Tuning a Piano - Your Best Option

Tuning a piano is like getting a medical checkup. It is better to take of things as needed instead of waiting until disaster strikes.

Does your piano really need to be tuned every year? Actually, it should be tuned twice a year, but probably not for the reason you think. Most people think playing the piano causes it to go out of tune.

The number one enemy of piano is excess humidity.

The main reason tuning a piano is necessary is because of climate changes. Changes in humidity are the biggest factor causing a piano to go out of tune. This is not to say that playing will not be a factor. Loud playing or children banging on the piano will cause it to go out of tune. However, that is not the primary cause.

What really happens in a piano is the strings will get tighter or looser with humidity changes. This is because a soundboard has a slight curvature or “a crown” to it. When a piano absorbs humidity, the soundboard will actually rise slightly increasing the crown of the board. On the other hand if humidity drops the soundboard will go down and lose some of the crown. So how does this make a piano go out of tune? A piano has strings, a bridge, and a soundboard. The bridge is glued to the soundboard and the strings go across the top of the bridge. If the humidity rises and the piano absorbs it, the soundboard and the bridge rise. This causes the strings to get tighter and will raise the pitch of the strings. If the humidity in the air goes down and the piano loses humidity, the soundboard and bridge move down slightly causing the string to be looser and the pitch will drop. Unfortunately these pitch changes do not take place equally throughout the piano so it will be out of tune with itself as well as not being at the standard pitch of A440.

Hot and cold temperatures will also cause a piano to go out of tune. If a piano sits in a very warm room or in direct sunlight, the heat will make it drop in pitch and go out of tune. Cold temperatures can make a piano rise in pitch slightly.

Climate control - The key to tuning stability

Of course it is best if you can use some kind of “climate control system” to minimize these changes. This can increase the life of the piano as well as reduce the frequency of tuning.

In some situations and environments, tuning a piano may be needed more than twice a year. In concert situations, the artist may want to piano tuned before the sound check, after the sound check and at intermission. For normal use, the tuning schedule will depend on the piano itself and the changes in climate it endures. Just because a piano is indoors does not mean it will not be affected by the weather outside. Tuning a piano three or four times a year or more is not uncommon. Your Registered Piano Technician (RPT) can help you with the appropriate schedule.

Keeping your piano in tune will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the instrument and also ensure that your ear is properly trained.

Call Charles Hansen for a piano tuning appointment at 559-784-5382 Porterville, CA

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