Your basic tuning kit will grow or change as you develop skills or modify your tools to suit your everyday needs. However, as an entry point into tuning pianos, this assembly of tools are the bare essentials:
Avoid low-quality "student" levers they are overpriced and will not provide the feedback you need to tune. Also, avoid cheap tuning levers from Amazon and Asian Wholesale sites. These levers are not compatible with Schaff or Pianotek Tips and heads, are cheaply made, and will fail in short order.
Rosewood Extension Lever from Schaff is a quality tuning lever for entry-level piano tuning. As you develop and refine your technique with this hammer, you will be gathering information for what type of lever will suit you long-term. More advanced tuning levers come with a price tag but they are worth it.
Schaff # 21, $149.90
The Levitan Classic is a great lever for both beginners and professionals. Many technicians who start with this lever use it throughout the course of their careers. For more information, visit Levitan Tuning Levers.
Pianotek # D-NEW, $175.00
You should also carry #1, #2, and #3 tuning tips to fit the most commonly-used pins.
Korg OT-120 Orchestral Tuner provides a nice solid pitch source and you can use it to determine the pitch of the piano for pitch correct purposes.
You cannot use it to tune the piano or temperament accurately.
Felt Mutes mute out the individual strings when doing open string tuning, tuning, or tuning unisons. Available in medium and large sizes for various parts of the piano. Unlike rubber mutes, they don't buzz against the string or cause unwanted thunking noises.
I recommend having three of each on hand.
Schaff, # 206A & # 206B for medium and large, $4.95 and $5.95
Rubber Wedge Mutes in two sizes provide good clearance in upright pianos and work wonderfully in open-string pitch process. Sizes recommended are 4"x1/4" and 3"x3/4"
I recommend having 2 of each.
RUBBER WEDGE MUTE 4"L X 1/4"W Schaff # 201-1/2 $ 0.65 each
RUBBER WEDGE MUTE 3"L X 3/4"W Schaff # 205 $ 1.10 each
Papp's Treble Mute can be helpful with some uncooperative uprights and hard- to-mute places.
Schaff # 207 $ 7.25
Felt Strip Mutes come in many sizes of thickness and width. In general, having four on hand is a good idea. Avoid rubber temperament strips or gang mutes as they can easily damage damper felts. Always remember to depress the sustain pedal before inserting the temperament strip to protect the dampers. You may want to start with a variety of strips and then choose your favorite after you've worked with them for a bit.
Schaff carries three sizes of felt strip mutes. Get the standard size. Thin is often too thin, and thick is too thick. These wear out and will need to be replaced over time. The standard size will wear into working perfectly but may seem too thick at first.
TEMPERAMENT STRIP, STANDARD Schaff # 209, $ 5.60 each
Pianotek carries 3mm strips that work really well on grand pianos.
TEMPERAMENT STRIP, 3MM Pianotek # TS-1G, $4.00 each.
Piano Forte Supply carries high-quality, tapered temperament strips that are great for upright pianos. They are more expensive, but they last much longer than other cheaper strips.
TEMPERAMENT STRIP, ACTION CLOTH 3MM TAPERED (white),
Piano Forte Supply #185060
John Walker A440 Tuning Fork is the best tuning fork available. Once calibrated and you get used to using it, it will last your entire career.
Another nice fork to have would be a C fork at 523.3hz to have a second note to reference in your temperament.
JOHN WALKER TUNING FORK A-440, Schaff # 2110 $ 11.95
JOHN WALKER TUNING FORK C-523.3 Schaff # 2111 $ 11.95
Heavy A-440 Tuning Fork
While more expensive than the John Walker forks, the heavy-duty fork has much greater volume and makes ear training a bit easier.
Pianotek # TF-A44HD $47.00.
Hearing Protection is essential for a career in piano tuning. There is a learning curve involved in listening to the piano with hearing protection, but this ability will save your ears. Preventing daily fatigue and hearing loss is essential for a life-time career in piano work.
Depicted here are collapsible compact ear muffs. I choose earmuffs over earplugs due to ease of use.
There are many other earplug options available in a range of prices and quality. We recommend the Musicians Earplugs™ from Etymōtic Research. Read more about them here.
I recommend recording the temperature and humidity of every piano you tune. The hygrometer record can assist in explaining issues with sticking keys or moving pitch in uncontrolled environments, and will also help you determine appropriate service intervals and make educated recommendations.
You will also need a few #1 and #2 slotted and Philips screwdrivers to get to the tuning pins and to insert the strip mute.