This article will teach you some of the basics of how to tune your own piano. If you are a thrifty and frugal minded piano owner, this is for you.
I grew up in a musical family. My mom was a piano teacher and concert pianist, and we all sang and played various instruments. One thing that has stuck out in my mind was how temperature and humidity sensitive pianos are. If they are not kept at a constant humidity throughout the year, they go out of tune in as little as a few weeks. This can be a very expensive proposition for a finicky ear. I remember the piano tuner coming over regularly to keep both our pianos in tune when I was a child.
Now with my own family, my daughter was taking lessons and practicing on a cheap electronic keyboard, so my wife started pressuring me to get a piano. I instantly started seeing dollar bills flying out the door at the first mention of a piano. Not only would we have the expense a piano purchase and moving of the beast, but keeping it tuned was going to be a nightmare.
I slowly warmed up to the idea of buying a used piano from a local thrift store or finding one on Craigslist, but the cost of maintaining the thing seemed non-negotiable until I looked into the option of tuning it myself. I realized that I could get the necessary tools off Amazon for about half the cost of bringing a piano tuner in for one visit. All I needed was a laptop, some free (or evaluation) software, a tuning hammer (for some reason piano tuners call their wrench a hammer), and some “black wedge thingies” which I later found out were called mutes.
Armed with this information, I was now actually excited about finding a piano to fix up and tune. With a quick search, I found one on Craigslist for $50. When I went to look at it, I almost didn’t take it because it was in such seemingly bad shape, but the woman was desperate to get it out of her house and lowered her price to $25, which was simply too good to pass up. I probably could have gotten it for free if I pushed a little harder, but just couldn’t bring myself to do that.
Some friends helped me load it onto my trailer, and before long it was parked on our living room floor. I was beginning to think that I had just purchased a $25 carpet weight when I opened it up and started sucking out wads of cat hair with the vacuum cleaner. Two of the keys played at the same time when either one was pressed down, and I discovered someone had jammed a house key between these piano keys. Once removed, they worked fine. I also found a quarter between another two keys, which oddly was not causing an issue. A little furniture polish had it looking much better, but the piano was still desperately out of tune. My newly purchased tools were still on the delivery truck passing through somewhereville USA, so I took some time to go to the library and take out a few books on piano repair. I highly recommend doing some background reading if you want to attempt your own piano tuning project.
I have now revised and re-posted this article here:
Sorry for the inconvenience.