By Hannah Beckett, RPT
Becoming a fast tuner requires some fancy footwork with temperament strips and wedge mutes. Here are a few tips for efficient use of the tuning tools we use every day:
Tip 1: Never Lose Track of a Bass Unison
We probably all made the rookie mistake of pulling the temperament strip out of the bass section and then staring at the dizzying pattern of tuning pins and realizing we had no idea which ones were the unison strings. While you eventually master the pattern, this is a quick tip for not having to use extra energy and concentration to keep track of your unison strings.
Tip 2: Never Lose Your Mute While Tuning Note 88
Everyone hates fishing for the mute that dropped in the piano while you were trying to tune the left string of high C. Instead of balancing your wedge mute precariously in the large gap between the right string and the plate, put your mute between the left and center strings. The right string then becomes your “center” string and your mute stays carefully wedged in a less precarious place:
Once you have tuned the “center” string, remove the wedge mute and tune the center string as the first unison:
Immediately after that, pull the temperament strip and tune the left string as the last unison:
This method actually accomplishes two things: You don’t lose your mute, and high C gets tuned far before you experience aural fatigue from tuning the high treble section all at once. Now you can go through the rest of the tuning knowing that note 88 is completely done. Best day ever!
Tip 3: Group Tuning Unisons
Instead of tuning one note at a time, then going back and listening to all the notes for anomalies, tune sets of three notes in sequence:
This method accomplishes several things. First, you are listening to one note in many ways. You are listening for a clean unison while you tune the left and right strings, and when you go back after tuning the next, you should be listening to check your work previously. This means each note is revisited several times, which enables you to hear things that you may have missed before. The end result is usually cleaner, more stable unisons. The second thing you accomplish by using this method is to learn to listen to the overall smoothness of tone between notes. Unison clarity is one thing, but how do the notes blend together when played sequentially? You may find yourself going back to change things that aren’t necessarily wrong, but could improve the blend of the set of notes. If you master this method, you’ll spend less time correcting things you missed at the end of the tuning when you’re tired and ready to go home, and more time listening to what the piano has to offer tonally and maximizing your aural strength in the moment. Becoming a good tuner involves listening to the piano as a whole, not just individual notes that should be mostly beat-free.