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Rubens Offline OP
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My piano is a Pease (New York, built 1911) baby grand. Hammers replaced in 1977, then filed in January this year. The action is all original, and in excellent condition. Confirmed by tech.
No cracks in the soundboard, bridge, nor pinblock. Confirmed by tech.
I gave it all the love it deserved and more.

I found that it lacked tuning stability over the past year, especially in the unisons, so asked my tech to give it the CA treatment just a month ago.
Tech said the tuning pins felt barely loose, but agreed to do the CA treatment after I described the symptoms. After the treatment, he said that the treatment would only make a small difference in this piano, for some technical reason that I didn't understand. But he said the treatment should be good enough to improve tuning stability, since the tuning pins were not very loose to begin with. He then fully tuned the piano to a440 with no issue, to my satisfaction.

Fast forward one month, to now.
I just bought new microphones and did some test recordings that I posted on the Pianists forum. To my dismay, people pointed out how out of tune my piano sounds.
I can hear it now, but barely, probably because of the two blobs of denial that are blocking my ears.
Here's a sound sample: (the music coincidentally illustrates how I'm feeling about this ordeal)
Sample

I can't even tell if it's the unisons or something else. At this point I just hear wobbly sounds. At least it doesn't sound less stable than before the CA treatment, but I expected it to stay in tune after a month, and it evidently isn't.

So, is this the end? How can a pinblock with "barely loose" pins and no cracks still be unable to hold tuning after a CA treatment?
Humidity levels have been stable at around 45-50%. Short of a new pinblock, is there anything else I can do to for its tuning stability?


Soli Chopin gloria
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You might want to start charting indoor humidity levels. (data logger to see if there are swings that you aren't noticing) Doesn't sound from your tech's description that you had slipping pins. I would bet there have been some changes over the last month that would account for any tuning instability between the different areas of the piano. The tighter the control of humidity levels over time, the better the tuning will hold. Have you heard of the Dampp-Chaser humidity control systems that can be installed to the underside of the piano? Often a bottom and string cover installation will help as well, combined with the system.

To my ear, the hammers really need a good voicing - but it's an old piano and there are likely other issues that could be contributing as well...

Remember that people online will compare home recordings to concert-level and recording studio pianos!

Ron Koval

Last edited by RonTuner; 06/23/22 11:28 PM.

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It’s definitely not in tune. (nice Polonaise-Fantasie excerpt, though)
How far was the piano from pitch when it was tuned, a month ago? Big pitch changes can make a piano unstable. Barring that, the pins feeling “okay”, and the humidity being stable, you could try a different technician. How rusty are the strings over the bearing points?


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Rubens Offline OP
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The piano was actually at a444 (!) last month before the tuning. Tech said it was probably because of the weather changes in the spring season.
It was previously tuned in December, to a442 by another tech who strongly suggested that pitch in an effort to keep the piano in tune for a longer time...
I checked for rust on the strings over the bearings. I'd say it's a 4 on a scale of 0 (no rust) to 10 (strings made of rust).
And thank you terminaldegree for still recognizing the piece amidst the out of tune mess!


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Rubens Offline OP
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Re; Dampp Chaser.
I haven't looked into it much yet. Is it for the kind of symptoms that my piano has?
I mentioned it to my tech last month, but he's a nonbeliever. I'll do some reasearch on it. If there are good intro videos, please let me know, thanks!


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I think you are being hard judging the tuning. There are intervals that will beat noticeably even when a piano is tuned perfectly, and that may be what you are hearing in your recordings. Recordings tend to overemphasize that phenomenon.


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If the tuner took it from 444 to 440 it won't be stable at all.
Remember that pianos used for recording are tuned a few minutes before( and often during) the recording process.


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Thank you BDB and N W!
Being a recording newbie I didn't know how freshly tuned pianos are in pro recordings... Looks like I will need to do a test recording on mine right after re-tuning it before deciding if it's time for it to find a new (less demanding) home.


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me ears listened good intervals there. You have good grand and it's pitch is well,
regards,

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Could you record just the A that was adjusted to 440 for us?
Then some major 10ths (8ve + 3rd) starting at F two 8ves below middle C and going up SLOWLY for 2 octaves?

