I first met Dr Sanderson in 1977 at the North Bennet Street School in Boston MA.
Sanderson had been receiving instruction from our instructor the head of the Piano Technology Department (Bill Garlick) and simultaneously working on his Sight-o-Tuner (soon to become the Accu-Tuner in later incarnations.)
Bill Garlick had such great ears that in the 1970s he acted as the barometer for Dr Sanderson’s work and during Sanderson’s visit to our school one morning it became apparent that Bill Garlick was invaluable in aiding Sanderson’s work on the early Accu-Tuner.
The Boston Globe has provided the following information.
Albert E. Sanderson, a Harvard instructor whose piano-tuning device changed the art 30 years ago,
died of cancer Sunday at Concord Park in West Concord. He was 80 and had lived in Carlisle most of his life.
He held many patents, including eight for his Accu-Tuner for piano.
Born in Bethlehem, Pa., Mr. Sanderson was the eldest of three brothers. His father was an engineer for Bethlehem Steel before moving to Boston, where he became a professor at Northeastern University.
Dr. Sanderson and his wife, Mary (McGettigan), were married for 59 years.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1949 and his master’s degree in engineering and physics in 1950, all from Harvard, before working as an electronics engineer for Aircraft Radio Corp. in New Jersey and General Radio Co. of Concord.
Dr. Sanderson received a doctorate in applied physics from Harvard University in 1969.
From 1960 to 1973, he was director of the Harvard Electronics Design Center, which made custom instruments for Harvard research departments. He also taught engineering and physics at Harvard for eight years
Mr. Sanderson decided he could figure out how to tune his piano. He took tuning lessons and dreamed up a device that used mathematical formulas to measure how true a piano’s tuning was.
In 1972, he launched Inventronics Inc., now in Tyngsborough, to handle the licensing of patents and manufacturing of inventions, including the Sanderson Accu-Tuner.
Among early fans of the device was Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler. “It is a remarkable instrument which every tuner should have and which every orchestra, music director, and those who tune their own instruments could well use,” Fiedler wrote in a 1974 testimonial letter.
The response from piano tuners was lukewarm. Mr. Sanderson hit the convention circuit and trade shows to promote his invention and to try to convince professional tuners that he wasn’t trying to replace them.
“He developed an instrument that matched the ear in many ways,” his son Paul said. “He’d never say it was better, but he would say it was a great aid to the ear.”
His sons’ most enduring memory of their father is of a hardworking man clutching a pencil and legal pad.
“He always seemed to have something, an equation or some sort of problem, he was solving,” David said.
In addition to his wife, sons, and brother, Mr. Sanderson leaves another brother, Richard of Peterborough, N.H.; two daughters, Linda Dwyer of Hadley and Kathryn Fox of Upton; and 11 grandchildren.
Matching The Verituner ‘Box’ To The Piano
A simple method to pre-test and adjust your Verituner to the piano presented in a short presentation, in Chicago land by Dr Woodwind
If you’re an electronic tuner how do you know that the electronic tuning you have calculated fits the piano in front of you?
Let’s consider for a moment how we tune a unison. Pick any note here in the middle we are going to mute off one string till we are satisfied with it. Pick the next string,we may go over we may go below and we try to find the best place for that unison.
I’m going to apologize for competing with the percussionists today, this is like practice room row!
We’re going to look at tuning octaves the same way we tune a unison, so the idea is you go ahead however your machine asks you to do it calculate the tuner to the best of your ability, taking your samples, we are gonna tune A4 of course. Now we have muted off so we only have one string to clear the string you can set that string as best you can allow that string will let you tune in it on the piano in front of you and then lets go down and see A3 where the machine wants us to set A3 which will be our temperment octave, again tune that as well as you can, and then just play it as you can, and just play it as an octave.
That’s pretty good but let’s see if we can do a little better. I want you to just treat that as a unison we are gonna go a little lower and then a little higher and try to find the pocket.
So we’re not gonna worry about 4/2 octave or 6/3 octave 2/1 octave just how does it sound the best place where it sounds this is about the best I can make it.
So now we are using the Verituner as a bookmark now. You notice that I have my ear has told me, one, two, three cents sharper that what the machine says.
What you need to do is understand your own machine well enough to know how to change the tuning parameters.
Um, these are
these are different things you can do to alter the tuning on your Verituner you match what the tuning is on your ear. Now on the Verituner I’ve gotta go find a different style that will match, more closely. I have them all numbered so seven is a fairly wide style need to go up closer, um, to find something closer that might work for this piano and once you have pianos under your belt you’ll know before hand you know if I see a Baldwin upright I know what style to pick that will work for it.
And again A4 just double check it, that’s good. Drop down to A3, and there we go we are right on the money. Go ahead and go down to A2, tune it the way the machine says, and drop down the octave and then check it, that’s got a roll to it, don’t really like that either (more tuning) that’s a little better. We need to go a little flatr, we need to find a style that will have a little lower section in that part of the piano, there we go and then just work your way, as far as you feel comfortable as far as you (pause, more tuning)
So basically what we are doing is setting up bookmarks, setting up a road map for the machine to fit the tuning in between, because if you give it endpoints it can calculate in between fairly well. And then it’s up to you to find out how to manipulate your own machine. There are forums on line that can help you, you can ask questions on line of people how to set that.
But, the key concept here is to know you can tune a unison and tune two strings together simply by ear with no checks, you can also do two strings an octave apart by ear, double check with the double octave or triple octave as you work your way up to find the pocket so you can build a good ladder an appropriate ladder for this particular instrument
If you really want to get picky you may check Eb which is half way between the A’s, and also check some of those.
Again it is a trade off between how much time you want to spend before you actually start tuning the piano.
Hopefully this will help you, this approach as you work with it, will help you shorten the tune time so that you don’t have the entire piano tuned and then say well- I need to change this, I need to change that, I need to change that.
It should start you off with a tuning that should at least fit your A’s and that everything in between should be a lot closer than if you just picked an average tuning or the default tuning that comes with the box
(starts tuning again)
A concept of perfection…
expands from the philosophical to….
the legal to…
the grammatical to…
biological and also to the musical.
In music exists…
the perfect interval-
octave fifth fourth and perfect unison.
Of course the piano tuner is perpetually in pursuit of the perfect tuning
for each and every tuning as a mission and lofty goal
Regardless of definition,
resorting to words like excellent, complete, exact, without flaw, pure, absolute, expert, unmitigated, having all,
the tuner focus is on that endeavor to bring nearer to perfection
improving as fully possible to be unblemished and faultless…
whether it can be said that this condition exists or does not.
But certainly to be ‘most’ perfect and always more perfect as modification can provide
for all purposes,
although there are some that feel words that modify as
more, most, nearly, almost and rather should not be combined with perfect…
since perfect is an absolute,
a yes-no condition that cannot be said to exist in varying degree.
Perhaps then a piano tuner
is with qualification the ‘perfecter’ or the ‘perfectest’
to account for all varieties available or imaginable and ideal for all purposes
is then also
the goal of
Jan 2008 volume 23 issue 3
attempts to describe this perfection in the well covered topic
Recording a real one? Chosing a sampled one?
As is suggested ‘Read this first’ and travel into the thought process behind that pursuit of
as only SOUND ON SOUND could cover
Topics such as what type of mic to use, sample libraries, ambient techniques,
horizontal and vertical dispersion,
spaced stereo and getting an even sound are covered here.
If you need to consider where to set up the piano and mic position
this article is for you to really help narrow down choices in your quest for
Try sounding these partials. This is a demonstration of how a piano tuner thinks as he listens to the partials on the piano as he is tuning.