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Thread: DIY Piano tuning

  1. #1
    timboZ's Avatar
    timboZ is offline 2.5K Gold Member
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    DIY Piano tuning

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    How hard or easy is it?
    What tools are needed?
    How do you do it?

    I know it is an art, but is it something that I can do.
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    Last edited by dragon: at 04:10

  2. #2
    SonicAlbert's Avatar
    SonicAlbert is offline Super-Sonic "Herb" Albert
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    The two most basic tools are a tuning hammer and the little rubber stopper shaped like a mini door stop.

    I use the tuning hammer on my piano to tune up notes that slip. I don't attempt to tune the whole piano, just the few notes that need touch ups. That gets me from one tuning to the next, when my tuner comes in.

  3. #3
    nddhc is offline Senior Member
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    If you have a nice piano and you like the way it sounds - hire a tuner. For a little less than the price of a piano tuner, you can get a small kit that has a decent tuning hammer and some rubber mutes.

    My piano was free from Craigslist and sounded terrible so there was nothing holding me back from trying to tune it myself. Rather than use a traditional tuning fork, I setup my keyboard to play a continuous sine wave for each note I was tuning. I would tune each string on the piano using the sine wave..

    This worked OK but I soon realized why piano tuning was such an art. The low and high octaves had to be tuned by ear and this was a lot harder than I thought it would be, and when I was done the middle of my piano had dropped slightly in pitch due to the tension of the low and high strings.

    Right now my piano is in tune with itself but is slightly flat if analyzed by a guitar tuner or something. I went a step further in damaging it and stuck tacks in all the hammers. By ruining the piano a little more than it once was I now have an awesome one of a kind piano that sounds really cool and way better than it could without the tacks.



    But yeah. Just read my first sentence, if its a piano you care about and paid money for.. leave it up to the pros!

  4. #4
    nddhc is offline Senior Member
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    Also this is the site I read before I got started, I also bought the same tuning kit hes using. It was about $60 or $70 online.

    http://piano.detwiler.us/

  5. #5
    timboZ's Avatar
    timboZ is offline 2.5K Gold Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by nddhc View Post
    But yeah. Just read my first sentence, if its a piano you care about and paid money for.. leave it up to the pros!

    It was a free upright grand so I was thinking of tinkering with it myself.

    Quote Originally Posted by nddhc View Post
    Also this is the site I read before I got started, I also bought the same tuning kit hes using. It was about $60 or $70 online.

    http://piano.detwiler.us/
    I was checking out that site last night.
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    Last edited by dragon: at 04:10

  6. #6
    cello_pudding is offline 1K Silver Member
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    if it's your own piano. definitely learn with that one.

    if its really out of tune, you'll have to do it a couple times, especially if you're new.

    try to not turn the pin too much. slow turns keep your pegs healthy.

    my first time tuning i tuned just the middle couple octaves. just tune the middle string to your tuner, and then later tune the outer 2 strings to the middle one by ear.

    you have to do the extreme octaves totally by ear.


    the last time i tuned my piano i only tuned 1 string to the tuner. i used a series of perfect 4ths and 5ths to cover all of the notes in the octave.

    after i covered all notes of the octave, i played some major thirds and chords to see if everything was okay...then i moved on to the next octave until i reached the end of the piano.

    fifths and thirds work better for the middle and upper registers. fifths and octaves work for the lower - mid region, and octave tuning is best for the low low section.

    it is extremely difficult to pay such close attention. i would do it when no one is around. so they don't annoy you, and you don't annoy them.

    you have to really really really hone in on the beats and harmonics that the unison strings are creating. you'll hear a phased sort of sound if its not right.

    your first times tuning you'll hear the obvious ones, and after a while, you'll get really into it.

    it's very very difficult, and professionals will do it under 4 hours. i would advise you to do it in shifts your first time as it will take hours longer than that.

    and it may still be out of tune. i know mine was.

  7. #7
    ofajen is offline Daddy-O Daddy-O Baby
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    I wonder if piano techs typically have a much higher rate they charge to tune a piano where the owner tried to do it first and couldn't?

    Seriously, I have also found benefit in having a piano tech come and regularly tune the piano, not only because the time it would take me is worth more than our current piano is worth, but also because a competent tech can identify and in some cases correct other problems, such as problems with the action that can be almost as annoying as tuning woes.

    Cheers,

    Otto

  8. #8
    Lt. Bob's Avatar
    Lt. Bob is offline Spread the Daf!
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    ok .... first off ..... I've been a piano tuner for some 35 years now and in Baton Rouge, where I had lived my whole life, I tuned 3 to 5 pianos a day 6 days a week; week after freakin' week for about the last 20 of those 35 years. I moved to Florida partly to get away from piano tuning and it's already starting to pour in. I tuned and rebuilt and did any sort of repair except finish work which I learned to do but hate. I had about 2500 churches on my account list and maybe 1000 individuals.
    So ...... I know my shit when it comes to pianos ....

    ummm a piano tuner will tune a piano in about 90 minutes ...... maybe 2 hours if the piano's horrible or if the customer talks while you work.

    If it's really bad you'll have to do it a hell of a lot more times than twice if you're not a tuner ...... basically like 40 or 50 times 'till you finally give up and hire someone or convince yourself that it sounds ok.

    You don't have to worry about turning pins slowly ....... you're basically not going to do anything that'll hurt the pins .... if they're too loose to hold though, then forget it ..... a non-tuner isn't gonna be able to deal with that.

    If it's 1/2 step low it'd take me three tunings to get it up and stable ...... it'll take you until the glaciers melt and reform.

