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A quick primer on “inharmonicity”.

by ivories

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On the surface piano tuning may seem like a fairly straight forward, yet tedious and time consuming process – start at the A following middle C, tune it to a pitch of 440 Hz, and go from there in either direction at perfect 2:1 octave intervals (equal-temperament tuning) until you’re done. With an electronic tuner, this shouldn’t be that hard, right?

The truth is that it’s not at all that simple. While one may think that a string tuned to a specific note at the proper frequency/pitch is perfectly in tune, other factors are at play, not the least of which is the human ear and perception, which can throw things off balance. What we generally consider to be a distinct pitch actually contains a series of subtle nuances called overtones. These overtones can cause an otherwise technically perfectly tuned piano to be perceived as being sharp in pitch, due to the inconsistencies in tone produced along the length of a piano’s string. The phenomenon is known as inharmonicity, and is generally more prevalent in the bass and high treble registers. Other factors, such as a string’s composition and thickness, as well as the presence of dirt and rust can also result in slight rises in frequency.

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This is where a piano tuner’s experience and training truly come into play. To account for and eliminate inharmonicity, a tuner will “stretch” tune a piano in increments slightly further apart than the standard 2:1 ratio so that the piano will audibly be perceived as in-tune by the listener. This is a skill and practice that takes years to hone and perfect. So remember, while that discount piano tuner you found online might seem like a good deal at first, chances are he or she are not ready (or qualified) to put in the work truly necessary to do the job right. Be sure to always hire a qualified and experienced piano tuner and technician. Your ears (and in the long run – your wallet) will thank you for it.

Before We Tune Your Piano…

by ivories

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While we’re sure most of our customers would like for us to be in and out of their homes, auditoriums or studios ASAP (let’s face it, the piano tuning procedure is not the most pleasant thing on the ears), there are a number of steps any good, experienced piano technician will take before ever putting a tuning hammer to a pin.

A thorough inspection of a piano and its key areas is always necessary to not only ensure that the piano can be tuned properly, but also that any damaged and/or potentially vulnerable parts are not helped along in their degradation. Some key areas to assess are:

  • Condition of the mechanical (action) components. Excessive or extreme wear and tear of the piano’s action parts will make any tuning, no matter how exceptional, entirely pointless, as the piano will not respond or resonate as intended.

    Damaged & Worn Damper Felts

  • Structural damage. Pinblocks not firmly secured to the frame, cracked soundboards, cracks in the piano’s harp/plate and other problems with the piano’s structural framework can mean the piano will not be able to properly retain the immense tension placed on it by the strings. Bulging in the bridge do to improper humidity levels will cause a piano to go sharp or flat, depending on overly humid or dry conditions respectively.

    Cracked Soundboard

  • Loose tuning pins. Over time tuning pins become loose due to cracking or contraction of the wood surrounding the pins. This often means that in addition to it being very difficult to tune in the first place (if it can be tuned at all), a piano will not hold the tuning for very long, which is never a good value for the customer. As such, Ivories.ca will not tune your piano if we discover this problem on-site. Charging a customer for a tuning of little to no use is simply reprehensible.

On a less serious note…

by ivories

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Do you know how many competitors we have in Toronto? If so, you may be qualified to be the next project manager at Google. A recent article on Business Insider took a look at the topic “Weirdest interview questions from top companies”. Among the results was “Choose a city and estimate how many piano tuners operate a business there”. We’ll leave it to you to discern why this would be a good thing for a project manager to know, we’re just happy that we haven’t been forgotten by some of the most influential people in the world.

A Quick Piano Tuning Primer

by ivories

Piano tuning is more than just tightening strings to a given pitch, it’s an essential part of keeping your piano healthy and in good working condition. Avoiding routine tunings and maintenance can lead to much more expensive repairs down the road. At Ivories.ca, a piano tuning begins well before the tuning hammer touches its first pin. A thorough initial visual inspection is critical to tuning a piano to its greatest potential. All front panels are removed and a check of the pinblock, soundboard and bridge takes place to ensure that the piano is in decent enough condition to be tuned. Especially in our varied Canadian climate, there are many factors that can render a neglected instrument to become difficult to tune, or as we see more an more these days, completely untunable (read more about proper humidity levels on our facebook page). Ivories.ca will not tune your piano if it becomes apparent that it is incapable of being tuned to our standards. In such cases, we provide free quotes for the necessary repair work to return the piano to a playable condition.

