Should the piano be in tune
So, yes - as a professional pianist it is always nice if the piano is in tune and working nicely. To be honest, I have never had an experience where I have turned up to play at a gig and the piano is unplayable. I have only had experiences where I start to play and I realise very quickly that the piano must have been tuned very recently, which is great!
But if a piano is a bit off, then it is not really a problem because your ear adjusts very quickly and you get into the music and completely forget about it.
The biggest problem I had was playing in a hotel on a real beast of a piano that was a kind of digital "roll piano" that you could plug into the mains and it would play itself - but when they did this, the piano would knock itself out of tune completely and I did actually have customers make comments to me that the piano was really out of tune and even people who had no musical experience could tell. My ears adjusted but it bothered the clients. But this is a rare experience.
There is a famous example of how it doesn't really matter - an album of solo piano released by Keith Jarret
: The Köln Concert
In 1975, he played a concert on a piano that was really in a bad shape and not properly tuned, however the recording turned out to be absolutely beautiful and remains to this day the best selling solo piano album
of all time.
Tuning a piano is something deeply scientific and mathematical to the point of being almost mystical. There is something in maths called "irrational numbers" - ratios that go on for ever. The most famous example of a rational number is Pi - the ratio between every circle's diameter to its circumference. 3.14 is Pi to 2 decimal places, but to be more precise you can have 3.14159265359 - that is to 11 decimal places. However it goes on forever and the world record for calculating the highest decimal place for Pi is 2,000,000,000,000,000 decimal places
It is the same with tuning a piano - if you look up the frequencies in hertz for, eg. A3, Bb3, B3, C3 etc.. then you don't get normal numbers - you get infinitely long fractions that can be as long as you want according to how much precision you want.
Piano tuners do not use calculators, or super-powered computers - they use their ears. And their heart! And they don't get paid much considering how amazing what it is they do.
There's a really good youtube video that explains this below:
Piano tuners work locally. I live in South London and one of the piano tuners I have used in the past is Phil Dickson, the 'cycling piano tuner'
If there are any other piano tuners local to South London, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'd be happy to post your details on this page!
7th of September 2016