How often should a piano be tuned?
On average, in a fairly stable environment a piano should be tuned at least every six months to a year. Any longer than a year and extra work may be required to bring it back into stable tuning. Pianos exposed to changing humidity, such as a home heated in the winter but humid in summer, will need attention from a tuner more often. Any piano that is moved to a new location will need tuning. It may be best to let the piano adjust to the new environmental conditions before tuning, if possible; otherwise the piano may need tuning again soon as it adjusts to new humidity levels. New pianos usually require tuning several times in the first year until the new strings settle.
Why do pianos go out of tune?
The main reasons are changes in humidity and temperature. Much of a piano's workings are wood, which shrinks and expands as humidity changes. For example, as the home heating season begins, and dry, heated air replaces more the humid air of other seasons, the wood dries and shrinks. This reduces tension on the soundboard, and the notes sound flat. Other common reasons a piano goes out of tune include the jostling of a move, or loose tuning pins that slip. If the same notes tend to go flat time after time, it may be that the tuning pins are slipping, reducing tension on the strings, thus making them flat. And of course, the more often a piano is played the more likely the tuning will be affected.
What is a "pitch raise" or "pitch adjustment"?
A pitch raise is essentially an extensive tuning that must be done on a piano that is very out of tune, such as one left un-tuned for several years or more. When a piano is left un-tuned for a long time, so many strings become out of tune that the tension across the entire soundboard changes. In this condition, tuning one string will affect the tuning on other strings. A vicious cycle ensues where previously tuned notes lose tune every time a new note is tuned, like a dog chasing its tail. To correct for this, the tuner will do a pitch raise, where every string's tension is adjusted in one pass, to bring the tension on the entire soundboard close to what is desired. Then, often after a resting period, the tuner can perform the precise tuning of individual strings without affecting the others. Several passes may be needed before the pitches stabilize. Click here
to learn more about pitch raises from the Piano Technician's Guild.
The three T's: tuning, touch and tone
Much like your car, a piano needs regular professional care to function well. Most of the time we fill the car with gas and we're off, but at longer intervals we need to do oil changes, and change brakes, tires and other important components that wear with normal use. Your piano is no different. Contact me to discuss the many other important maintenance steps that fall under touch and tone. Many of these maintenance steps are often overlooked by piano owners but can have just as big an impact of piano enjoyment as tuning.
Many customers opt for a half day or full day service package, which includes a tuning. See the Rates section below for details.
Sticky keys? Pedal squeaking or not working? Chipped keytop? Other problems? I can deal with most repairs on site for $85 for the first hour, $65 for each additional hour. Parts cost is extra and varies by each situation. Some repairs require removal of parts and components to my workshop, in which case a price will be quoted.
Maintaining a stable humidity pays both in the short term for tuning stability and in the long term by reducing stress to the wood components and finish brought on by humidity fluctuations. In Southern Ontario in-home relative humidity ranges from 30% or less in winter months to more than 60% in summer. Solutions to controlling humidity run from a simple dish of water inside upright pianos, to inexpensive room humidifiers, to full blown humidity control systems installed in the piano like the Piano Life Saver system. I am a Certified Installer.
I monitor humidity and temperature on every visit and record it on my invoice.
Want to keep an eye on it for yourself? Visit your local hardware or home improvement store and ask for a $20-$30 hygrometer to keep near the piano.
If you'd like to know more about the Piano Life Saver system, visit www.pianolifesaver.com
or contact me for a current system price.
Many older pianos are candidates for reconditioning or full restoration. Most large high-quality instruments can be rebuilt for one-half to two-thirds the cost of a comparable new piano, making rebuilding a cost-effective option for fine pianos. In addition, a sentimental attachment to a piano may justify the investment to restore or recondition it.
Spending several thousand dollars to restore a piano that is fifty, seventy, or even a hundred years old or more is a large sum of money to be sure. But it's my experience that with the right piano, you could end up with a vastly superior musical instrument than if you spent the same amount on a new piano.
To view additional information on some of my past projects please review my facebook
page or YouTube
Contact me to arrange for an assessment if you are interested in exploring the restoration of your piano.
Click or tap on any item to learn more. HST will be added to all prices. Rates are subject to change at any time.