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Is it a good idea to touch up the tuning of your piano, following Robert Estrin: https://livingpianos.com/tune-your-piano-pt-1/ ?

Or, do people think this is a no-no, if you aren't a tech?

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Sure, it's OK, if you know what you're doing and how to do it. I wouldn't rely on a youtube video, however, to teach me.

Regards,


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I wrote this just yesterday as a response to a similar inquiry for someone’s Estonia grand piano in the technicians forum—

As long as you are careful (don't move the tuning hammer more than you have to, and make sure you’re on the correct tuning pin!), you probably won't break anything. Get a couple felt mutes in the smaller (treble) and one in the larger (bass) sizes.

Until I had a lot of practice, some mentorship, and a good quality tuning hammer, my efforts to touch up wayward unisons seemed to improve things at the moment...but weren't particularly stable or long-term results.


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08:04 "Now those two strings are absolute in tune to one another!"

Uhm, really?

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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
08:04 "Now those two strings are absolute in tune to one another!"

Uhm, really?

Over the years, I've learned to try and avoid participating in discussions here regarding DIY tunings, or even touch-ups. It always seems to stir a bit controversy in some form or fashion. This thread is non-controversial at the moment, but that could change.

If you want to learn to touch-up your twangy unisons between tunings, go for it. Several members here do it, and even tune their own pianos, but that discussion tends to lead to even more controversy.

For example, I've read the comment many times here over the year, or something to the same effect, "only a fool would represent themselves in court, and only a fool would try to tune their own piano". Well, the way I see it, there is a huge difference in potentially getting sued and losing everything you've got, or going to prison, and attempting to tune your own piano. I see absolutely no correlation at all, not even close. But the subject just stirs controversy here for some reason.

That said, and for the sake of conversation, in my view, piano in-tuneness, or out of tuneness is not an exact science, and one pianists beautifully tuned piano is another's horribly tuned piano. It is certainly no "one tuning fits all".

Is it a good ideal to touch-up your own piano tuning? That depends on ones willingness, courage, and determination, to learn how.

YMMV... smile

Rick


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Originally Posted by Rickster
Is it a good ideal to touch-up your own piano tuning? That depends on ones willingness, courage, and determination, to learn how.

YMMV... smile

Rick

I'd like to add natural aptitude to that list. I've walked numerous brave owners through the basics of unison tuning, and some began to become proficient in the first hour, others never got close no matter how hard they tried. The art of tuning seems to be something that clicks or doesn't.

Also, it's going to make a huge difference how those specific pins on that specific piano behave. Some pins are very cooperative, others are challenging even for pros with vast experience. Luck of the draw, and the owner won't have the experience to know how easy or hard the pins are.

Finally, no one should try this without a *really good* tuning hammer.

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Can people recommend which are the ``really good'' tuning hammers? Are they found e.g. on Amazon?

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Originally Posted by MusterMark
Can people recommend which are the ``really good'' tuning hammers? Are they found e.g. on Amazon?

The "really good" tuning hammers are not found on Amazon. Google Fujan tuning hammers, or Charles Faulk tuning hammers. There are cheaper options that are still quality items, but they're generally available through piano supply shops that cater to technicians and not the general public. Howard Piano Industries has some that are good, but they also sell a few that are poor quality (though the Levitan Utility hammer at $78 is well made and would function just fine as a tuning touchup hammer).


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Speaking of DIY tuning, I too tune my own but don't have an ear yet for beats and all the other stuff real tuners know how to listen for. Instead, I tune to an ETD, in my case Pianometer by PW's very own Andrew Willey. I am able to tune it to be pretty accurate with unisons matching, at least according to the app, but I'm not sure how the results would sound to a real tuner. The piano sounds fine to me, but...

Anybody have an opinion on how close a good ETD alone can get you to a piano actually being in tune?


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To complement the posts above by Rickster and AOS, I'll just share some thoughts I've posted before:

Originally Posted by Retsacnal
I learned to tune in Germany as the part time helper of an elderly WWII vet who himself only tuned part time. He was a chef at a restaurant where I washed dishes one summer when I was 14.

I've only shared that story with a couple people here.

Fast forward 35 years, and I bought a piano! After having it tuned once, I brushed up and started tuning it myself, learned a better technique (he taught me what I've heard called "easy octaves" initially).

Things used to be pretty vitriolic in the technician's forum, so I wasn't about to out myself as a DiYer. But most of the cantankerous folks are long gone now.

Anyway, I took it somewhat seriously, attended a lot of PTG meetings and technical sessions, and have travelled multiple times to NC and Atlanta, because those chapters sponsored some pretty serious training sessions. Because I enjoy it. And I kinda miss it during this season of social distancing...

I had a friend from the PTG come to do some voicing a while back (before Covid), and he said my tuning was excellent. I'm a software engineer, and am intrigued by ETDs, but I tune by ear.

I've shared the story here multiple times about a young man I know from the PTG who when I first met him was still a student at the University where I teach. He wasn't my student; he was studying business. He conducted a survey of PTG members in the DC and NYC metro areas as part of a capstone project, and one of the questions was something to the effect of "do you agree that some people have a natural aptitude for this work?" The vast majority of responders agreed or strongly agreed (it was a Likert scale response question).

For example, I watched some training DVDs of Jim Coleman Sr. and George Defebaugh, both heavy-hitters in the PTG and Golden Hammer Award winners, and one of them says that his son-in-law was tuning as well as he did after 30 days.

