Piano Maintenance

Piano Tuning Phoenix by Wes Flinn RPT

Mythological Greek Phoenix

Piano Maintenance

— by Wes Flinn RPT

Piano Maintenance, how different it is:

Keith Bowman - knob style Tuning Hammer

This section adds helpful concepts of piano ownership not found elsewhere.

1) The piano is a machine

it is a physical machine, and not an electronic device with an electric cord to plug in, with knobs to turn to control volume or tone or tuning. Our high-tech culture of today struggles with this idea of purely physical devices like a piano, and automatically confuses a piano with other electronic devices of our age. We compare a piano to a Stereo because it produces music, and confuse it with an Electronic Keyboard.

Sanderson Accu-Tuner III Electronic Tuner

Stereos are wonderful, and do things a piano cannot do. Electronic Keyboards are also wonderful, and are actually organs that offer electronic wonders that are completely outside the ability of a piano. Likewise, a piano does things that are completely outside the ability of an Electronic Keyboard — the only similarity is they both have keyboards.

But, to capture the incredible magic of the natural acoustic piano, we have to maintain it. This includes tuning based on calendar dates, plus regulation and voicing when needed.

2) A piano by design is always going flat

RennerUSA Catalog, piano action parts and Technicians Tools

This is true from the time it is manufactured until the time it reaches the end of its service life. The strings are under a tremendous amount of tension, from about 20,000 lbs to 65,000 lbs on a huge concert grand piano. The strings are always stretching, especially noticeable when new.It takes about 7 to 10 tunings for any piano to become really “broken in” and settle down to stable tuning behavior.

With a lightly used home piano this might be 10 years or more. Once this happens the tuning might go gradually flat, but the piano stays relatively in tune to itself, and we find mature pianos that sound quite well up to a year or more between tunings.

Petrof 6-ft 4-inch Intarsia Inlay - 1898

3) How often should a piano be tuned?

This is a very complex subject, and needs to be considered carefully with the advice of an RPT Technician. The answer includes the condition of the piano, its age, type, location, type of use and the wishes of its owner and users. A “pat” standard or universal answer is not possible. It’s easier to answer: “How often should you buy new shoes?” “Do you change oil in your car as often as a taxi cab?” “When should you wash your car?” The correct answer is: “It depends. Let’s discuss all your needs and see. A recording studio tunes its piano every day; a music school like ASU every 30-60 days; a new piano needs more tuning than an older piano,” and so on. It is completely correct to say that how much a piano is used does not exactly determine how often it should be tuned. Playing a piano does not necessarily knock it out of tune, but Mother Nature can knock out a tuning in 15 minutes with a weather change if the piano does not have a climate control system installed. The final answer to tuning is: “Tune it when it needs it, or when you want it done, but once a year even when you don’t use it.”

Schimmel 'Glas' 7-foot Concert Grand

4) The PTG Piano Technicians Guild Website has all the information there is to know about piano tuning and maintenance, and is open to the public.

Go to www.PTG.org

5) Piano Maintenance Programs include all the different aspects of piano care that this entire Website talks about. These programs are the only way to really care for a piano, and provide the only path to finding out just how good a piano can sound or be.

Click here for Maintenance Programs

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