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Tuning the treble

Tuning the top octave

This octave can be the most difficult to hear for many people. Whatever the size of the piano, the string length in the top octave is so short, the tone is always at its thinnest here.

Less tone also makes the noise of the action mechanism more noticeable. This section is a reminder that a piano is technically a percussion instrument when you hear those tiny hammers pounding away at whatever tone they may produce. Hearing loss from ear damage or aging doesn’t help to hear these notes either.

When it comes to how much to stretch the tuning, I’ve found this section is probably the most inconsistently tuned among other piano tuners I’ve heard. Tuners will have a consistent stretch, then tune this section screamingly sharp or flat. Even the digital pianos I’ve played are noticeably flat in the top five notes relative to the tuning stretch of the rest of the piano. What’s the deal?

I use different checks for the top octave since most of my usual checking intervals are hard to hear that high up. I tune primarily with octaves in this section, paying close attention to the last few notes I just tuned. I then check with double octaves, then with the octave above middle C. This helps me to relate how the top octave interacts with the rest of the piano.

One technique I used earlier on to maintain a consistent tuning in the top octave was to tune C8 immediately after C7, then tune each note from C8 down to C7 with octaves. Drawing a straight line is easier if you have two points to connect, and this technique uses the same concept.

FREE on line piano tuning tutorial

Treble tuning accuracy for small pianos

Small pianos can be especially difficult to tune in the treble section due to false beats, inharmonicity, and other extraneous noises. Don’t get too crazy trying to tune a unison that at its best will never sound in tune. Tune it as best as it can be tuned, then move on.

Treble tuning stability

I usually find the top three octaves to be less stable while tuning than the rest of the piano. After I remove the temperament strip and begin checking the tuning, the top three octaves usually require more correction. Yet another opportunity to stress the importance of reviewing the checks at the end of the tuning!

Review checks at the end

All together now – review the checks, review the checks, review the checks! Anyone who doesn’t review the checks at the end of tuning is either REALLY over-confident in their tuning stability or LAZY. Tuning one note has an annoying habit of affecting the tuning of the neighboring notes. When you sit down to tune a piano, you are investing your time and energy. Review the checks and make whatever corrections are necessary, then leave knowing the piano sounds its best, and you did the best job you’re capable of.

Checking the pedals

Whenever I finish tuning a piano, I always check the pedals for squeaks, creaks, rattles, groans, moans, etc. The following is a list of common damper pedal noises:

  • Case itself, especially high gloss finishes
  • Pedal bushings
  • Leather punching on bottom of connection from pedal to fulcrum
  • Fulcrum attachment to bottom of piano
  • Spring in fulcrum
  • Pedal rod bushings
  • Damper lift rod bushings
  • Damper lift rod metal on felt damper lever backings
  • Damper lever spring rest cloth

Audio files of treble tuning

Audio of tuning from temperament to mid-treble section

Audio of tuning from middle to high treble section

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