The Self Tuning Piano – A Wonderful Invention

The musicians, in general, tune the instruments as and when they desire. The exception in the field is a pianist who does not receive training for tuning the two hundred and more stringed piano. Whether it is a beginner or a professional the piano players need hiring the appropriate technician for getting their instrument back in order. Don Gilmore, however, has come up with an idea, which, he asserts, can dispense with the requirement of tuners. He has come up with a piano that is self tuning. Gilmore is an expert in mechanics. But coming with the idea required him to be thorough with electronics. He worked with nearly twelve prototypes before he came up with this present version of the electronic piano tuner.

This system would start just as the “on” button, which is located at the lower right side, is pushed. Following this every circuit board activates the magnetic coils which would simultaneously sustain notes from every single string in the piano. Infrared sensor is used for measuring the frequency of each string or to measure the speed with which it vibrates. The computer would compare this frequency with some note that had previously been recorded following a professional tuning. If its original tuning appears off, the piano can be tuned again by the owner. The change thus made can be saved in the computer.

Temperature and size of a room can affect the sound of a piano. In the event of the pitch needing an adjustment, an electrical current is sent by the system through the springs which touch the tuning peg of each string, heating it to 95 degrees. The expansion of springs on heating lowers the pitch. However, vice versa is not possible, which means, cooling the strings cannot be done for raising the pitch. Gilmore gives an explanation for this. He says that the tuning of piano is done when its strings are slightly hot. When it has been switched off, the strings become tighter on being cooled, which is the natural state. Thus, theoretically, the device shall never need increasing the strings’ frequencies. The system is able to tune piano in not more than two minutes. The device is kept on as the piano is played.

The technology invented by Gilmore has been licensed by QRS, a player piano making company, in the year 1999. The price of the device is estimated to be around one thousand dollars by Gilmore. Regular tuning needs nearly a hundred dollars. A casual player gets a tuning for his piano not more than once or sometimes twice in a year. An average player would find the initial expenditure too heavy. Contrarily, concert pianos require being tuned at least once or even twice daily. There are two other factors that are important other than tuning. They are regulation and voicing. In case of concert pianos, the technicians often go about servicing regulation, voicing, and tuning. Change in the sound of a piano due to the size and the temperature of the room may also call for extra service.

Image credit: Don Gilmore/YouTube