Is It Hard to Tune a Piano?

Is It Hard to Tune a Piano

How hard is to tune a Piano? We encounter this question quite frequently.  Sometimes from curious customers, who’d like to learn more about their instrument and the field in general.  But other times we will come upon an adventurous individual who has attempted a do-it-yourself project to tune their instrument.  While learning to tune your piano is not out of the realm of possibility (after all new technicians join the ranks every day), most of the time such an experiment ends with clients enlisting the help of an expert.  It is also likely the client has caused more problems than originally existed while attempting a tuning.  So let’s dive into the question, “Is tuning a piano hard?”

The Obstacles: Is It Hard to Tune a Piano?

Some of the obstacles you will face as you embark on your piano tuning journey are:

  1. It is absolutely imperative that you have a musical ear.  While playing a musical instrument is certainly a good start, you must be able to identify any note, pitch and rhythm. So much of the piano tuning process depends on a technician’s ability to hear the nuances and slight variations in pitch and tone, that tuning an instrument without this ability is destined to fail.  An electronic tuner can certainly help you, but relying on one completely will not result in a well-tuned piano.  Each instrument is unique and needs the subtle touch of a well-trained technician to find its perfect tune.
  1. One of the biggest challenges of tuning a piano is getting the notes to be stable.  This is the downfall of many a technician, especially amateur ones.  Getting the notes to sound just right, while difficult, is only half the battle.  But getting them to keep their pitch is truly a challenge.  Piano strings hold considerable tension and getting them to stabilize is a lot more intricate than just finding the right tune.  
  1. Finally an inexperienced tuner can actually cause physical damage to the instrument if not properly trained.  Applying too much force to the tuning pins can result in broken strings and even loose pins in the pin block.  Restringing a piano is no trivial affair.  But loose pins can render an instrument untunable altogether.  Replacing an entire pin block is a serious restorative procedure, not to mention expensive.  

Consider these obstacles before meddling with the complex and precise mechanism of a piano.  However if you are serious about becoming a skilled technician, please consider enrolling in professional training and practice, practice, practice.  On average it takes about 1000 tunings or about 3 years of experience before a piano technician can tune an instrument consistently and reliably.  Your piano is a work of art, give it the respect and care it deserves.  

If you are undeterred and still wondering just how hard is it to tune a piano, read on for a brief overview of the tuning process.

The Piano Tuning Process

While piano tuning has some standard techniques and guidelines, it remains to this day quite a personal endeavor.  People who have worked with instruments for many years, develop a personal style that they swear by.  Here is just a taste of what’s involved.

  1. Firstly, you will need a set of tools before you can begin tuning an instrument.  See our post about your standard piano tuning kit
  1. Once you have your tools handy, and your instrument opened up, the tuning may commence.  Technicians will use a tuning fork or more likely an electronic tuner to find the starting note, in order to start with a standard pitch of (usually) A-440 Hz.  Meaning that the A note will match the vibration produced at 440 Hz.
  1. In order to adjust the pitch of the note, the technician will start with one of the strings that are attached to it (up to 3 strings can be attached to each note) and use the tuning lever (also known as the tuning hammer) to turn the pin to loosen or tighten the string.  Once the sounds match, the note is in tune.  The technician will then “tune the unison”, meaning get the other strings attached to the note to perfectly match the sound produced by the tuned string.  When all the strings are in tune – that note is done.
  1. Now the technician will tune the rest of the notes in that middle octave by comparing them to the original note. 
  1. Finally, the technician will go octave by octave, moving away from the middle of the piano, by comparing the notes in the other octaves to the original one.  Remember that it is important to do this by ear, rather than using an electronic tuner.  Each instrument is unique in its construction, age, model and environment, and cannot possibly be tuned note by note to the same exact list of sounds.  It is important to honor these differences and find the pitch that suits each particular piano by listening to the individual notes.  

This oversimplified process does not take into account any problems that may and do often occur in pianos.  Just being exposed to the elements and seasonal climate shifts can cause an instrument to not only be out of tune, but considerably out of pitch (meaning it sounds too low or too high across the board).  And that is just one of the many things that can and do go wrong.  Our hope is that having read this post, you will consider calling a professional technician, to give proper care to your beautiful piano.

Also, get Piano Repair Services.


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