Conventionally piano tuners learn in one of 2 ways. The traditional method uses only the human ear and requires students to painstakingly develop their musical memory, so they can identify, compare and judge the speed of beats, which occur when 2 strings are tuned nearly together. They must also develop fine motor skills in their hand and arm in order to set the tuning pin and string, so that the piano remains in tune even after heavy playing from the pianist. These skills are not acquired easily. Typically piano technology training programmes run for 2 or 3 years, with Steinway technicians training for a full 6 years before gaining their stripes.
Alternatively some people have learned to tune using only's the commercial software which has become available over the last few years. Initially many people saw this as a short cut to a quick buck and consequently tuners using tuning machines soon earned themselves a bad reputation, with the software mainly being used by untrained charlatans. Most top-end piano houses like Steinway & Sons, along with many teaching establishments and professional associations around the world, still forbid the use of tuning software at any stage of the learning or testing process.
There is however nothing intrinsically wrong with the software, it's just information after all. Much like a GPS in a car gives valuable driving information, but you still have to drive the car yourself; tuning software is really only useful in the hands of a technician who has already developed their aural tuning skills learned in the traditional manner. Plus, regardless of whatever means is used to gauge the pitch of the note, the process of setting the string and pin still has to be painstakingly learned, if you want to get a good result.
In my opinion however, traditional teaching methods, which forbid the use of any type of software, are unnecessarily draconian and are guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Based on my experience as a teacher, I believe that the correct and judicious use of professional tuning software does enhance and speed up the learning process. As well as encouraging consistency and accuracy.
This is why I developed an integrated approach to teaching piano tuning. This modern perspective utilises tuning software, working hand in hand with traditional techniques, to enhance and develop the students own natural aural tuning skills as well as helping them to acquire the skills in the hand necessary to set the pin and string properly. In my opinion this offers the best of both worlds.
Using simple exercises students are able to compare the results of their own tuning against what they can see on the screen, taking away much of the guesswork inherent in the traditional method and greatly speeding up the initial stages of the learning process.
This integrated system is now available to purchase as an eBook from my website. It contains step by step written instructions and exercises, along with colour diagrams and an accompanying video presentation which demonstrates the procedures involved. You can even book a personal interactive session on Skype or if practicable arrange a one to one session in the flesh.
This is not intended to be another "you can tune your own piano" book. There are many good reasons why DIY piano tuning is not a good idea and I still recommend that calling in a professional technician is the right way to maintain your piano.
If however you are interested in learning more about the integrated approach or are considering a career in the piano trade or even already enrolled on a course and just want a new perspective, you may find this information useful or interesting. There is other useful stuff on the site which you can download for free so why not check it out and let me know what you think. Happy tuning!
One to one "Show me how" sessions, live and interactive mentoring and tuition. Flexible, tailor made web seminars to guide you through the tuning process step by step.
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