We just want to give a massive shout out to something that's been really helpful in the battle to tune all of Kigali's pianos. It's an app called TuneLab and it's free for Android, so you can use it on your phone or tablet.
It's a kick-ass electric tuning assistant. It really makes life a heck of a lot easier than trying to tune by ear alone.
It also has another extremely funky feature which caused us to shed a little tear of gratitude.
Most of the pianos we see here in Rwanda haven't been tuned in decades. When pianos get really out of tune, they usually need two rounds of tuning. The first to pull the note up above its proper pitch, and the second to fine tune it to its proper pitch.
The reason you need to do this is because, as you pull the notes into tune, you stretch the strings. This exerts a huge amount of pressure on the metal string frame. As a result, the frame changes shape a little, pulled in by the strings. All the strings become a bit looser (flatter) as you tighten.
If you're just tightening a little bit, on an instrument that's relatively in tune, that's no big deal, but on instruments that are heavily out of tune, it can really cause a problem. If you don't perform an over-pull (first tuning) and go straight for fine tuning, you'll discover that all the notes you've tuned will be out of tune again by the time you finish.
We usually do the two tunings on separate days, a couple of weeks apart, to give the strings a chance to settle. But, thanks to TuneLab, life just got a whole lot easier.
There's a special function on the app that listens to how out of tune the piano is, then performs a ridiculously complex mathematical equation and tells you exactly how far above the correct pitch to pull each string so that, by the time you finish, all the strings end up in tune.
We tried it for the first time on the Kawai and it worked like a dream. We'll pop back in a couple of weeks to check whether the tuning has held, but it looks like it'll save a huge amount of time.
Praise be modern technology.