It only takes a single out-of-tune note to detract from an otherwise perfect piano performance. A dissonant tone caused by a piano is the first indication that the instrument is in need of tuning. Individuals who own a grand piano or an upright piano can ensure that their instrument is ready for play by having it professionally tuned.
Many piano tuners have several years of experience with pianos. For that reason, they can appreciate each piano for its own unique traits. Because of the eventual need for tuning, wooden pianos typically have an access panel that can be opened or removed. Even though digital technology is available to help tune a piano, much of the process remains a hands-on art.
The use of a tuning fork
Before the advent of electronic tuners, it was necessary to utilize a metal tuning fork to start the piano tuning process. Some professional tuners today rely on one or more tuning forks. The stable frequency of a tuning fork can be used to calibrate a corresponding string within a piano. Professional piano tuners are naturally attuned to the nuances of sound, so most of the piano keys were traditionally tuned by ear.
The multitude of strings
A standard piano has 88 keys, but it may contain over 200 strings. The lower bass notes are each produced by a single, relatively thick string. Most pianos use two somewhat shorter strings to produce each note in the middle range. Three even shorter strings are typically used to produce each of the higher notes. The use of three strings makes those high notes louder and enriches their tone.
Finding perfect pitch
Some of the strings on your piano may only need a slight tension adjustment. An electronic piano tuner is useful in evaluating the pitch of each piano string. A device screen provides a visual display of whether the string note is higher or lower than the correct pitch. Whether the string note is sharp or flat, the mechanical tension adjustment must be performed manually with a tuning lever.
Some strings need to be tested in isolation from other strings. Your piano tuner may use some form of felt material to mute the strings adjacent to a string under evaluation. If an adjustment is necessary, the tuning lever will be used to make a minute change to the applicable tuning pin.
Changes in temperature or humidity can effect the tension of piano strings. Contact a tuning service such as Atlanta Piano Tuning By Ear for more advice on getting the most enjoyment out of your piano.