Automatic tuning of high piano tones

Sneha Shah, Vesa Välimäki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
118 Downloads (Pure)


Piano tuning is known to be difficult because the stiffness of piano strings causes the tones produced to be inharmonic. Aural tuning is time consuming and requires the help of a professional. This motivates the question of whether this process can be automated. Attempts at automatic tuning are usually assessed by comparing the Railsback curve of the results with the curve of a professional tuner. In this paper we determine a simple and reliable rule for tuning the high tones of a piano with the help of a listening test. This rule consists of matching the two tones in an octave interval so that the first partial frequency of the upper tone becomes exactly the same as the second partial frequency of the lower tone. This rule was rated best among four tuning rules that were compared in the test. The results found are explained using a beat-based analysis, and are consistent with some previous studies. They are also tested against the existing method of using Railsback curves, and it is shown that comparison using Railsback curves is an unreliable method of assessing different tunings. The findings from this paper can be used to create a complete automatic tuner that could make the process of piano tuning quick and inexpensive.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1983
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Acoustics
  • Audio signal processing
  • Music
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Spectral analysis


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