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Piano tuning tools include piano tuning levers, various rubber and felt mutes, as well as tuning forks. Although the average piano owner would not normally require any of these piano tuning tools, there are occassions when they may prove beneficial.
You might be surprised at just how many piano owners have taken an active interest in piano tuning. However, before we go into further detail, we need to clarify that the proper use of piano tuning tools is not a matter to be taken lightly. Improper use of piano tuning tools can cause damage to the piano.
Reasons you might choose to keep your own piano tuning tools include:
- Touchups to piano tuning between your regularly scheduled professional tunings
- If your piano receives heavy usage, you may find the pitch of one or many notes in the scale "drifts"
- Maybe you want to take an active role in the maintenance of your piano
- Maybe you just want to learn!
Whatever your reason, if you decide to purchase piano tuning tools, we can help.
You need a professional piano tuner to tune, service, and regulate your piano at normal intervals. Although it is possible to learn how to manipulate a piano tuning lever to adjust pitch of one or more notes on the piano, it is the big picture that you should not loose sight of.
It is always our recommendation that any actions you take with your piano and its tuning be done in conjunction with a piano technician. We have many clients that are professional musicians or music educators. We have actually provided them training on how to use the tools they are interested in. However, we still see them multiple times throughout the year for routine full piano tunings and piano maintenance.
When most people think of piano tuning, the first image that comes to mind is that of a tuning lever—sometimes referred to as a tuning hammer. Tuning levers and hammers come in a variety of styles.
The image at left shows a typical, but basic piano tuning lever.
Since pianos use a combination of multiple strings sounding in unison for each note, some type of mute is necessary to isolate the pitch of individual strings. Note that very low bass note (usually the first octave or so on the piano) use a single string for each note, followed by an one to two octaves that use two strings per note.
In addition, if you are tuning a piano from "scratch" or that is far off pitch, some sort of reference pitch is necessary to get started. Usually, a tuning fork will suffice; however, there are some electronic devices that are capable of providing a reference pitch.
Selecting the Right Piano Tuning Tools?
This is probably the most confusing part of all especially to those who are not familiar with the available tools and their uses.
First, let's examine the design of tuning lever itself. Basically there are four parts to any typical piano tuning lever: the handle, the shaft, the head, and the tip. (Yes, there are some advanced and very modern designs, but we will focus on the basic concepts here.
See the photo at left with the parts labeled (except for the handle which is obvious).
Notice that the tuning lever head and tip form an angle with the tuning lever shaft. This is an important consideration when selecting a piano tuning lever, but more on that shortly.
The head and the tip connect to each other via accurately machined threads. In addition, the head is threaded so that it can attach to the shaft. See photo at right.
The angle formed by the tuning lever head and tip with the shaft is a key consideration in choosing a piano tuning lever. Of course it is not possible to speak for everyone, but typical piano tuning kits and piano tuning levers that are sold across the internet come standard with a 5° angle at the head/tip and shaft. There are some exceptions, so when choosing a piano tuning lever, be sure to read the description carefully.
A 5° angle will fuction; however, it many cases the angle is not sufficient to allow the handle of the tuning lever to clear obstacles such as the rim on a grand piano or the top lid on an upright, spinet, or console.
Notice the photo at near left where a piano is being tuned. If you look closely at the tuner's hand and the tuning lever handle, you can see that there is little room for his hand and the handle to easily clear the rim of the piano above the keys. This is why a larger head/tip/shaft angle is a better option.
A larger angle, say 15°, for example, will place the handle (and your hand higher so that potential obstacles are no longer an issue.
Another consideration when selecting the proper tools for piano tuning is the source of those tools. Unfortunately, there are many individuals and companies across the internet that are selling piano tuning kits and/or piano tuning levers. For example, a piano tuning lever that costs $20 is likely going to be poorly made, poorly balanced, and as such, not a quality tool that will make piano tuning easy and enjoyable.
In order to properly tune a piano, among other things, the tuning lever must be capable of allowing the tuner to exert sufficent leverage on the tuning pin. In short, many poorly made aka cheap piano tuning levers simply do not have the proper length in the handle to provide sufficient leverage. Without taking a detour through a physics lesson, simply put: The longer the lever arm (tuning lever handle), the more leverage a tuner has when working with a tuning pin.
Poorly constructed piano tuning levers can actually bend as well instead of turning the tuning pin.
