I’ve always been happy with my piano tuner but last time I noticed he was referring to a program on a pocket PC and tuned all the notes consecutively from bass to treble. I’m not sure what to think about this – isn’t it cheating to use a machine?
There can’t be many fields of human endeavour where keeping up with the latest technology causes so much suspicion and mistrust! In the case of piano tuning this probably originates from the idea of tuners having the gift of superhuman hearing; that tuners are born, not made. The mundane truth is that good tuners are the result of good training and experience and that any tool is only as efficient as the person operating it. Electronic Tuning Devices (ETDs) have come a long way in the last few years and are nothing like the fixed frequency tuner you may use to tune your stringed instrument. These are dedicated piano tuning instruments designed to replicate the listening process to a degree of accuracy possibly exceeding that of the human ear. If your tuner has started to use an ETD then the net gain should be a more accurately tuned piano. The other point to be made is that listening is only a part of what the tuner does – actually setting the tuning pin so that the tuning remains stable after prolonged heavy playing requires just as much skill. Although ETDs are not cheap, there is nothing to stop an unqualified ‘tuner’ from acquiring and using one to tune your piano. If, however, you employ a Member of the PTA then a certain level of competence can be assured and the machine will be used to your advantage.