All posts by pianotunerleeds

Busy April, but still open to customers!

It’s looking like a very hectic month for the Leeds piano tuner, be he’s still open to new clients throughout the month and into May. If you could be patient and understanding of his busy schedule, he will book you in as soon as possible – please don’t forget to check the availability page of this website for a regularly updated list of piano tuning availability. A well-earned holiday has been booked in late April which further complicates things – but he will always aim to book you in within a week or two of your enquiry.

Equal Temperament vs Just Intonation vs Well-Temperament

Here’s an interesting video to show how different the modern tuning system of Equal Temperament sounds in comparison to earlier just and well-tempered tunings (a reminder that what we call ‘in tune’ today is vastly different to what previous generations would’ve considered good tuning):

Piano TEMPERAMENT comparison. – YouTube

Of the other tuning systems I’ve tried while tuning pianos, Thomas Young temperament and Werckmeister III were my favourites for the dissonance they added to certain chords (which better conveys the emotion of the music), and the variation between key signatures (something sadly lost in modern tuning). My go-to “Factory Default”, safe piano tuning system as a piano tuner Leeds is Equal Temperament at (preferably) A440 or, if that’s not possible, A435, A432 or A415. This is what the customer’s ear expects and it is guaranteed to be satisfactory. For personal taste, my acoustic piano at home is currently tuned to Thomas Young temperament, as I play a lot classical and like the home keys to sound more pure and for dissonant chords in Chopin and Bach to sound closer to the composers intention.

Regulation/Maintenance task – Cleaning & Lubricating the Key Pins

A relatively quick and easy way that a piano tuner can improve the piano’s performance is to ensure the key pins are as clean and slippery as possible. If all the key pins are polished, smooth and slippery the piano keys will glide as effectively as possible which greatly improves the feel and playability of the piano.

Before lubricating the bushings, key pins must to be cleaned of any rust or grime. A bit of surface rust is no big deal – some steel wool can clean that off quite effectively. If they’re heavily rusted or showing signs of corrosion then they need to be replaced – the Leeds piano tuner will give you a quote before continuing his work.

One the Leeds piano tuner is satisfied with the condition of every key pin, then the key pins and the key bushings will be lubricated. Every piano tuner has their preference on what lubricant to apply (Protek CLP, PTFE or Teflon), but the Leeds piano tuner prefers protek for its durable and long lasting nature. In some extreme instances, Protek or PTFE in liquid form on the key pins and teflon powder on every key bushing has proven to be the best combination, if the piano had many sticking keys (a separate though related issue) or squeaks beforehand.

If you have had a piano for many years and this has never been performed by a Leeds piano tuner, your piano could well benefit from this service. Judging by the condition of many older pianos, the key pins have been neglected for the pianos whole life which can be an unfortunate sight to behold.

Bridle tape replacement

One of the common repair jobs performed on an aging piano during the piano tuning visit: bridle tape replacement. These tapes keep the hammer bridled to the action after a note is played and keeps the wippen from falling down if the action is taken out of the piano for repairs.

On an older piano in poor condition, its very common for a large number of bridle tapes to have broken (usually the tips have disintegrated over time). This can cause minor problems with key repetition and on some pianos the jack can get jammed behind the hammer butt (depends on the size of the parts or if other issues have occurred such as springs losing tension). While this issue can be overlooked by many piano tuner technicians (as many pianos play reasonably well with missing bridle tapes), replacing these tapes is an important step towards getting the piano performing at its best. The Leeds piano tuner has many spares in his piano tuner case.

Digital verses acoustic pianos (an unbiased perspective)

Even though I should be an acoustic purist, I’ve lost some of my piano tuner credentials by purchasing a digital piano recently for my flat so I can practice at night with headphones on. I made this purchase from a reputable Leeds piano shop. After being shown many new models by a fellow Leeds piano tuner working in the shop and after trying out everything in store I settled on the Nord Stage Piano and I’m very happy with my decision. Some beautifully authentic piano sounds and I was quite surprised to hear some imperfect tuning on one or two of the patches!

