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I would like to tune a piano that is in a remote place. Usually I would call a tuner but since there are none around it will just be too expensive.

I found out recently that there is software that helps to do this.

I know there is a lot to piano tuning that goes way behond setting each key to its theoretical frequence. Namely the "untuned" extremes of the keyboard or particular aspects of each brand. I also found software where you actually mention the brand and what type of tuning you wish.

I also know tuners do more than just tunning. They often also enhance the sound of the piano by working the hammer head. But this is a different story.

How reliable is this software? Can you actually use a pc/android/iphone to tune a piano? Is the standard microphone enough or do you need a particular type to be more sensitive? Do these have in consideration the age or brand of the piano among other particularities of tuning a piano?

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    Ha ha-- I misread that title as "how can I tune software that controls a piano :-) – Carl Witthoft Aug 9 '16 at 11:40
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    I think the biggest difficulty would be not tuning the string to pitch, but actually getting it to stay there. The 'setting' of the string is a big part of performing a stable piano tuning from what I've heard. – Johannes Aug 9 '16 at 11:44
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    I agree with Carl that the real question is whether it will handle inharmonic partials and stretch tuning well. Also, piano tuners often make minor repairs and adjustments beyond the actual tuning of strings. So no matter how good the software is, there will be some ways in which it's not the same as a human tuner. – Todd Wilcox Aug 9 '16 at 11:46
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    This is a situation where a good quality digital piano may be better in the long term than a poorly maintained acoustic instrument. Tuning a piano so that it stays in tune for more than a few minutes is a physical skill that needs to be learned, and "doing it wrong" can physically damage the piano and make it less stable. Tuning a guitar doesn't require any physical skill beyond the ability to turn the tuning keys. Tuning a piano is a very different matter. – user19146 Aug 9 '16 at 12:28
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    Actually, software/hardware has long been used for piano tuning, even at the factory. When I worked at Yamaha they had such devices, though they were in-house only & not for sale. Having said that, they were used by professionals who did nothing but tune pianos all day [less than 5 mins per piano, I've watched them at the factory, has to be seen to be believed really] Definitely not a task for an amateur, I'd say. – Tetsujin Aug 9 '16 at 12:39
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Answering the original question: yes, the most widely used professional tuning software works very well for both high level and routine tuning as well as for learning and instructional tool use.

Some of the best examples of reputable and powerful professional tuning software are Tunelab, Verituner, and Cybertuner. However just because the software is high quality doesn't mean anyone can operate them effectively. Perhaps everyone can operate a web browser, but not everyone can be effective in Emacs (extreme example). It is not a matter of simply following the instructions, they all assume a level of knowledge of piano tuning.

To the sub-questions: the reliability of the software is directly related to the knowledge and skill with which it is used; yes, download the software from your favorite app store (though not all packages are available on all platforms); the standard microphones of modern mobile devices are sufficient; the age, brand, and peculiarities of the piano all factor into the knowledge needed to effectively use the software

Disclaimer: you can severely damage a piano with just a tuning lever and insufficient sensitivity. I run into these regularly.

That said, if you are reasonably mechanically inclined, have good fine/coarse motor skills and curiosity, I encourage you to give it a shot! That's how I got started. If you have someone who can mentor you on the basics with some of the software, that would give you a great leg up, check out your local PTG chapter.

(I am a professional piano tech who tunes both aurally and using said software.)

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I asked my piano tuner that very question last time he worked on my piano. There are professional tuners who rely quite a bit on such tuning tools though I don't know if there are the kinds you can just download for your phone (yet). Them using the tools doesn't mean that they don't also use their skills to know the limitations of their tools, such as adjusting the amount of stretching based on how it sounds on the specific piano and what the customer likes.

I have also tuned an entire crappy old piano with a PC software a while back and it sounded ok, certainly much better than where it started from or what I could have done on my own.

I think the bottom line is:

  • they do work (apart from the lowest keys, detecting the fundamental isn't that hard and that's what you need for tuning to a first order)

  • they may not be as good as what your own ears expect

Consider trying it out a few weeks before your tuner is expected to come: you will see for yourself and won't have much to lose (as long as you are gentle!).

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I am a professionnal piano technician who started out as an aural tuner and then switched to EDT devices and softwares. The simple answer to the original question is yes: professionnal piano tuning softwares do work and can achieve a professionnal concert quality tuning.

But first, you have to understand the acoustic properties of a piano wire that makes it very different to any other souding bodies. One of the main characteristics of a vibrating piano wire is called INHARMONICITY that makes all the partials to be shifted on the sharp side compared to the theoratical values. The first result of this is that all the octaves will have to be somewhat stretched in order sound in tune. This is why a regular chromatic tuning device will be of no use for tuning pianos.

A good professional piano tuning software however will be able to measure the harmonicity ratio (that differ from one piano to another) throughout the entire keyboard and then calculate a tuning that will FIT this particular piano. The one I currently use and favor is the Reyburn Cybertuner.

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Short answer: Yes. Software can work, but only the right software. Your generic guitar tuner app won't do it properly because it simply tunes to the theoretical frequencies of flat equal temperament with no "stretch", which is really important for a piano to actually sound in tune (particularly in the treble and bass). As a piano tuner I also don't trust apps that claim to "sweeten" a tuning by putting in some stretch.

There are 5 software packages out there that do a good job and that professional piano tuners use. They are: Cybertuner, Verituner, TuneLab, OnlyPure, and PianoMeter. They all have pros and cons, but I won't do a review of the various packages because I am affiliated with one of them, but I will say this: Piano tuning software is expensive because it is very specialized software developed for a small group of people (piano tuners). While each of these apps cost in the hundreds of dollars, two of them (PianoMeter and TuneLab) have limited options that are more affordable for someone like the OP who just needs to tune one piano. In PianoMeter that comes in the form of a "plus" version that costs about $25 and has the basic functionality to tune a piano but doesn't have the bells and whistles that a professional might use. TuneLab has more of a "shareware" approach with full functionality that pauses note switching every 12 note changes with a prompt to purchase a license. There is also a free app out there called "Entropy" but in my experience it's a pain to use and isn't well-maintained (last updated in 2017).

Also, just a note, getting the right software solves half the problem. The other half is developing the right tuning lever technique that will allow you to tune quickly, accurately, and have the tuning be stable. It will take more time at first, but you'll get better with practice. My first piano took me 4-5 hours (that was without software back in the day). Now I can be done in 1-1.5 hours, depending on the piano.

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Many professionals use tuning software (though I think the BEST professionals still do it by ear). But the skill goes beyond knowing what pitch to aim for. You need the mechanical technique of turning the pin so that the note STAYS in tune, and you don't cause damage. And damage is easy to do.

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why so many so called "piano tech" keep mentioning the words "serious damaged" and experienced when coming to piano tuning? I believe anybody who can use the screwdriver can tune their piano with $20 piano tuning kit from Amazon and free app on their phone or PC.

Don't make a piano tuning works sound like a multi-million project. People hire tuners only because they don't want to waste their own time and they can spend their time on more valuable things. I believe every piano players should spend 1-2 hours learn how to tune the piano themselves. so you know what to do when one or two keys are out of sounds.

There are tons of piano tuning tutorials and youtube videos to look and learn and spend 1-2 hours learning the basic and I am sure anyone can tune their piano. Just be careful and do it slowly at beginning. Those so called experienced Piano tech might just learn their tuning method few months ago too. Don't trust them saying 15 years or 30 years experience. They are not much better than you. If tuning musical instrument is the only job you have? then shame on you.

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