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Things You Need to Know About Your Pianoow Often Should a Piano Be Serviced ?

How Often Should a Piano be Serviced?

Most manufacturers recommend servicing at least two times a year to keep the piano sounding at its best, and three or four times during a new piano’s first year. Piano tuning is the adjustment of tuning pins so that all the strings are of the proper tension. Instability in tuning is due to elasticity of piano wire, and changes in the wood and felt components as the humidity changes. This instability is especially pronounced during the first year or so.

An out-of-tune piano can discourage even novice musicians. All pianos are specifically designed to the international pitch standard of A-440 cycles per second and will not sound their best when not in tune.  Regular maintainance also can prevent expensive repairs in the future.

During each regular service call, I will tune the piano as well as inspect the action, keys, and pedals, tighten pinblock bolts, and alert you to any repairs or adjustments that may be needed. I will do minor adjustments for no extra charge. 

If a piano has dropped significantly  in pitch due to a lack of regular tuning, a pitch raise may be necessary. This requires a "double" tuning, once to roughly raise the pitch and stabilize the overall tension, then again to fine tune. I do not charge extra for this, however it is likely that the piano will need another tuning withing a few weeks. It's best to have the piano tuned on a regular basis to prevent this tuning instability . 

Humidity Control

It’s important to keep your piano away from a heating register or air conditioning vent, fireplaces, doors, windows, and direct sunlight. Try to maintain a constant temperature and humidity in the room where it is placed.

Changes in humidity are the enemy of wood, of which many important parts of the piano are made: the pinblock, the soundboard, and the bridge. Minor cracks can cause difficulties, and major cracks could cause catastrophies. Also, the main reason pianos go out of tune is because of humidity changes. 

A humidity control system is one of the best things you could do for your piano.  Humidity control lessens the amount it will go out of tune, and maintains the integrity of the wood parts. It also prevents rust on the strings and sticking keys. 

What Makes a Good Piano ? 

When Leonard Bernstein was asked what type of music he liked, he said: “If it sounds good, it is good.” Similarly, if you are pleased with the way your piano sounds, feels, and looks, then it’s a good one. I have my own opinions about which pianos I like, but I am not in the business of making judgements about whether you made the “right” purchase or not. 

Having said that, I will note that if you are in the market for a piano, keep in mind that this is an instrument you and/or your children will be making music with for many years.  A new student needs the best piano you can afford, because a bad instrument can be very frustrating and actually form bad habits. A good piano helps the student learn good control. 

A great book for any piano owner or potential owner is Larry Fine's The Piano Book. It includes descriptions of the many different kinds of pianos,  their internal workings, how to maintain them, and a comprehensive guide to virtually all piano makes with candid commentary compiled from technicians from all over. He debunks many of the myths that piano dealers will sometimes use to fool their customers. 

Links to More Piano Facts & Fun  --

My YouTube Channel My lectures "Piano Technology for the Musician", including "Harmony and Piano Tuning"
The PTG Website, which points to a wealth of resources for owners, potential owners, as well as technicians.
The Wikipedia entry on Pianos
The collection of historical musical instruments at the University of Michigan. There's a virtual tour including pictures and sound samples. 
Inside a Piano A great summary of how a piano action works, by Annie Grieshop.
Musical Tuning An overview of musical pitch and tuning systems.
Lectures on Piano Acoustics Excellent articles about the fundamentals of piano acoustics, published by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Includes illustrations and sound samples.