In Spring of 2020, I changed how I tune the treble.

But before I completely changed over to this new (for me) treble tuning, I needed to make sure I was on the right track.  The the only way to find out was to tune a lot of pianos, all kinds of pianos, using this new approach.  After only a few tunings however, I knew I liked the additional treble stretch much better than what I’d been doing in the past – it was much more musical.

Even though I liked it immediately, my being sure required tuning a lot more pianos of all different sizes and shapes, a lot more listening, and some conversations with customers and a few other technicians.  I needed to make sure it worked and sounded good on all types and sizes of pianos, and was something my customers and I were really going to enjoy. But I knew very soon – it was that dramatic.

Part of the ‘field’ work included making these audio recordings.  These recordings allowed me to evaluate what I was doing from somewhere other than on the bench.  With these recordings I could ‘study’ them, as it were, at my computer.

After I was finished tuning, I recorded my testing routines 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 helpfully revealing.

Contained below is a random collection of some of the tuning ‘listens’ recorded with my iPhone.  In the collection are grand pianos of different sizes and manufacturers, some studios and consoles.

I hope you enjoy the listening too.  In posting these audio files of how pianos sound when I’m finished tuning them, I know I’m making a target of myself – in a number of different ways.   But that’s OK.  Most technicians don’t post audio recordings of their work.

These audio files aren’t perfect, and definitely not for public consumption.  They are just 3 – 4 minute recordings of some in-home tunings.  Just daily stuff.   But since this is part of an AccuTuner Blog for technicians, I thought other techs may get a kick out of listening  and sharing a fellow tech’s work.

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.

{I’d be happy to talk about what I’m doing with anyone interested.  Why I decided to make a this change in my treble tuning will be the subject of another post at a later time.   I also have some thoughts on how I think treble tuning in particular has ‘changed’ over the last 50 years.  That will be a fun one.   Any listening I bring up in that one, won’t be recorded on an iPhone!} 

Here’s what you’ll be hearing in these audio files:

Big chords first:
I start with Eb.
   Eb chords in the middle and then I expand the chord so it’s played 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 the first part I play is 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. Also, I play it softly and slowly so I can really listen to how the piano sounds.
I also put an octave (or two) between the hands and listen to how that sounds.  I can 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 somewhat of a musical context.   (My apologies to Beethoven!  and to the listeners for my occasional clunkers. I used to play a little, but about all I can do now – since my focus is tuning – is play enough to know I’m done and how it sounds).

My last tuning test piece is in F Major:

It’s a bit of fluff I made up years ago – during my playing days –  I used as an intro to a country song.  Its a little more ‘jazzy’ than the chords and the Beethoven – even containing a M7th chord! – 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 any of these audio files.   I do much the same routine on every piano, which makes it even easier to not only listen to the way the tuning sounds (especially the treble) but also 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.

(PS. 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.)

 

Baldwin 7′

 

Baldwin M

 

Boston GP193 Grand

 

Chickering 5’9″

 

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 B

 

Steinway K52 upright

 

Steinway L (1977)

 

Steinway L (2001)

 

Wurlitzer Studio

 

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