June 18, 2024

Buying a second hand piano – practical guide

What to buy, a brand new piano or a second hand piano? This is the question so many people ask themselves once they have decided to buy a piano. What are the advantages and disadvantages, what is best? This article will try to dispel your doubts and help you to buy successfully.

Value for money
For those of you who the matter “value for money” is important, a good option to consider is to buy second hand. The piano pre-owned market is full of bargains but also is full of pitfalls “monkey business” (as a friend of mine always says), so is advisable to approach the buying of a used piano with extreme caution and to have at least some elemental knowledge

Where to buy
Look at the local papers on the “Musical instrument” sections, also at the online second-hand items sites like eBay, and of course at piano retailers and music stores. These stores usually have an array of used pianos which of course they are eager to sell. Some of these pianos can be in excellent condition and could represent an excelent buy.

Buying from a retailer
An important bonus to buy from a dealer is that they normally will offer you a guarantee, so in case there is something wrong with the piano, you know where to call. Other advantage is that they will transport the piano to your house for free, and will also offer you a free piano tuning (If they don’t offer a free tuning, don’t be shy ask for it, sure they will agree). All important things to have into consideration.

The appraisal of a piano
When evaluating a piano one of the most important things is to know how old is the piano. Whoever reads this blog regularly will know that the one who subscribes dislikes the very old pianos. Pianos over one hundred years have in general so many problems and are so expensive to restore that unless you are an antique lover or a do-it-yourself enthusiast, they should better be discarded. Strictly personal opinion, of course.

How old should be the piano
Preferably not too old. If you decide to buy second hand, the age limit should be no more than 30 or 40 years. A piano made in the 70’s or 80’s, if it has a careful owner and was regularly maintained, can be a good investment and still give you many years of trouble free enjoyment. Obviously it is better if the piano is only 10 or 20 years old, but the price undoubtedly would also be higher.

What is the best piano to buy? Well, that depends on each one.For general home use and an intermediate level of playing, I would go for one of the midrange well known makers with proven good value for money, something like a Yamaha or Kaway with no more than 20 or 30 years. Very good opportunities can be found in that bracket.

How to determine the exact age of a piano
How to know the exact age of a piano? All pianos have a serial number. If you know the piano brand name and the serial number, then is easy to know the age of the piano. Click here to know how old is your piano, or any other piano you might be interested. I will transmit you the information I have, for free. Take advantage of this offer while it lasts, probably not for long!! 

Where to find the serial number?
Where can I find the serial number? At the uprights, the serial number is located generally at the plate, up on the right (sometimes on the left or even at the center), you can see it easily by opening the front or upper lid. Serial numbers can also be located at the back of the piano, or somewhere at the action, sometimes at the soundboard.In grands, serial numbers are generally located also somewhere at the plate, but can also be stamped either at the soundboard or at the key frame.  Look for a number around five to eight digits, sometimes accompanied by one or two words.


                                            “PRACTICAL GUIDE TO BUY A  USED PIANO”

Step one
Take a good overview, what it looks like? The general appearance of the piano says much about the condition of the insides. A piano that has been neglected, with scratches, bumps and so on, probably has the action also in the same state. On the contrary, a perfectly lacquered piano, free of bumps and scratches, clean and bright, denotes a careful owner, that in the same way has been careful (not always) to tune and service the piano regularly.

If it is an upright that you are looking at, move the piano a bit from the wall and examine carefully the soundboard. Make sure there are not cracks and the ribs are solidly glued in place. The soundboard should be perfect, if that is not the case, bad news. This is an indication that other things could also be  in poorly condition, so be careful with that piano. In grands, you will have to stoop to look under. The same that has been said for uprights is applicable to grands.

Step two
The keyboard, examine it carefully. A perfect keyboard with all the keys well balance at the same height and with no irregular gaps between them is a very good sign. Sometimes keys (specially at the extremes of the keyboard) are burnt, as some piano players have the wicked habit of placing their cigarette butts right on top of those keys. Ohh!!

Now play every key up and down the keyboard, looking for sluggish action problems, broken keys and general action faults, like double striking or hammer blocking. If you don’t detect any of those things, then the piano action is in  good condition. If on the contrary, you noticed one or more of the faults mentioned before, then you can assume that the piano has have a good deal of wear and tear, and most likely needs regulation and replacement parts.

Step three
In this third step, you will use your nose, or better said, your sense of smell. Remove the front panel and open the top lid (we are talking uprights), lets “take a smell inside”. If it smells musty, bad news again. I personally wouldn’t go any further and leave the piano right there. Why?

Because is most likely that the dampness has affected the action parts, like hammers, felts, wood, and so on. Dampness, in case you don’t know, is the  piano’s number one public enemy (second one is excessive dryness), it’s effect on the piano is highly damaging and very difficult to mend once the damage has already been done.

Step four
Remove the front panel and take a good look at the action (if it is a grand, you will have to remove the action from the piano) The overall look of the action parts like backchecks, hammers, dampers etcetera, should be tidy and even. Take a good look at the backchecks and see if they are all level and more or less at the same distance. If that is the case, good, very good sign, as that give us an indication that the piano is in good shape.

On the contrary, if the backchecks are uneven and some hammers and dampers are crooked and/or wobbly, then beware of that piano, is evident it has have a lot of wear. And of course also out of regulation. Bringing that piano to good working order will most certainly be costly and time consuming. A piano in that condition also shows that the owner hasn’t been exactly careful and loving with his/her piano

Step five
Now we will look at the hammers. The hammers, as the tires in the cars can reveal much about the piano. Are they worn out? In that case you can estimate that the piano has had a long run, again bad news, as that is telling you that other elements of the action must be equally worn. Once here, also take a look at the dampers.

