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#ThursdayWorshipThoughts 05.31.18

You Can Tune A Piano…


The American rock band REO Speedwagon released an album in the late 1970’s called “You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish”. I don’t know why, but that is really funny to me.

Let’s get super practical and talk about one of the foundational aspects of leading worship: tuning.

If you are leading worship from a keyboard, you probably don’t have to worry too much about this all-important part of leading worship. However, if you are leading worship (or are a part of the band) with any stringed instrument (including the piano), then you NEED to be in tune. Here are a couple of tips (in no particular order) to help you to that end.

Invest in a good tuner, and use it! Even if you have no other gear on stage with you, you should have a tuner! There are many different kinds of tuners available. You can use a clip on or an in-line (stomp box pedal or rack mount). There are pros and cons to each type of tuner you could use. Whatever your preference, just be sure that you have one, and that you are using it.

It is a good idea to tune between songs. Many people falsely assume that once their instrument is in tune it will stay that way for the entire musical set. This may be true, but I wouldn’t count on it (unless, of course, you are playing a piano). I personally try to check tuning between every song (if the transition allows), and often even in the middle of songs (whenever my instrument is not needed at that moment). A tuner with a mute function is key here!

The age of your strings matters! If you are playing a piano, there is not much you can do to change the tuning on a weekly basis. I would still recommend having the piano professionally tuned at a minimum of once per year. For every other stringed instrument, the age of your strings really matters. Guitar strings, especially, are susceptible to going out of tune with age. I would recommend making sure that any guitar strings you use on stage are less than one month old (by that I mean the strings were put on less than one month beforehand).

Change ALL of the strings. If I am in the middle of a set and a string breaks, I will try to quickly replace it with a single string. However, in most other applications, it is best to change ALL of the strings. This is because new strings are brighter and old strings are dull. The new string will literally be louder than the older strings and will give your instrument a poor tonal balance.

New strings need to be stretched. If you walk on stage with brand new strings that have not been stretched, you will be fighting the tuning for the entire set. When I am finished re-stringing, I always tune, stretch the strings, retune, stretch the strings again, and retune again.

Always re-tune when putting on or taking off a capo. The capo is a marvelous tool that allows you to play your preferred chord voicing in a completely different key. I love using a capo. However, no capo is perfect (regardless of what the marketing team says!) Every time that I put a capo on or take a capo off, I re-tune my strings to make sure they are in tune.

Intonation matters. If the intonation of an instrument has not been properly set, you will never get the instrument in tune across the board. Many times I have witnessed guitar players strum chords that are nicely in tune within the first five frets, but then they jump up to the twelfth fret and beyond for a lead part that is heinously out of tune. Even though their fingers are technically on the correct frets, they are not hitting the right notes. Intonation matters.

Pressing too hard changes the note. Even if the intonation of an instrument has been properly set, the player’s touch matters immensely. If you press too hard on the correct fret, you will no longer be playing the correct note.

For a printable version of this article, click here.

Artwork provided by my good friend, Brooke Gehman, an authentic and wonderful man of God, devoted follower of Christ, and an amazing husband and father. Brooke is a gifted Worship Leader, an incredible artist, and a Potter by trade (check out his website).

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