Piano Tuning

Piano Tuning Phoenix by Wes Flinn RPT

Mythological Greek Phoenix

‘Tuning’ and ‘Types of Tuning’

— by Wes Flinn RPT

Note to mobile viewers — use horizontal view !

Tuning Costs

Costs for Tuning a physical piano range from
$85 to $185, depending completely on the
condition of your piano, its location and the
kind of use you plan to give it —

Inspections or Service Calls from $49 to $100

Maintenance Tuning: costs from $115 to $135

Equalization Tuning: costs from $135 to $155

Remedial Tuning: costs from $155 to $175

• Don’t get ripped off !!

All Tunings ARE NOT the same —

What kind of tuning do you need?

• Is a bad pinblock your piano’s real problem ?

• Will your piano tune without any repairs ?

Inspections are needed for these answers !

Did you know that:

>> Physical pianos have “memory” — They go
back out of tune if you don’t follow rules

Here are the rules — no exceptions:

• Acoustic Pianos use 4 Tuning Methods —
each method serves a different purpose:

1) “Remedial Tuning” same as Concert Tuning

also called a “Pitch Raise” Tuning

procedure resets pitch to Standard A-440,
reinstalls a Temperament style, plus installs
a complete Fine Tuning (see #3 below)

Remedial Tuning must always be used whenever
Standard A-440 pitch level required, such as:

when piano to be used for concert performance

when piano is expected to play or record with
any kind of other instruments

when piano is expected to play with electronic
devices of any kind, such as keyboards,
CD players, synthesizers, theremins, etc.

— and, for any of these “remedial” conditions:

a piano did not get regular service in the past

a piano has been in storage or moved around
to different locations

a piano is so far out of tune that the
temperament must be restored

a poorly installed previous tuning
must be corrected

shop repair work has been done

Remedial Tuning = 3 different procedures:

(1) Restores pitch level to A-440 —

(2) Re-establishes a Temperament

(3) Installs a Fine Tuning —

All 3 procedures are done in one session
that requires 2 hours or more at the piano

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Go back to Pinblock Failure

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2) “Equalization Tuning”

— A procedure used to restore or equalize a piano temperament to the existing average measured pitch level of the piano – this system cannot be used to restore concert pitch level or to make large pitch changes, which require the Remedial Tuning procedures.

— This procedure can be used at any practical pitch level, but only when the existing piano temperament is “out” no more than about 10% from its original settings at its measured pitch level.

— The “Equalization Tuning” procedure requires about 1:45 minutes to complete in one session at the piano.

NOTE: This method is impractical for any technician to attempt who does not have advanced skills in the use of ETDs (electronic tuning devices). However, for technicians with the skills and equipment required to install this tuning, it is the tuning method of choice when a tuning at concert pitch is not needed or not appropriate (such as for antique pianos, or the installation of historical temperaments), because it takes less time than, and is equally stable to, a Remedial Tuning whenever A440 pitch level tuning is not required.

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3) “Fine Tuning”

— “sets” or “floats” a temperament at a piano’s existing pitch level

— a “Fine Tuning” procedure can sometimes be used alone, without remedial work or pitch raises, depending entirely on a piano’s existing tuning condition

Note: when a piano is so far out of tune that its temperament must be restored, or a pitch change up or down is needed, a “Fine Tuning” installed alone will not work properly, and the “Remedial Tuning” procedures above must be used if worth-while results are expected.(See “More Explanations” below)

Realize that an acoustic piano has physical memory, and will quickly go back to its previous state of tuning if it is not re-set with a temperament at a desired pitch level before it is tuned.Therefore, an acoustic piano MUST BE either tuned at its existing pitch level (provided it has retained a temperament from its last tuning), or given a “remedial tuning” (which is to re-set to another pitch level and temperament before re-tuning with a “fine tuning”) if the desired change is more than 4-% higher or lower than the existing pitch level.

The “Fine Tuning” procedure alone requires up to 1:30 time at the piano

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4) “Maintenance Tuning” only, or also called just a “Regular Tuning”

— This is the installation of a “Fine Tuning”, installed at existing pitch level of the piano.

