Modern tuning software packages such as Veritune analyze the sound of a piano interactively during the tuning process much like what an aural tuner does. It is possible to achieve remarkable results comparable to that obtained by traditional aural tuning methods that make use of beat rates. It is also now much easier for tuners and pianists to quickly explore alternative stretch styles and temperaments.

The Veritune software recently became available as an app for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, making it possible for a larger group of tuners and pianists to take advantage of its power. This site is dedicated to sharing information on stretch styles, temperaments, and other tuning methods that I have found helpful for understanding how to regularly obtain an aural quality tune with Veritune in 1 to 2 hours.

"The Piano is an untunable instrument."

Although funny, this quote from Ed Foote is literally true and summarizes the fact that the piano cannot be tuned perfectly, and in the case of unisons maybe should not be tuned perfectly. Ideally an electronic tuning device should take into account the intrinsic imperfections of the piano. The trick is to define what it is that an aural tuner does while optimizing the tuning, and to use the ETD to help you rapidly achieve the optimization that you find most satisfying. There are at least three reasons why the piano behaves as it does:

First, perfect intervals on the piano (e.g. the perfect fifth and the octave) are mutually incompatible. One solution is to divide each octave into 12 equally spaced tones, i.e. adjust the
temperament to equal semitones. Unfortunately, the resulting equal temperament means that all intervals other than the octave are out of tune. Some people are finding historic temperaments to be a refreshing alternative to equal temperament.

The second problem arises because of the significant stiffness of metal piano strings, which causes the
overtones above the fundamental to be increasingly sharp of the ideal harmonics. This inharmonicity means that not even the octaves can be perfect. The solution is to stretch the octaves so that the dominant overtones are congruent. The tuner must decide how to achieve the optimal compromise, i.e. tailor the stretch.

The third problem relates to how to tune the
unisons, the multiple strings (usually three) for each note. Some tuners believe that tuning each string slightly out of tune relative to the others leads to a richer sound with greater sustain.

A good tune is actually an optimization to obtain the best of a bad situation, which explains why what sounds like a great tuning to one person, may be average for another. There is no single best tune.

The Verituner May be Useful for Some Pianists

Most instrumentalists know how to tune their instruments. Unfortunately, pianists are an exception and have learned to view the piano as a black box in more ways than one. Most go through life having to play an instrument which is usually out of tune, and when they are lucky enough to obtain a high quality tuning, they know that it's only going to last for a few days. As a result many professional pianists have learned to ignore poor tuning. This is remarkable given the high cost of a piano, and the care and time that has gone into the design and building of these instruments.

Recent developments in professional electronic tuning devices now make it possible for a pianist to touch-up the tuning of his or her instrument with a small amount of effort. Of course, for most the quality of the tuning is not going to compete with that of a certified RPT. But it will certainly be better than what many are normally forced to live with for most of the year, i.e only a few days after the tuner leaves. A professional ETD can also allow a pianist to reproducibly define the tune that they prefer, which can be a lifesaver for many who cannot find a qualified tuner. Finally, it permits many people to justify the purchase of a high quality instrument in areas of the country where excellent tuners are not available.

Historic Temperaments and Alternative Stretches

An added advantage of an electronic tuning device is that it allows tuners (and pianists) to explore different temperaments that may be difficult to obtain by conventional aural methods. The ability to go beyond equal temperament and explore historic temperaments that are appropriate for music written before 1900 is well worth the cost of an ETD. They also allow the tuner (or pianist) to explore different stretches, such as Marc Wienert's "Schubert concert tuning" made popular by Perry Knize in "The Grand Obsession".