Archive for March, 2012

How can I tell if my piano needs a pitch-raise (adjustment)?

Pianos are intended to be tuned at A-440, a standard pitch, and if the piano hasn’t been kept in tune regularly, then over time it will gradually slip in pitch.  Once this happens, the strings will need to be tightened back to their proper tension before the piano can be fine tuned.  We call this process a “pitch-raise”, “pitch-adjustment” or “pre-tensioning”.


Whenever I speak with a new customer on the phone, one thing that I always  mention is the possibility of the piano needing a pitch-raise before the piano can be fine tuned.  This is true of many pianos that have not been tuned in several years.  While I won’t go into details about pitch adjustments in this post (since I wrote extensively about it in one of my previous posts: Why does my piano need a pitch-raise/lowering), what I would like to do now is to give you some guidance on some practical ways you can find out for yourself if your piano may need a pitch-raise or not. 


The way you find out if you need a pitch adjustment is simply to compare your piano’s “A” note(s) to a known reference pitch such as an “A” tuning fork, a “A” generated tone, or an electronic tuner of some sort (guitar tuner, etc.)


1) Using a tuning fork will only let you know if you are above or below that pitch, but it will not tell you how much above or below pitch unless you’re very good at counting and calculating beat rates.  Not for the faint at heart…!  Besides, most people don’t have a tuning fork laying around the house.


2) Another way is to compare your piano’s “A” to a tone generated “A”.  You can find one on my website.  If you will visit my FAQs page (my website is and go to the question: Why does my piano need a pitch-raise/lowering…you will find a full explanation of what a pitch-raise is and why it is needed.  While you are there, you will notice an audio file that will play a note (A-440) for you, which is the pitch that pianos are tuned to.  Play the audio file, then play your  “A” note above “middle C” (a diagram is shown to help you find it) and compare the two notes you hear.  If they are about the same, then you likely will not need a pitch raise.  If it sounds much different at all, then your piano is either sharp or flat of standard pitch so you will need to try a different tone to find one that matches your pianos pitch.  As you scroll down the page, off to the right, you will find a few other audio files for several pitches flat of “A-440”.  Again, you can play the “A” on your piano and play these different audio tones to find the one that most closely matches the pitch of your piano.  If you matched the pitches correctly, it will give you an idea of where your piano is in relationship to standard A-440 pitch.

I put this on my website as a help to my potential customers, but I found myself using it while on the phone with the customer!  I have had the customer take the phone to the piano, play the note for me (which I can hear through the phone) and then I play the tones on my website to match the pitch, and it gives us an idea of whether their piano needs a pitch raise or not (and how much) before I ever get to their home.  If  you have any troubles using this feature, I’d be glad to help you with it over the phone.


3) The most accurate way would be to use some sort of tuner, ie: a guitar tuner, strobe tuner, or other type musical tuner (there are some free tuning programs or apps that can be downloaded onto your computer or smartphone from the internet).  You set the tuner to “A4 (4th octave)” or A-440), then play your piano’s “A” above “middle C”. It will then show you how sharp or flat your “A” is.  You can check other notes as well with this method.

** One thing that will be helpful to know is that the distance from one note on your piano to the next is considered 100 cents in tuner’s language.  Same as 100%.  So, if your piano is 100 cents low, that means that it has dropped pitch one full tone (say from C down to B, or from A down to Ab (G#).  So, that being true, then a piano that is 50 cents low is only 1/2 tone low and so on.

A piano that is more than several cents flat will need a pitch-raise in order for the fine tuning to be stable. A piano more than 100 cents flat would likely need several pitch raises before it would hold a stable tuning.


So, that’s about it.  It really works.  In fact, I had a customer once use the audio tones on my website to check his piano, then when he called for a tuning, he announced that his piano was about 40 cents low.  I had forgotten I had those tone generators on my website, so I asked him how he knew that his piano was that low, to which he proceeded to tell me that he had used the tone generators from my site.   I was then curious to see how accurate his guess was based on him listening and comparing his piano to the tones I offered on the site.  So I got out my Accutuner and had him play his “A” on his piano.  I measured the flatness of the pitch and it was almost exactly 40 cents low. It was really nice heading out to his home knowing what I was in for…and it also prepared him for the extra charges and the extra work that was going to be involved before I ever got there.


Oh…..and by the way….you can avoid the complications and added expense of pitch-raises, etc. by simply keeping your piano tuned regularly!  : )  Just thought I’d throw that in for free!


Until next time…..make a joyful noise!




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