How to Tune a Piano (Part 3)

How to Tune a Piano (Part 3)

Sep 20, 2023

How to Tune a Piano - Part 3: Electronic Tuning Devices (Piano Tuning and Repair)

Welcome to our Series on Piano Tuning and Repair.

The modern electronic tuning devices that are available these days are much more accurate than the ones in past years. As part of our free How to Tune A Piano Video Series, we show here how to use an electronic tuning device.

If you want to see more of our Piano Tuning and Repair Series, click here to access the entire playlist.

Video Transcript:

Welcome to our next video in our video series of how to tune a piano. This specific video is going to be demonstrating, showing, and talking about some of the different electronic tuning devices. Which are a helpful tool to use, especially when you're starting out as a new tuner or just doing it for the first time.

It's a good way to not only judge, if you're just doing it for the first time it's a good way to not only judge how you're doing as far as getting close to where you should be but it's a good way to help you get the piano in tune while you're working on your hammer technique and setting the pin and some of those other skills that you need to be able to tune the piano.

The first one I'm going to show you, and there are a number of different electronic tuning devices and software's that you can get, we're going to start with the least expensive. This is a shareware version of tune lab that I've got that you're seeing in front of your screen right now. What this is, is it's a shareware version that you can download for free. If you want to pay for a registration I think it's about thirty four dollars roughly and if you get that, what that does, is eliminates three windows that pop up when you go to close the program. So it doesn't necessarily change your functionality of the program, it just makes it a little more convenient when you register it. But it's a fairly inexpensive way, though it doesn't do nearly as much as the more expensive electronic tuning devices or software's or applications that are available, but it is a way to get something, and get you started and try your hand at tuning.

I'm going to go over some of the basic electronic tuning device software. It's something that actually listens to the note of a piano, and it has a spectrum, and something that will tell you whether you're sharp or flat or where you need to be and that as you adjust the tuning pin it will it'll tell you when you're on or close or where you need to adjust the pitch to be where it should be. Most good modern electronic tuning devices will actually measure the inharmonicity in that particular piano because that varies from one piano to another and that will determine how much stretch, what stretch is, is if you've got your your middle octave basically even-tempered and then as you go up on the keyboard or to the right, up in pitch, then you're going to stretch those octaves higher than pure. As you go down you're going to stretch the octaves down, which means you're going to bring the pitch lower than if it was just a pure octave, but we're not going to get a lot into the theory and everything of piano tuning in this video series. We may, in the future, but that's just the basics of what an electronic tuning device does.

What we're going to be doing is showing you how this works. Here we've got, as you can see, it's set on a four, which is the A above middle C, and I'm going to play that A, you can see right here, there's a peak that pops up, and then up here the spectrum, if those black bars are going to the left then that means the pitch is a little bit flat and you can see this particular note and I've got all three strings going and they're fairly in tune with each other so if I go down to the G sharp it's about the same amount flat.

Now, I've got the set so that you notice that the note here changes when I play a different note and that's because it listens, because I've got this setting right up here. It says auto note switching either direction, so if I were to go up it's going to change the note for me automatically, and you can turn that on or off, where you can do it so that it'll just go up or down with another button here or if you want to do over pull or what's called a pitch raise.

You can use this function and what that does is, if it's more than five to ten cents sharp or flat, most of the time it's going to be flat, but if it's five or ten cents sharp or flat you're going to want to do an over pull, or pitch raise, which we show in one of our other videos, but this function is available in most electronic tuning device software. You set, usually the base, you don't want to over pull it by as much, but you can adjust how much or how little you want to over pull. So you'd indicate where your bass bridge ends, which is this section of notes over here, where you see a difference in the strings, and we'll go over that in a little bit, but you put what the highest note is on the bass bridge and then usually five cents is the default for that, and then over all, everywhere else, it says twenty five cents or twenty five percent I should say, so this will show you how much, how many cents.

You want it to go the maximum because you don't want it to go, like if it's 200 cents flat, and you're not going to want to pull it up 50 cents over where it should be. That's just the maximum over pull, and then the over pull percentage, that default is 25%, which is a general rule, so for example if a note is is 20 cents flat, 25% of that would be five cents, and just so you know what cents are, cents are if you go from a half step, or from say, E to an F, or a D sharp to an E, just from one note to the next a half step that's 100 cents. So, if it's a hundred cents flat, that means instead of playing a C you're hearing a B. For example, if a note is 20 cents flat it would bring it up five cents above the pitch that it wants to end at, and the reason for that is, as you go through to do a pitch raise, as you pull the other notes up, that's going to pull down the notes that you've already tuned. So again, that's a basic overview of that.

That's the over pull and then this is how these buttons up here, are how you switch the notes. You can do it with the arrows on your keyboard but this will take it up one, or you can do a whole octave up or down, but in most cases, once you've got the note set where you want it at you're just going to use the auto switch by playing the note that you want. Now the auto notes, which will only go, I think it's within a minor third, so see, we're a D5 here. I can go to C#5, but from C#5 I couldn't go down a major three. That's too far, but I can go down a minor third, alright, so that's about as far as the auto note switching will go, but most of the time we're just going up or down by half steps, so we're going to take it back to 84. So that's basically how it works, and as you go through and do the adjustments, this version of tune lab is limiting in that it doesn't tell you exactly how many cents sharp or flat you are when you play the note, but it kind of gives you an idea of, when it's on the red line, one of the peaks on the red line, and these black boxes stop moving, then you're where you should be.