If you are going to invest in piano tuning tools, it is our recommendation to purchase them one time. Purchase the most appropriate tool for your intended use. We have heard from many individuals that "blindly" purchase piano tuning tools over the internet, and when they receive them, they are not very pleased with the tools and their functionality.
There is a wide variety of tuning lever handles available including ball-shaped, pear-shaped, long and narrow, heavy, light, thick, thin, etc.
The best advise we can offer is to choose a handle that is going to work for you. Usually, a "regular" shaped handle will suffice for most; however, there are very poorly made "regular" handles out there on piano tuning levers. Poorly made and designed in that they do not "feel good" in your hand and are not comfortable to use.
The piano tuning lever shaft can either be stationary or extendable. Stationary shafts are just as the name impies—they are not capable of changing length. In contrast, an extendable shaft can be extended to increase the overall length of the tuning lever. Why would you want to do this? Simple. More leverage. Remember, the longer the handle (in this case, the handle plus the shaft), the more leverage available to the tuner.
Extendable shafts on tuning levers also provide a means to increase the length of the tuning lever to provide even more clearance above rims and other obstacles that might interfere with tuning.
|This lever is referred to as the Student Piano Tuning Lever. It is the bare minimum lever we recommend for anyone wishing to become involved in tuning. We supply this lever standard with a 15° head and #2 tip combination. Note that the combination head and tip is one piece at 2-1/2" length, and the shaft is stationary. Understand that this is a high quality basic piano tuning lever. Be aware of other suppliers offering this same tuning lever but with a mere 5° head/tip.||This lever is referred to as the Craftsman Piano Tuning Lever. We supply this lever standard with a longer 15° head and a #2 tip. The length we supply is a 1-3/4" and when combined with the length of the tip (1 inch), the total length is 2-3/4". The shaft is stationary. This is essentially the same handle and shaft as the Student Piano Tuning Lever except that the head and tip are supplied as two separate pieces offering 1) a longer head/tip length, and 2) a greater level of flexibility in configuring custom tip/head combinations. Although this is a high quality tuning lever, it is still considered a basic piano tuning lever. Be aware of other suppliers offering this same lever but with a 1-1/4 head at 5°.|
This lever is referred to as the Professional Piano Tuning Lever with a genuine Rosewood Handle. We supply this lever standard with a longer 15° head and a #2 tip. The length we supply is a 1-3/4" and when combined with the length of the tip (1 inch), the total length is 2-3/4". The shaft is stationary, but this is the best stationary shaft piano tuning lever you will find. Take a close look at the handle in the photo as compared to the handles on the Student and Craftsman models. As you can see, the handle is bulkier and overall longer in length. Bulkier is a good thing in this case as this contributes to the overall balance of this wonderful piano tuning lever. Be aware of other suppliers offering this same lever but with a 1-1/4 head at 5°.
This same tuning lever is available in the same configuration with a nylon handle.
This lever is referred to as the Extendable Professional Piano Tuning Lever with a genuine Rosewood Handle. We supply this lever standard with a longer 15° head and a #2 tip. The length we supply is a 1-3/4" and when combined with the length of the tip (1 inch), the total length is 2-3/4". The shaft is extendable (up to 6-1/2"), and we consider this lever the top of the line in piano tuning levers. The deisgn is very much that of the Professional Piano Tuning Lever (at left), with the exception of the extendable shaft. Be aware of other suppliers offering this same lever but with a 1-1/4 head at 5°.
This same tuning lever is available in the same configuration with a nylon handle.
The market is literally flooded with piano tuning kits. Some are good, some are not so good. We supply Complete Piano Tuning Kits that include what we believe to be the essentials needed to tune a piano. Many suppliers will include additional (but unnecessary) items that make a tuning kit appear to be a great value for the dollar.
Our basic piano tuning kit is supplied with the Student Piano Tuning Lever shown above in the same configuration. In addition, our basic tuning kit includes two rubber mutes with wire handles, 2 rubber wedge mutes, a high quality felt temperament strip, and a professional grade blued steel tuning fork (your choice of either C-523.3 hZ or A-440 hZ). For storage and protection when not in use, a soft black case made of durable macintosh material is included.
Our Super Upgraded Piano Tuning Kit is supplied with the Professional Piano Tuning Lever with a genuine Rosewood Handle shown above in the same configuration. In addition, this kit includes two rubber mutes with wire handles, 2 rubber wedge mutes, a high quality felt temperament strip, and a professional grade blued steel tuning fork (your choice of either C-523.3 hZ or A-440 hZ). For storage and protection when not in use, a soft black case made of durable macintosh material is included.