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Piano Tuning

Safeguards Your Investment

Keeping your piano tuned is the most important...and the most misunderstood piano maintenance issue that you will face.

Imagine if somebody purchased a new or used automobile, then wondered if the oil and filters ever need to be changed. Or if they asked their barber or hairdresser how often they should get their hair cut or styled.

Having your piano tuned on a regular schedule by a good piano tuner will protect your investment, as well as provide you with a well-voiced and well-tuned instrument for your greater enjoyment. Many piano tuners will notify you on a regular schedule (like your dentist) when your piano is due for another tuning.

Here are three good questions about tuning:
1. How often should I have my piano tuned?
2. Why do pianos go out of tune?
3. Is it true that pianos should never be placed on an outside wall?

1. How often should I have my piano tuned?
It is wise to have your piano tuned twice a year: once before the holidays, around Thanksgiving; and then again in June or July, as the weather warms. Ideally, a piano tuned four times a year, according to the seasons, sounds at its best. But twice a year is acceptable; once a year is a must!

2. Why do pianos go out of tune?
Larry Fine, author of The Piano Book: Buying & Owning a New or Used Piano, gives the best answer to this question:

"By far, the most important factor causing pianos to go out of tune is the change in humidity from season to season that occurs in most temperate climates, affecting all pianos, good and bad, new and old, played and unplayed. The soundboard, glued down around its perimeter and bellied like a diaphragm in the center, swells up with moisture in the humid season and pushes up on the strings via the bridges on which the strings rest. This causes the strings to be stretched at a higher tension, raising their pitch. In the dry season, the opposite happens. The soundboard releases its moisture to the air and subsides, releasing the pressure on the strings, which then fall in pitch. Unfortunately, the strings don't rise and fall in pitch by exactly the same amount at the same time. The process is more random than that, with the result that the strings no longer sound in harmony with one another and need tuning." (Fine, Larry. The Piano Book: Buying & Owning A New Or Used Piano. Boston: Brookside Press, 4th ed., 2002)

Need a Technician?

There are many fine piano technicians serving the Pacific Northwest. Please feel free to give us a call to see if we know one in your area: (425) 462-1888.

As a practical tuning hint, notice how your piano sounds at different hours of the day. How can it sound so badly out of tune and squirrelly in the morning, and so beautifully in tune in the afternoon? Keep a written or mental "log," and you'll notice that your piano comes into "tune" as your room warms to its average temperature. For the best tuning job, set your thermostat and have your room at its average temperature in time for your piano technician to begin tuning ― never on a cold morning before the furnace has done its job, or on an unusually-hot afternoon if you don’t have air conditioning.

3. Is it true that pianos should never be placed on an outside wall?
In historic homes with single wall construction and drafty, single-pane, windows, keeping the piano away from an outside wall was good advice. Seventy-five years ago “Music Parlors” had massive wooden sliding doors that were kept closed because there was no central heat ― just a fireplace in each room. Today’s homes are built with central heating/air conditioning, adequate insulation, and double-pane-insulated windows that are rated to prevent Ultra Violet rays from bleaching furniture and ruining drapes. The outside wall factor is no longer important in most cases. However, never place your piano near a fireplace, insert, or stove ― or position it over or near a heat register.