Piano Forum logo

Accuracy of Tuning Apps (Read 114 times)

Offline nathantu

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
Accuracy of Tuning Apps
« on: July 03, 2020, 07:31:14 AM »
Iím not talking about using a tuning app to tune a piano but just to check how far sharp or flat it is. We recently wrapped a piano search and I played a lot of used pianos, some well maintained and others not. We had an RPT check pianos we were really interested in but for the initial visit I always used the Tonal Energy tuning app we use to tune the violin and two cellos that my husband and kids play, just to get a ballpark idea of how in tune the instruments were. The piano we bought, a 1949 Baldwin M, registered about 2-3 cents flat compared to our (tuned in November) upright which is about 20 cents flat. Was I wasting my time? This is mostly just curiosity obviously as the Baldwin will likely have an adjustment period.

Offline quantum

  • PS Gold Member
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5518
Re: Accuracy of Tuning Apps
«Reply #1 on: July 03, 2020, 09:05:19 AM »
Tuning apps and inexpensive handheld tuners used for orchestral instruments, are good enough for most purposes.  They have to be used within their capable range, for example, the extremes of the piano are much more difficult to pickup - I would think more to do with the microphone on your mobile device and less to do with the app. 

In your case, a more meaningful data set would include: a tuning measurement from both pianos immediately following a tuning, as well as a current measurement.  Temperature and humidity measurements would also benefit your inquiry.  Taking more measurements over time will give you a better idea of how the tuning changes.  Not all pianos sit well at A440, so a tuner might opt to adjust slightly flatter or sharper, you would also need to know of any intended adjustments to the tuning. 

The data you have collected only tells you that the Baldwin is 2-3 cents flat, and your upright is 20 cents flat.  It doesn't tell you what the tuning was intended to be, as well as how the tuning changed over time. 

If you are interested in digging a bit deeper in tuning, it might be worthwhile to learn some basic tuning theory, how to hear beats and how to compare with a tuning fork or audible reference.  I find that the trained ear can be much more precise and reliable than an electronic tuner. 

For piano specific tuning software, have a look at TuneLab 97 (unsupported but free) or PianoLab (shareware).
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach