Why be Quiet? After All, the Tuner is Making Quite a Racket!

So, today’s question….”is it really necessary to be completely quiet while the tuner is tuning my piano?”

After all, the tuner is making quite a racket.  With all the pounding of notes and all the noise they’re making, surely it doesn’t matter, right?  I don’t have to be quiet when the A/C guy comes to fix my furnace, or when the plumber comes to fix my sink.  Why do I have to be quiet when the tuner comes to tune the piano.  He makes much more noise than those other guys do!


Tuners play loudly to equalize string tension and stabilize the piano.

Well, actually, it matters a great deal!  If you’ve read my other posts, you might recall me explaining the reason tuners play so loudly when tuning. Rest assured it’s not that they are deaf and can’t hear what they’re doing. The purpose of their loud blows is to equalize the tension along the entire length of the strings. If that is not done, the piano will not stay in tune when you go to play it moments after the tuner leaves.  So, if your tuner doesn’t play somewhat loudly, and if they try to convince you that they can tune very softly so as not to bother you…..you might want to begin looking for a new tuner.


The tuner is actually listening to beats and relationships between different notes.

With that said, through all the seemingly thoughtless “banging” of the same notes…over and over…..it is important to realize that the piano tuner is actually listening very intently to the beats, or “wah-wahs” that are produced when two strings are played together.  The tuner is either counting beats between two different notes (intervals) to make them “wah-wah” at the correct speed for that interval, OR, the tuner is listening in order to eliminate any beats, as is the case when tuning one string to another of the same note (unisons).  It may appear as though the tuner is not paying much attention, and sometimes tuners can even carry on basic conversations while tuning or look around the room at pictures, etc, but the fact is that he/she is still listening and making judgements based on those little beats.  Most customers don’t even know the beats exist unless the tuner makes mention of them and/or demonstrates it to them.  Then they become very obvious.


What about tuners that use an Electronic Tuning Device (ETD)?

Good question.  After all, it appears that all they’re doing is stopping the lights, and not really listening, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong!  At least they’re not supposed to just tune by what they see.  ETD’s when used correctly can be a tremendously accurate instrument intended to verify what the tuner is already hearing.  It helps the tuner get very close, very quickly, but where the string finally stays should be determined by what is heard……always!  So, even though your tuner may use an ETD, they should also be listening, and what they hear should “trump” what they see.


Silence is golden!

So, noise that seems like no big deal to the customer is a HUGE deal to the tuner.  He/she must have a certain level of quiet in order to concentrate and hear those beats.  For me, some conversation (even conversation with me) is sometimes acceptable while tuning, so long as it’s at a very low level and not all the time.  An occasional comment, question, etc. is no big deal. I will occasionally speak with clients while tuning, so long as it’s not a lengthy, deep conversation.  One or two people in a room asking a question of the other is also usually not a problem as long as they are being considerate.  However, if it becomes a lengthy conversation, volume level raises, the topic becomes heated or argumentative, if there are several people in the room, or there are kids hollering and playing noisily, then it becomes very distracting.  I don’t do it often, but I’ve had to stop tuning at times and ask for quiet when it started to interfere with my concentration.


Other things that are very disruptive to a tuner’s concentration are:

Running dish water, blenders, washing machines, some dish washers, and things like that.  The occasional coffee grinder, especially if a cup is intended for me, is not as bad as the continual running of water and clanging of cups and plates for 25 min. while washing dishes.   TV’s must be kept at a very low volume, even if in the other room or another floor, and OFF if in the same room as the piano.  TV’s, CD, Radios, etc. are VERY hard to concentrate with if they can be heard at all.


Another thing, almost off topic, that  most don’t think of is ceiling fans. While they don’t make much noise, in and of themselves, they do beat the air like a helicopter and it really messes with the sound waves that are emitted from the piano. It beats those soundwaves all over the place, and creates new beats that mix with the beats of the piano that the tuner is listening for.   So, on a hot day, even though it doesn’t seem to make good sense, don’t be surprised if your tuner asks for the ceiling fans in the room to be turned off.  I’ve learned that I’d rather sweat to death than be frustrated with all those weird beats are produced by the ceiling fan.  If you don’t believe me, try humming into a regular box fan sometime and see what you hear! ; )  Same type of thing!


How can you help your tuner…and get a better tuning?

In short, do your tuner (and yourself) a favor, and give them an hour or two of silence so he/she can do their best job. Sure, your tuner will benefit by not being so stressed, but you will benefit the most since the tuner will be able to do the very best tuning possible for your piano, which you will be enjoying for weeks after monotonous pounding ceases!  We know the tuning process is usually not much fun for you, but last I checked, that’s the only way to tune a piano!


Until next time, make a joyful noise….(but think quiet during the next tuning)!




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