However, if the hammers are still round at the striking point (the part of the hammer head that strikes the string) without deep grooves, and still retain its original shape, then good news. If in contrast with the rest of the piano parts, the hammers look too new, then it could well be that the piano has had a new hammer set recently installed!

Take an overall look at the hammers with their shanks. Same thing as we said for the keyboard applies here. A piano in good condition should have the whole hammer section properly aligned with all the hammers at the same height and at the same distance from each other. Now, play the piano at the middle and middle upper part (which is usually the most worn) and see the hammer travel, making sure that every hammer strikes neatly its set of strings.

Double striking, wobbling and/or sluggish key action, hammer blocking (when a hammer doesn’t bounce back and gets block against the string), crooked and/or misplaced hammers, warped hammer shanks……etcetera, are simply not welcome!

Step six
In this sixth step we will be looking at the pins and strings. Same as the hammers, the state of strings and pins can tell you much about the condition of the piano. The strings and pins should be clean and bright without any sign of rust. Make sure there are not missing strings, specially the bass ones (quite difficult to obtain in case they are not there) A good second hand piano should always have its set of strings and pins well polish and in excellent condition.

Step seven
Finally, play the piano. Is on pitch and reasonably in tuned? How does it feel? This is a personal and quite subjective matter that varies from one person to another, but  the important thing is to feel comfortable with the instrument that you are playing. Ideally, the touch of the piano should be not too soft, not too hard, with a pleasant feel and a proper dynamic response.

If the piano is badly out of tune, it doesn’t say much about its proprietor and how he/she care about the piano. I would recommend before buying, to have a professional tuner to look at the piano (specially if it is an old piano) this is to ensure that the piano is tuneable and to discard any major fault like a broken pinblock or iron cast plate, a crack soundboard and so (things that are not easy to see at first glance)

If the piano bears any of those major faults mentioned before, unless the piano is one of the major brands, like C. Bechstein, Bösendorfer, Steinway, Blüthner, Mason & Hamlin and the likes, then the best thing to do is to refrain from buying and look elsewhere. Why is that? Because nowadays, the cost of piano restoration is so high that in general is not worth it.

these seven steps guide will give you a good idea of what you are buying and will let you evaluate the condition of any piano. At least it will prevent you from getting it miserably wrong and making a serious mistake. Don’t be taken for a ride and buy the right piano at the right price and in the best possible condition, that’s the goal.

If not too sure about a piano and a fair amount of money is involve, I highly recommend you to use the services of a pro technician who examine the piano in depth and advise you. By the way, if you do so, and decide to buy the piano from a retailer, make sure the piano tuner (that supposedly will advise you) doesn’t work also for that same dealer. Just in case….!!  

© Copyright Juan Olalla 2010.  All rights reserved   www.howtotuneapiano.com

Important notice:  Reproduction of this article (or any other article contained in this site) in part or in whole is strictly prohibited, unless permission is given directly by the copyright owner. Contact Juan Olalla at: [email protected]

Has this article been helpful to you? You are welcome to leave a reply. Your opinion and/or suggestions are highly appreciated. Thanks


Piano tuning procedure

Learn to tune a piano aurally, what follows is the standard protocole. First of all, you will need some basic tools, these you can buy at any online tool suppliers on the internet. You could buy everything as a piano tuning kit or you can buy them individually.

What ever way you choose, make sure you buy the right tools. If possible try to buy good quality piano tuning equipment, that way you will have better overage results and your tuning will be easier and more accurate.

Piano tuning tools 
A set of basic piano tools is not too expensive, certainly no more than a standard professional tuning.The first thing you obviously need to learn to tune pianos,  is a piano in a reasonable good state. Bear in mind that some very old ones specially if they still have wooden frames are simply not tunable, so better disregard those ones as they will make the tuning very difficult or practically impossible. The piano can be old but must hold the tune, that means it must be in a good enough condition to stand a standard A-440 tune and hold it for some time. Also better to choose a good size one. Big uprights and grands are easier to tune than spinets and small uprights.

  • The tuning lever or hammer
    A whole chapter could be writing about the tuning hammer, this is the most important piano tuning tool. I think you could consider to buy a good one, no doubt it’s a good investment. The extended ones with changeable heads and tips are the best ones. A good tuning lever is far better than an ordinary one, makes the job easier, more precise and professional.
  • The tuning fork and two rubber mutes
    An ordinary tuning fork A-440. You can buy them at any musical instrument shop. The tuning fork produce an exact pitch that you will use as a basic reference. The rubber wedges you can buy or make then yourself. The utility of these simple rubber wedges is to mute the strings we don’t want to hear.
  • Felt temperament strip
    Better to have a couple of these. They are strips of felt about two or three millimetres thick by two or three cm (one inch) wide and about a meter long. We will need then to set the temperament which is the first thing we do when tuning a piano.
  • A  metronome
    Any metronome will do, but one of those small digital ones would be perfect. A metronome will be very handy in early learning so that we can practice and check the accuracy of the beat rates we use when tuning a piano. When we are accustomed to hearing and recognizing the beat rates, then will not need the metronome anymore. 
                                         TUNING PROCEDURE – SETTING THE TEMPERAMENT

Disclaimer: What follows is a basic and general information procedure for tuning a piano. To view the full protocol and specific piano tuning instructions, please refer to eBook “How to tune a piano”

