Piano tuning is not for the faint of heart, though it certainly can be learned if you are so inclined. However, it will take a great deal of patience and a willingness to study the principles of tuning. To our knowledge, an accurate and complete guide to tuning a piano properly doesn't exist on the web. There are many incomplete and inaccurate methods around though. If, in the future, a definitive guide is found on the web we will certainly post a reference to it here.
In the meantime, the absolute best resources for learning how to properly tune a piano yourself are Affleck's Piano Tuning Course and Floyd Stevens' Complete Course in Professional Piano Tuning. More resources and books are also listed to the left. If one can't dedicate the time to properly learn how to tune a piano then the best option is to hire a qualified piano tuner. It isn't advisable to dive into such an endeavor lightheartedly, because it will end up costing you more money in the long run. To understand why tuning a piano is fraught with difficulties please read the information below.
The internet is awash with incorrect advice about tuning a piano. Typically, one is advised to use an electronic tuning device, like those used for a guitar, to tune each note to an absolute pitch. Piano tuners often do use electronic tuning devices, but these aren't the $20 chromatic guitar tuners. These are sophisticated devices that measure a piano's inharmonicity and render accurate temperament tuning models (and cost upwards of $1,000!). Furthermore, many of these internet articles make it sound like it's an easy process to learn, which it isn't. Guidance like this is wrong for two primary reasons:
These issues are raised, not to deter the serious-minded novice from learning how to tune a piano, but to alert the casual tinkerer to the difficulties and dangers of tuning a piano themselves. If one earnestly wishes to learn how to tune a piano it can certainly be accomplished - just be aware of the complex nature of such an endeavor. The best recommendations we can give to this person are to study a few good books on tuning in order to prepare yourself.
Another option for the do-it-yourself tuner would be to try some tuning software. One example is the excellent software offered by TuneLab, which can be run on a number of devices: laptops, PDA's, cell phones, etc. They offer a limited trial version and a commercial version, which costs around $300.00. The trial is similar to the commercial version except that there are annoying timed pauses after a set number of notes are tuned, which gets very annoying after a few notes.
TuneLab uses your computer's microphone and shows a visual meter to help you tune each note accurately, much like an electronic tuner does. What makes TuneLab different than a regular electronic tuner is that it first measures your piano's inharmonicity by taking samples across the keyboard. Then, using your piano's specific inharmonicity, it plugs it into whichever tuning temperament method you choose. This gives you an accurate and well-tempered tuning for your piano.