The Art of Piano Tuning – Part Two

Last month I discussed the need to stabilize the piano strings when tuning a piano. This procedure ensures that the piano will remain in tune for an extended period of time. However, even an extremely stable piano will need to be re-tuned periodically, depending on how hard and how often it is played. Likewise, a piano that is never played will eventually go out of tune due to tension on the strings that cause them to stretch out over time. As we look further into the art of piano tuning we examine the role of inharmonicity. No, this is not a topic on the Dr. Phil show. It actually describes the effect that even slight imperfections which exist in all piano strings have on the sound that they make. What follows may be a little technical but please bear with me. When a piano string is struck by the piano hammer it starts to vibrate, producing sound waves. These sound waves are measured in hertz (hz), or cycles per second. The number of cycles per second is directly related to the length of the piano string. Longer strings vibrate more slowly and therefore produce fewer cycles and a lower tone. Shorter strings vibrate faster producing more cycles and a higher tone. The number of cycles per second for the A above middle C on the […]

The art of piano tuning – Part One

You might be wondering about the title of this post. Is piano tuning really an art? If you check out piano tuning on the internet you’ll find many posts and videos that tell you anyone can tune there own piano. All you need are a few simple tools and a free tuning app on your phone and your off and running. Turn a few tuning pins until your app tells you the pitch is correct and you’re done. In a couple of hours your piano will be perfectly in tune and you will have saved yourself all that money you would have paid a professional piano technician. Brimming with enthusiasm you set off on this grand adventure and then reality strikes. The first thing you notice is that there are a lot of tuning pins on a piano, somewhere between 200 to 230. Then you discover that it’s almost impossible to get the pin set just right as even a small adjustment results in a dramatic pitch change. And finally, after many painstaking adjustments to get the pins set, many of them simply will not remain in tune. So what went wrong? What does the professional piano technician know that you don’t? Arthur Reblitz, in his book “Piano Servicing, Tuning and Rebuilding”, talks about two skills that a piano technician must master in order to […]

Piano Service Blog #1 History of the Piano

Hi, and welcome to my Piano Service Blog. The purpose of this blog is to help inform you of the design, function and care of your piano and to introduce you to the services I provide. This first article contains a short history of the piano. I hope you enjoy it. A little over 300 year ago, around the year 1700, Bartolomeo Cristofori, “Keeper of the Instruments” to Ferdinand de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, invented an instrument that changed music forever. The primary keyboard instruments of that day were the harpsichord and the clavichord. However both instruments had limitations. The clavichord allowed for dynamic expression but had a sound too soft for large audiences. The harpsichord on the other hand had sufficient volume but did not provide any expressive control. Cristofori wanted an instrument that combined the volume of the harpsichord with the control of the clavichord, and thus the piano was born. It employed a unique mechanism (the piano action) which caused the hammer to strike and then rebound off the string, thereby allowing the strings to vibrate freely. By varying the force applied to the keys the piano could be played louder or softer, giving composers more freedom for emotional expression. The name piano comes from part of an early description of the instrument by Cristofori,  un cimbalo di cipresso di piano […]