The temperament, setting the temperament
The temperament could be defined as a group of notes in the center of the keyboard, stretching approximately one octave (normally from F33 to F45 or from F33 to A49) that are tuned in a certain way. Once the temperament is set we will use it as a reference to tune the rest of the keyboard.
Setting the temperament is the most important aspect of tuning. The quality of our piano tuning depends a great deal on how well the temperament has been built. Although setting the temperament is not really complex, its study required some time and practice. Time well spent I would say, as once learned, you can apply to every tuning you will make in future.
Basically there are two groups of temperaments. In one hand the ones that use mainly fifth and fourth intervals and only third and sixth intervals for testing. The other group of intervals on the contrary utilizes mainly third and sixth and only fifth and fourth to check and evaluate. In my humble opinion, the second group is better. Why? Because the third and sixth intervals produce faster beat rates, about 7, 8 and 9 bps (beats per second), generally easier to listen and judge. In contrast, the first temperament group, the one that uses mainly fifth and fourth intervals, generates slower beat rates, which for most of us are significantly harder to recognize. 
  • First step
    Mute the unisons Mute with a felt strip the side strings of every unison from F33 to F45 (see the picture above). Leave unmuted the center strings as this will be for now the only string of every unison in the temperament that we will tune.
  • Second step
     Using the tuning fork Tune A4 to its theoretical standard pitch 440 htz. You will need a chromatic tuner with speakers that can generate that frequency or an A-440 tuning fork.
  • Third step
     Tuning the temperament.  Now tune the temperament. The standard way to tune the temperament is using third, sixth and fifth intervals and tuning them to specific beat rates, save fifth and fourth interval for testing. If you prefer or feel more confortable, you can do the other way around as there is not rule of thumb in this matter. At this stage, the center string is the only string at every unisons in the temperament that you will tune.
  • Forth step
    Tuning octaves. Tuning octaves is fairly simple. Tuning hammer on F#46 (mute the side strings with a couple of rubber wedges). Strike at the same time F#34 (already tune) and F#46. Tune till you eliminate all audible beats and the two notes sound as a single one. Then tune G47 in the same way and carry on tuning every note towards the upper end of the keyboard. When tuning the bass section apply the same procedure.
  • Fifth step
    General review Review and test what you have just done so far. Take special attention to the unisons as they are the ones that first go “out of tune”. Try to eliminate all the audible beats or at least get them as beatless as possible. A good hammer skill would be handy at doing so.

Doing the stretch
It’s a matter of fact that a piano sounds better when its upper section and low section are stretch. That means that the high notes (more or less the last two octaves) are tuned sharper than theoretically they should, and the very low notes tuned lower than they also should be. You could ask, why is that? The reason is that a piano tuned in that way simply sounds better. That is commonly accepted, so an experience technician should do what is called “the stretch”.

The “stretch” is tuned exponentially, that means that the stretching becomes more and more pronounced as you advance up the keyboard There are theoretical tables that allegedly determined the amount of “stretch” for every key, but that’s all. In this matter like in many others involving piano tuning there is not rule of thumb, and in reality every tuner do the “stretch” at his/her discretion. I think, to be precise, when in the lower notes the stretch shouldn’t be call that way, but the “shrink”, as that’s what really happens. 

To do the “stretch” you will need some practice and experience. If you are newbie to piano tuning I don’t recommend you try doing the stretch, at least not for now. Just wait some time till you are reasonably proficient.

Important notice:  Reproduction of this article (or any other article contained in this site) in part or in whole is strictly prohibited, unless permission is given directly by the copyright owner. Contact Juan Olalla at: [email protected]

Has this tutorial been helpful to you? Do you have any questions? You are welcome to leave a reply. Your opinion and/or suggestions are highly appreciated. Thanks

© Copyright Juan Olalla 2011  All rights reserved   www.howtotuneapiano.com


Sharp and loud piano… learn how to get a mellow and smooth sound

One of the things that I am frequently asked is how to change or alter the sound of a piano, specifically how to correct the sound of a too harsh and metallic piano to make it sound smooth and mellow “European style” kind of sound. Is this possible, how do you do it?

Well, the answer is yes but you must take into account some considerations. First thing first, why do so many people are interested in changing the tonal quality (sound) of their pianos? In my view, because most pianos low to medium quality nowadays are manufacture in Asia (mainly in China) and one of the characteristics of such pianos is their particular sharp and loud sound, maybe suited to the tastes in that part of the world, but not so much for European and American ears.

The sound of a piano is determined by its construction and the materials it is made, specifically, the quality and type of the soundboard, the scale design, the type and quality of the strings, and the iron frame. But mainly, what sets the “color” of sound (say up to 50%) are the hammers, and is precisely the correct handling of the them that allows us in a certain degree to alter the sound of the piano.

The manipulation of hammers to change the sound of a piano is called “Voicing”, also commonly known as “needling the hammers”. Voicing is undoubtedly the most delicate and subtle aspect of piano regulation, and requires fine ear and a good dose of patience. Normally this is a job for the competent technician, but I think that crafty and motivated amateurs can also try the technique, providing (of course) they proceed with caution.

In short I will explain what is all about. The basic principle is to alter the fiber density of the hammers (a hammer with less fiber density sounds mellower) and the way to proceed is basically by shallow puncturing (no more than 1.5 mm. deep) with a needle, the area of the hammers that hits the strings (about 1 cm. wide). Puncture the hammer just a little (6 or 7 times), test the sound, and puncture again till you are satisfied with the sound, repeat if need it be and then move to next hammer. It doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?

