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"Every piano is a puzzle," said Al Sanderson, "and what the technician does to bring out its best is under-appreciated. The Accu-Tuner solves the puzzle mathematically." Faced with background noise, cranky spinets, or repeat tunings of a single instrument, Sanderson's invention is a tool that pays off in saved time and consistent results.
More than twenty years after licensing a manually operated precursor to his computerized Accu-Tuner, Sanderson continued to devote himself to the training and practice of piano technology. In 2007 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Piano Technicians Guild, an international organization of individuals who tune, maintain, and rebuild the complex instruments. His collaboration with the guild resulted in its standardized certification test for piano tuners. He also served as curriculum adviser to the piano technology department at Boston's North Bennet Street School, which offers one of the few full-time training programs for piano technicians in the United States.
Sanderson's love of pianos dates to his teens, when he took one apart and successfully reassembled it. He learned to play, but years passed before his avocation connected with his professional career in electronics. After earning his Ph.D. in applied physics, he stayed at Harvard to teach basic electronics and head the Electronics Design Center, which until 1973 provided consulting services and custom-designed equipment to University affiliates.
During that period, he attempted to tune his own five-foot Clarendon grand and came face to face with the effects of the instrument's inharmonicity — the acoustical property that changes the width of semitones along the keyboard. "The piano doesn't follow the conventional rules of music or physics," Sanderson explained.