Electronic Tuning. Time to forget all those myths!
Despite having always tuned pianos traditionally “by ear”, seasoned technicians have warmed to the idea of electronic tuning devices. The use of electronics in various forms for tuning pianos has been around for decades - initially looked on with distrust by old school tuners and pianists. The early devices were expensive, bulky and daunting in the eyes of customers, who in many cases preferred to have their piano tuned “the old way”. In recent years electronic tuning devices have steadily grown in popularity with computerised software producing increasingly accurate results. Several excellent programs are indeed available for those technicians, who are prepared to pay several hundred dollars and can take the time to become proficient in their use. Electronic tuning can be a complex process!
Considering all that and being able to tune successfully for the last 30+ years, using only my ears for reference, an electronic tuner has never really been on my shopping list. That was until the arrival of the smartphone! It was only a matter of time before tuning applications became available that they could be downloaded and put to use. Time for me to seize the opportunity! Enter Piano Tuner Pro (above), the latest device that I have been using, which shines above the rest. This brilliant piece of software has been created by a developer/programmer in the United States who I can only describe as a genius. When put to the test, the strobe display indicates just how close to perfect each note can be tuned on the piano. Piano Tuner Pro is responsive, filtering out all unwanted noise (such as in school halls) - and pin point accurate! Also all the notes tuned, appear on a graph that can be stored with other information exclusively for each client's piano.
The bottom line. I will use this electronic tuning program professionally as a tuning reference. But old habits die hard and for me – and this is the important bit – every tuning will continue to be assessed “by ear”. After all – as you will agree, with music, no matter how accurate any electronic device may be, the ear is the final judge. An instrument is only tuned right if it sounds right. Technologically, we live in an exciting age. Like any other service, it is important that piano tuner/technicians keep up with any new developments that can improve their work. For me, I like to know that my customers are getting the very best from their piano – and of course, the most enjoyment! BH
TECHNICAL NOTE. Initially I used an application called DA Tuner Pro which also gave excellent results. However some observations were made. When setting each note of my F-F temperament exactly to the tuner, slight inaccuracies occurred. After having tuned my temperament and tested my thirds and sixths intervals, the beats on some of the intervals were a little inconsistent. I found myself correcting the tuning by ear to set my intervals as they should be. On checking then with the Tuner, I found the calibration to be slightly out with the reference line. Not by much, but enough to realize that one still has to rely to some extent on the ear - and after all, it is the ear that is the final judge! It is my view now that the latest Tuner Pro program is a vastly improved version and an extremely useful tool for professional piano tuners. B.H. July, 2018.