The brave and bold of this world who wish to try this technique, please follow these recommendations:

      • Before you begin, apply a light sanding on the hammers tips. Do no more than 6 or 7 punctures at a time, then test the sound.
      • If after 3 or 4 sessions of 6/7 punctures you don’t hear any difference in the sound of that note, stop and leave it there. If you carry on needling, you risk damaging the hammer!
      • Grab the hammer solidly but gently, you don’t want to damage or break the hammer shank or the flange.
      • Before applying this voicing technique, as far as possible is advisable to gain some experience by practicing in a low cost old piano.

To those of you truly interested in this topic, I would recommend reading in depth Chapter VII of my book “How to repair a piano” where is explained in detail the voicing technique and its specific step by step procedure.

© Copyright Juan Olalla 2011.  All rights reserved   www.howtotuneapiano.com

Important notice:  Reproduction of this article (or any other articles contained in this site) in part or in whole is strictly prohibited, unless permission is given directly by the copyright owner. Contact Juan Olalla at: [email protected]

Has this article been helpful to you, do you have any question? You are welcome to leave a reply. Your opinion, comments and/or suggestions are highly appreciated. Thanks

Digital piano or acoustic piano

Can you study piano in a digital piano keyboard? Digital versus Acoustic.
Time ago, while examining an old piano owned by a lady who wanted an estimate to decide if it was worth it to repair, she came out with this question: Is it possible to use an electric piano for a child who is going to take piano lessons for the first time? Can you study piano in an electric digital piano?

What a question for a piano tuner! Clearly the lady was pondering the possibility of buying a cheap digital thing in case the estimate for repairing and tuning the old piano was too high. I don’t have the habit of cheating my customers, but neither I am fond of throwing stones over my own roof. Sometimes truth match our own interest, and this was one of those rare occasions. So, sure not to be bias and well in peace with my concious, the answer to the odd question was obviously: (yes, you guessed it), No!

 Undoubtedly digital pianos have qualities that make them attractive to many people. For example, its lighter weight and smaller size makes them easier to handle and place them anywhere in the house. They never get out of tune and don’t need servicing. Can easily change pitch, so you don’t need to transpose. Can play orchestral sounds, make rhythms and even record and reproduce what you play. Anybody can become an accomplish pianist just by pressing a key….! Or at least that’s what it appears.

Comparing the impressive array of features that digital piano has with that of the acoustic one, becomes clear that the digital piano wins by a landslide. So, what strange reason could motivate somebody to buy a traditional piano instead of a digital one? What disadvantage has the digital piano, if any?. Well, actually just one, and that is that the “digital piano” is not really a piano.

 In my humble opinion, the term “digital piano” is inherently wrong and leads to confusion. Perhaps traditional piano makers shouldn’t allow “digital piano” makers to use the name “piano” to market their products. Same as they do with wines and cheeses producers, to ensure the authenticity of their products and guarantee its proper designation. No kidding, I’m serious. From here I propose the idea.

A real piano is made by craftsmen. Noble materials are used in its construction, different types of wood like mahogany, walnut, ebony, spruce etc. Also, steel, brass, leather, felt, ivory for the keys (no longer used) and so on. Its operation is completely mechanical or “analog” as they say now. The experience of playing a real piano has nothing to do with that of playing a digital instrument. The gentle subtle touch of the keys, the full rich authentic sound (even with its imperfections), the warmth and the feeling that conveys, the looks, the smell of wood, and so on. No, it is not comparable at all. Maybe I am a romantic, but I prefer the touch of wood rather than plastic.

In contrast, a digital piano is really a computer with added keys, cold and with no soul. It’s sound, although it can be nice, does not have the wrapping richness and tonal quality of the real thing. For the piano player, a major drawback of digital pianos is it’s poor key touch. Although some digitals try really hard to replicate the keyboard dynamics of acoustic pianos, never comes near as good as the authentic thing. In brief, from a serious musician point of view, a digital piano is a poor alternative to a real piano

Another very important point to take into consideration is the durability and life span of the instrument. An acoustic piano is very strong and good quality ones are made to last a long long time. Providing you take a minimum care (just tuning once a year), your piano will last a life time. The piano  becomes a member of the family and can easily be passed to the next generation. I have known pianos dating from the 20’s (last century) in pristine condition.

On the other hand,  an electric piano that is played reasonably often, will only last a few years. As it happens nowadays with any electric appliances, digital pianos are made so that they will be broken soon. Guess way? so that you buy again, naturally. The fact is, a digital piano can not take the heavy pounding of an acoustic piano. In the life span of a decent acoustic you could end buying a good number of electric ones. So, where is the saving?

So, going back to the original question, can you use an electric instrument to study piano? I sincerely believe than using an electronic keyboard to study piano is not advisable. I think it is important for the student to get accustomed from the beginning to play and appreciate the subtleties of a real piano. Also, it is a fact that a good instruments motivates the piano student and improves the rate of success in piano studies.

Probably you have guessed by now that am not precisely a digital piano lover… Then, is this a hatchet to digital electronic keyboards motivated by the obvious corporate interest? Not really, the idea is to objectively clarify the points. Neither digital pianos can be compare with real acoustic pianos nor real pianos can be compare with the digitals. This is so simply because they are different things for different purposes. Long life the piano!

Copyright © Juan Olalla 2011

Has this post been helpful to you? Do you have any question? You are welcome to leave a reply, your opinion and/or suggestions are highly appreciated. Thanks



My eBooks to tune and repair pianos

Tune pianos like the pros do and learn the “tricks of the trade”. These two books teach you in an easy and simple way all you need to know to tune pianos aurally, also to regulate, voicing and repair the vast majority of faults you can encounter on a piano.

Most people think than repairing and tuning a piano is a very difficult task, a job that can only to be carried out by people of the trade. The reality is quite different, providing that you follow the right teaching method, you can learn to tune and repair pianos in a relatively short period of time. Buy these two books now and learn in no time to efficiently tune and repair your own piano.


