Why Impact Tuning?

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A properly designed impact tuning lever offers many benefits whether you are just learning to tune pianos or a professional with many years of experience. For aspiring piano technicians, impact tuning technique is faster and easier to learn. It is possible to be tuning pianos like a pro in much shorter time than if you learned with only a traditional tuning lever. You will also be learning a method that is far easier on your body than the standard tuning lever method, reaping benefits for years to come.

Tuning a vertical piano with a standard tuning lever requires the technician to strain directly against the pin, often in an uncomfortable arm and body position adding stress and taking a physical toll over time. The technique relies significantly more on upper body strength for control, especially when tuning pianos with tight tuning pins. However, impact levers gradually accelerate a moving weight to transfer energy into the pin, minimizing body strain. If you have neck, shoulder, arm, wrist, or hand problems, impact tuning can be a true relief.

Several impact levers have been produced in the past, but were far too heavily weighted to allow fine tuning, with force varying from 150% to as much as 200% more than needed! When the force applied is too great or off balance, fine control for tuning is difficult to impossible. Many tuners have tried impact levers and given up because of unwieldy design and sloppy construction. The CyberHammer design places a 1 inch (2.5cm) diameter 7oz (198g) weight at a 7.5 inch (19cm) radius. This ratio allows the tuner enough thrust for tight pins and pitch raises without sacrificing extremely fine manipulation of piano tuning pins, yet the weight remains as light as possible with dimensions that work well in the piano.

There are four basic parts to the CyberHammer's much-improved impact lever design: the extension assembly, head, shaft, and weight. The extension assembly, which includes the tuning tip, pivots 45 degrees in the head. The head is connected to the weight by the spine, or shaft.

The impact tuning method uses the forearm muscles to throw a small weight which impacts the tuning pin and jerks the pin either sharp or flat, thus counteracting the static friction between the tuning pin and the pinblock. The tuner controls both the length of the throw and the force applied to vary the effect on the tuning pin and string.

This method makes tuning easier to learn for beginners since it minimizes two very nasty effects:

1) Torque on the pin. As a traditional lever slowly moves the pin in the pinblock, torque is applied unevenly along its length. The impact lever predictably moves the whole pin in the pinblock at once in a single jerk motion. The pin is more uniformly "set" in the block.

2) Unpredictably bending the pin (aka "flagpoling"). Since the tuner has very little leverage on the pin,it is difficult to accidentally leave the pin bent in a way which will affect the pitch.

Minimizing these two tuning stability problems enables new tuners to focus on setting the pitch and the string, and they achieve stable, accurate results much more quickly. We have seen many people learn to tune with amazing stability in just a few months. Once new tuners have mastered the basics with impact tuning technique, learning traditional tuning technique on grand pianos is much easier.

Our standard impact lever is designed to work particularly well with vertical pianos. For Grand pianos we recommend our Grand CyberHammer. The Reyburn CyberHammer is 100% made in the USA and equipped with a high quality European Taffijn tuning tip.

Impact tuning is not difficult to master with time and commitment. Most new tuners find impact tuning to be intuitive and easy to learn. However, as it is very different from traditional tuning lever skills, it is common to require time and tunings before becoming comfortable with the new skill.

How to use the CyberHammer:

The easiest way to hold the impact lever is with the hand near the tuning tip end, as close as possible to the rotating extension. The grip can be with the extension between the small and ring finger, or with all fingers just above the extension. Loosely hold the lever and fling the weight lightly to the left or right. Do not force the lever into the pin, rather allow the weight to impact the pin freely. The lever can rotate about 45 degrees.

The amount of impact on the tuning pin may be varied by throwing the weight with more or less force or by using a portion of the 45 degree arc. Tuning becomes intuitive as you learn to combine both techniques.

Experienced tuners: Begin by using the impact lever for pitch changes only. Do not try fine tuning for time sensitive customers until you feel completely comfortable in pitch raises. Many find they are tempted to give up on impact tuning after a few pianos. Steel yourself to stick with it! Once learned, impact tuning is as fast, accurate, and stable as traditional technique. It takes persistence, determination and time. You will be glad you did in the long run, and your new skills will preserve your body and your ability to make a living tuning pianos.

Impact tuning technique seems easier to learn for beginners than experienced technicians. Many find they need to pitch raise many pianos before they feel confident enough to fine tune with it. Learning impact tuning pays off big long term with less stress on your body! If you persevere, one day after a pitch raise you will find you've forgotten to switch to your traditional lever for the fine tuning. At this point you have graduated to a full-fledged impact tuner!

For pianos with very tight pinblocks, a weight riser is available to add mass and increase the swing radius. Simply unscrew the weight and screw the riser on between the weight and the handle.