Now, does the Nord digital piano really compete with an acoustic piano in terms of sound or touch? I would have to say no. The keys are weighted and have enough responsiveness to be able to play expressively, but even a low quality acoustic piano has better dynamics overall. When it comes to the sound, while the sampled grands on the Nord are musically pleasing, speaker (or headphone) technology can no way compete with the room-filling quality of acoustic piano’s spruce soundboard reverberating (creating much greater air movement) and hitting the pianist with the full, powerful sound we all love. In comparison a digital piano is always going to seem slightly sterile and lacklustre.

The digital piano serves the purpose of getting pieces together for more serious playing which occurs on the grand piano in my parent’s home (I currently live in a flat and can’t fit in an acoustic piano, even a spinet or console). In a perfect world everyone would have a high quality grand or upright piano for different purposes (annoying scales and technical exercises could be done on headphones on the digital piano, which leaves the acoustic piano ready for louder and more dynamic performances). Another upside of having the best of both worlds is that their is less wear and tear on the acoustic piano over the years which prolongs its lifespan. Knowing what I know now I would certainly choose the ‘best of both worlds’ option if I was starting out as a pianist.

Pitch raising

If a piano has been tuned regularly in the past and is already close to concert pitch, then a single tuning will yield an excellent result and the piano’s pitch will be stable for around six months. However, If a piano has not been tuned in over two years there is a high probability that the pitch has drifted from it’s ideal (A440 – concert pitch). If this piano is otherwise in a healthy condition, a service called the pitch raise is often the best way to get it back to concert pitch. This costs a bit more (£70 rather than £55) as it takes an extra hour or so.

To raise the pitch, the piano has initially has to be tuned slightly sharp, with the piano tuner aware that as the strings relax a fine tuning can be performed to ensure it’s perfectly in tune at concert pitch.

A word of warning about pitch raising – the piano will need to be tuned again fairly quickly afterwards. The more out of tune the piano was before the pitch raise the less stable the piano tuning will be due to the raise in string tension. It is recommended that you book the Leeds Piano Tuner in three months after a large pitch raise. The more often the piano is tuned after this the more it’ll stay in tune – as convenient as it sounds for the Leeds piano tuner, regular tunings are good for the piano!

Happy New Year to my Leeds and West Yorkshire piano tuning clients!

Happy 2023 everyone. 2022 was the most financially successful year on record for me by a wide margin – lots of piano tuning, and new friends and contacts made with various Leeds and Bradford theaters, recording studios, schools and churches – plenty of freshly tuned pianos out there today. It was a delight. Don’t let anyone tell you that digital pianos have superseded acoustic pianos – lots of Luddites and purists out there like myself who can appreciate the sound and feel of a real piano.

On that note, please don’t forget to have your acoustic piano tuned regularly – ideally twice a year. It’s best for the piano tuning stability, its tone and its longevity.

  • – Richard Lidster, Piano Tuner Leeds.

Piano Regulation (preliminary steps)

Piano Regulation – simply put – refers to a series of adjustments made to the piano’s mechanism to ensure that the entire piano performs optimally (i.e. that it plays well and all keys feel smooth and even in weight/depth of touch).

For a first time Leeds or West Yorkshire piano tuning client, I’m often performing minor repairs and regulation on the action as part of the piano tuning process (often simply making adjustments to compensate for wear and tear, or even replacing the odd worn action part), all within a two hour window for my standard rate.  A full regulation of the entire action and keyboard is a longer process. This can take upwards of 6 hours and my fee for this begins at £400. Its commonly undertaken as part of a larger overhaul of the action or may take place as part of a restoration – though not necessarily (on a modern upright that is otherwise in good condition but badly regulated, a thorough regulation procedure can improve performance dramatically).

