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IMPORTANT NOTE: For the immediate future, I am subcontracting my tuning to another tuning service. Please click the button below to contact my temporary replacement.
There are many circumstances where having the advice of a trained piano professional on side can be a great asset. For example: Buying a new piano for your Family, Church, or Institution; or when buying a used, unwarranted piano from a private seller. Because of my experience and knowledge, I can often make these choices clearer. If you can provide me with the Type of piano, the make, serial number, and answer of a few simple questions about it's condition.
Estimates for repair costs are free if the repairs are carried out by me. In order to accurately estimate the pianos condition I may carry out an initial tuning as part of the appraisal. I constantly see instances of improper and incomplete repairs, and it is one of my missions in life to try to prevent this from happening to you.
"I never just tune a piano - I leave it better than it was, and leave you more informed. The most professional service - in every sense of the word - guaranteed!"
This is of course, the bread and butter of my livelihood. I am one of the most expensive piano tuners in the city, and unashamedly so. It is very easy for someone with little or no expertise to wave their hands over a piano, pronounce it tuned, and charge you a hundred bucks. It happens all the time, and in my opinion it is fraud. Pianos are very important to me, and I take their maintenance very seriously. What's more, as a trained musician, I know the damage an out of tune piano can do to the learning curve of a young pianist. There is a reason why I tune a concert grand before every performance. A good musician knows the difference between in tune, and out of tune - and it is learned through experience. You and your children deserve a piano that is tuned, and tuned properly.
My rate scale is simple: A piano should be tuned at least once a year - twice a year is better. If you are a returning customer, and have had your piano tuned by me within one year, I charge a fee of $150.00. If your piano is well below pitch, I charge a fee of $295.00. This is because the piano will have to be tuned twice in one session: First to raise the pitch Sharp, and second to do the fine tuning. If the pitch raise is not done first, then the pitch will sink, and the tuning will not be stable.
Little extra touches like, vacuuming the interior, and cleaning the keys, if requested, are always included in the tuning cost.
Jamie Says: "All Piano Manufacturers will tell you the same thing: Every Piano should be tuned at least twice a year! This is especially important in Canada where we experience drastic changes in temperature and humidity between summer and winter."
5. Piano Strings are steel wires under a tremendous amount of pressure, and they stretch.
The piano has 88 notes, but many of the notes have more than one string. In fact, an average piano has approx. 240 strings. All these strings add up to around 10 or more tons of pressure. (Thatâ€™s enough to lift your garage off its foundation!) Over time, and with the added pressure of being struck to sound a note, the strings will stretch and go out of tune. This is especially true of new pianos, and pianos that have been re-strung or rebuilt.
4. Wood reacts to Humidity changes. When it is damp it swells; when it is dry it shrinks.
All these tightened strings rest across a piece of wood called a "bridge", which is glued to the soundboard. This is how the sound of the strings is amplified. The soundboard is slightly arched, and is glued tightly to the perimeter of the piano. When the ambient humidity increases, the arch increases and stretches the strings more, making the pitch sharp. When the humidity decreases, the arch decreases, making the pitch flat.
3. The pitch of a Piano (the tension of the strings) is not arbitrary.
The Piano must be kept at proper pitch in order to sound the way that the manufacturer intended. The pitch of a string (the note it sounds) is determined by three factors: the thickness of the string, the length of the string, and the tension. If you look inside a piano you will notice that the strings are all a different length. This measurement cannot be changed, nether can the thickness of the string. These two factors were set by the manufacturer, therefore, the only variable is the tension. As the piano goes out of tune, each string will not only be off pitch, but off-tone as well.
2. A Piano that is tuned regularly stays in tune longer.
Your piano was designed to be at a specific pitch: "Concert Pitch" or A:440 (This means that the note A above middle C vibrates at 440 beats per second). If you let your piano cycle through more than one season change, the above factors will cause it to go so flat, that the piano tuner will have to stretch the strings sharp before tuning it at A:440. This is called a pitch raise. It is usually twice the cost of a normal tuning, is hard on the piano, and results in a tuning that is not as stable. A piano that is regular tuned will stay close to pitch and will not need a pitch raise.
A well-tuned piano is essential for good musicianship.
Young students will be greatly hampered in their studies if their piano is not kept in tune. They will notice the difference between their piano and their teacher's piano, and it will confuse them. It will also interfere with ear training. Worst of all, you may become accustomed to the sound of an out-of-tune piano, so that the sound of a good piano, in concert or recording, may sound strange. One thing is certain: It will be impossible for your children to progress far in their studies if they have to practice on a poor instrument, or even a good instrument if it is not in tune.
Remember: Out of all the things you possess, your piano is one of the few things that will outlast you, and be lovingly passed down from generation to generation.
Over the past three decades I have had many apprentices, and have been greatly rewarded by not only the mentorship process, but by the many successes of my students. Although I no longer do long-term training of Piano Technicians, I am available for consulting, and as a resource to other technicians.
Please e-mail me if you have need of my services as a Lecturer, Educator, or Piano Related Tour Guide.
