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Aural vs Electronic Piano Tuning

Tuning is an art and cannot entirely be reduced to zeros and ones. While an electronic tuner will enhance the quality of a beginner or intermediate tuner, there is no substitute for the art of a skilled aural tuner. The argument that the computer is more accurate than the ear can be solved with math. Computers simply aren’t integrated as humans are and are much slower. Yes, even at gigahertz speeds, the human mind and all it’s faculties are called together combined with anticipation – intuition to fill in the gaps for far greater resolution. That unavoidable gab between “is it a 0 or a 1?”. The art and skill of a tuner involves balance, isometric tension and the awareness of every detail of sound and mechanics of each unique piano. I use a digital tuner for my guitars and find i am waiting for the tuner to catch up to my ear. It’s a great tool really, and I strongly suppose many piano tuners that use digital tuners, also rely on their ear a great deal. No two are the same, and requires evaluation computers are not entirely capable of. Rather than concentrating on a computer screen or digital tuning device to inform the tuner, our ears are faster and provide a direct link to all the human assets. Think of the “Mona Lisa” generated by a computer program or purely by the heart and hand of the artist. They would likely both be very remarkable. But the former would be like science and the latter art.

The piano tuners that the professionals choose are consistently primarily aural tuners. From the concert stage, recording studio, or the most critical pursuit of the art of piano performance or just beginning lessons, there is no substitute for the artfully tuned acoustic piano. Computers and digital devices have their place and can inform our understanding, but cannot substitute for the experience of a well-trained aural tuner. In the same manner, digital pianos are “clinical” and each note sounds exactly the same each time, while an acoustic piano will vary slightly yet profoundly each time it is played and the sympathetic resonance of the natural stringed harp play a very important role, that you will begin to miss the more you play a digital piano.

Jack Johnson
Senior Technician and Founder