There are many preliminary steps the piano tuner & technician must take before regulation. The first is to give the piano a thorough cleaning; making sure all dust, dirt and foreign objects have been removed will ensure optimal functioning of the keys and the action. A damp cloth, a vacuum, a small brush and a bowl of clean warm water can be all the tools needed for a deep clean of the piano (ensuring the back frame, soundboard, bridge assembly, the keyboard and action must all be free from excessive dirt and dust which hinder performance and play-ability).

Once the piano is clean the Leeds piano tuner will check over the keyboard. The condition of the key pins must be free of grease and rust, and all punchings in the front and balance rail must be inspected for damage. The key frame screws should be tightened a long with the screws in the action bracket.

Once the keyboard is clean and has been thoroughly looked over, the Leeds piano tuner will then turn his attention to the mechanism, checking that all the action parts are in good condition (i.e. the center pins have the right amount of friction and are secure in the flanges or the jack, that no wooden parts are broken or missing and so on, so forth). All action screws should be tight and the hammers should be properly aligned.

The strings will next be checked over – the three string unisons must be propely aligned, the tightness of the pressure bar checked, the strings should be properly seated at the bridge and hitch pins.

Finally, if the hammers are too worn, they can be roughly reshaped to improve tone before regulation.

These preliminary steps are often be beneficial with or without full regulation. Unfortunately many pianos have rarely been cleaned and a thorough cleaning can sometimes be enough to make sure the piano plays well. Many of the rattles or looseness of touch (or jamming keys) can be down to loose screws in the hammer or whippen flange. Options for more regulation are usually discussed with a piano tuning client on first meeting, and will depend on the current state of the piano (how well regulated it is) and what the pianist is willing to invest in their beloved instrument.

A few notes about my availability page

I like having a ‘Leeds Piano Tuner’ availability page on this website. It’s convenient for the customer to have an idea of how I can work around their schedule. At the moment, I can only update it while I’m home and at my computer, so I while I aim to update it daily, it’s sometimes out of date by a date or two. This is because, for various reasons, I sometimes stay over at my parents house after a long day. Or sometimes, if I have a lot of piano repairs on top of piano tuning to do I might not be home until 11:00 PM at which point I’m too tired to turn my computer on and start updating the website (in those cases I set my alarm earlier so I can update it before setting off for work the next morning). I would say, if you’re just visiting the website for the first time, please check the page and by all means choose an available slot – but if it says it hasn’t been updated in a day or two there’s a slight chance another piano tuning appointment might have been booked during that short space of time.

Another point is about my availability on weekends – at the moment if you’re in desperate need of a piano tuner as soon as possible, I can offer weekend bookings. I’m happy to do this if it helps the customer. Generally speaking, if you’re not in such a rush to have your piano tuned and serviced, I’m usually busy for a week and then my schedule becomes flexible after 7-10 days (most piano tuning bookings are at short notice). If you’re willing to wait a week or so I can be much more flexible with hours.

  • – Richard Lidster, Leeds Piano Tuner

Newest acquisition for the Leeds Piano Tuner

There comes a time when every Leeds piano tuner needs to upgrade their piano tuning hammer. Well, upgrade might be the wrong word because the Fujan piano tuning hammer I also use is extremely high quality. I’ve been introducing this nifty device into my piano tuning starting last week – it’s a Keyes impact tuning hammer. Because it uses a weight to move and set the tuning pins it has two great benefits:

  1. It moves the wrest pin (or tuning pin) deeper in the wrest plank, setting the pin much better than anyone could manage with a regular piano tuning hammer.
  2. It uses fewer muscles in the body putting much less strain on the piano tuner (I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced some degree of shoulder pain doing this job!)

I’ve already been extremely impressed with the results, but for the sake of speed I currently use it for about 75% of my piano tunings (for the remaining 25% I use my trusty Fujan piano tuning hammer which has been my main hammer since 2017). If I was learning piano tuning today I would much prefer to start with an impact tuning hammer (from what I’ve heard, in colleges in the United States this is already the case).