Tuning and regulation of a pianola

Proper tuning and regulation are very important to enjoy playing. Especially the regulation is of major significance, because keyboard and action are the interface between piano player and acoustic system of the instrument. The regulation is very important for the pianola function, too, because only proper adjustment of the (grand) piano action and the self-playing mechanism and mutual fine-tuning of both systems will allow for a real nice perception of music. Frequent adjustment is also important to avoid damaging the piano rolls, because the track control must be adjusted at times.

Finding out which pitch makes sense for your instrument is essential for the right tuning. Very varied tuning levels were found even far into the 20th century. The reason was that the instrument makers made different designs and specifications - but also because the quality of the tuning forks for a1 still could deviate by more than 10 hertz. In 1834, a1 with 440 beats per second was uniformly suggested on the meeting of German naturalists and physicians. In 1858, the diapason normal, - the "concert pitch a1" - was established by the Paris Academy at 435 hertz. The pitch (440 hertz = concert pitch a1) was established as late as 1939 during an international tuning tone conference. The "Paris tuning" of 409 hertz was often used as a reference about 1900, it may be found, for example, on the pin block of early Blüthner instruments. Pianos and grands from about 1910 were mostly tuned to 410-435 Hz - these should not be tuned higher today, because some of them were not designed for 440 hertz. New pianos are tuned rather higher, to 442-444 Hz, esp. if the instrument is used to accompany voice and chorus.

A piano tuning will cost between 60 and 140 euro in Germany, we found, that also depends on whether the tuner tunes by hearing or tuning device. We appreciate the tuning by hearing, because we found that the result will be significantly better. A specific feature of pianola tuning is that the self-playing mechanism (upper installation) has to be removed to access the tuning pegs. Only piano tuners who are familiar with pianolas can manage this - improper removal and reinstallation of the self-playing mechanism may cause damage or malfunction. Ask acquaintances and friends for a tuner who can handle pianolas. When required, we will gladly refer you to piano tuners. According to skill and hearing, you may have your own expectations of piano tuning (e. g., well-tempered versus uniform tuning etc.). Not all piano tuners are able to realize these subtle differences.

If you have acquired an older pianola, choose preferably a tuner who is familiar with older instruments and has a distinct affinity to them.

A pianola should be tuned and adjusted once per year. It may be required more often if either the piano's structure prevents stable tuning or the climatic conditions in the room are unfavorable. Then maybe a replacement of the tuning pins or other repairs will be recommendable. Basically, your hearing decides - you (or your audience) will learn to hear when tuning is necessary.

A standard regulation of a piano will be included by a piano tuner immediately and bills this - if at all – per hour. Regulation means that touch, damping power etc. are adjusted so that you will take pleasure in the piano and the potential of the instrument is exploited. The same applies for the regularization of the self-playing mechanism. For these purposes, there are scale or test and setup piano rolls for all pianola types. These special piano rolls are very rare - please, contact us if you need copies of these rolls.

Pianola scala rolls and test rolls