Many of you may be taking services of professional piano tuners and may be thinking of doing it on your own to save this additional expense. Certainly you can do it by yourself and the good news is that this process is quite simple and easy to follow. Here we are sharing some important details along with a complete guideline on how you can easily tune your piano without need of taking any technician course or referring to any book. Some important tools and proper details would enable you to carry out a regular routine tuning and maintenance of your piano with ease.
Important Advice: The details that we are sharing here are only basic techniques of tuning however remember that these tips would not devalue what a professional tuner with years of experience can deliver. With consistent practice and learning, these tips would help you in carrying out regular tuning between professional checks. The basics that we will share now can also prove to be a life saver in an emergency when your piano begins to trouble right before your performance.
Importance of Tuning Piano:
Tuning your piano at regular intervals is an important aspect of maintenance. But as you think about frequency there are no particular rules about sessions of tuning. It is all about usage of piano and need of tuning. Tuning is imperative if you want your piano to enjoy good health and a long life. Regular tuning can help you in maintaining clarity with tone of your piano, it improves life of moving components and it can prevent damage. A regular check for tuning of piano can inform you of small problems rising within the instrument and thus could prevent a big or permanent damage. When you are buying a slightly used or an old piece, knowledge of piano tuning can be a great help in buying decision. You can make out if the instrument is maintained well by looking at certain details of its condition that relates to tuning. Tuning on a regular basis by yourself would also improve your skills as a piano player. Even some old pianos with a dull sound can become active and vibrant in a few sessions of good tuning process.
Before we begin on explaining the tuning process, there are some important things that you must take care of:
- If a piano has remained neglected for years, it may be difficult to tune all the keys in one session. So you may need to call a technician as your piano may need a pitch-raise. Even a professional tuner will tune over an extended period so if you choose to do it by yourself, keep patience as it would need a bit of hard work.
- Careless tuning can be harmful and may loosen pins, break strings etc. If your piano has pins that are loose or there is hammers’ misalignment, you would need an actual repair by a technician. Avoid doing things that are beyond your knowledge as you may cause a permanent damage to this expensive instrument.
- Do not avoid professional tuning sessions even if you are regularly tuning with these basic techniques.
Tools that you will need:
For serious tuning job, it is important to have right tools in your hands before beginning the process. These are some tools that you will be needing for piano tuning:
- The Tuning Hammer or Lever:
When it comes to a tuning hammer or wrench or lever for tuning pianos, you will find different choices of supplies available at different stores. If you have a choice prefer model with head interchangeable so that you can tune all different sizes of pin if in case there are some. Go for a good quality lever. You will find some cheaper ones in market too but avoid opting for such tools as they may not give you correct turning, may slip easily and can even cause damage to pins. A good hammer would make your job easier and at the same time will give you a professional touch.
- Rubber Mutes or Wedges:
Another important yet cheap tool is the use of rubber wedges or mutes that you can easily find at any musical instrument store. These mutes comes in different sizes. In the beginning you would be able to do well with two rubber wedges. You may want to just mute some middle strings or would want to mute complete range of strings and for that purpose you can get different kind of mutes available easily. Use those with a wire handle making your job easier. But without mutes, you will not be able to handle strings with your hands.
- Electronic Chromatic Tuner:
Using electronic chromatic tuner makes your job quicker and easier. These tools are not at all expensive and are dedicated for tuning a piano. You will be able to find some really good tuners in Korg’s line of tuners with the help of which you will be able to tune your piano well.
It may get really dark as you tune your piano and with a lot of strings and components inside, it may become difficult to deal with in dark. So make sure you carry a light source with your piano.
Process of Tuning Piano:
Now that you have tools, you are all set to begin tuning your piano. Note that it is best to tune piano alone without anyone’s interference as this job would need your complete concentration over it.
Step 1: Begin with Middle Octave:
Begin tuning of your piano with middle octave. Every key on the piano strikes up to three strings. Work on one string at a time and if a key has three strings you can begin tuning with the one in the center of three. While checking the middle string for tuning, mute the other two strings of the group with the use of rubber wedges.
Firmly press the key and do it repeatedly while turning the pin with the use of a turning wrench. Pressing the key firmly is important because as you play it softly the string may later relax and thus when musician plays it hard, it may get out of tune.Continue to do so until tuner confirms that the string is tuned. But make sure that you turn it carefully.
Some pins may be little loose and turning these pins may permanently damage the pins. Setting the pins may take a little longer, remain patient and hold on to tune it. This you will learn with practice and practice will make you a better tuner over time. Make sure that you do it carefully and avoid stretching the string too much or too quickly as it may break. Be more cautious with old strings.Let the string relax a little bit before your tighten it.
Now that you are done with tuning first string, you should move wedges from 1st and 2nd string while keeping the third one damped (if there). Now place turning wrench on pin of second string and firmly strike the key. Keep on doing so until no more beats or disharmony is heard. The sound will be like one note.
Now remove wedge from third string and repeat step two. This way you can tune all the strings in the set of a key.
Now repeat the steps for all the keys in the middle octave while using the first one that you tuned as a guide. Hear them well and match them. Remember that you must work on tuning one string in a note at one time while mute all the others so that you can appropriately compare the note. This way you can tune all the strings and octaves of your piano.
Keeping Piano in Tune:
Piano tuning gets affected with extreme humidity, temperature and abusive use. In order to keep your piano in good shape, you should tune it frequently. It is imperative to set regular tuning schedules for your piano and follow them. Even in between if you find that your piano needs tuning, do not wait for schedule. Any strings when left without proper tuning may make more strings out of tune and can cause a permanent damage.
Frequency of Tuning: A piano that is tuned every 3 months would most likely stay in a good shape. However as climatic conditions and usage varies with different situations, frequency of tuning may also vary.
A consistent and regular tuning of piano would enable it to maintain its original state both in terms of pitch/sound and physical appearance. If you neglect your piano for a long period of time, it would be difficult for you or for any tuning technician to bring it back in shape. Many of the factors contribute to tuning requirement for a piano and thus you should pay close attention to those factors such as piano’s exposure to direct sunlight, excessive cold or hot temperature or more. An ideal tuning schedule of a particular piano can be determined with knowledge of the manufacturer company, year of make and usage.