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Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning (Read 2245 times)

Offline sandracb

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Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
« on: September 23, 2015, 01:10:35 PM »
So I had our (new to us) 1980 BL-51 Kawai upright tuned on Sep 12 (so less than 2 weeks ago). I just noticed this morning that the bottom two octave unisons are really off already. Sounds like the very bottom octave is starting to go flat. The unisons are fine again about 1.5 octaves up from the bottom.

I know our tuner had said it seemed like the piano hadn't been tuned regularly, so he did a pitch raise across the whole keyboard.

Is this unison problem just the bass strings settling faster than the rest? Will it get better with time or are we looking at another tuning again so soon?!? I do try to keep the humidity between 45-55% as best I can with a hygrometer on the piano and a room humidifier.

The unison was so badly off that I actually thought I'd played the wrong keys when doing my scales!!
Current repertoire:
ARCT program (Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rach, Barber, Mendelssohn), plus Schumann's Papillons, Scarlatti, and Czerny op 740

My pianos: Kawai BL-51 (50"), Kawai RX-2 Conservatory

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #1 on: September 23, 2015, 01:50:00 PM »
I wouldn't get too upset if a significant pitch raise was involved all at once ( within a single tuning). You may find some other notes drifting a bit too. You may actually be looking at another couple of tunings before it settles in.  First it's new to your environment/house, then got a pretty good lift in pitch, compounded with not having been tuned in some time. As long as the tuner didn't say the piano has loose pins then this seems fairly normal. And too around our neck of the woods the season is changing as well, my piano tends to take a dump in tune around now but I tune my own so keep it touched up at least. Like right now in your shoes I would tune that unison. It could even be just a single string went out, I often find this and it doesn't have to be a lot to sound terrible. I try not to let my piano get way out of whack then it's just tiny adjustments to bring it into tune.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline sandracb

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #2 on: September 23, 2015, 03:07:00 PM »
I wouldn't get too upset if a significant pitch raise was involved all at once ( within a single tuning). You may find some other notes drifting a bit too. You may actually be looking at another couple of tunings before it settles in.  First it's new to your environment/house, then got a pretty good lift in pitch, compounded with not having been tuned in some time. As long as the tuner didn't say the piano has loose pins then this seems fairly normal. And too around our neck of the woods the season is changing as well, my piano tends to take a dump in tune around now but I tune my own so keep it touched up at least. Like right now in your shoes I would tune that unison. It could even be just a single string went out, I often find this and it doesn't have to be a lot to sound terrible. I try not to let my piano get way out of whack then it's just tiny adjustments to bring it into tune.

No the tuner didn't say any of the pins were problematic, he seemed pretty pleased with the condition of it consider its age. Just that it hadn't been regularly tuned.

I know nothing about tuning, lol, so I'm not even going to try! At least it's only the very bottom 1.5 octaves that seem to be out of whack, so shouldn't bother me too too much. We're experiencing a shift into autumn weather here so yeah, humidity is probably fluctuating no matter what I try to do.

Hey at least that annoying treble buzz that bothered me so much weeks ago seems to have gone away! LOL!!! Pianos are certainly living things.

Well since my RX2 is coming in the next week or so, and will need its own tuning about a month from now I'll probably just ask the dealer's tuner to tune my upright too. Should save a bit of money that way since he's already here. Plus hey, maybe he can tune so they're alike, that would be cool!
Current repertoire:
ARCT program (Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rach, Barber, Mendelssohn), plus Schumann's Papillons, Scarlatti, and Czerny op 740

My pianos: Kawai BL-51 (50"), Kawai RX-2 Conservatory

Offline indianajo

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #3 on: September 23, 2015, 03:31:13 PM »
After a large pitch raise, takes several tunings to get them to settle down.  My 41 Steinway last tuned 1966 according to note inside, took me seven times to get it right after purchase in 2010.  Then stable for four years. Pitch reference, a H100 Hammond organ.
The seventies Wurlitzer at St Paul Church fellowship hall, I got it settled in four tunings, knock on wood.  Holding after two months.  Final pitch set to the Allen 301 organ. 
The fifties Baldwin Hamilton at Otisco Methodist, I have tuned it three times so far.  Haven't even checked that against a tuning fork.  It may actually need a pitch raise but I've just been tuning the trebles to the bass.  Seems to sag less than the others. 
You know if a pin is loose if just that one needs tuning in a couple of weeks, and all the others are okay.  My "scratch & dent discount" 82 Sohmer has one of those.  I've bought the double sided tape to put in the hole per the Baldwin service bulletin. I'm procrastinating until winter bad weather.
On getting a bargain with the dealer tuner, negotiate price in advance.  They keep their people busy, and squeezing your console in may be a premium price service.  If keeping the console, I'd suggest getting a wrench ($118 at steves piano svc for the long plastic one) and tuning fork a pair of $2 safety glasses.  Glasses because if bass strings break they can throw bits of wire.  Hold the shank straight with the other hand when starting so you don't wiggle the pins. Experienced car or factory mechanics know (like me) how to counter the torque reaction with one hand to not wiggle the pin (or bolt head).  As for the pitch, your ear will tell you octaves are wrong except for the top one. 

