Having realised that I rarely write anything about the tuning work that I do, I decided that I better ammend the ommission since, after all, it is at the core of what I do. So this is more of a general introduction to the process and a video which is probably too long showing part of what I am doing on the first and most important day of the tuning process.
Percussion instruments by their very nature will obviously go out of tune because they are being struck with beaters. Additionally, wooden note bars in particular are subjected to atmospheric variations which also adversely affects the tuning. Finally there are all those instruments that have just never been tuned properly in the first instance.
When I first set up on my own the very first machine I bought, and the most expensive, was the best tuner available. Since then I have continually invested in equipment to enable me to do a better job, for instance I now have microphones, signal splitters, multiple tuners, tone generators, even strobe lights. Then there is the machinery dedicated to tuning, most of which I have had to make myself because they are just not commercially available. Finally, now I have built my own workshop, I even have a specific room to do the tuning in, designed into the plans so that my climatic control systems can be more effective as opposed to them struggling to modify the whole workshop.
My attitude is simple; I am an instrument maker, therefore the ability to tune instruments to the highest standards is at the core of what I do.
This blog post follows on from 1187: Premier 600 Xylo (pt 1) After all the xylo notes have been varnished, they get tuned and resealed. The last part of the job is to service the frame. The note pegs on these Premier xylophones are solid rubber mouldings. Because they are natural rubber they do age… Read more »
The first part of this blob post is Vintage Premier Xylo (part 1) After the note bed is completed, I make the frame that the instrument sits on. The first thing I do is make the top and bottom transoms, which are either end of the legs. The top transom is a known length as… Read more »
It is always nice to receive a pile of bits and asked to turn it into a usable instrument. The xylo is actually complete, including the frame, however requirements and expectations have moved on somewhat since this was made. The first thing I need to do is get the note bed repaired. All the joints… Read more »
I have an old Premier xylo in for refurbishment. First job is to refinish the note bars which have water damage in the varnish. So the bars are stripped of all the old varnish Day 1: There are three ways to remove varnish: heat, abrasives, chemicals. Heat poses a high risk of scorching the wood.… Read more »
An old Premier xylophone in for tuning and repair. There are two main design issues with this instrument, and a further complication: The note rails sag in the centre mainly because of the joint, but fundamentally because thin wall tube isn’t strong enough. The simple solution is to weld the joints in place to create… Read more »
Another xylo in for tuning. There is some edge damage on the accidentals in the middle of the instrument. Close up below: The white residue is superglue – precisely the wrong thing to use. Although it is available in different viscosities, the most readily available brand is way too thin, and penetrates too readily then… Read more »
Due to the use of hard beaters, xylophones are prone to face and edge damage. Whilst it is easy to see the wood splintering at the edges, damage to the face is harder to see, but both will reduce resonance, and of course affect the tuning. Vibrations don’t only travel along the length of a… Read more »
A west end show is going on tour and they have a marimba tuning problem; the marimba is tuned to A440Hz, but the musical samples are recorded at A442Hz. So the notes have come to me for re-tuning. During the first cycle of tuning, I make a record of where the notes are presently, the… Read more »