Piano Maintenance Levels

Piano Tuning Phoenix by Wes Flinn RPT

Mythological Greek Phoenix

Piano Maintenance Levels

— by Wes Flinn RPT

‘Piano Maintenance

Levels’

• Quick reference links:

Click for quick reference, or continue:
Level 1: Normal Routine Maintenance
Level 2: Preventive Maintenance Service
Level 3: Full Maintenance Service
Level 4: Remedial Maintenance Service
Level 5: Performance-grade Preparation, or
Concert Level Maintenance Service
Level 6: Custom Level Maintenance Service
Level 7: Hybrid Level Maintenance Service

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• Special Note for

Moving physical acoustic piano:

There are over 500 screws plus other elements in a piano action that become loose over time in a physical piano due to expansion and contraction of wooden and metal parts caused by natural changes of temperature and humidity. In the old location, before any moving occurs, the piano may function OK and seem just fine — but, when moved to another location, loose parts can shift about and become out of adjustment from the normal vibrations involved in the moving of the piano. These changed adjustments can not only cause the piano not to play, or not to play well, but also can cause serious damage if the piano becomes used in this condition.

After arrival in a new location, a piano not only needs re-tuning, but also needs to be given attention to its action mechanism.

A Registered Piano Technician can handle all this type of service, and can always be located world-wide by calling: 913-432-9975

Back to “Regulation

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• Maintenance

is the overall term for caring for a piano.

The world we live in today is a “plug-and-play, then throw away” culture — most people today are innocently ignorant of how to manage or maintain a mechanical machine. And, a piano is a completely mechanical machine with 10,000 to 14,000 parts! — more parts than any other machine in our lives! All these parts must be lubricated and adjusted before the piano will work properly. Period. End of story. Correct advice about all this sounds like science fiction to most people in the world today, and sadly, is usually ignored.

“Maintenance” can mean all the procedures described on this Website, and others not mentioned. The most common use of the term is “good maintenance”, usually taken to mean regular calendar scheduled tunings, and attention to other factors whenever necessary, such as regulation, voicing, and repairs.

“Maintenance” can mean all the procedures described on this Website, and others not mentioned. The most common use of the term is “good maintenance”, usually taken to mean regular calendar scheduled tunings, and attention to other factors whenever necessary, such as regulation, voicing, and repairs.

There are several levels of Maintenance Service for acoustic pianos, depending on their purpose and type of use they are given — something like comparing the needs of a seldom used personal car versus the needs of a non-stop public taxi cab.

• Seven Levels of Maintenance exist for pianos.

These different degrees of care and service and maintenance correspond roughly to automobile types, their purposes and uses — similar to contrasting needs of autos — compare different auto types like these to different piano types:

your personal daily runner car or van,
a work truck,
a taxi cab,
a super luxury sedan,
a custom built street rod,
a super performance sports car,
or, a gorgeous classic restoration show car.

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• Level 1: Routine, repeating maintenance service

Level 1 Maintenance is required by all acoustic pianos their entire service life. This involves calendar-based tunings of the piano, plus incidental repairs as they are needed, and paying attention to behavior of the piano in terms of taking care of it for what it is: a mechanical, physical machine which needs on-going service!

— for details: go to Piano Maintenance Programs

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• Level 2: Preventive Maintenance Service

Level 2 Maintenance is needed by all acoustic pianos from time to time, especially by new pianos about one to three years after a new piano is put into service.

This level service usually includes:

• Cleaning of the piano inside and out
• ‘Touch-up’ of action regulation issues resulting from time, use, temperature and humidity changes
• Calibrating, lubricating the keyboard to correct any stiffness and friction that restricts playing the piano
Concert tuning the piano to Standard Pitch to make possible playing the piano with electronic instruments, or nearly all other kinds of musical instruments

The actual amount of work done in a Level 2 service depends completely on what the piano needs, and therefore cost cannot be quoted in advance.

Level 2 service is also done on any piano not having this work done previously, but is not yet needing the regulation or hammer work taken up in Level 3 Maintenance below.

Level 2 Maintenance is the practical, timely, “common sense” kind of service that every physical and mechanical machine needs, and which is almost always ignored. It is a preventive maintenance, the kind that that saves money and time later, and makes a machine work pleasantly at its best while you are using it on a daily basis, just like balancing tires on a car — a car runs so much better if it has regular tire balance and rotation, and the tires last far longer when this is done. Level 2 Maintenance takes care of unusual or “out-of-balance” behavior of the interior action piano mechanism, and can correct problems before they happen, so to speak.

