FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
All pianos ~ no matter the make or purchase price ~ require tuning at least once a year. Pianos will go out of tune whether or not they are played.
The main reason pianos go out of tune is due to changes in humidity from season to season, affecting all pianos, new and old, played and not played.
It is a myth that a piano must wait to be tuned after being moved unless there is a significant difference in climate or the environment.
Tuning Advice from the Piano Manufacturers:
Your piano should be tuned at least twice a year. The pitch should be kept at a constant level. When the pitch is frequently lowered or raised, the instrument is much less likely to remain in tune. No matter how expertly a piano is tuned, atmospheric variations and the nature of the piano's construction constantly conspire to bring it off pitch.
Regular service will keep your piano's performance (and your enjoyment) at its peak level. It will also correct "progressive" problems early, before they turn into costly repairs. For these reasons Yamaha strongly recommends that you adopt a schedule of regular service for your piano.
All pianos need to be tuned regularly. The amount of time between tunings for a fine instrument depends on many factors, especially the stability of the temperature and humidity and the amount of use the piano receives. In general, Kawai recommends 2 to 4 tunings per year. However, your piano technician can best recommend the appropriate interval for your specific environmental conditions and use.
Pianos also need to be serviced in ways other than simple tuning. The action mechanism and the hammers are subject to wear through use. Periodic voicing and regulation will keep the piano sounding its best throughout the life of the instrument. In general, if the touch or tone of your piano seems uneven, difficult to control, or the notes do not repeat well, you should speak with your technician about the need for regulation & voicing.
After the first year a piano should be tuned at least twice each year.
Keep in mind that every piano is subject to one or more factors that will make it go out of tune, including:
- Humidity & Temperature changes
- Stretching of strings
- Slipping tuning pins
- Hard use
How often you should tune your piano depends on its condition, the environment in which it is located, and the musical demands of the owner.
A piano which is used infrequently won't "need" to be tuned more than once a year.
A piano that is played regularly and is in good condition would be better off with 2 tunings per year, each time the seasonal humidity changes.
A piano given a daily workout by a professional or serious student might need to be tuned more frequently, maybe 4 times a year or more. At this level of use, it's really up to the individual as well as at what point the tuning starts to affect the piano player’s level of enjoyment while playing the instrument.
Position the piano in an area which is free from temperature fluctuations. Keep it clear of heating and cooling vents, fireplaces, and windows which are not curtained. Direct sunlight will cause the piano’s finish to fade, crack and destabilize the tuning.
Do Not store your piano in the garage. This can cause extensive damage to the soundboard and pin block to the point where the piano is no longer tuneable.
Extreme fluctuations of temperature and humidity will affect the stability and integrity of your piano. Maintain a humidity level of 40 to 45%. Canadian winters are very dry and a room humidifier is helpful during the winter months. A dehumidifier or air conditioner will control the humidity levels during Canadian hot and dry summer months.
Changes in humidity will cause swelling and shrinking of the piano’s wooden parts which will affect the tuning and keyboard touch. Too much humidity will result in dull hammer action and unclear tones, rusting of internal parts and sticking keys.
Avoid sudden temperature changes: When a cold room is warmed suddenly, moisture will condense on the piano strings and other metal parts, causing them to rust. Felt parts will absorb moisture, dulling their action and resulting in unclear sound.
Whether you have an Upright or Grand Piano I suggest that you consider the installation of a Dampp-Chaser Piano Life Saver System. It is a Piano Humidifier/Dehumidifier which is widely recommended by all of the major piano manufacturers.
What is Concert Pitch?
Concert Pitch A440 (A above middle C vibrating at 440 times per second) has been universally accepted as the pitch to which all musical instruments should be tuned. It ensures that when instruments play together they will all be in tune with one another.
Pianos are designed to sound their best when tuned to A440. When your piano’s pitch drops from lack of tuning, the quality of tone suffers.
If the piano is not tuned for a lengthy period of time the pitch will slip far enough that a Pitch Raise may be required to achieve a stable tuning.
What is a Pitch Raise?
Something happens when you don't tune your piano for a long time: every year that passes by, the pitch drops further and further away from where it should be, and it becomes harder for a piano tuner to pull it back up to its proper tension levels. Pianos generally go flat during our long winter months, and do not necessarily rise back up to where they were in the summer.
Technicians have to raise the tension of over 200 strings, which puts a lot of strain on the piano's structure. It's impossible to make such a big jump in pitch and have a stable tuning in one pass. So what they have to do is first raise all the strings to their proper average tension levels, and only then can the piano be accurately tuned. This is called a "pitch raise".
A pitch raise requires more time and effort than a regular tuning, and as a result, a piano technician's fee is a bit higher.
Also, keep in mind that it is highly advisable (usually necessary) to have the piano tuned again within the next 6 months after a pitch raise. This will help keep the tension level of the strings more stable - at the level it should have been in the first place.
Regular tunings - at least once a year (every 6 months is preferable) will prevent the need for a pitch raise in the future.
Regulation is the adjustment of the mechanical aspects of the pianos to compensate for the effects of wear, the compacting and settling of cloth, felt, and buckskin, as well as dimensional changes in wood and wool parts due to changes in humidity.
All upright and grand pianos need periodic regulation to ensure the best performance. Frequency of regulation is dependent upon the amount of use, exposure to climatic changes, and the instrument's quality, age and condition.
The need to schedule a Regulation for your piano may be when you experience sticky keys, uneven keys (some higher than others) uncooperative pedals, squeaks and rattles.
It is necessary for the piano to be well-tuned and regulated before it can be voiced.
Cleaning and Caring for You Piano
Dust your piano regularly: Dust can dull the hammer action and cause noise. Dust the piano frequently with a soft cloth or feather duster and wipe the finish with a soft cloth.
Keep the keyboard clean: The keyboard should be wiped periodically with a soft, dry cloth. Never use cleaners containing alcohol, as the keys will become cracked. If the keyboard is very dirty, wipe it with a cloth dipped in a solution of soap and water and wrung out well. The same cloth should not be used for cleaning the surface of the piano, however. A good habit to cultivate is never to play the piano with dirty hands. That way the keyboard will stay clean for a long time.
Do not place objects on top of the piano: A heavy object may cause poor tone or noisy vibrations if placed on the piano. A vase of flowers may look attractive on the piano, but if it should spill and water enters the piano serious damage can result. Water will rust the metal parts of the piano and damage the hammer and action. Avoid costly accidents and never place anything except sheet music or a metronome on the piano.
Avoid the possibility of the piano coming into contact with the following materials:
- Plastic products.
- Vinyl products.
- Anything containing alcohol.
- Liquids such as cosmetics, insecticides, any kind of aerosol.
- Paint thinner or petroleum based products