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Tune a Piano

5/11/2000 11:26 PM
Eric Eisenhower
Tune a Piano
Ok, so I've got this Kimball upright piano, and it needs some help.  
1) It is out of tune - a full half step.  
2) I wish it was louder/clearer. If it was a guitar, I would say it needs new strings.  
So, how big a deal is it to tune a piano? How much should it cost to have someone else do it?  
Do you restring pianos?  
Ignorant 'bout pianos,  
5/11/2000 11:53 PM
Lee M.

I've never heard of restringing a piano but I'm sure it can be and has been done. I would imagine it would be prohibitively expensive.  
Last time we had ours tuned (a month or so ago) it was $55. Proper tuning will go a long way to making it sound better but the basic piano sound can't really be changed. If you don't like the sound, your only alternative may be another piano.  
Lee (husband and father of piano players)
5/12/2000 1:05 AM

Lee is right on with the cost, between 50 and 60 dollars is about right in most areas. Try to find a tuner that also does repair, and ask about the condition of the overall instrument, and if it needs any other kind of work.  
As far as tuning it yourself, I tune a portion of mine all the time cause it's 100 years old and the middle register wont stay in. All you need is a good digitial tuner, and a few tools. Just watch the guy that tunes yours and you'll get an idea of what's involved.  
5/12/2000 6:27 AM

Hi everybody!  
Hi Eric!You can restring a piano,may be every 30 to 50 years,but that's a real pain;because of the stretching of the strings,theses might need 50 hours of playing,with re tuning every 10 or so,until theses setle down.I'm sorry Casey,but to tune a piano,you've got to hear the harmonics,digital tuners won't do the job properly,not to say that theses are no good to the job,but different pianos produce different harmonics,and as well,you don't tune a piano perfectly"in tune",cos of the chromatic scale,which is a compromise.  
Eric,if your piano doesn't sound good,there's a lot to be made,like repading the hamers(more atack),or dampers(sweeter where worn out),restringing(brighter),and honky tonk or ragtime tuning(the side strings are slightly out of tune.).Shaving the bracing/repairing the soundboard could help as well,but all that is costly.And watch it if it's a wooden frame(the string holder)theses don't last.I've forgoten something,changing or repairing the sadles.  
Best regards.  
5/12/2000 6:39 AM
Tracy Teague

I'm a working piano tuner. It supports my tube amplifier addiction. a half step low is too low to bring up to pitch all at once. I would rough tune it to pitch and sound all the notes strongly a few times so they will settel. then fine tune a week later. If you think about it a guitar does the same thing only you usually don't wait a week to re tune it. in the center section I use a 1/4" X 5/8" felt strip to weve between the three string unisons. This leaves the center strings unmuted and those are tunned first. you tune middle octave first. F to F around middle C. Tune the middle c to a fork and the lower F 3 beats in 5 seconds sharp. Ok for for your best results use an electronic tunner for the middle octave. after that you just tune octaves up and octaves down. I probablly shouldn't be telling you to do this . I forget it took a lot to learn. your local library may have a book with diagrams of muting ect. an el cheapo piano tuners wrench can be bought or ordered at most music stores for around $12. On the other hand 50 to 60 dollars is cheap unless you just feel like learning it.
5/12/2000 6:43 AM
Tracy Teague

sorry i forgot to mention your piano will be louder , brighter and have much more life if it is tunned up to pitch.  
5/12/2000 7:46 AM
Steve A.

    Thanks for sharing the tricks of your trade! Piano tuning is definitely an art that isn't learned overnight, and you have to have the ear for it. I think that we might be able to handle one or two notes that have gotten out of tune, but to get the whole piano to sound in tune in all of the keys... better spend the $60 and have it done by a pro! I went to school with a great guitar player who got into tuning pianos as his "day job" and I have the highest respect for you guys. (I haven't seen him for ages but he did mention tuning the pianos for some of the symphonies here in the SF Bay Area; to do that you must be good or the visting pianists would have you barbequed! And like you said he didn't use a chromatic tuner but just a tuning fork...)  
Steve Ahola
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