Learn to tune and repair pianos like a pro

"How to repair a piano"

$29,95 USD

"How to tune a piano"

$29,95 USD

132 pages divided into 7 chapters covering the main issues

Step by step simple instructions excluding unnecesary theory
More than 140 photographs and helpful diagramsNumerous photographs, charts and helpful diagrams
Numerous tips, shortcuts and personal first hand advicesMp3 sample of the "beats" will show you easily how to build the temperament
Full dedicated chapters covering areas as Regulation and VoicingDedicated chapters covering tuning hammer technique exercises
A check-list for quick reference with the piano most common failurePlenty of tips, shortcuts and first hand personal advices
(More about this book....)(More about this book....)

Buy the two eBooks Now and save a 15% - Instant download!

$50,92 USD

”How to tune a piano” free download (extract) please click here

”How to repair a piano” free download (extract) please click here

About these eBooks
The author of these works knows from personal experience the difficulties that someone with the desire to learn can find. I never have liked the secrecy that has always surrounded this trade, and the little inclination that piano tuners in general have to share their knowledge. These eBooks represent a new approach, a simple and fast, step by step method.

Can I tune and my own piano? Yes, you can. There are many people who for a variety of reasons want to learn piano tuning and repairing, but the complications of ordinary methods, make the task little less than impossible. It’s a fact that most malfunctions on the piano are easier to mend than they look at first sight. Good observation skills and a good dose of patience backed with a minimun theoretical knowledge is about all you need. These digital books are designed to learn how to tune and repair pianos the quickest and easiest possible way. You learn step by step as if you have a teacher next, focussing only on the elements really important. The experience of three decades tuning and servicing pianos squeezed into two simple and practical methods.

 What is the price of the books and how can I buy them
The price of each book is $29.95 USD, and if you buy the two books $50.92 USD (15% discount). Clicking on “buy now” you will be redirected to PayPal where you will be able to pay safely by credit card or bank transfer. Once the payment has been accepted, you will recieve an email with a link to download the book. The whole process doesn’t take more than a few minutes.

Is it safe to pay transactions online by PayPal?
It is completely safe. PayPal is the company leader for payments online, having more than 250 millions clients. The data in your credit card are encrypted and the seller does not keep any information from it. Buy with confidence.

Something about the author of this books
The author of this book is a professional piano technician with over 30 years experience. Having work most of his professional career in England and Spain, nowadays Juan shares his time between his job as a piano technician and teaching of piano technology.

Can I really learn to tune and repair pianos with these books?
Yes, nowadays two thirds of the people who learn to tune and repair pianos, they do it by their own means. A piano tuning method like “How to tune a piano” and “How to repair a piano”  makes the whole process of learning, simple and easy, not fuss, straight to the point. With this book, any adult person with some basic musical concepts, can learn to professionally tune and repair pianos in a relatively short period of time.

What makes special these books 
Is the inclusion of audio visual material. The student not only reads, but also listens and learns by the mp3 files inserted in the book. This way you will soon be able to accurately identify and judge the pulses and beat rates needed to tune a piano.

Can I print these books ?
Yes, once you’ve downloaded the book and saved it in your computer, you can print it in order to have a copy for your personal use.

Any questions? Please, post us a comment.

About How to tune a piano eBook

The book “How to tune a piano” is made with the aim to teach you to tune pianos the easiest and straightforward possible way.
In brief, create a short cut that goes straight to the point. To achieve that, I have deliberately reduced the theory to a minimum, focusing only on the essentials. I have tried to do this the friendly way, imagining that the student is learning next to me and offering comments and advices based on the experience of so many years.

I thought specially on the people that without any previous experience want to learn to tune pianos as a hobby, to tune their own piano or engage in piano tuning as a full or part time profitable and rewarding activity. Also in the experienced professionals that want to update their knowledge or compare their methods with the ones used by other colleagues. Overall, I am confident this book will be useful and beneficial to any music lover interested and curious to know about pianos.

“How to tune a piano” buy and download Now!

$29,95 USD

“How to tune a piano” main Features

  • Step by step simple and easy to follow instructions
  • Numerous photographs, charts and helpful diagrams
  • mp3 samples of the “beats” will show you how to build the temperament
  • Dedicated Chapters covering tunning hammer technique exercises
  • Plenty of “tips”, short cuts and first hand personal advices

What makes this book special

Is the inclusion of abundant audio-visual material. The student not only read and see the plentiful descriptive colour pictures, but also hear the mp3 sound files which are embedded in the book.
Steps like tuning octaves and unisons, the building of the “temperament” and the practice chapter are accompanied by their respective sound recording, so the student not only read, but also listen and know exactly what to do and how. This advantage let you learn to tune a piano in much shorter time than any other method.



Dear Juan,
I found your book excellent, It is very comprehensive and covers all that a beginner would need to know. Overall it is beautifully presented and I find no fault with it at all. The photographs are very clear and are more than useful to the explanations in the text. It makes me feel confident to have a go myself.
Tom Robinson (England)

Hi Juan,
I have read your books and I think they are very well written in that it is comprehensive with the right amount of detail and helpful diagrams. For those who want to learn to tune and repair pianos, your books will be very useful.
Howard Lock (UK)

Table of contents


Chapter I: Basic tuning tools
This first chapter is devoted to the basic tools to tune a piano. The topics covered are:

Basic tuning kit
The tuning hammer
The tuning fork and rubber wedges
The metronome
The temperament felt strip

Chapter II: Using the tuning hammer
Introduces you without any further preamble in the art of piano tuning and teaches you its mechanics as it is done in practice. The topics are as follow:

Getting the “feel” and control
The right hammer, the right tips
Setting the pins
Setting the strings
Tuning hammer position
Careful not to break the strings

Chapter III: The main elements, parts and functions
This chapter examines the construction and the main elements of a piano. The idea is to give the student a clear overview of how a piano works. The chapter concludes with cut sections of Grand and Upright piano actions.