Some people get it readily, while some never will no matter how hard they try.


I agree that it's the sort of thing one either has the knack for, or doesn't. Perhaps there are subtler gradations in between. In general, skills can be learned and improved upon, but if someone is both curious and handy, then they can probably do it.

I've learned a lot in the last decade. Resumed playing, and have improved in that regard, of course, but I'll confess that I probably like working on them as much as playing.


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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
Anybody have an opinion on how close a good ETD alone can get you to a piano actually being in tune?

I use TuneLab and Pianometer and both do a good job at tuning single strings and provide an equal temperament with the inharmonicity specific to each piano.

However, tuning unisons is a different matter. I only tune single strings with ETD and all unisons by ear only.

Hardly any strings in a unison have a completely similar spectrum of overtones, thus tuning unisons are always a compromise and ears are a lot better suited to find the sweet spot for the best match in the spectrum.

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Mine was so badly out of tune when it arrived I couldn't bear the wait, got a mid-level hammer, some felt strips, a phone app, and did it myself...badly. When I was finally able to line up a tuner, he complimented me on the pin block's precision and steadiness and said, "whatever you do, don't ever let some hack touch it," at which point I put on my best poker face while cringing inside. He must have known somehow, anyway, hence the remark. At least I was gentle as it's held its tune wonderfully since.

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I tend to think that you need to be capable of tuning a piano, period, in order to satisfactorily touch up unisons. The reason being that you need to be able to determine which strings are "in" and which ones are "out". This usually requires a pretty good understanding of the piano itself, in addition to knowing how to wield a tuning hammer. I always found that touching up a few notes never left me feeling satisfied, so I always ended up tuning the whole piano - but that's something I'm well accustomed to doing. Most people who attempt touch ups with little experience make the situation worse, rather than better - but I wouldn't say that's always the case. It always comes down the the individual concerned - what this knowledge and understanding is, and this aptitude for such things.

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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
Originally Posted by Emery Wang
Anybody have an opinion on how close a good ETD alone can get you to a piano actually being in tune?

I use TuneLab and Pianometer and both do a good job at tuning single strings and provide an equal temperament with the inharmonicity specific to each piano.

However, tuning unisons is a different matter. I only tune single strings with ETD and all unisons by ear only.

Hardly any strings in a unison have a completely similar spectrum of overtones, thus tuning unisons are always a compromise and ears are a lot better suited to find the sweet spot for the best match in the spectrum.

I too use the TuneLabPro software for single string notes and tune the other strings by ear. I do use the graph on all three strings near the highest octaves to help me "hear" the unisons.

I've been tuning my own pianos for about 15 years, about as long as I've been learning to play. I've tuned a few pianos for others for free, just for the experience, but that got to be too time consuming. I have no desire to tune for others, and the older I get, I'd much rather play than tune. However, there was a time when I'd grab the tuning hammer and a mute at the least little inkling of a wayward unison; but I've progressed from that obsession.

I've also learned that tuning stability is just as important, if not more so, than a good initial tuning. I like it when I play my pianos hard, and they stay in tune pretty well. But, inevitably, even the best of tunings will slip over time, due to physics and the laws of nature.

Also, FWIW, my hat is off to the full-time and professional tuners and techs. It is not at all easy, and even after 15 years, it is still a chore, to me at least. But there is a certain feeling of satisfaction to tune a really clean, pure unison, and octaves. Stretch is another subject altogether... smile

Rick


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It's right up there with DIY open heart surgery - don't do it. wink

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Originally Posted by TBell
It's right up there with DIY open heart surgery - don't do it. wink

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I tune my own piano. There is a learning curve and it still takes me a couple of hours for a full tuning, but it's rewarding. Touching up a few bad unisons is just a matter of minutes and should be learned by anyone who has minimal mechanical skills and understands the forces at play in a piano's stringing. The results might not be as stable as with an experienced tuner, but at least you can fix your problem right away and at no cost.


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Of course it's a good idea. Why wouldn't it be?

Often a few unisons are the first to slip, while the rest of the piano is basically still in tune. So if you can fix them up yourself you can keep the piano sounding in tune significantly longer.

I used to tune my piano myself using Tunelab, but I got 6 free tunings with my new piano. The last time the tuner came, immediately after he left two unisons on the piano were way off. I'm not sure whether he was being careless, or this is just something that can happen. Anyway, if I hadn't been able to fix the unisons myself I would have had to call him back again.

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Originally Posted by TBell
It's right up there with DIY open heart surgery - don't do it. wink

It really isn't. Even if you are totally cack-handed and attack the job like a bull in a china shop, the worst that you are likely to do is to break a string. Generally the most likely annoying discords are in the area of the trichords and most often it will only one of the strings in a trichord that is giving the problem. The important thing is to correctly diagnose which of the strings is out of tune and then to re-tune it with as little movement of the lever as possible. For beginners it is always easier to mute one of the strings then tune the flat string (it is almost always flat) against the remaining unmuted string. On a grand you can happily use a couple of rubber wedges, if it's an upright get a Papps wedge at the same time as you buy your tuning lever.


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IMO, this kit might be okay for your purposes.

Item #1982- Craftsman Kit - $105.85

https://www.vandaking.com/piano-tuning-kits-Schaff.html

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