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I'm currently studying as a piano technician, and I'm just starting to learn how to tune a piano. I want to tune it a few times before going out and doing others people's pianos, but I'm not sure what the best approach for practice is.

I'm wondering if I should detune my piano slightly (either in small sections or fully) so I can tune it again. Is there a better way to go about this? Will this have any negative effects on the instrument? Would it even be better to just do it once, and then go out and get some experience on other pianos?

I should add that I'm taking an online, at-your-own-pace course (Piano Technician Academy), so I don't have a given instructor / mentor available.

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    If you're studying as a piano technician you'll have teachers/instructors. They're the people to ask about how to go about practising tuning.
    – PiedPiper
    Jan 5 at 16:07
  • If I had room, I'd buy a cheap piano, and practise on that. If it ain't broke...
    – Tim
    Jan 5 at 17:06
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    vtc as opinion-based. I'd say, if you're willing to call in a professional tuner once you mess it up, then go ahead. You'd at least get the chance to ask for tips ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 5 at 17:36
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    What kind of tuners do people use these days? I haven't been anywhere near piano tuning in 30 years. I used to have one of these, which was brilliant - reverb.com/item/… - which the company gave me… & I gave away. Seems I should have hung onto it.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 5 at 17:42
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    I've only ever known one pro piano tuner, & he's blind… so definitely does it by ear. I was also once privileged to see the production line at the Yamaha piano factory in Japan, where the pianos travel on trolleys like a production line. They have two people per line; the first gets it roughly in, the second fine-tunes. They have about 5 minutes in total to get it shipping-ready. The trolley doesn't stop for them either, they move with it. They're good. ;) My ears just aren't that good.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 6 at 10:49

2 Answers 2

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There is a great deal more to tuning a piano that just tightening or loosing strings to adjust their pitch, and given your description, I'm have the impression that's where you are, so far, in your training.

In that case, don't go anywhere near someone else's piano, and don't do anything to your own if it has any value to you. Instead, I suggest going out and finding one or more free pianos — they're generally easy to come by — and three friends plus a truck. The pianos can be in horrible shape to begin with, and there won't be any concern over damaging them. That would be, IMO, far better practice, because just adjusting the strings likely won't be enough, and they'll make good practice for other kinds of issues you'll be faced with when you do start tuning other people's instruments.

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  • One element of free pianos that could be a problem is that they are relatively likely to have a cracked pin block or some other fault that prevents them from keeping tune for very long. I've seen pianos where the tuning hammer moves as soon as it is released because the pin isn't tight enough in the (cracked) block to withstand the string tension. If the problem isn't terribly severe, it might be bearable or even an advantage to a student tuner, but at some degree of severity it's likely to make the piano useless. One would want to look into this before organizing the friends and the truck.
    – phoog
    Jan 6 at 11:55
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Let's address the easiest part to answer: "Will this have any negative effects on the instrument?" Assuming that you're confident in your ability to detune it only slightly, then no. If being only-slightly out of tune were damaging to the instrument, then it would be urgent to tune it every day to avoid harm. Now, if you get confused and change the pitch by several steps, that could be another matter.

I would assume that, right off the bat, your piano is as out-of-tune as any might be, so I see no need to mess with it initially. And unless you're in a terrible hurry, perhaps it will be worth tuning again soon without help!

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