3

I bought a new piano today and now have it at my home. Obviously it's out of tune. Should I attempt to tune it myself? I have watched a video on how to tune pianos and it seems pretty easy, but atill not certain. And if I can tune it myself, how often should I tune it?

  • 1
    Everything I know about piano tuning leads me to think it's actually extremely difficult. Yeah you can just turn the keys to change the pitches but it's not easy to get the right pitches. – Todd Wilcox Jun 23 '17 at 3:04
  • Depends. I tune pianos occasionally, but for myself and friends- it's hard to do well and you can get into trouble easily, as the answers below indicate. On the other hand, if you are careful, patient, have lots of time, and are willing to risk it, it can be interesting. But a professional will do a better job. – Scott Wallace Jun 23 '17 at 12:03
  • If I were you, I'd look for a pro to do it. Not sure where you live, but in Los Angeles, there are some really talented folks who can make it sound awesome for a reasonable cost. – S. Imp Oct 8 at 1:58
11

If "new piano" you really means a brand new piano, the dealer should have checked it over and tuned it, either at the dealership or your house depending on the how the effects of transportation and differences in climate might affect the tuning, and other mechanical aspects of the piano action. In some situations it could be better to wait a few weeks till the piano has acclimatized itself to the new conditions, otherwise the tuning and regulating might have to be done twice.

If it's a "pre-owned" piano, be aware that (1) learning to tune a piano "from zero" may leave you with a piano that is unplayably out-of-tune for several weeks while you are learning, and (2) it is easy to do long term irreversible damage to the wrest plank that holds the tuning pins if you "do it wrong".

Problems like accidentally breaking strings (it's easy for beginners to get confused and keep turning the wrong tuning peg, while imagining that the pitch of a different note is changing) are not "irrersible damage," but of course if you do that, you then have the delay of getting the correct replacement parts and learning how to fit them correctly. Repairs like that may need some special tools, since ordinary household pliers and wire-cutters probably won't handle piano wire, not to mention the risk of sticking the cut end of a wire (which can be as sharp as a razor blade) into your finger, or worse, in your eye!

Personally, I wouldn't go there - just pay a professional to do it for you.

(Full disclosure - I do tune my own early keyboard instruments, which is of course a necessity since they may need the tuning "touched up" once a week or more, and also my own piano - but that doesn't change my advice!)

4

It can take a lot of time to learn, and a lot of time to do well. See here for a related discussion: How long would it take to learn to tune a piano?

Personally, I would get it done professionally the first time at least, so I could enjoy my new piano's early days.

2

The give away is that you need to ask the question! If you were experienced, you wouldn't be asking. So, I guess you're not. Do you have the tools? Do you know how to use them properly? I have a scalpel, but draw the line at brain surgery - and before!

Seriously, especially if it is a new piano, there should have been something built in to the deal whereby a tuner arrives in a few weeks time to check it over. If it's a pre-loved, then naturally it will need tweaking after a move - the moving itself is often enough to detune it, let alone being in a different environment.

It's the nature of the beast that it will need tuning, once or twice a year is normal, depending on where it is, what use it gets, what level of player is expecting perfect tuning, etc. Concert grands get tuned during one concert!

Also, to consider. If it's an older piano, with no iron frame, it'll need a lot more tlc than one blessed with.

Short and to the point: get a pro in. Pay for the privilege and enjoy.

1

You can use a computer program to tell you where to put the pitch of each string, but the most difficult skill is to get the pitch to stay. The most common technique is to go sharp a bit and ease the pitch back down. This tends to set the pin so it doesn't move. With practice you get to feel when you've set the string as well so it doesn't move. Playing the note very hard will tell you if the string is set and won't move.

I'm a professional Registered Piano Technician (RPT) with the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG). Look them up.

-1

I'm a piano tuner; I became friends with the tuners at my university (NYC 1980!) and got them to teach me, so I can mention a few facts, and suggestions.

For your inquiry I would bear in mind two things,

  1. Tuning is somewhat an art itself. There is no "in tune" -- doesn't exist. It's a mess of making choices of where to put the notes to sound good. Has to do with physics, ancient Greece, and Bach. I'll explain below.
  2. Pianos go out of tune most from environmental/temperature changes, or from moving heavy loud playing. Not from moving.

You can try to tune it only if you plan on becoming a piano tuner. Without some apprenticeship, or lessons, you would need a high quality stretch strobe tuning machine, like a Peterson ST. They are nearly $1000. Phone apps are not accurate enough. A strobe tuner will help you set the equal temperament. This is the equal spacing of notes within an octave, usually F3-F4 or C3-C4. (First used by Bach's "The Well Tempered Clavia" in his 24 preludes and fugues, two in each key in a to showcase one instruments tuning can sound fine in all keys by splitting up the inherent mathematical problems, making each key equally out of tune. Before, the tunings were pure, so in one key your 4ths and 5ths are perfect in that key only, and in other keys it is un-playably out.

After your equal Temp is set, octaves are tuned outward and depending on the size of piano/string length) octaves are made MORE out of tune for smaller strings. (in other words, tuned wide, or sharp) I think it is called the Pythagorean theorem that says the string would have to be 40 feet long to not have to make octs wide. (Making sense that the smaller the piano, the wider the oct, till you find a 40 foot piano, (that's two great white Jaws sharks end to end, or a four story building, all very large and expensive!). Enharmonicity is also a factor where all instruments vary and certain harmonics of the string or not in tune with the fundamental, and a tuner has to use his ear to find where it sounds best, which is generally a factor inside of all this technical BS I'm spewing!!

Beside the Pythagorean Theorem, Plato wrote a chapter in his book "The Republic," which explains the

There is a lot of technique involved. When you pull the string up in pitch from the tuning peg, it twists in the pin block. It will sound in tune, but will quickly re-set down after some use. That why you have to pull it a hair more, and then do a "test blow" where you strike the note very hard a few times to settle it to where the pin will twist back to.

One thing I would suggest is get a little tuning app on your phone, and check a dozen different notes across the piano, (not too high or low) This way you will know if it just needs one tuning, or two -- first to bring it back up to pitch, then another to fine tune.

Piano tuners will tell you it needs time between tuning, but the fact is it's just a lot more work in one sitting. It can be done, but most do not, and that's fair enough. It's still over two tunings (some cases three), as if it's way low in pitch, as you bring up the other side the sheer force of the strings pulling the harp will throw the other side out of where it was put.

I hope this helps you. If you are in Miami, I'll tune it, or bring it here, remember what I said: keep it the same temperature in transport!!

What I'm saying is, hire a piano tuner and enjoy your instrument, unless you find learning how to tune a fun challenge, maybe one day become a piano tuner!! But be sure its A LOT of work to acquire that skillset. Hire a pianist and enjoy your tuning!!

Interested to know how you do, and how many people tell how wrong I am!!

Also remember: you can tune a piano but you can't tuna shark!

  • Many of the better iPhone apps will allow you to calibrate against WWV and, after that calibration, are more accurate and precise than any mechanical device (e.g. will vary less with temperature, etc.) – hotpaw2 Sep 24 '17 at 17:44
  • You can't "tuna fish." – Kevin Panko Oct 8 at 14:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.