    If it's around standard pitch (A-440 in the states) then you might be able to do a not terrible awful job of it and you're not likely to harm anything as long as you take your time. If it's an old piano however, breaking strings is always a possibility .... hell, it's a possibility on a new piano. So if you break one you'll get to learn how to replace it.

    You can't really get a good tuning doing it in shifts because as temps change and the piano expands and contracts .... the different length and gauges and wound or unwound strings behave very differently and you'll end up with different sections of the piano needing very different things done to correct.
    But a beginner almost has to do it in shifts 'cause they don't want to sit there for 4 or 5 or 6 hours straight.

    If you care about how it sounds, you should just get a tuner and get it done.
    I've seen an awful lot of musicians try to tune their own pianos. They had good ears and thus, felt they could do it. I've never seen one get it sounding good ever, because it's not hearing the notes that is the hard part. The problem is 'hammer technique' .... that is, 'feeling' when that pin has set. When you first start pulling a string higher, the pin doesn't move.... you just torque it and the first few times you play it .... that torque lets go and you're out of tune. A piano tuner can feel when the pin has set and that's the biggest skill.

    Usually it takes 4 or 5 hundred tunings before you get decent and those master level tuners .... well, 10 or 15 or 30 years.
    I think you should get a tuner to do it but if you decide to try .... feel free to ask me anything you need to know, I'll be glad to help.
    If you know the secret codes you can get by the mastering boss on level 8.

  9. #9
    cello_pudding is offline 1K Silver Member
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    your experience is blinding you.

    if he can get a piano perfectly in tune in an hour and a half...then he's jesus of piano tuning.

    a complete tuning of every string will take a while.

    he needs to do it in shifts because it will probably go out of tune a little anyways, and since he's not great at it, what's the big deal?

    if he was a professional..obviously it wouldn't even enter his mind of taking a break. the break is good for your ears. its like coming back to a recording mix.

    if he's set up a piano in a place that's going to change horribly in temperature, then its going to be out of tune no matter what. keep it away from direct air conditioning/heating vents, and keep a decent room temperature, and he'll be fine.

    a constant temperature for a few hours isn't unheard of.

    you don't want any jerking actions of your hammer. the pegs in my piano are just smacking into a giant piece of wood. and its a good 100 years old. it's not like a guitar tuner with 2 gears locking it in place.

    ever tuned a violin too quickly? you'll break a string. same with piano. too much too quickly is bad.



    and what happens when all the piano tuners die???

    just to tell someone that takes interest in tuning pianos to give up is not a nice attitude.

    having interest in tuning is not a common thing. and even more so when people like you discourage them.



    TUNE YOUR PIANO AND PRACTICE AND LEARN. KEEP AT IT AND ENJOY IT.

  10. #10
    Lt. Bob's Avatar
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    First off I didn't suggest he could do it in 90 minutes ...... I was referring to your comment that professionals could do it in under 4 hours. That's incorrect ..... a professional will do it in 90 minutes and if I'm in a rush I can do it in an hour. When you said "under 4 hours" that seems to me to imply that it might take close to 4 hours. That's not the case. No professional would ever take anywhere near that long...... about 90 minutes .... maybe 2 hours ..... that's it.

    Second ....... I didn't have a bad attitude at all ...... I absolutely told him that he wouldn't harm anything by trying and I also said that if he chose to do so that I'd be glad to help him ..... where exactly is the bad attitude in that? I gave my honest opinion on how likely it was in several different situations that he'd be able to do a good job ..... if it's 1/2 step low he'll have an almost impossible time getting it up to pitch .... I also said if it's close to pitch he could possibly do a not too bad job. Once again, where's the bad attitude in that?
    I several times told him he won't likely harm anything and go ahead but I gave him some idea of which situations would have a more or less likely chance of success.

    And you're giving incorrect info ....... it's not like a violin other than in the fact that the pins are held tight by friction. He won't harm anything regardless of how he jerks or doesn't jerk on the pins unless you're talking about standing up and yanking on the hammer as hard as you can and I'm sure he won't do that.
    You will not increase the likelihood very much of breaking strings by how hard he pulls on the hammer ....... strings break when they break and if a string's ready to break ...... you can pull on that hammer as slowly and as easy as you want and it'll still break. Believe me, I've tried. I mean, I make money replacing strings but my schedule's usually so tight that I just hate breaking strings and having to change them so I've tried everything to minimize it. I've even twice seen strings break for no reason at all even when I was just standing there talking to the customer and hadn't even touched the piano ..... and I had at least one customer woke up in the middle of the night by a string breaking. All 3 times were fairly new expensive grands.

    I gave him my opinion as to which situations would be more conducive to having success and offered my help any time he needed it.
    You, on the other hand, are telling him things that are flat out wrong and telling him not to listen to someone who's been one of the busier tuners in the nation the last 20 years.
    Who's giving him the worse attitude?

    Some of the things you said regarding temp. fluctuations driving a piano out of tune are correct ...... but some of what you said is wrong. And, once again, I offered (and still do) to help him if he tries. I didn't discourage him at all by telling him he wouldn't hurt anything and go ahead.
    And you're right, piano tuners need to come from somewhere ...... but they will have to find a place like a piano store where they can tune lots of pianos because it does take 100's of tuning before you are a competent tuner ...... whether you like it or not. And lastly, how is he or anyone else supposed to learn if no one that really knows what he's talking about gives him any help?
    Learning something new requires hearing both the good and the bad.
    If you know the secret codes you can get by the mastering boss on level 8.

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