Offline sandracb

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #4 on: September 23, 2015, 04:31:43 PM »
After a large pitch raise, takes several tunings to get them to settle down.  My 41 Steinway last tuned 1966 according to note inside, took me seven times to get it right after purchase in 2010.  Then stable for four years. Pitch reference, a H100 Hammond organ.
The seventies Wurlitzer at St Paul Church fellowship hall, I got it settled in four tunings, knock on wood.  Holding after two months.  Final pitch set to the Allen 301 organ. 
The fifties Baldwin Hamilton at Otisco Methodist, I have tuned it three times so far.  Haven't even checked that against a tuning fork.  It may actually need a pitch raise but I've just been tuning the trebles to the bass.  Seems to sag less than the others. 
You know if a pin is loose if just that one needs tuning in a couple of weeks, and all the others are okay.  My "scratch & dent discount" 82 Sohmer has one of those.  I've bought the double sided tape to put in the hole per the Baldwin service bulletin. I'm procrastinating until winter bad weather.
On getting a bargain with the dealer tuner, negotiate price in advance.  They keep their people busy, and squeezing your console in may be a premium price service.  If keeping the console, I'd suggest getting a wrench ($118 at steves piano svc for the long plastic one) and tuning fork a pair of $2 safety glasses.  Glasses because if bass strings break they can throw bits of wire.  Hold the shank straight with the other hand when starting so you don't wiggle the pins. Experienced car or factory mechanics know (like me) how to counter the torque reaction with one hand to not wiggle the pin (or bolt head).  As for the pitch, your ear will tell you octaves are wrong except for the top one. 


Ok good tips, thank you !

I might have to try our hand at trying to tune the upright. It's going to be our 'beater' piano anyways. My husband does all our mechanical work on the car, so he should know how to torque it.

I don't own a tuning fork, just an electronic tuner, which only 'hears' the middle octaves. It tells me the 2-4 octaves around middle C are still in A-440 tune. Just the bottom octave seems to be out.

Current repertoire:
ARCT program (Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rach, Barber, Mendelssohn), plus Schumann's Papillons, Scarlatti, and Czerny op 740

My pianos: Kawai BL-51 (50"), Kawai RX-2 Conservatory

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #5 on: September 23, 2015, 04:42:50 PM »
You can get the Shaff ( made in USA) Apprentice kit with rosewood handle and rubber mutes for $84.99 at Amazon , free shipping with Prime membership. I have that wrench but not that kit, $69.00 for the wrench alone ( i had the mutes).

When a single note or two or even three go out quick after tuning because it's been so long since the last tuning it's so easy to just block a single string strike the key, then block the other side, strike the key. You can pick out the low string. Sometimes just hold the pedal down and pluck the strings by hand you can hear the low string. Just pull it back up into tune with the other string. Most times anyway, not always but most. Remember it's best to pull slightly over tune and *set* the pin back into tune if you want it to hold.

 I started learning this stuff decades ago and the description above is how I got started in it !! I no longer had to bug my tuner to come back for a quick touch up since I couldn't stand even a little degradation from a good tuning. He still did the 6 month or annual as needed. Then he moved away, so I just learned the rest. i wasn't paying some other guy to come in and charge full price every time I was having a hissy fit over a few dropped notes when I could do it myself.

Sandra, I use a Korg electronic tuner myself, it will span beyond middle C, easily does an octave above and below. But many many a good tuning has been done with a single A440 tuning fork. And really it works better unless you get into expensive tuners if you do stretch tuning. I also can tune against my digital piano if needed. My grand being vintage really sounds best tuned at A438. 432 is a little too low but many vintage grands were set up there.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #6 on: September 23, 2015, 06:36:04 PM »

Sandra, I use a Korg electronic tuner myself, it will span beyond middle C, easily does an octave above and below. But many many a good tuning has been done with a single A440 tuning fork.
Most of the skill in tuning is setting the pin so it's stable.  It will take you a while to learn that.

