Repairs: Tuning

Tuning is the process of changing the sizes (and rarely the locations) of tone holes, and sometimes adding or removing material in the bore, to bring an instrument into optimum tune with itself. A well-in-tune instrument should play all notes in tune with the same, or a linearly increasing, breath pressure. This frees the player from having to adjust each note in a piece of music.

Not all instruments can be gotten “perfectly” in tune—in fact, almost all will still have one or two notes which require adjustment or an alternate fingering. However, if either the amount of adjustment required is substantially minimized or the number of adjustments greatly decreased (or some combination of both), the work is worthwhile.

Attempting to adjust an out-of-tune instrument while playing causes problems in several ways. By introducing one or more additional technical issues (e.g., varying the breath pressure in a rapidly changing manner or using alternate fingerings), the player cuts down on the amount of attention which they can give to musical matters as opposed to the technique of playing their instrument. Also, changes (other than very small ones) to breath pressure are audible as changes in the tonal color of the instrument. Such changes should be made for their own sake, and those imposed by technical concerns may not be consistent with your musical goals. Likewise, any change in dynamics resulting from blowing one note louder or softer than the next to tune it also carry with them various shades of accent which may not be placed in musically appropriate places.

Sometimes it is necessary to voice a recorder before tuning, as voicing can vary the volume of the windway, and thus the amount and speed of the air, which directly influences tuning. This entails an additional charge for voicing.

Tuning a recorder can also change its tone and response, for the resonances of the various harmonics which make up an instrument’s sound are changed, generally by strengthening.

Tuning of cornetti, oboes, shawms, early bassoons, and other early woodwinds is also available. Price will be quoted on examination. I try to keep prices low, but some of these instruments may take substantially more time than most recorders.