Over the years I have tuned for some of the Top Pianists and Entertainers in the world, and for many of Canada's Professional Symphony Orchestras, Musical Theater Productions, and Special Events. Please enquire about the special concert services I offer, such as bulk rates, advertising bonuses etc.
A piano is a Mechanism made from primarily out of wood and felt. These materials change with age and wear, and these changes will affect how the piano will play. There are many adjustment mechanisms built into the action to compensate for this. These adjustments must be re-done every once and awhile to ensure that the piano works properly. Having your piano tuned regularly, and hiring a tuner who is sufficiently trained to make these adjustments is essential.
Because the Piano and its components are susceptible to environmental conditions, don't let your piano become wet, exposed to direct sunlight, or the direct flow from a furnace or other heater.
It's also a good idea to not place anything on top, and to protect it from abuse. If you have Ivory Keys, leave the key cover open. If not, keep it closed.
Your Piano Technician should take responsibility for cleaning the keys, and the interior of the piano. Ask your technician about the proper way to care for the pianos' case (cabinet). Different finishes need different methods of care, but no matter what kind of finish your piano has, do not use abrasives, and don't let any liquids spill inside or between the keys!
Tuning a piano is a skill, a craft and an art. Knowing how to do it, doing it, and understanding it are three completely separate things. My father patiently demonstrated to me how to tune, but it took a long time to learn how to do it myself. It took an even longer time to really understand, and be comfortable with it. There are many skills that have to be learned to tune a piano accurately, but there are just three basic parts to each tuning. The first, and the most important from a Tuner's point of view, is called "Setting the Temperment". This is the foundation on which the rest of the tuning is built, and the hardest part to master. It is also rather difficult to explain.
The musical scale that western ears have become accustomed to, and upon which the tuning of a piano is based, consists of twelve notes: C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, and B. This arrangement had been invented and used long before any of the composers we know of had been born. So, when they did get here, they inherited a system of music that they were forced to use, even though it has a few nasty little problems. The main problem has its root in what is called "Harmonics". If you play a string, and then divide it in half by placing your finger on the middle of the string (what physicists call "the node"), you would hear a note one octave higher than the first note, which is called the "Fundamental". (If you play middle C on a piano, and the C above it on a piano that is in tune, that is an octave.). If you then divide that half in half again, you would hear a â€˜Perfect Fifth' above the Octave. (Like playing C and the G above it). If you continued to subdivide the string in this manner you would hear a rather mysterious thing: a note two octaves higher, then a third (C to E) above that. Then the fifth, then a minor 7th (C to A#), then all the diatonic notes (like all the white keys), and then every single note. If you could go even further you would hear microtones, which are not part of the western scale, but which are a part of the music of other cultures.
This is all fine and dandy, except for a problem known as the "Pythagorean Comma". The first interval of a perfect fifth in harmonics is "pure", that is to say, it does not have any warble or vibrato, called "beats", when the two notes, the Fundamental and the fifth, are played together. All the intervals after this are also "pure" with the note previous to it, but they grow increasingly sharp of the Fundamental to the point that the Octaves are not "pure" with each other. They become sharp because of the "Comma", which is a microtone that is missing in our western scale. So, in effect, we actually squeeze what are harmonically thirteen notes into our twelve-note scale. This is called "tempering" the scale, and the way in which we squeeze it is called the "Temperment". When there were no keyboard instruments, this was not a big problem. Instrumentalists and singers learned to tune each note as they played or sang, so that they would be pure to any other notes played or sung with them. Since pianos and other keyboard instruments cannot be retuned on the fly, dealing with this became a problem that no one has really been able to solve completely.
Before J.S. Bach's time, Harpsichordists dealt with the problem of Temperment by constantly tuning. They would play a piece in say, E flat, and then re-tune the instrument to play in a different key, like A or D. Large pipe organs of the time would have different temperments in separate sets of pipes, called "ranks". To play in a different key, you would change ranks. This method of changing temperments was not only awkward, but still resulted in some intervals sounding horribly out of tune.
The problem was eventually solved, or at least re-solved during Bach's lifetime. Someone figured out how to temper the scale in an equal manner so that whatever key you chose, would be equally in tune. To demonstrate this new method of tuning, Bach wrote two preludes and fugues for every key, and called the collection "Das Wohltemperierte Klavier", "The Well Tempered Keyboard". The â€œEqual Temperment" is now the standard tuning in every modern keyboard instrument.
The Temperment, set into an octave in the middle of the keyboard, is the first thing that is done when a piano is tuned. After that, one string of every set of strings per note is tuned from the temperment octave. When I say "set" I am referring to the fact that in the Mid-Range and Treble (Top) of the piano there are three strings per note, in the tenor there are two, and in the bass there is just one. Finally, the other strings in the sets of strings, called "Unisons" are tuned. When I first started to tune, my Dad would do the first two steps, and then I would do the last. As I mastered this, he would move me onto the previous step. Each step is an art in itself, and it takes a lot of practice to do it well. There is also the matter of learning to become comfortable with the tuning tool, called a "Hammer", not to mention the differences between pianos. It is no wonder that my Dad use to call his trade "The Art of Compromise".
Excerpted from: "EEK! A Piano!" by James Musselwhite