For the pitch, download Tunelab.  It is software you can use with a laptop or phone. 
https://www.tunelab-world.com/

The advantage is it will listen to your piano and calculate inharmonicity, so you know the right frequency to tune every string.  This is much better than an electronic tuner you would use on a band instrument or guitar. 

Tunelab evaluation is free, it has some timeouts built in but you'll be moving slow anyway and probably won't notice.
Tim

Offline sandracb

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #7 on: September 23, 2015, 07:12:17 PM »
Gosh. A lot to learn!!  :o

Thanks hfmadopter & timothy. Great tips to get started. The nice thing now is that since this is just our extra instrument if we mess it up it's not the end of the world, LOL!! Plus my husband has been really fascinated at the innards of pianos and been dying to take my pianos apart. LMAO.

I have the ear but he has the mechanical tool skills, I guess we have a fun couples-project to do soon! I will try Tunelab. Definitely at $60/hr I don't want to pay for a tech to come out to tweak things every month, that would add up really fast. Ouch.

Any decent books or website how to's to get started? Like how do I know if the pin is stable - just trial and error fiddling with it till it stays tuned?
Current repertoire:
ARCT program (Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rach, Barber, Mendelssohn), plus Schumann's Papillons, Scarlatti, and Czerny op 740

My pianos: Kawai BL-51 (50"), Kawai RX-2 Conservatory

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #8 on: September 23, 2015, 07:42:14 PM »
Really an older book but indispensable for anything rebuilding to tuning tips and techniques. Many many online tutorials as well. Your husband can kill hours learning ! And Kawai themselves have tech PDF's.

The book link:   http://www.amazon.com/Piano-Servicing-Tuning-Rebuilding-Professional/dp/1879511037/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443037132&sr=8-1&keywords=piano+technician

The tuning kit I mentioned :  http://www.amazon.com/Piano-Tuning-Kit-Professional-Hammer/dp/B007OAFT2S/ref=pd_sim_14_7?ie=UTF8&refRID=1EAZWDY680RCYDVSGVCM 
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #9 on: September 23, 2015, 07:56:11 PM »
Most of the skill in tuning is setting the pin so it's stable.  It will take you a while to learn that.

For the pitch, download Tunelab.  It is software you can use with a laptop or phone. 
https://www.tunelab-world.com/

The advantage is it will listen to your piano and calculate inharmonicity, so you know the right frequency to tune every string.  This is much better than an electronic tuner you would use on a band instrument or guitar. 

Tunelab evaluation is free, it has some timeouts built in but you'll be moving slow anyway and probably won't notice.

Yes setting the pin I mentioned in my other post, I agree fully Tim ! It may have sounded in passing though, but it's very important. If the pin is not set well the string will not hold tune for long. Fear not !! It's part of the learning curve. As is pulling up the wrong string by accident and over pulling, like more than you need to get the job done. I really would start out just touch up tuning in between real tunings, least that's how I did it. I did no damage, well that's not true, I popped one string but a pro can do that too. They can break, in fact my tuner popped one as well years ago.. I've never broken a bass string yet and actually my piano could use new bass strings , I've twisted untwisted and twisted them back up twice in the pianos life with me, that's about it for them.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline sandracb

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #10 on: September 23, 2015, 11:04:45 PM »
Really an older book but indispensable for anything rebuilding to tuning tips and techniques. Many many online tutorials as well. Your husband can kill hours learning ! And Kawai themselves have tech PDF's.

The book link:   http://www.amazon.com/Piano-Servicing-Tuning-Rebuilding-Professional/dp/1879511037/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443037132&sr=8-1&keywords=piano+technician

The tuning kit I mentioned :  http://www.amazon.com/Piano-Tuning-Kit-Professional-Hammer/dp/B007OAFT2S/ref=pd_sim_14_7?ie=UTF8&refRID=1EAZWDY680RCYDVSGVCM 

Excellent! Thank you so much!
Current repertoire:
ARCT program (Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rach, Barber, Mendelssohn), plus Schumann's Papillons, Scarlatti, and Czerny op 740

