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Just for fun I downloaded an app for piano tuning (Pano Tuner), since I do not have a good ear I used it with a piano. It looked like the piano was out of tune, all keys where a half tone away. This makes me wonder the following:

  • It is normal that all keys in a piano (that has few use) would have the same mismatch?
  • Are apps for tuning reliable?
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The piano may be relatively in tune but not absolutely in tune. So, each note is the correct interval from each other but A4 is not 440Hz. Provided you don't have perfect pitch, it will sound okay for solos. I have seen it a few times including my own piano. When I got it, all notes were a semitone flat.

On an old piano, this might have been done deliberately to reduce stress on the frame. One tuner was reluctant to retune my piano to concert pitch but another has now done it and it survived.

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Despite the suggestive name, "Piano Tuner" is not an appropriate app for tuning pianos. It's just a regular chromatic tuning app for musical instruments other than the piano. To accurately tune a piano an app needs to somehow calculate a "stretched" tuning that tunes the treble sharper and the bass flatter than normal "equal temperament" would require. (Examples of such apps that are affordable for hobbyists are TuneLab and PianoMeter.) That said, Pano Tuner can tell you generally if the piano is flat/below standard pitch. (All pianos go flat over time.)

To answer your specific questions:

  • Yes, it is normal for the whole piano to go flat, though it doesn't do it uniformly. (The notes in the high treble and some notes in the tenor tend to go out of tune more rapidly.)
  • Yes, tuning apps can be reliable, but as I mentioned earlier, if you're going to actually try to tune a piano you should use an app specifically designed for that purpose, not a generic chromatic tuning app.

Disclaimer: I am a professional piano tuner and am affiliated with one of the apps listed above.

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Tuning apps can be helpful for casual tuning, but cannot be compared with professional tuning devices as they are made to such specific purposes. To be sure if your piano is not completely out of tune, use any app or sound sample that plays a specific note(e.g. A4) and play it on your piano.

Maybe your app is wrong!

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I have used Pano Tuner with a Casio electronic keyboard, and every note is right on the mark.

Do you know that the piano is in tune? They need to be tuned every year or more.

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