— This method, however, can only be used when piano has been tuned previously within the last few months, using any of these 3 types of tunings, and when the piano has kept its temperament integrity from a previous tuning

— must be scheduled on a regular calendar basis, at 30 to 150 day intervals

— The “Maintenance Tuning” procedure requires about 1 hour at the piano

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Repairs may be needed before a piano will tune !

Click here to review a difficult problem for all pianos in Arizona, which is Dehydration,
caused by dry weather conditions, called “pinblock failure.”

— Also See:

Older Pianos and “Player Pianos” below.

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• More Details on these tuning procedures:

1) “Concert” / “Remedial” / “Pitch Raise” method:

This is an overall corrective method which includes three separate parts, or procedures:(a) a special procedure, different from tuning, is used to re-tension both the piano’s strings and its iron plate into a balanced and stable condition that produces a desired pitch level, usually set to “Standard Pitch” or “Concert Pitch” of “A – 440”; and,(b) a second procedure, in preparation for the “Fine Tuning” which follows, is to develop a unique modification of a temperament adapted to that particular piano (see Fine Tuning below); then,

(c) installation of a Fine Tuning (see below)

This Concert Tuning method is variously called a “Concert Tuning” or a “Pitch Raise Tuning” or a “Remedial Tuning” or a “Double Tuning”.

The proper technical name for the “pitch raise” part of the procedure is a “Tension Adjustment” — which means the piano overall has been re-tensioned to a new pitch level before it was actually tuned.

This “Tension Adjustment” or “Pitch Raise” procedure is mandatory when a piano’s pitch level needs to be changed more than 4-% higher / lower than the piano is found to be at the time of a new tuning. This new adjustment level can be set to Standard pitch of A-440, or to any other practical tension above or below standard pitch. (Acoustical pianos have a very wide range of pitch adjustment, that almost all other instruments do not have)

If an acoustical piano is not re-tensioned prior to tuning, and is simply tuned arbitrarily at some new pitch level exceeding this 4-% parameter higher or lower than its existing pitch level, the new tuning will invariably become unstable, not durable, and will fade away earlier than necessary, in a degree depending on the amount of pitch change beyond this 4-% limit. The reason for this is that a physical piano has “memory” in its physical parts, and “wants” to return to its former state after a tuning, unless it is “taught” the new tensions desired before a new tuning is installed.

Click here for the definitions of Pitch Raise and A – 440 to see why or when you might want or need to have a “pitch raise” or “remedial” style of tuning.

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2) “Fine Tuning” method:

A new “Fine Tuning” is the final procedure used in any method of tuning. It is also the style tuning used the first time a Registered Piano Technician works on a piano, as well as the tuning procedure which follows the “Tension Adjustment” or “Pitch Raise” procedure above.

Note: A “fine tuning” is installed at whatever pitch level the piano has at the point of tuning, with or without a pitch change. It also will not install properly on any piano unless a temperament has been correctly installed first, or happens to be satisfactory without re-installation at the point of tuning.

This Fine Tuning procedure takes about 25% longer than a periodic, or “maintenance” tuning.

A piano simply will not hold a new tuning well that is not set up right in the first place — and, you will wonder when a new tuning fades quickly why you paid a technician some bargain price to do a cheap, quick tuning for you — but, if that should happen to you, now you know what happened, and why!

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3) “Maintenance” style tuning:

A procedure which is a calendar-based tuning following a Fine tuning, a Pitch Raise tuning, or a Maintenance tuning performed within the previous few months. It is a faster procedure, requiring less time, because these types of previous tunings will still be basically in place inside of about 6 months. The Maintenance tuning gives attention mainly to re-setting the “unisons“, refining the existing temperament, and does not need to address as much re-setting of the pin positions as a “Fine Tuning”.Maintenance tunings are scheduled in calendar-based periods of 30 up to 150 days. Choice of time cycles depends on how perfectly you want or need your piano to sound daily.

