I tune the K-8 myself for the first time

I love playing on a piano that is in tune. The first thing I do right after the tuner has left is to sit down at the piano and play. After that it’s just a slow downhill slide in satisfaction until the next tuning.

It is said that a new piano’s tuning will drift more in the first year as the strings stretch and the soundboard acclimatizes to the relative humidity in its new environment, and therefore the tuner should be called in at least three times during that period. After the first year a couple of tunings each year will usually suffice, unless the piano experiences large seasonal swings in relative humidity.

But I had two new pianos in the space of nine months: The first K-8 with the mysterious double-strike affliction I wrote about earlier, and the K-8 that Robert Piano gave me in exchange for the sick one. So I started to toy with the idea of getting an electronic tuning device and a tuning kit to tune the K-8 whenever I though that it had drifted too far out of tune for comfort.

In the meantime I was learning more about historical temperaments, and about how the Equal temperament might not (some say should not) be the temperament of choice for just about all music from Bach to Beethoven and maybe also beyond. And of course ET is what just about all tuners in Singapore attempt to give their customers. Some tuners do better than others, but most of the time the end result is not ET.

I finally caved in three months after the second K-8 arrived, and went online to buy a tuning kit. I also sprang for Verituner Pocket for my PDA phone. The tuning kit arrived in early April.

The first temperament I tuned the piano to was Equal Temperament, primarily for use as a baseline for comparison with other temperaments. It took me six back-breaking hours to complete my first ever tuning because I had to:

  • Learn how to position the mutes;
  • Learn how to manipulate the tuning hammer; and
  • Learn how to operate Verituner Pocket.

Along the way I also discovered that despite Kawai’s reputation for good quality control in the factory, my K-8 (and probably every piano that comes out of the factory) needs a good final prep by the dealer before delivery. Sadly that’s something that most dealers don’t do because it eats into their margins. I’m not saying that the K-8 was in bad shape, but that it could be in even better shape.

When I finally finished the tuning I was surprised at what I heard when I played the K-8. The piano sounded really clean. The tuning was clearly better than what I’d been given by the tuners who had worked on both K-8’s. (I’ve read that when an aural tuner attempts the ET, there is a 90% chance that what he gives you isn’t really equal at all.) What was particularly interesting was that the piano now sounded too clean and somewhat sterile. Something was missing.

By then it was pushing 03h00 in the morning, and my whole back had seized up. Anything else would have to wait till later.


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