The Art Of Piano Tuning
Piano tuning can be described as a process of making small adjustments to the tension of the strings of a piano in order to align the intervals so that the instrument is harmonizing or in tune with a required set of pitches, temperament or tuning system. Pianos are usually tuned to the equal temperament tuning system and usually to a standard pitch of A440 Hz.
The general method of tuning a piano will normally start with tuning a set of strings in the middle range or section of the piano to a temperament octave sometimes also referred to as a scale octave. Once the temperament or scale octave is set, the piano tuner will proceed to tune all other pitches by comparing octave intervals against this temperament or scale octave.
Piano Tuning Method
There are two basic methods used by piano tuners for piano tuning: Aural Piano Tuning and Electronic Piano Tuning
Aural Piano Tuning
Aural tuning is the method piano tuners have traditionally used and still use today to tune pianos by ear only. After a reference note or a calibrated given frequency, usually produced by a tuning fork. Piano tuning fork is established, the tuner adjust the pitch of all the other notes based on the reference note relying only on their hearing.
Electronic Piano Tuning
An electronic tuning device assists a piano tuner in tuning a piano without relying only on hearing. It will produce a range of pitches to establish the ideal tuning of a given piano. A piano tuner can then match the piano to the device. It is inevitable to use some aural techniques as well to refine the tuning. It will never replace the ear, but is an aid to it.
Tuning a Piano to Concert Pitch
Standard or concert pitch is A-440 Hz or C-523 Hz, which is the international pitch standard. There are a few others as well, but they are not so regularly used or requested.
Tuning Pianos In Unison
Usually two or more pianos are tuned in unison for a performance where pianists play together, for example when a piano duet is performed. These pianos will then be tuned to exactly the same pitch and also with the beat ratios of all intervals matching. It is advisable that similar make and models are used in such a performance.
The equal tempered scale is the common general musical scale used at present for the tuning of pianos and other instruments of relatively fixed scale. It divides the octave into 12 equal semitones. Equal temperament can be described as a tuning system in which every pair of adjacent notes has an identical frequency ratio. An interval, usually the octave, is divided into a series of equal frequency ratios. Musical intervals are stated in cents, where one equal tempered semitone is defined as100¢. This provides a useful way to compare intervals in different temperaments and to decide whether those differences are musically significant.
For modern Western music, the most common tuning system used by piano tuners is the twelve-tone equal temperament, abbreviated as 12-TET, where the octave is divided into 12 logarithmically equal parts or semitones. It is usually tuned relative to a standard pitch of 440 Hz. When the term “Equal Temperament” is used without qualification, it is usually understood as 12-TET. There are also other existing equal temperaments for some eastern music written in 19-TET and 31-TET, while 24-TET is being used for Arabian music.
The major advantage of the equal tempered scale is that it is the same in any key, so that compositions may be freely transposed up or down without changing the musical intervals. It has made equal temperament the standard temperament in western music for the past 200 years. The piano keyboard is the standard example of the equal tempered scale, and the frets on a modern guitar are also placed to fix the instrument into the equal tempered scale.
Frequent Piano Tuning
A new piano should be tuned four times in its first year and twice a year, once in summer and once in winter, thereafter. Older pianos can be tuned annually, and pianos used for performances and recording, much more frequently according to musical requirements. How frequently you will tune your piano are not only dependent on how often it is played, but also on climatic and seasonal changes. Pianos are designed to sound their best at concert pitch. If you have not been tuning the piano for years, it might require a pitch raise. Try to control temperature and humidity levels in the room where the piano is located to avoid large pitch changes.
Piano Tuning Stability
Piano tuning stability can be measured by the period a piano can stay sounding in tune after it is tuned. In other words, the longer a piano sounds in tune, the better the tuning stability will be.