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Older Pianos:

To make tuning possible on older pianos,—Beware! — repairs may be necessary !!

For details, go to: Repairs and pinblock failure..

For full information, go to: Full Maintenance Service;

Next, go to the five definitions above on this page
marked with a red star “*“;

Then, go to: Grades, types of older type pianos

and go to: Cabinet Grand Antique Piano

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Player Pianos: (mechanical / pneumatic players)

Note that most antique player pianos require removal of at least part of the player mechanism in order to access the piano’s tuning pins, and therefore cost more to tune or to service. If the player system does not work, and the piano does work, you may want to remove the player entirely for future convenience. Modern electronic piano player systems take up almost no internal space and do not require removal for service.A “player piano” is normally a regular piano with a huge and complex player system literally “stuffed” inside to operate the piano mechanically. There is usually no room remaining to service or to repair the piano normally, and this system usually has to be removed partially in order to do any kind of work on the piano itself, including only tuning.

Also be aware that all the normal warnings for “older pianos” above apply to player pianos regarding any kind of services or repairs to the actual piano itself, in addition to the player mechanism issues — whether to disable it, try to improve it or to repair it, etc.

Further, realize that, although repair of mechanical piano player systems is actually possible, such repair is usually prohibitive in cost except for unusual situations with unlimited budgets, and where goals of nostalgic or historic restorations are ruling your decisions.

Repair service for mechanical player systems is almost unavailable in today’s world, takes forever to get done, and the costs are unbelievable. If you must do this, you are best advised to get an “RPT” – Registered Piano Technician to guide you down this road, as well as be prepared to both pay big time and wait big time for your goals to be met. You can visit the following links for a start on information:

Go to: Player Techs, Player Rolls, Antique Pianos.

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• Why tune a piano, in the first place?

Acoustical pianos are physical machines. They go flat naturally and normally, by design, due to the very high tension on their strings. An acoustic piano is always, all the time, going microscopically flat due to this tension — so time between tunings determines much of how flat a piano goes down before its next tuning. Playing a piano affects tuning only by a small amount. Temperature and humidity changes affect the tuning of a piano by a large amount. Acoustic pianos tuned regularly, however, usually stay acceptably in tune; and, when tuned on a regular calendar basis, they stay up to pitch acceptably, as well.

• How often should a piano be tuned?

5 essays on this Website cover all tuning requirements:

Tuning Your Piano — overview of Tuning Cycles

Tuning Your New Piano — needs of new pianos

Six-Month Piano Tuning Cycles — the history

Piano Maintenance Programs — for serious owners

— “How Often / When Should I Have My Piano Tuned

• Use and meaning of the word “tuning”:

— The non-technical, popular use of the term “tuning” is to describe making a piano sound “right” or “normal”, without reference to what procedure might be involved.— The technical meaning of the word “tuning” refers only to a procedure that tightens or loosens strings, which causes the sounds made by piano strings to go up or down in pitch.

“Tuning” is not, by technical definition, either
“Regulation” or “Voicing” or “Repairs.”

— About unisons:

“Tuning” also includes the meaning of drawing the strings on notes using more than one string (most of the piano) into equal tensions or sounds, and both the procedure and the resulting sounds are called “unisons“.

Click here to go: back up to “maintenance” tunings

— The overall maintenance condition of a piano directly and strongly affects its ability and potential to accept or benefit from any kind of tuning procedure.

Full Maintenance Service” = details on how this works.

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• Tuning Technology

Modern piano tuning technology is the result of 300 years of research and development, beginning with the invention of the piano in 1709. Today’s tuning techniques are just as reliable and predictable as flying techniques are in aeronautics. A basic problem in tuning technology has always been to cope with the physical design of acoustical pianos — their strings constantly go flat due to stretching from the very high tension needed to produce the 88 different piano pitches. The correct and effective methods developed to overcome this tendency are explained in the ‘Tuning’ section above; properly executed, these procedures provide very stable and durable tunings, even in locations not having the benefit of climate controlled conditions.Go back to Tuning end | top

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