My pianos: Kawai BL-51 (50"), Kawai RX-2 Conservatory

Offline indianajo

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #11 on: September 23, 2015, 11:59:54 PM »
I bought the Steve's kit with the hammer, rubber wedges, the CD,  and the roll of felt, but so far I think it is faster just to 1. put a roll of nickles on each note of the octave and
2. pluck the strings adjust until each is in tune with each other or the tuning fork, or the organ in the end. 
The organ voicer showed me the right way, but stuffing that felt in to do the middle wires was a nuisance, and the rubber wedges kept falling out doing the outers. 
Obviously you can't work like that for a living your fingernails would wear out.  but one piano . . .
The rosewood handle wrench is status, but the plastic handled one, #118, has a 2" longer handle.  At my age that is getting important. I used to use a 6" 5/16" allen wrench and a sears 1/4 socket, but the torque required got difficult at 60.   
The organ voicer tells me pros tune the hammer hit tone, and I'm adjusting the sustain tone, but it's not causing me a problem when I play my favorite pieces. 
The torque trick, you don't just pull down on the wrench handle.  You twist the handle at the appropriate radius, pushing with your thumb the opposite way of the turning.   and you grip the handle so the head doesn't twist at 90 degrees to the turning movement, and wiggle the pin.  If a pro mechanic doesn't do this, his wrench boogers the heads on a lot of hex bolts. Else, you can support the wrench shank with the (left) hand and counter the sideways twist with that hand. 
I've raised the wrong string once or twice. 
Setting the pin with a hammer - I'm not doing that, I think tape in the loose hole sounds less traumatic to the wood.    I'm going with Baldwin on that recommendation, instead of the lady at Steve's that tried so sell me some compound.
I've broken two high treble strings, one on the Howard that has no felt under the screw strip (mice?).  Malin size .033" music wire  fit both the Sohmer and the Howard, and comes in 1/4 lb rolls from mcmaster supply for $5. I have enough  Enough left for a dozen more it seems.  No tone mismatch for factory wire instead of fancy brand name piano supply wire. I radius curled the ends into the hole the pin with a special tool I made.   
This is a no ****ese import zone, no cell phones or roland toys here.  The tuning forks were from Ger and UK. 

Offline sandracb

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #12 on: September 24, 2015, 01:28:36 AM »
thanks indianjo.

I'm a little intimidated, but, it's really not that complicated....I will get the book and tools and go from there! One string at a time, right?

And worst case if we break something, LOL, it's at least only our 'spare' piano.
Current repertoire:
ARCT program (Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rach, Barber, Mendelssohn), plus Schumann's Papillons, Scarlatti, and Czerny op 740

My pianos: Kawai BL-51 (50"), Kawai RX-2 Conservatory

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #13 on: September 24, 2015, 09:43:26 AM »
If your husband is good with his hands he can handle it I'm sure, especially if he starts out just touching up the tunings.. In that way he doesn't have to establish the entire register or tuning style and it will seriously increase the time between professional tunings. Of course the question is lingering in the wings as to how much the "beater" piano will get used when there is a brand new beautiful grand piano in the house to play !! lol
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline sandracb

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Re: Kawai upright losing unisons only few weeks after tuning
«Reply #14 on: September 24, 2015, 11:06:32 AM »
If your husband is good with his hands he can handle it I'm sure, especially if he starts out just touching up the tunings.. In that way he doesn't have to establish the entire register or tuning style and it will seriously increase the time between professional tunings. Of course the question is lingering in the wings as to how much the "beater" piano will get used when there is a brand new beautiful grand piano in the house to play !! lol

Yah he's kind of excited to mess with the piano, LOL. I fell in love with my RX2's touch and tone, he fell in love with the high tech mechanics of it all. I think he wants to buy a bunch of those cut out action models the store had, hilarious.

He's totally NOT a musician and has no ear though, so if he did it himself it would entirely be with Tunelab. We'll probably make a good team.

Oh.....I bet I won't play much on the upright anymore, LOL. Well maybe my warm up scales/technique work, seems sad to play such functional and boring stuff on the new grand. ;) But my kids will, I have two sons learning the piano too, so they are totally relegated to the upright till they earn they're way onto my baby!  ;D

Though actually, I think I will probably still play a bit everyday on my upright to make sure I'm not getting lazy with the much quicker Millenium 3 action and can still play a not-as-good piano.
Current repertoire:
ARCT program (Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rach, Barber, Mendelssohn), plus Schumann's Papillons, Scarlatti, and Czerny op 740

My pianos: Kawai BL-51 (50"), Kawai RX-2 Conservatory