How often should a piano be tuned?
Once a year for most pianos, although it depends on it's environment and type of use. If the seasonal changes and fluctuating humidity are affecting tuning stability, or the piano is old and has loose tuning pins, more often might be necessary. A piano will generally need tuning after it has been moved, and high use pianos in schools, churches, and other institutions, may need to be tuned quarterly or monthly. Pianos in concert halls are normally tuned before each performance.
What is a pitch raise?
A piano drops in pitch over the years due to seasonal humidity variation, string stretching, and playing. A piano which is allowed to go untuned for a long time will be more expensive to bring back up to pitch because of the time involved - the initial tuning will be unstable. A pitch raise is a preliminary piano tuning performed prior to a regular tuning, and it increases the overall tension on your piano’s structure back to it's originally designed weight. A pitch correction can be one of the most ‘painful’ experiences a piano can go through during its lifetime. There are over 200 strings in your piano that must be adjusted and tightened, which increases pressure on the soundboard, bridges, and plate. Each of these strings holds approximately 150-200 lbs. of tension, a combined total of 17-22 tons. There is also an inherent risk in breaking strings because there are four to five bearing points a piano string must pass over from beginning to end.
If your piano has not been tuned for several years and has fallen in pitch, it will need careful pitch raising to return it to the correct pitch for the instrument - A above middle C at 440hz, This can be tested yourself by isolating different strings from various keys around the center of the piano, and checking them with a tuning app or machine. Anything more than 50 cents flat; for example a C reading as a B, or an A reading as an Ab, will require an additional pitch raise fee if A440 is desired in the tuning session.
How can I ensure a stable, long lasting piano tuning?
The first easiest thing you can do, is to place your piano in a suitable area of your home - see below. By controlling changes and extremes in humidity your piano will hold a tune longer, and the instrument will last longer. Maintain as consistent a temperature in your home as possible, and don’t move your piano after it’s been tuned. A safe humidity range for a piano is around 30 – 50% and ideally 40-45%. For a church that is mostly unoccupied during the week, optimal temperature settings would be not lower than 50°F / 10°C in the winter, and not higher than 80°F / 26°C in the summer. The best control of humidity can be achieved by installing a humidity control system like Damp Chaser: http://dampchaser.co.nz or Life Saver. Playing the piano is also a factor in how long a piano stays in tune. Hard and frequent playing eventually has an unsettling affect on tuning, and no playing at all can also be bad where strings begin settling, becoming riskier to tune later. Read more about the affects of changing humidity on a piano here.
Where is the best place to keep my piano?
When choosing the proper site for the piano in your home, keep in mind that no piano is immune to the many variables found in today's homes. The wood which makes up approximately 70% of your piano, reacts much the same as we do to fluctuations in our homes' temperature and humidity. Where you choose to place your piano can help to mitigate the effects of these variables and protect the stability of your piano's regulation, tuning, and voicing. For acoustic reasons, an upright piano should ideally be placed 8 or more inches away from the wall, to allow the sound to resonate out the back of the instrument.
- Preferably against an inside wall, otherwise an insulated outside wall.
- Away from windows and direct sunlight
- Away from heating and air conditioning vents
- A good distance from a fireplace, stove, or heater.
- Away from an outside door.
- Not on concrete slab or brick, unless placed on a rug.
- Not in a damp basement, screened porch, garden room or kitchen.
I've done everything above, but why do I still have problems with tuning stability?
After assessing climate and placement, then there are other issues that could be causing the tuning to go out. Each string is wound around a steel tuning pin which is driven into a hole in a plank of wood called the pin block. Over the years seasonal fluctuations in humidity may cause the pin block to loosen its grip on the tuning pins. Some remedies exist which may help correct this condition and provide some additional years of use, but controlling the humidity is the best way to prevent this problem from happening in the first place. Apart from the most common cause of a loose tuning pin, there are occasional problems related to string friction, false beats, and poor rendering at the capo and bridge. A registered technician is needed to help with these problems.
How old is my piano?
Dating your piano can often be done with a simple online search of the piano's brand name, along with the words "serial" "range" or "date". You will also need to find the serial number somewhere inside the piano. Some online resources like the Online Piano Atlas can be useful for this. More specialized brands might have their own website with serial ranges listed.
What can I look to assess a used piano?
What area do you service?
I don't charge extra for those living within the radius below, but for clients outside the radius below I charge a $20 travel fee.