Your Piano & Its Care
Piano Care 101
The piano purchase represents one of the largest outlays of money in your home. Such an investment should be protected because your investment in music effects the emotional well-being of every member of your family. The piano is normally an instrument of long life, however, this is only possible if a regular program of tuning and regulation is maintained.
Neglect—not use—is all too often responsible for the general deterioration of the sensitive inner mechanism and tone. It is to both your emotional and financial advantage to take good care of your instrument.
Things to Know
We cannot overstress that tuning is a highly technical operation—an art that should only be carried out by the most qualified technician. Accordingly, one should appreciate that a high standard of skill cannot be expected at an unduly low cost.
Use the same care in the selection of your piano technician as you would in selecting any other professional service. Securing the services of a registered craftsman member of the Ontario Guild of Piano Technicians Inc. is the best way to ensure that the technician you choose is capable of performing the very highest quality of tuning, repairs or restoration. Consult your Yellow Pages or contact OGPT Inc. for your nearest member piano technician.
There has never been a piano made by any company—at any price—that does not require a schedule of regular tunings. It is also a fact that a piano will go out of tune whether it is played or not, due mainly to the constant variations in heat and humidity in the home. Have your piano tuned as often as you feel necessary, but twice yearly is recommended. Your piano should be tuned to Concert Pitch (A 440) to sound its best.
Try to maintain even temperature and humidity levels in the room in which the piano is kept. Failure to keep a reasonably uniform environment will necessitate more frequent tunings. Too much humidity can result in such problems as sluggish action and keys, string and tuning-pin corrosion, plus pitch instability.
Excessive dryness can create problems even more serious in nature. Soundboard splits, loose tuning-pins, warpage, loss of action regulation and pitch drop are all conditions associated with lack of moisture.
These problems are, in most cases, completely unnecessary. It is imperative that the piano be kept away from sources of heat such as radiators, hot air registers, etc. It is also important that the piano not be located adjacent to frequently opened windows or exterior doors. If you are unable to provide the proper environment (approximately 40% to 45% relative humidity), ask your piano technician about humidity controls designed specifically for the piano.
The sensitive inner mechanism of the piano or action, as it is called, can be thought of as the extension of the pianist’s fingers. It is the action that sets the strings in motion. Of equal importance to proper tuning which governs solely the amount of tension on the strings, attention must be given to the action. In order to compensate for wear and climatic conditions, periodic adjustments must be made. Keeping the correct relationship between every part of the action will ensure that the action functions smoothly and evenly throughout the entire keyboard.
Concert Pitch A 440 (A above middle C vibrating at 440 times per second) has been universally accepted as the pitch to which all instruments should be tuned. This standard ensures that all musical instruments throughout the world will play notes of similar pitch. Apart from the fact that pianos are designed and built to sound their best when tuned to A440, it is also very important to musical ear-training.
Loss of string tension caused by tuning neglect will ultimately result in a drop in pitch. The amount of extra tuning involved in pitch raising will increase proportionately with the amount of lost string tension. Extra pressures created during the pitch-raising process causes readjustment of the iron frame, sounding-board, ribs etc. resulting in the piano quickly losing some of its initial tuning. A second and sometimes third tuning may be required to establish A 440 and at the same time provide a stabilized tuning.
Because it takes time for any new piano to thoroughly settle and adjust to different atmospheric conditions, proper tuning and servicing are especially important during the first year following purchase. In order to compensate for the natural stretching of the new strings, most manufacturers recommend three or four tunings during this period. During these tunings, the technician should inspect the action (playing mechanism) and evaluate the regulation, making necessary adjustments due to the settling of the new action parts.
Tuning alone has no effect whatsoever on the tonal quality of a piano. With use, the felt of piano hammers becomes both grooved and compacted from continually striking the metal strings. The deterioration of your piano’s tone may be very gradual. Consequently, your piano technician can offer the best advice as to the necessity of voicing (sometimes called tone regulation).
The voicing procedure includes filing the hammers to restore correct hammer surface and shape, plus the insertion of needles of various sizes into the hammer felt in order to change their elasticity. Voicing is an art that should be undertaken by only piano technicians with considerable skill and experience.
Correctly performed, voicing a piano will create the proper blend of volume and harmonic content for each tone that will ensure both playing and listening.