The main parts
The sound board
The frame
The cast-iron plate
The pin-block
The action

Chapter IV: Elementary theory, the basics you need to know
This section covers the basic elemental theory you need to know to tune a piano. Very important so that you can understand what it comes later. These are the topics

How the sound is produced
Harmonics and partials
How strings vibrates, the partials
The notes at the piano
Theoretical and real frequencies
The intervals
The unisons
Beats and pulses

Chapter V: Tuning practices
This chapter consist of a series of preliminary exercises to serve you as preparation before you undertake the full piano tuning protocol. You will study the three main intervals needed to set the piano equal temperament to perform a professional and accurate piano tune. You will also learn to tune unisons and octaves and judge by yourself the speed of the piano beat rates.

Tuning unisons
Tuning octaves
How to judge the speed of beat rates
The tuning fork, how to use it
The piano tuner scale
Tuning the main three temperament intervals
False beats, how to deal with them

Chapter VI: Standard piano tuning procedure
This is the fundamental and most extensive chapter of the book. Gradually you will learn how to build the temperament with step by step precise instructions. Here you have all the beat rates needed to build the temperament, conveniently recorded as mp3 files, so the student can easily recognize and judge the piano temperament beat rates without any query or doubt. This section also covers specialized topics of piano tuning like, how to raise the pitch, how to tune a piano to 442, how to do the “stretch”, and so on.

The temperament
Previous preparations
Setting the temperament
Advice and suggestions
Tuning the central section of the keyboard
Tuning the upper section
Tuning the bass section
The “stretch”
Stretch tuning, standard procedure
About raising the pitch
Raising the pitch, modus operandi
Tuning a piano to A442

Chapter VII: Important related topics
Being a piano tuner is not always easy. Sometimes we find ourselves in relatively uneasy situations. This chapter discusses the difficulties we may encounter and how to deal with them.

Tuning at a concert
Aural tuning versus electronic tuning
Specific electronic tuners, its main applications

Chapter VIII: Managing a piano tuner business, the best advice
This chapter is aimed to all of you who want to engage in piano tuning as a profession. A practical guideline on how to successfully manage your business as piano technician. The author of the book, gives specific advices and last recommendations for the future piano tuner, based on his own experience.

Promoting your business, get yourself known
Build a customer data base
The price issue
Exceptions to the rule
Learning to play the piano
Tune as many pianos as possible
Properly managing your working time
Building trust
The odd job
Piano tuning is a seasonal work
The best you can

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© copyright 2011 Juan Olalla   All rights reserved    www.howtotuneapiano.com

About How to repair a piano eBook

Learn to repair, regulate and voice pianos the professional way. This book “How to repair a piano” will be a great asset for beginers and/or advance students who also want to repair as well as tune their own piano.
Save lots of money in expensive repairs, and learn a skill that you can use to repair and service other people pianos. In addition, “How to repair a piano” will teach you not only to do repairs, but also so important aspects of the piano as regulation and voicing.

This book is the product of so many years of work. The techniques and methods exposed in this method are based on my own experience working as a piano technician for the last 32 years. As you will discover in this book, most malfunctions on the piano are easier to mend than they look at first sight so, why not to do it yourself. Learn the “tricks of the trade” and repair pianos in no time, I’ll show you how.


“How to repair a piano” Buy and download Now!

$29,95 USD


“How to repair a piano” main Features:

  • 132 pages divides into 7 Chapters comvering all the important issues
  • More than 140 pictures and helpful diagrams
  • Numerous tips and first hand advices
  • Full dedicated chapters covering regulation and voicing
  • A check list for quick reference with the piano most common failures

                            Table of Contents

Chapter I: How the action works 
Grand piano main sections
Note on cross sections nomenclature
Grand piano cabinet  nomenclature
Grand piano action cross section
Upright piano action cross section
Operation of the upright action
Upright wippen assembly
Upright action operation in four phases
How the grand piano action works
Grand piano wippen assembly
Grand piano operation in five phases 

Chapter II: The hammers, common faults and how to repair them
Basic tools
The virtues of “hot glue”
Repairing hammers and shanks
Changing a whole set of hammers
Modus operandi
Repairing a broken hammer shank
Flanges and bushings
Repairing a flange
Sluggish action parts
Repairing broken or damage bridle straps
Final notes and recommendations

Chapter III: The piano strings
Basic tools
Bass strings
Middle and treble section steel strings
Piano wire size number
Procedure to replace a string
Restringing a piano 

Chapter IV: The pins and the pinblock
Pinblock cross section
Pianos that don’t stay in tune
How to repair a loose pin
Pinblock tightener 

Chapter V: The keyboard, the keys
Most common fault
Determine where is the problem
Fixing a sluggish or sticking key
Keys rubbing on the key slip, a classic
Replacing the key bushings
Repairing a broken key 

Chapter VI: Regulating
Understanding regulation
Regulation tools
Basic preparations

Regulating the upright piano
General alignment and squaring
Check and align the travel of the hammer butt
Check and align the hammers to the strings
Check and align the jacks to the hammers
Aligning the backcheck
Regulate hammer stroke
Regulate lost motion
Regulate the average key height
Regulate hammer let-off
Regulate key dip
Regulate hammer checking
Regulate the pedals
Regulate the dampers
Regulate the damper spoons
Regulate the bridle straps
Final note on regulating the upright piano 

