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FDP Forum / Rock-it 88's - Keyboard Forum / Piano tuning question

Charlie Macon
Contributing Member

Austin, Texas

May 7th, 2014 10:28 AM   Edit   Profile  

Several years ago I hired a piano tuner to visit my Father-in-Law's house in Roswell, NM, and tune his old piano. The guy called me in the process and let me know that given the condition of the old instrument, he recommended going for a fully balanced tuning, but at a quarter step below standard tuning. He feared adjusting everything to standard may result in popped strings or whatever happens to a piano. It sounds great, but is a pain for fellow musicians who cannot tune to the piano by ear (I have no problem, but others do).

Now that years have gone by, is there any hope that perhaps a new retuning to bring it back to standard would work? In other words, since it became 'balanced and steady' for several years...would it be less prone to fail from tuning the entire piano as a whole up that quarter step?


Cincinnati, USA

May 7th, 2014 11:16 AM   Edit   Profile  

My tuner told me that, for tuners, it's a money losing proposition if they break a string and tuners develop techniques to minimize that. Your tuner's approach is to leave the instrument flat, due to the age of the instrument, rather than risk increasing the tension of every string.

It's not like restringing a guitar. The tuner has to have the correct gauge on hand and cuts it to length off a spool. If it's a wound string, the tuner has to fabricate a replacement so that the winding of the new string is the same length as its unison string. If you check the wound strings, the windings are not full length and do not pass over the bridge, only the center core does that. So if the windings are not of similar length on unison strings, they may be tuned in unison but will not have the same harmonics and won't sound right.

My uninformed advise is to leave it flat until you decide on a total restringing, which would accompany a rebuilding by a shop.

Better guitar tuners can calibrate to an external source (the flat piano) and then all your picker friends can use that tuner to synch up to the piano. I have a Sabine that will do this and maybe my Boss will too. I think this is your best bet.

(This message was last edited by amphead4 at 01:18 PM, May 7th, 2014)

Charlie Macon
Contributing Member

Austin, Texas

May 7th, 2014 11:36 AM   Edit   Profile  

That's a great idea....I did not know about the calibrate-to-external source tuners. I'll buy him one of those for use anytime a jam session breaks out. Thanks!

Te 52

Laws of Physics

strictly enforced
May 7th, 2014 01:49 PM   Edit   Profile  

Tuners can also be hesitant to bring a piano up to concert pitch depending on the condition of the pin block, the thick laminated hardwood block that the tuning pins screw into. If a tuner sees cracks in the pin block or tuning keys leaning over, he's going to be reluctant to raise the pitch of the instrument, regardless of the condition of the strings.

Contributing Member

USA / Virginia

May 7th, 2014 02:01 PM   Edit   Profile  

I"m thinking now that the instrument has settled in below concert pitch, trying to raise it back to concert pitch could cause problems, as already mentioned. Another possible issue would be the soundboard. Raising the pitch increases the pressure the bridge puts onto the soundboard, which might crack it. Then again it might not.

Depending on how far below concert pitch the piano is, that's going to be a problem for instruments like horns and woodwinds. They have some pitch adjustment, but not a huge amount.

FDP Forum / Rock-it 88's - Keyboard Forum / Piano tuning question

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