The 2 hz pitch raise from 442 to 444 in May is congruent with rising relative humidity. Personally, I use a Damp Chaser (currently called Piano Life Saver) on both my pianos - a grand and an upright. In my experience it helps keep things more stable.

It will be interesting, and perhaps diagnostic, to know if your A-440 is now A-442.

Let us know, and good luck.


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Rubens Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Seeker
Could you record just the A that was adjusted to 440 for us?
Then some major 10ths (8ve + 3rd) starting at F two 8ves below middle C and going up SLOWLY for 2 octaves?

The 2 hz pitch raise from 442 to 444 in May is congruent with rising relative humidity. Personally, I use a Damp Chaser (currently called Piano Life Saver) on both my pianos - a grand and an upright. In my experience it helps keep things more stable.

It will be interesting, and perhaps diagnostic, to know if your A-440 is now A-442.

Let us know, and good luck.

Wow! That A is now at 443.8, according my Panotuner app! Yikes!
I'll record the sound file of the rest later, but there's definitely something going on here.
And I have to admit I stopped checking humidity since the arrival of summer here. Here in Montreal, Canada, winters have always been more damaging to pianos because of their dryness. But I probably overlooked the opposite problem with the warm season.
Thanks for your help!


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Ok here is the sound check file:

Sample

Pardon the background noises. I have a 6-year-old boy who likes to walk up and down the stairs. And some demiurge trickster god sent a fleet of trucks to drive by my house during the recording. But hopefully this will give you a glimpse. I amplified the track afterwards to help the process.


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Rubens,

FYI, humidity control is THE most important factor in both tuning stability and instrument longevity. Admittedly, it is also difficult to achieve the kind of control that pianos really like. However, the on board system PLUS an undercover PLUS a good over cover, PLUS some room humidity added in winter, will go a long way toward achieving it. True, the very best possible thing is complete environmental control in the room, however this is almost entirely beyond the ability of the average homeowner. Therefore the next best thing is as described above.

Over the decades I have found that tuners who disparage the on board system do so, not because they don't work but precisely because they do work, and they see it as job security to make you believe otherwise. Remember though, as I said, a system all by itself on a grand (especially in your latitude) is not going to be a panacea. You must augment it as described above.

Just so you know, if you could in fact keep the environment at almost exactly 45%, you would hardly ever need to tune the piano at all, as it would not go out. I have seen this in action. I have had a handful of pianos kept strictly at consistent humidity and there is "nothing" for me to do (tuning wise) when I come (year after year). Voicing and regulating takes priority then.

In essence your tuning pins probably had nothing to do with any instability.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Rubens,

FYI, humidity control is THE most important factor in both tuning stability and instrument longevity. Admittedly, it is also difficult to achieve the kind of control that pianos really like. However, the on board system PLUS an undercover PLUS a good over cover, PLUS some room humidity added in winter, will go a long way toward achieving it. True, the very best possible thing is complete environmental control in the room, however this is almost entirely beyond the ability of the average homeowner. Therefore the next best thing is as described above.

Over the decades I have found that tuners who disparage the on board system do so, not because they don't work but precisely because they do work, and they see it as job security to make you believe otherwise. Remember though, as I said, a system all by itself on a grand (especially in your latitude) is not going to be a panacea. You must augment it as described above.

Just so you know, if you could in fact keep the environment at almost exactly 45%, you would hardly ever need to tune the piano at all, as it would not go out. I have seen this in action. I have had a handful of pianos kept strictly at consistent humidity and there is "nothing" for me to do (tuning wise) when I come (year after year). Voicing and regulating takes priority then.

In essence your tuning pins probably had nothing to do with any instability.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor
...that's where I was going with my question about where the piano was sitting now. That it is sitting 3.8hz above where it was lowered just a few weeks ago indicates that the relative humidity has increased A LOT, and since it seems that ALL the notes have gone up, indeed, loose pins are not at fault. I believe, were that the case, the piano would have slipped downwards in an uneven manner.