Regulating the grand piano
The let-off regulation rack
Basic preparations
Spacing and levelling the keys
Regulate the travel of hammers
Align hammers to strings
Regulate the jack to the hammer roller
Adjust the height of the repetition lever
Regulate the hammer height
Regulate the hammer let-off
Regulate the hammer drop
Regulate the backchecks
Regulate the repetition lever spring
Regulate the dampers
Adjust the height of the damper stop rail
The grand piano pedals
Regulating the grand pedals  

Chapter VII: Voicing
Understanding piano voicing
Voicing tools
The voicing technique
Voicing procedure
Voicing for “strong”
Voicing for “soft
Comprehensive hammer voicing
Voicing the last treble octave
Final notes on voicing 

Action problems summary quick reference
Note is too weak
Note doesn’t sound at all (dead key)
Hammer strikes the strings two or more times
Hammer gets blocked against the strings
Sluggish and “lazy” notes
Notes “clicking” noise
Dampers unable to damp

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$50,92 USD
Any questions about this/these books? Please, let us know.

Copyright © Juan Olalla 2011

Five powerful reasons why you should also learn to tune your own piano

Due to proven easy and fast piano tuning methods like “How to tune a piano” nowadays increasingly more people tune their own piano. The benefits for doing so are well clear. Read the following 5 powerful reasons.

1  Money!
Just imagine the amount of money that you will save over the years if you tune and service your own piano. For the price of a single piano tuning, you can buy a piano tuning method like “How to tune a piano” and also a reasonably good quality tuning lever with mutes, that’s all you need to start tuning your own piano, and will probably be the last money you spend in piano tunings.

2  Have your piano always in tune
Although the first reason for tuning your own piano, Money! seems pretty convincing, the number one benefit that you will get from learning to tune your own piano is having the piano always perfectly tuned. Have your tuning lever at hand and keep your piano always in shape by touching up the tuning between professional visits, or if so you wish, tune the entire keyboard right from scratch.

3  Understand and appreciate your instrument
For most people, the way a piano works is a total mystery,  even professional players or teachers don’t have a clear idea of how the piano works. Knowing and understanding the mechanical aspects of your instrument and been able to tune it and service it, will greatly increase your understanding and appreciation of the instrument and will enhance your skills as a piano player.

4  Get respect and admiration by friends and other fellow musicians
People in general regard piano tuning as a very rare ability only within the capabilities of a gifted few. The reality is well different, piano tuning is not even a music skill, but a mechanical one within the reach of most people. If you can tune your piano you will be no doubt admired by friends and other fellow musicians who will certainly regard you as “smart”.  

5  Tune not only your piano but also other people pianos.
I can assure you, as soon as people (friends, neighbours, etc.) know that you can tune pianos, in no time they will start calling you (that is the way I started my business many years ago). Of course, you can and should charge for your work, so you could convert your hobby in a part time profitable activity that you could combine with your job or studies.

Copyright © Juan Olalla 2011

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Aural piano tuning versus electronic piano tuning

Why learning how to tune a piano aurally when you can use an electronic piano tuner device or a piano tuning software? Aural piano tuner versus electronic piano tuner, what is best? 

In the world of piano tuning, this current topic has been around for quite a while. Tuning a piano with an electronic device never has been completely accepted by the community of piano tuners, specially the senior ones, as it was consider poor quality and unprofessional sort of piano tuning. However, during the last decade or so, have appeared a new generation of much more accurate electronic tuners and computer programs.

Although I always been in favor of aural tuning, (still I am) have to admit that thes days  is possible to tune a piano to areasonable good standard with an electronic tuner. The only drawback is its high price and therefore the difficulty to make them worth unless you tune many pianos.

There are two basic types of electronic tuners, the chromatic ones (fairly inexpensive) and the specially dedicated for tuning the pianos used by professionals in general, as we said before, quite dear.

With a chromatic tuner you can tune just about anything, You can use a chromatic tuner to tune a piano, but have to follow a certain procedure (already explained by me in another article). In short, have to recalibrate at every step. Also these chromatic tuners can’t read too well the very low and high frequencies of the piano, so you must have the ability to tune by ear at least unisons and octaves.

Specific computer and electronics piano tuners and its main applications
These ones are specially thought for pianos. They can read partials, correct inharmonicity and calculate the stretch for every note in the piano. All these functions are produced automatically, so you only have to worry about reading and tuning. These more sophisticated tuners can also have some interesting applications:

One of the most atractive applications I can see is to be able to record a good aural tuning, so you can reproduce in the future as many times as you want. Just think, you are inspired and produce an outstanding aural tuning in a particular piano, why not record it? So when you tune again the same piano you can replicate the same excellent tune you did before. You never know, maybe next time the muses will not be around. Inspiration? yes it’s a fact, some days you tune better than others.

Another important function, probably the most interesting one, is when tuning in noisy environments. In these situations when hearing the beats can be tricky, an electronic tuner can be of great help and significantly improve your tuning. In some of these electronic or computer tuners you have also the possibility to connect accessories like a contact mike.

Also an electronic tuner can make life easier when tuning to a non-standard pitch, for instance, A 442. That kind of tuning is required mainly when the piano is going to play with brass instruments as those have the particularity to lift their pitch when they have been playing for a while.

Can also be handy when tuning two pianos that have to play together. You tune one piano aurally and record the tuning, then replicate the tuning you have just recorded on the second piano to the exact parameters.

