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Piano Tuning Tools

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 4

While it may seem like electronic keyboards have all but replaced pianos, there are still many many pianos in use today. They will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. One of the disadvantages of traditional pianos is that they require ongoing tuning and maintenance. A skilled piano tuner is a valuable person to know. They know how to tune the piano correctly, as well as to provide the ongoing maintenance and repairs that your piano requires.

This article does not intend to teach you how to tune your piano. That is way beyond the scope of what an article of this length can hope to provide. Rather, this article will discuss some of the most common tools that a piano tuner uses and hopefully remove some of the mystery surrounding what the piano tuner does.

Piano Tuning Hammer

The most important tool (beyond the ears and skills of an accomplished piano tuner) for piano tuning is the Piano Tuning Hammer

. The term "hammer" may seem a bit odd, because most people would say that its appearance is more that of a wrench. Let there be no mistake, it would be a serious error to use a common wrench to tune a piano. The piano tuning hammer is used to turn the posts that are used to vary the tension on each piano string. The tighter the string, the higher the pitch of the sound. Hence, if a note sounds flat, the piano tuner uses the tuning hammer to tighten the string being serviced.

The special characteristics of the piano tuning hammer, combined with a practiced technique on the part of the piano tuner leads to a consistent tension throughout the string. This results in the string staying in tune longer than if it was not tuned correctly and the tension was different in different parts of the string (as it bends, etc.). A string that is not properly tuned will tend to equalize its tension over time, thus leading to an undesired change in pitch.

Piano Tuning Felt

At the lowest and of the piano, a single string is used for each note. However, in the midrange of the piano, two strings are used for each note. In the higher end of the piano, three strings are used for each note. Because you only tune one string at a time, yet when you press a key more than one string is struck ( in the mid and higher regions) it is desirable to have a way to ensure only one string is struck per note. This is accomplished by the piano tuner weaving a strip of felt between the strings over the range of notes. (It is not actually weaved, but rather forced between the strings of adjacent notes such that the only one string for each note can vibrate.)

Piano Tuning Wedges

Once all the notes have a single string in tune, the next step is to tune the remaining strings (the ones that were muted by the felt.).

To do this, the piano tuner removes the felt from the strings. Then, one note at a time, the tuner tunes one additional string for that note at a time to match the string that is already in tune. This is done using piano tuning wedges. The wedges are made of rubber and are placed between a string and the soundboard such that one string is muted. For example, if a note uses three strings, and the center string is already in tune (the one that wasn't muted by the felt), the goal is to tune each of the remaining strings to match the center string. So, the piano tuner places a wedge under one of the three strings leaving the center string and the other outside string free to vibrate. The tuner then adjusts that string to match the center string. When it is perfectly in tune, the piano tuner moves the wedge to the other outside string to mute it, and then tunes the remaining string. This process is followed for each note.

Piano Tuning Computer Or Electronic Tuner

It used to be that a piano tuner used their ear to tune the piano. Today, however, there are many electronic aids to assist the piano tuner in achieving their desired result. These tuning aids come in many different forms. Some are dedicated electronic piano tuners. Others are in the form of computer software that runs on a laptop computer. These devices assist the tuner primarily in getting the total set of notes in tune. These tuning devices offer the piano tuner a choice in how they want to tune the piano, for example, with tempered tuning, or just tuning. Although these machines can aid the piano tuner to do their job, they can't replace the skills brought by an experienced and talented piano tuner.

Complete Tool Kit

You can buy kits that contain the tools you need to tune a piano. One example that has most of the tools you need (and also a good tuning fork!) is the&You can buy kits that contain the tools you need to tune a piano. One example that has most of the tools you need (and also a good tuning fork!) is the Concert Tuning Kit TM



Jan 11, 2011 1:14pm
thnaks for this nice and useful article
Jan 17, 2011 5:04pm
Thanks. Having the right tools is really important when starting out.
Nov 30, 2011 2:58am
Piano-tuning is a fascinating subject. They are really complex items. I've sat and watched many a piano-tuner work just using a tuning fork and his ear to get the correct pitches. Awesome stuff.
Nov 30, 2011 9:11pm
Yes - the ear is by far the most important tool. No substitute for that.
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