Ok, the last two weeks of tips haven’t been the funnest, but this week’s tips are about something we all can do to improve our efficiency.
Tip 4: Move Your Mutes Efficiency
The late Charlie Huether, RPT, claimed that only 30% of the time we spend tuning is spent on tuning; the rest of the time is spent manipulating our tools. Most of the time we spend on tools is spent on the tuning lever and mutes. Translation: if we can move our tuning lever more efficiently (last week’s tips), and move our mutes more efficiently, then our 70% of tool time grows smaller, the tuning time grows bigger, the job time grows smaller, and our profits grow larger.
The most effective way of moving mutes that I’ve found, after experimenting with several different methods, is to mute off the two outer strings of a three string unison, tune the middle string, move the left mute to mute off the outer string of the next unison, tune the left string of the first unison, tune the center string of the second unison, move the mute, tune the right string of the first unison, tune the left string of the second unison, etc. If tuning down, simply reverse the process.
Some recommend tuning from the bottom up, and a recent discussion of this technique sparked a heated debate. I have no intention of sparking it again, but this is generally how I tune, after taking measurements with the ETD. That’s why this method of moving mutes works best for me.
Some say tune from the bottom up, left string, center string, right string. The problem with this method is that it requires moving a mute per every string. The “center, left, right” method requires moving two mutes once per six strings. Much more efficient, in my opinion.
What about using a temperament strip? What I say may spark another debate, but read it first. A temperament strip is an aural tuning tool. Most modern ETDs were designed with the idea that you’re going to tune from the bottom with it, unisons as you go. To spend extra time inserting a temperament strip, and pulling it out one loop at a time, is not the best use of your time. If you use an ETD, I’d encourage you to trust it enough to let it do its job, or at most only test the temperament section AT FIRST. When you’re done with the entire piano, go over and check everything, and make any corrections to the temperament and unisons as necessary.
For aural tuners, I’ve found that tuning the temperament with a strip mute is good, then I tune the unisons of the temperament octave. Then I favor Virgil Smith’s method of whole tone tuning from then on, using the “center, left, right” method described above. This has the benefit of being able to set and refine a good temperament (without having to retune all three strings), while being able to move as efficiently as possible while tuning the octaves.
Again, this is just what I’ve found to be the most effective way to move my mutes. If you’ve found a way you believe to be just as efficient, or more so, than feel free to share. The important thing to remember is that less time spent on tools is more time spent on tuning, and more money in your pocket. (Or, for those of you who don’t prefer to feel like greedy little misers, it’s more food on your family’s table.)