The condition of the soundboard and pinblock greatly influences one’s ability to tune a piano to the desired and ideal A440 (Hz). Pianos showing minor wear or damage may need to be tuned to a lower pitch to ensure the instrument’s integrity, as they can no longer handle the tension and pressure created by the strings at the proper pitch.

When a piano is in tunable condition, the “well tempered tuning circle” is used to obtain the critical temperament octave (the chromatic 13 notes in the middle of the piano) in order to properly tune the rest of the instrument. The A4 key is tuned to 440Hz, most commonly using a digital tuner or tuning fork, and then setting the intervals between the remaining keys using perfect fifths in relation to A440. During this process a tuner will assess the beating of the intervals (using fifths, fourths, thirds and sixths – both major and minor) in a ascending and descending pattern to ensure that the proper adjustment of beat rates has been achieved.

The adjacent strings are muted during this process (using mutes or temperament felts) to ensure a proper temperament.

Unlike, for instance, a guitar, which has six concrete, set pitches that must be obtained to be “in-tune”, a piano is far more complex, as a piano string has not just a set pitch, but one which varies along the length of the string. This creates a factor known as “inharmonicity, which leads the octaves to have a perceived sharp pitch. This increases the higher you move along the keyboard. To rectify this audibly perceived phenomena, a tuner must “stretch” each string to a greater or lesser degree to achieve an audibly balanced tuning. The amount of stretching necessary will depend on a string’s length, diameter, and tension. Being able to properly address these subtle nuances is a skill gained through extensive study and experience, a very compelling reason to only entrust your instrument to well trained expert piano tuners and technicians.

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Welcome to the new Ivories.ca

Welcome to the new Ivories.ca

Toronto’s dependable piano tuning, repair & restoration experts

Our experienced piano craftsmen and technicians have been providing Toronto and the GTA with a full spectrum of piano tuning, maintenance, repair and restoration work for well over a decade – the quality of which is unparalleled in the City. From a simple quick tuning for a child’s piano lesson, to the exquisite grands of Toronto’s most renowned concert halls, we’ve tuned and serviced them all.

In this ever competitive world, it’s not uncommon to be compelled to make decisions based purely on the dollar sign. We understand that there are cheaper options on the piano tuning market, and there are of course those that charge considerably more. You can come to your own conclusions as to why others charge what they do, we simply offer years of expert piano tuning and maintenance experience at a fair and reasonable price. Rest assured however that with an Ivories.ca tuning, you get attention to detail unrivaled in the industry, starting with our popular $99 basic package, which includes extras such as a minor pitch raise and pedal adjustment.

We of course offer more than just piano tuning, maintenance and voicing work. We are fully trained and equipped to tackle any repair or restoration job you can throw our way. Be it a long neglected family heirloom collecting dust in a basement, or a more recent instrument that’s experienced unexpected heat or water damage, we’ll handle the repairs others are afraid to touch. Be it a single broken hammer or a baby grand in need of a complete cosmetic makeover, we’re prepared to exceed your every expectation.

Don’t have a piano? No worries! We have a small but exceptional array of fully and partially restored pianos just waiting for a new owner, all at unbelievable prices. Call, text or write us today to arrange an appointment to see what our piano sales department has in store for you.

Please take a moment to browse the site, and be sure to check out our frequent blog posts, where we offer glimpses into our everyday adventures tuning pianos in Toronto, information about interesting upcoming performances, as well as helpful tips to aid in maintaining your piano’s optimal condition.

Whether you’re simply looking for a trusted, experienced piano tuner, or a hassle-free one-stop shop to to take care of more demanding piano repair and restoration work, Ivories.ca has the solution.