Were the unisons all perfect in your sound sample? No, but usable enough, and it's been weeks since you had it tuned, and you've been playing it. I'll leave it to the full time professionals for further comment on the tuning and its stability. That said, IMO, things would be a lot more jagged sounding if you had some pins that were looser than others, and so forth.

+1 on your (@Peter Grey's) suggestions in the order in which he made them. @Rubens - a new Piano Life Saver system will not be a nickels and dime purchase, but were I in your situation, I'd go for it. Come back to us if your technician is resistant and/or needs guidance on what to install for you. FWIW - the company that makes the PLS does have at least one RPT who fields requests for tech support. I'm pretty sure a pre-sales question would get attention.


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Rubens, I am not a professional in the piano field, but I am a professional in the field of air flow, heat transfer, humidity etc. Although I have not encountered a Life Saver system personally, the idea and mode of operation make entire sense to me. And Peter's recommendation for an over-cover and under-cover also make entire sense.

I can also confirm Peter's observation about keeping a room at near-constant humidity. I manage to keep my piano room at about 55%, with a variation not exceeding 5% (minimum to maximum), and in consequence the tuning of the Bluthner and of the wooden-framed Broadwood square remain remarkably stable.

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My dear tech and non-tech friends,
You have no idea how encouraging I find your posts to be!

At least I wasn't completely off my rocker when I thought to myself "this piano doesn't sound flat to me!".

My very first post when I joined this forum was titled "My 110 year old piano refuses to die" and it still seems to be true now.
I can live with the fact that I paid my tech put CA in my piano for nothing.
I can live with the fact that I may have to buy a PLS.
I can live with the fact that my dream to upgrade to a rebuilt M&H will be put on hold for yet a few more years. I won't give up on a piano that can still make good music for quite a while if well maintained, even if it's just a Pease that has nearly zero market value.
Thank you, I'll sleep better tonight!


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Quick question regarding humidity.

If I regain full control of the humidity level and get rid of the excess humidity, is there a good chance that the tuning will improve back to a440, or will I still need to have it re-tuned?
I expect that I will need a re-tuning, but just want to confirm.


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Rubens,
I’d like to make the point that while slipping pins and humidity changes can cause tuning instability, there’s also another factor: Many pianos are just simply unstable, no matter what you do. It can be hard to predict.

I have customers with high-quality, heavily built grands that are unstable, and ones with spinets that stay very well in tune. When I pitch raise some pianos, the pitch is right on for the second round; on other pianos even a small raise or lowering causes requires a lot of work to stabilize. Some are incredibly sensitive to swings in humidity, some defy it. I come to pianos that haven’t been tuned in 20 years—some are very low, some surprisingly close to pitch.

They are all different.

You hear “wobbly” pitches— that could be false beating. It would be surprising to not have false beats in an old piano. I’ve had a lot of success eliminating false beats by just massaging the strings down near the bridges with a mute as I tune.

You said the strings don’t have a lot of rust, but the capo section may well be grooved and corroded, which can cause excess friction and instability. Same with the agraffes.

You asked about tuning for recorded pianos. Many studios will hire a tech for the session.

I have to wonder if, by recording your piano, you have opened the door to hypercritical listening.

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Originally Posted by Rubens
Quick question regarding humidity.

If I regain full control of the humidity level and get rid of the excess humidity, is there a good chance that the tuning will improve back to a440, or will I still need to have it re-tuned?
I expect that I will need a re-tuning, but just want to confirm.

If you get the humidity back to what it was before, it seems likely that the tuning will improve. But it will probably not become "perfect" unless you have it re-tuned.

I would suggest that your aim is not so much "getting rid of the excess humidity", but keeping the humidity at a constant level, which is a more demanding objective.

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Thanks Scott and David.

Originally Posted by Scott Cole, RPT
I have to wonder if, by recording your piano, you have opened the door to hypercritical listening.

Undoubtedly!


Originally Posted by David-G
[quote=Rubens]

I would suggest that your aim is not so much "getting rid of the excess humidity", but keeping the humidity at a constant level, which is a more demanding objective.

Yes. I said getting rid because it will be the first step, considering the current humidity level in my living room that is at 67%. Embarrassing.


Soli Chopin gloria
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