So, you could ask: Why to learn to tune a piano aurally when you can use an electronic piano tuner device or a piano tuning software? An electronic or computer based piano tuner can be a good asset  and certainly a valuable tool for professional piano tuners, but in no way can replace aural tuning. To have a good insight of his job a piano tuner should always be able to tune a piano aurally. That will no doubt enhance considerably the quality of his work.

In my opinion aural and electronic tuning are compatible, and there is nothing that indicates the contrary. The two ways can co-exist and work nicely side by side. Why not to used the best of both worlds? After all, technology is here to stay, or so they say.

©  copyright Juan Olalla 2010 

What do you think about this article, has it been helpful to you? Got some questions? Please leave a reply. Your opinion and/or suggestions are highly appreciated. Thanks                                                      

Old pianos, the plain truth

 This is about Old Pianos, and how their owners often overate them. In plain words, an old piano  regarded as a “gem” by his/her owner, for the piano tuner is often just a piece of  “old junk”. Better not to say!

Not long ago, (probably a few years) I had a telephone call asking to tune a piano. By the tone of her voice, I guessed the potential customer was and old lady. I must point out that every time I get a call asking for an appointment, I ask for some information. Things  like, what’s the piano maker, how old it is, (the piano, not the customer), and so on. But this time, I probably was busy and didn’t ask more information, just the address. Big mistake.

Few days later I went to do the job, which incidentally was quite far away, in a village about 100 kms. from my place. A charming old lady was there to greet me. Her house, full of antiques, truly looked like a museum. The whole place expired tradition and memories. In that house everything was old, very old. By the way, the pic of the piano in this entry doesn’t correspond to the piano involved in this story.  This is just a  pic from a piano rougly the same period. but in a much better condition.

She took me to the piano, “the jewel” she said. When I saw the “jewel”, at first glance I knew that wasn’t my lucky day. I cursed my negligence for not asking sufficient information before accepting the job and giving an appointment. Let me clarify this, I don’t undertake jobs for pianos over a certain age and state.  Experience tells you, in the vast majority of circunstances they are not worth it. Not for the piano owner neither for the piano tuner.

Any way, it was a massive upright piano, probably mid-19th century, that is about 150 years old, easily. All kind of ornaments, chandeliers and so on, so highly appreciated at the time. I open the top lid, and as expected, a total ruin. The strings, all rusty. The action, neglected and completely out of condition. Also, as in all the pianos of that time, wooden string-plate. 

For the ones of you who don’t know, a piano with a wooden plate, is a piano that in the vast majority of cases, simply is not tunable, and therefore useless, at least from a technical point of view, of course. Cast-iron plates only started to be broadly manufactured around the beginning of the 20th century.

I must admit that my first impulse when I saw the “jewel” was to give an excuse and run away. But not, I didn’t chicken out. After all, I wasn’t prepare to waste the whole day and do about 200  kms. just for nothing. So, I started seriously inspecting the piano.

As I was evaluating the piano, and by extension the silly mess I got myself in, the charming old lady was illustrating me. She bought the piano only two months ago from an old gentleman that obviously had known better times. He inherited the piano from his parents, who at the same time, inherited it from his grandparents.

It is a gorgeous piano which have seen several generations and therefore of a very high value (she reasoned). I am a little bit ashamed to say (she giggled) but the best thing is that I bought this beauty for a ridiculous bargain price (she lowered her voice), just 2000 euros. 

I almost faint, 2000 euros!!?? For me, that old thing wasn’t worth it the money to transport it, and this woman had paid 2000 eutos!!. I wouldn’t accept that piano, even as a gift!!. As often happens, she was totally unconcern about the mechanical condition of the instrument and because there were no missing keys, she more or less figure out that an ordinary piano tuning would be all that was required to bring the piano back to live.

There are times and situations in the life of a piano tuner that are hateful, and this was one of them. How to tell this nice old lady that her piano wasn’t exactly a “jewel”. Well, trying to be as diplomatic as I possible could, I told her that although her piano was certainly a beauty, in reality the mechanical condition left much to be desired, so what the piano needed wasn’t just a tuning, but a restoration.

Now then, a full restoration (I kept informing the lady) would be extremely costly (I wasn’t certainly, willing to do it) and an ordinary standard tuning, little less than impossible, as the pin-block wouldn’t hold the new pressure of the strings (the piano was about one and a half whole steps down).  In the very improbable case that the piano were able to hold the tune, it would be needed at least three sessions to raise the piano pitch, up to standard.

 The lady, to my amazed, didn’t look surprised at all, and took it quite well. This made think that maybe she new more about the piano than she admitted to know. Well, she insisted that I tuned the piano lower pitch, so at least she could play it. 

Then, I did one of the things I most dislike. That is to tune a piano lower pitch. But the customer is always right and the one who subscribes have neither will nor intention to discuss the instructions of his payer. The piano was tuned a whole step down (as requested, impossible to tune it any higher)) and I also did a couple of repairs and odd regulations. 

To finish the whole job took me about four hours. I have to do a first rough tuning, follow by a second fine one. Hated the job, but at least, the old lady was happy to “play” her piano and I didn’t wasted the day and the long driving.  A day to reflect and also to forget.

Notice: If you are a newbie piano tuner or want to work as a such,  I strongly advice you to keep your thoughts (regarding a very old piano) to yourself, as that piece of “old junk” can mean a lot to his/her owner. In order to survive in this business, better to be polite and discreet.

©  copyright Juan Olalla 2010 

Has his articule been helpful to you? Got some questions? Please, leave a reply. Your opinion and/or suggestions are highly appreciated. Thanks