How to Tune a Piano - Part 4: Tuning Hammer Technique (Piano Tuning and Repair)
Welcome to our Series on Piano Tuning and Repair.
There are certain techniques that need to be used when moving a piano tuning pin to get it stabilized. This video shows one technique to achieve a solid tuning. This video is part 4 in our How to Tune A Piano Video Series.
If you want to see more of our Piano Tuning and Repair Series, click here to access the entire playlist.
For this next video in our how to tune a piano series we're going to be showing you how to control and manipulate the hammer so that you have good hammer technique.
This of course is a piano tuning hammer. This is our piano tuning hammer with a nylon handle. We've got many different types of piano tuning hammers available but this is the one we're going to be using for our demonstration today. You might notice there's a little bit of movement here, but again, as we mentioned in our introduction video to this series, that you probably won't get one with a perfect fit. You can get ones with very bad fits if it's not a very good hammer or very well made tip, but you're always going to have a little bit of play and sometimes you can use that to your advantage in your hammer technique. You don't want it to be real wobbly because then it can actually damage the head of the tuning pin or the tip of the tuning hammer itself, but having a little bit of play is normal.
Here we're going to be showing you, here we've got A4, which we had tuned the center string to that in our last video and what I'm going to do is, I'm going to take a mute and mute off the left and the right strings of the three strings for A4, which is the A above middle C. As you can hear, we're just hearing one tone and if I take it out there, you're hearing two strings and I can make that left string sound even worse, but we're going to mute that left string off and what we're going to do is, as you manipulate the hammer, basically, what you want to do, is these tuning pins, you've got the head exposed, but then on the other end, the part of the tuning pin that you can't see, that's into a piece of what's called pin block material, and some people call it the rest plank depending on what part of the world you're in. The pin goes into what is usually a laminated piece of wood about an inch and a half thick approximately, and it's got many layers depending on what type of pin block it is.
Some have 21 layers some have five layers, but those different layers give it stability. It's usually made with maple or some other kind of really hard wood because it has to hold the torque of that tuning pin so that it's not going to slip back after it's been tuned. The goal is to be able to turn that tuning pin and because it's so tight in the hole that if you turn it one way it's just going to twist the tip, which if it does that then it's going to quickly go back out of tune.
You want to get it to where it moves the pin but also moves the base of the pin inside the pin block, and there are different techniques, but what I found to work the best is to do a little bit of a jerking motion, if that's the technical term of it, jerking motion, not really, I'm just kidding, but as I go like this and we're going to demonstrate actually because we know that center pin is tuned. We're going to go and tune the left string. As a demonstration I'll move my camera up here so you can see my handle. we're gonna put it out of tune a little bit so you can hear a bit better.
As you can see, it doesn't take much movement to the tuning hammer and when you're holding it, it's best, I've got my pinky finger up here, these three fingers here, and my thumb on this part. What that does is it gives me back and forth control this way so that I can manipulate it with the most amount of control. Now what I do, I do this rocking jerking motion. I can feel when the tuning pin actually moves in the block, and that takes a little bit of practice to be able to to get to feel that and you'll always get a little bit of bending on them on the pin so what you actually have to do is pull the pitch up above where it needs to be and then let it settle back down.
So I'm going to go back down flat again, and then I'm going to pull it up. That's about where we should be. I want to come above it and that's a pretty good unison. For the most part you hear just one note. Now we'll go back and I'm going to mute the left string, the one we just tuned, and go to the right string and do the same thing and pretty much where you want the position of your hammer is between I like it between 12:00 and 2:00 o'clock. Some say 11:00 and 1:00 o'clock, and what do I mean by that? If it's straight up like the hands on a clock that would be 12 o'clock. Over here would be about 11 o'clock, over here would be about one o'clock. Now as you know, we're demonstrating the hands on a clock.
Making sure I'm on the right note here and again I'll put that one out of tune so it's clearly out of tune. Come up a little bit above it and then settle into the note. So that's the basics of how to manipulate the tuning hammer and good technique. We'll pull out our mute and double check. We've got a fairly good three string unison that's in tune.
We again had tuned the center string for the last video and then we tuned the top and the bottom string. That's the kind of hammer technique you want to have. You want to make sure that the pin moves inside the block and not just twist the head of the pin because then you're going to not have a very stable tuning. That's the basic procedure of tuning hammer technique and how to manipulate the pin.