pianos that are played at schools, music schools or played by considerable numbers of pianists need tuning twice or even more per year.
Q: Could you tell me the reasons why an electronic tuner should not be used for all keys?
A: It is such a huge mistake that most of the people reckon that using an electronic chromatic tuner to tune each string is safer and more simply. Although this thought is rarely common, it will not lead to good result if doing so.
The length is different from each string because it is manufactured differently and has features of ‘perfect’ string thanks to altering resonant. You may hear the wrong pitch in nearly all keys due to an equal-temperament. The farther the key is from middle C, the worse the sound is.
The information above helps you in tuning your piano in case that the tuner is only used as a temperament setter and the rest is done by ear. This process will bring about the right sound of your piano, and it is like what a proficient tuner usually do.
Q: Does standard pitch exist for tuning a piano?
A: Yes, it is. The A sound is produced by sticking the strings standing for tone A above middle C 440 times per second when it is set at vibrate mode. Other piano tones are altered the same way as tone A.
Nonetheless, for pianos with considerably lower pitch, the pitch should be raised as far as possible, and you should take that point as the starting point to tune the piano. Sometimes, the piano needs to get used to the new tension previous to a tuner doing its next step to elevate the tone to A-440 standard.
That is the reason for you doing this process. However, it sometimes can cause damage or break strings when trying to tune the piano up to the standard pitch. Some people feel pleased with their pianos in tune and do not want to tune them anymore to prevent the risk of pitch raising to A-440.
You only recognize the difference between a piano after being tuned with a recording made by another piano when you play them.
Q: What objects should I use to clean the piano?
A: If your piano is made of wood, clean it with any wood polish or cleaner that are used to clean your other wood furniture. If your piano is made of high-gloss, clean its surface with particular cleaning products.
It is recommended that the keys be cleansed by extremely detergent. Your cleaning products have to be non-abrasive. Wet a rag then clean the keys.
There are cracks between the keys, remember to clean CAREFULLY in order not to let any liquids seep into them. When depressed, a number of the piano’s keys do not sound properly.
We think our advice bring you more exact knowledge how to tune the piano rightly, let’s do it. Take its advantages by playing it regularly and enjoy the abundantly harmonic sounds.
In case you want to share any tips about tuning the piano or have any questions, please comment below.
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