One of the great challenges a piano tuner faces is the spinet piano.  Spinets often are riddled with false beats and distortion.

But, the greatest challenge is achieving good beat speed progression on a spinet.  As you begin to expand the temperament octave down towards the bass by half-steps, all sorts of trouble happens when you reach the wound strings. Suddenly, the rapidly beating intervals (RBIs) go haywire.  

Spinets are already a bit rough around the edges. If the harmony is rough too, especially where a lot of chording takes place, around the plain/wound transition area, the piano really will sound unpleasant.

One solution is to use an unequal temperament.  A 1/10 Comma Meantone temperament works quite well on spinets.  So does a mild well temperament. 

But, what if the customer prefers Equal Temperament?

One solution is to set the temperament from D3 to D4.

By incorporating wound strings into the initial temperament octave, you have automatically compensated for the plain wire to wound string transition.

D3 to D4 temperament:

Tune A4

A3 to A4

3rd/10th check

the D’s to A3, check the D’s with A4

Build a ladder of 3rds from D3 to D4

Finish your temperament; refine your temperament.

You may have to fiddle around a bit with the width of the D3-D4 octave as you begin building the temperament. One advantage is that the RBIs are slower, making them easier to hear.

Next, expand the temperament into the bass by chromatic 1/2-steps down to D2, doing your aural checks as you go.   You may need to go back and slightly refine your original temperament octave to achieve a good D2 to D4 temperament.  You may need to adjust  the placement of D3 and D4  too, as you check for good beat speed progression across the two octave span.  You now have a two octave temperament.

Expanding the temperament into the bass first will prevent you from tuning octaves that are too wide as you expand upwards from the temperament.  

Next, start expanding the D3 to D4 temperament upwards to about D5 or so, using the notes in the D2 to D3 octave as a double check, that is , using double octaves, to prevent overly wide octaves (and too rapidly beating RBIs) as you go up.

At this point, you should have a good 3 octave temperament, from D2 to D5. You should need to do little or no modification in the original D3 to D4 octave as you work your way up.

If you are a C-fork tuner, you could try:

C5 to the fork.

C4 to C5

C3 to C4

Check C3 to C5

Fiddle with the C3 and C4 until everything works out.

Then a C3 to C4 temperament.

Octave tuning can be particularly challenging on a spinet.

Sometimes, it makes sense to concentrate on which partial matches you want to use.

Sometimes, the ear wants to just listen to the sum total of the interval rather than over analyzing, particularly with octaves.

If the octaves on the spinet want to be heard this way, go with it. Beatless is more of a zone, a very narrow zone, than exact point. Let the other intervals help you finesse the exact width of the octave.

If you are an aural tuner, this is one way to easily achieve a very nice, harmonious, spinet equal temperament tuning. 


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