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Welcome to the Foster Piano Tuning Web Site

Piano tuning and related information

Piano tuning is the process by which every string on the instrument is set to the correct tension so that the precise relationship between notes is achieved. The standard accepted compass for a modern piano is seven and a quarter octaves or eighty-eight notes. Each note may have one, two or three strings, known respectively as monochords, bichords or trichords. Where more than one string exists on a note they are all tuned to the same pitch, that is to say, in unison. Thus, a modern piano may have two hundred and twenty strings, depending on the individual design. In a typical piano the lower twelve notes are monochords, the next twenty notes are bichords and the remaining fifty-six notes are trichords. Modern strings are made of high tensile steel, the monochords and bichords normally being over-wound with copper to increase the mass of the string. The gauge (diameter) and length of the strings are smaller at the highest notes and increase towards the bottom notes. In simple terms, the pitch of each string is governed by its tension, diameter and length. Because of the graduation of the length and diameter the tension remains reasonably constant across the piano, approximately two hundred and twenty pounds at the bottom notes (monochords and bichords) and one hundred and eighty pounds on the higher notes (trichords). Thus the total tension on the frame of a modern upright piano is around eighteen tons.

Overview of tuning a piano
Before starting to tune an instrument it is essential to check that it is in good working order first. Each note should produce an even amount of sound as you play up or down the piano keyboard chromatically. A check to make sure there are no broken or badly corroded strings should be performed. A tuning lever or crank with the correct size head for the tuning or wrest pin must be used otherwise damage to the pin may occur.

A check should be made to see how close the instrument is to pitch, using a tuning fork. For this overview we will assume that the pitch is on or very close to that of the fork. Our reference note is now tuned to the tuning fork. The most usual note to use as our reference is either middle C, C40 or the A below that A37. From the reference note another eleven notes can be tuned to produce a scale of twelve notes, known as the temperament. This is very critical and should be as accurate as possible as all the other notes on the piano will be tuned using these notes. Equal temperament is used for the basis of our scale, that is to say all the semitones are spaced equally. The major thirds and fourths are tuned wide and the fifths are tuned narrow to achieve this.

It is then a fairly simple matter of tuning up to the top and down to the bottom of the piano in octaves from the scale that has previously been tuned. As each note is tuned the strings are muted in a methodical manner so that the first string is tuned to the octave and the remaining string or strings of the note are tuned to the same pitch as the first that is to say in unison.

How to get in touch:

Robin Foster M.A.B.P.T.
Telephone - 020 8427 1737 Mobile - 07956 297502
E-mail -
Snail mail - 25 Grosvenor Avenue, Harrow, Middlesex, HA2 7AS, United Kingdom

Your questions and suggestions are always welcomed.

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