Picky, Picky, Picky

Two weeks after my piano tuner’s $140 visit, I was hearing some rather rambunctious beating in certain of the unisons. Nothing against the tuner, who is well qualified and conscientious. It’s this darn rainy weather.

If I could afford to have him tune the piano every two weeks, I would. But given my budget, investing in a $50 kit (wrench, mutes, and a roll of felt) seemed a better option. Tuning a piano from top to bottom is not a chore to tackle lightly, nor is it something I would willingly attempt, but I figured I might be able to tame a few of the unisons.

I have now learned several things.

First, a cheap Korg chromatic tuner is plenty good enough to tell me which string in the middle octaves is wandering flat or sharp.

Second, after ten or fifteen minutes, my back starts to get tired.

Third, you can mute either one string or two with one of the long-handled mutes, depending on how you use it.

Fourth — hey, I really did smooth out a couple of the unisons! This may turn out to be a good investment.

Fifth, based on the sound of the beating, you can sort of tell whether the out-of-tune string is flat or sharp. As time goes on, I’m sure I’ll get even more sensitive to the variations in timbre that come from wandering unisons.

It remains to be seen whether the pins I moved will stay where I put them. If there are tricks to using the wrench, I don’t yet know what they are. But I seem to be off to a good start.

In answer to the question you haven’t asked — no, I’m not planning to tune the whole piano to just intonation. If I want to play music in JI, I have some very nice synthesizers I can call on. The piano is for Bach, Haydn, Clementi, Grieg … and that very tricky Brahms Intermezzo I’m starting to work on.

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5 Responses to Picky, Picky, Picky

  1. Kelly Parker says:

    OK… which Intermezzo?


    (Hope your season is going well…)

    • midiguru says:

      Op. 117, No. 2 — Bb minor. I’m getting fairly comfortable with the first page, though it’s not perfectly memorized yet. The second page is still in a state of groping, and I haven’t even tried reading the third page.

  2. Yonatan says:

    You could always tune it to 31-note ET…

  3. trafficarte says:

    I’m a piano tuner, and I’ve learned that the hardest thing is how much you have to turn the wrench: if too much too often you can damage the pin hole. But is an ability easy to obtain, IMO.
    And learn to tune your own piano is a great investment…

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