In Spring of 2020, I changed my treble tuning routines.
But before completely changing over to this new treble tuning, I needed to make sure I was on the right track. The only way to find out was to tune a lot of pianos using this new approach. Surprisingly however, it only took a few tunings. I knew I liked the additional treble stretch much better than what I’d been doing – it was much more musical.
Even though I liked it immediately, being sure required tuning more pianos of different sizes and shapes, more listening, some conversations with customers and a few other technicians. It had to sound good on all types and sizes of pianos, and be something my customers and I were going to enjoy. But I knew very soon – it was just that dramatic and musical.
The ‘field’ work included making these audio recordings. These recordings allowed me to evaluate what I was doing from somewhere other than on the piano bench. I could ‘study’ them, as it were, at my computer.
After finishing the tunings, my testing routines were recorded with an iPhone SE. Every technician should try this – at least for a while – so they can hear what they’re leaving behind. It’s a great tool and can be very revealing.
Contained below is only a random collection of some of the tuning ‘listens’ recorded with my iPhone. This ‘collection’ includes grand pianos of different sizes and manufacturers, some studios and consoles.
In posting these audio files I know I’m making a bit of a target of myself. But that’s OK. Most technicians don’t post ‘public’ audio recordings of their work. I hope you enjoy listening to some of them.
These audio files are 3 – 4 minute recordings of “in-home” tunings. Daily stuff. But, since this is part of an AccuTuner Blog for Technicians, I thought other techs may get a kick out of listening to a fellow tech’s work. I know I do.
On the recordings you’ll hear some bench scooting, some noisy pedaling, flubbed notes, even some customers chiming in not knowing I was recording. The iPhone is just sitting on a plate strut or on the top of the vertical piano. The recording quality is nowhere near studio quality, but it’s good enough for me to be able to hear what I wanted to hear.
Here’s what you’ll be hearing in these audio files:
Big chords first:
I start with Eb. Eb chords in the middle, (played relatively softly), and then expanded all over the keyboard, eventually incorporating the lowest Eb and the highest Bb on the piano. I use a lot of pedal so I can hear how the piano sounds when it’s sustaining – like a pianist might hear it as they play.
Then Db. Db chords in the middle and then expanded, still just the notes in a Db Major triad. I want to hear how the piano sounds top to bottom. This time eventually incorporating the lowest Db and the highest Ab on the piano, using the sustain pedal so I can hear how the lowest notes, with the highest notes and the middle notes as well. Just like the pianist might hear it as they play.
Then Bb. Bb chords all over the keyboard top to bottom, incorporating the lowest and the highest Bb’s on the keyboard. Using the sustain pedal all the while.
(To eliminate the potentially noisy ‘attack’ sound, I always test at a soft or medium soft volume level.)
Next is a ‘snippet’ from Beethoven’s Op. 109 Sonata in E Major:
The tiny part I use is from the 3rd movement’s Theme and Variations. It’s in E Major, but I use the 2nd theme which is in B. The first octave you hear is the octave B3 & B4. I use this piece because it is a way of hearing E Major and B Major (after all that Eb, Db, and Bb). It’s also somewhat chromatic with a bit of a modulation. Again, I play softly and slowly so I can really listen to how the piano sounds.
To expand this a bit, I put an octave (or two) between the hands and listen to how that sounds. I also move both hands up an octave so both hands are up into the 5th and 6th octaves. If you’re curious, that ‘high’ note is a G#7. I want to hear how the high treble sounds with the middle with some piano music.
All of this gives me a chance to hear the very top of the piano in a musical context.
My last tuning test piece is in F Major:
This is a bit of fluff I made up years ago. Its a little more ‘jazzy’ than the chords and the Beethoven, and once again, allows me to hear how the whole piano tuning sounds.
So, that’s what you’ll be hearing if you listen to these audio files. I do the same routine on every piano, which makes it even easier to not only listen to the way the tuning sounds (especially the treble) and the general sound quality of the individual pianos. The goal is a test routine that allows me to listen to the piano (tuning) rather than the piano tuner.
(If you’re listening to these on your computer and have a ceiling fan, make sure you turn the fan OFF or you’ll hear a lot of vibration that’s not in the recording, but being caused by the ceiling fan.)
Thanks for listening!
Boston GP193 Grand
George Steck Grand
Kohler & Campbell Console
Kohler & Campbell SKG 500 Grand
Kohler & Campbell SKG 600 Grand
Kimball 5250 (5’2″) Grand
Kimball ‘La Petite’ Grand
Kawai 506 Vertical
Kawai GM10 Grand
Kawai K-2 Vertical
Kawai RX7 Grand
Kawai RX7 2564. . . Grand
Kawai Shigeru SK3 Grand
Kawai UST Vertical
Mason Reich (Canada) Console
Mystery Piano (???)
Story & Clark Console
Steinway 1098 45″ Vertical
Steinway K52 upright
Steinway L (1977)
Steinway L (2001)
Yamaha (Cable Nelson) CN151 Grand
Yamaha C6 Grand
Yamaha DU1A Vertical
Yamaha G2 J-Series Grand
Yamaha GC1 Grand
Yamaha GC2 Grand
Yamaha M25 Console
Yamaha P22 Vertical
Yamaha T118 Vertical
Yamaha T118PE Vertical
Young Chang G157 Grand
Young Chang PG185 Grand