So it does a basic job, but again, the other more expensive versions will give you more accurate results, but starting out, if you can only afford the free version, it's better than nothing, so feel free to try it out. Their website

We've got a link on the screen in front of you to get you to that point. Now, there are other types of electronic tuning devices. The one you're seeing in front of you here is also TuneLab, but it's the version that's made for iPad and iPhone. Here I've got a regular iPad that I've got it on, but some of the others I'll mention briefly, just so you know that they're out there. There's one called Vera tuner. That one I haven't used but I've heard a lot of good things about it and that one is a software you can purchase.

There's also Wrayburn cyber tuner, and then accu-tuner, which, accu-tuner is stand-alone device. It's not a software but it's an actual device that you purchase. It's an electronic tuning device so most of the others are software or apps that you can install on either a laptop computer or a smartphone, iPhone, or a tablet, or that kind of thing. The tablets and phones are nice to be able to use because they're a little more portable than a laptop, but we also get a smaller screen.

I like the tablet or iPad or something like that because it's got a big enough screen but it's also small enough to be portable so that I can just put it on my tool case. Most of the demonstration I'm going to be showing here while we go through the tuning is going to be using this iPad version of TuneLab and as we can see here that we've got it on A4. The same thing here; I've got it set up to auto switch, and it even says Auto both. That means it'll go up or down based on the note that I'm playing so you ever got A4 go to G and again it won't go either up or down more than a minor third so we'll go back to A4 now.

Over here it'll tell you about how many cents flat that is or sharp, but if it says minus then it's flat, and that those cents, as you could see, it was jumping around so it doesn't show it real precisely, but again you can see more precisely with the peak. The red line in the middle shows you where you want the pitch to be. The green line on either side is a range just a little bit beyond either sharp or flat. When you're doing a pitch raise you want to pull that pitch quickly as close to that red line as you can. Definitely between the green lines, but as close to that red line as you can when you're doing a pitch raise or over pull tuning. Now what I'm going to show you next is how to do a custom stretch or custom tuning for the tuning. We're going to go up here to files, and we're going to do a new tuning. I've got it set up to measure the C 1 through C6, so C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, and C6.

By measuring those six notes that'll kind of give the software, or the app the ability to calculate a custom stretch for this particular piano, and then what I do is I save that so the next time that I come back to tune this particular piano I've got it saved by the customer's name, and then and the make and model, of the piano that I'm tuning. So I save it, and that way, next time I don't have to to do a calculation. What I'm going to do is, and it starts with C1, is come down here to the measure button. You could see that it said listening over if you're watching. That means the iPad was listening to that note to calculate different things, and we'll go into all the details of what that is, but that's what it does.

Now what we want as we go up to the next C, we want to mute, and what I did was I put a mute right here so that only one of the strings was vibrating. Then what I will do is click Save for C1 and then C2 will pop up on the screen. I have to hit the measure button and then it'll calculate then we'll go to C3 again I'll mute so that only one string is vibrating. Click save, mute C2 and then measure then going all the way up, we're on to C4. you want to see five we'll see six again. I'm muting off just so there's just one string per note. We've got our measuring done then what we'll do is, down here, with this this checks our tuning curve. Right here we get shows 4-1:6-3.

That means the treble section basically is measuring A4, but I'm not going to go into the details of what that means right now, but that shows a 4-1 octave, the 6-3 on the bottom shows that it's the bass is measuring by 6-3 octave. Sometimes, based on the piano I'll change that to be like say, an 8-4 octave, just depending on what kind of piano I'm tuning and what I think is going to be best, which you'll get about 6-3. It's a good spot to start with. 4-1 and 6-3 is a good place to start and as you get to be more advanced you'll figure out how to make those adjustments, which is beyond the scope of this particular video series. Once you do that you can go ahead and save the current tuning. and that's where you save it, under whatever file name you want for that particular piano.

You can call it, My kawaii 503 M, which is what this is, or the name of the customer, or however you want to save it. We'll do that now. when you want to change the note on the iPad, if you tap in the white space up here, either above or below the spectrum, you're going to move it either one octave higher, or if you click down here, where these lines are, you can just change it by note. So, C#, D, and again. You've also got the auto change. Again, most of the time you're going to be using auto change because to have to take time to tap on the screen is just extra wasted space. I'm going to go out here to A4, and what I'm going to do is mute. What I did was put mutes in so that just the center string is being heard.

Now, using the TuneLab I'm going to put my tuning hammer on the pin for the middle string, and you can see I'm going to go ahead and pull the pitch up a little bit and you want to get it to where these black bars stop moving and your peak on the in the middle is right on that red line and over here, on the cents, you can see it kind of fluctuates between 0.0 and 0.1. That means it's right on. if it's 0.1 or 0.2 off you know that's pretty darn close and probably close enough for what our purposes are so that's out of tune.

That's how to tune a note with the TuneLab. Then we'll go through and you'll do a note for every string with with TuneLab or whatever tuning device that you've got. The unisons, which are the middle string for each individual note. Once you've tuned one string per note, you have to do that by ear, you can't really do that with a tuning device, because that is a skill you have to develop, is to do that that by ear, but we've actually at this point, we've got one string tuned with TuneLab. That's how to use the tuning device. The next video that we're going to be doing is showing some of the hammer technique and how to manipulate the tuning pins so that you get a nice solid feel.