It also applies lubrication to the action mechanism before harmful dry conditions set in and cause rapid and unnecessary wear to the piano. And since it includes tuning, it is usually done at the time of a regularly scheduled tuning. This level of service can also sometimes include keyboard calibration, like Level 3 service.

When done in a timely way, the Level 3 “Full Maintenance Service” below can usually be delayed for a time, can usually be modified or reduced in scope for less cost — again, just like car service, all becomes less expensive when done correctly by the book.

NOTE: Level 2 Service is appropriate and useful only when a piano has been set up and regulated correctly when new by a selling dealer before original delivery. Otherwise, Level 3 maintenance below can be needed immediately to correct resulting problems.

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• Level 3: Full Maintenance Service

Level 3 Maintenance can be needed by any acoustic piano at any time, depending on its condition. A new piano can need this thorough service if it was not set up, or regulated or serviced properly when delivered new from a dealer. A used piano that never got serviced or corrected or repaired during its life needs this desperately, if it is going to survive very long.

When Level 2 Service is ignored, Level 3 Full Maintenance Service becomes critically important in determining the service life of a piano. The most amazing thing of all about acoustic pianos is that if they are properly serviced, lubricated and cared for on a regular basis, they truly will almost never wear out — BUT, if they are not lubricated and cared for, they will fall apart like any other physical machine.

Level 3 Maintenance Service
, or “Full Maintenance Service” is so absolutely critical to the behavior and operation of an acoustic piano that an entire section in this chapter is devoted to explaining in detail what it is all about. These details follow just below this section, or click here:

For Full Details Go To: Full Maintenance Service

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• Level 4: Remedial Maintenance Service

Level 4 Maintenance is made necessary by and is usually the sad result of the common practice of ignoring Level 2 and Level 3 Maintenance Service, and, believe it or not, even Level 1 Maintenance– sometimes acoustic pianos don’t even get tuned!

And sometimes not even played!

But first and last, acoustic pianos are physical machines, and they act just like all physical machines, in that they go bonkers and wear out very fast when they are not lubricated and cared for. Without Levels 1, 2, and 3 Service at appropriate times, normal routine maintenance will necessarily become “Remedial Maintenance Service” when the piano gets into really poor shape, or if it gets just plain neglected over a long period of time.

This situation of neglect always brings about the need for Level 4 Maintenance, and causes the extra cost involved to cover the additional service and repairs that could be needed to return the piano to normal working order.

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• Level 5: Performance-grade Piano Preparation, or Concert Level Maintenance Service

Level 5 Maintenance includes Levels 3 and 4 service, plus a whole lot more!

This level of service “turns mice into minks”!

Level 5 Service adds another layer of detailed and intricate attention to the condition, the functioning and the performance of every single manufacturer’s original part in the piano, short of customizing or substituting parts, or modifying original design parameters of the piano, as might be involved in Levels 6 and 7 services below.

Two additional procedures distinguish Level 5 Service which are used to develop the extreme level efficiency expected of a truly performance grade piano: (1) Touch-weight and balance procedure of the piano action parts, which develops a note-to-note touch consistency of about 1-2 grams down-weight , any one note to another, using an optimal average weight best for that particular piano; (2) Concert voicing procedure of piano hammers and strings to extract the highest degree of sustain and tonal qualities available to that particular piano.

This extreme level of service is typically limited to performance-grade large concert stage pianos, due to the extra cost of executing these procedures; however, the same severe attention to detail can also be applied to upper level consumer grade pianos very profitably, and produces remarkable results. A primary goal for Level 5 maintenance service is to provide concert pianists and other advanced pianists with work/study pianos for their studios and homes that approximate the pianos they find waiting for them on the concert stages and recording studios where they perform.

Note: It is not unusual to require 2 weeks or more of expensive technical work to “prepare” a performance-grade concert piano and raise it to the precision level expected of this type of instrument.

Level 5 Maintenance Service can achieve this same degree of efficiency in piano action behavior on any size of a well built and well designed piano — it is normally not applied to any style except grand pianos, but the same approach can be applied to high level upright pianos, as well.

Click here for “Picture Gallery” for some examples.

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• Level 6: Custom Level Maintenance Service

Includes all Levels of Maintenance Service as described above that are needed to arrive at a
Level 5 condition of the overall piano, plus other procedures designed to maximize or enhance the performance of a piano action, or its tone quality.The most typical example of Level 6 procedures is the regulating of the piano action to its extremes; for example: settings that make it play at its fastest possible repetition rates — this kind of critical procedure has to be repeated before each performance in order to function properly, as even small changes in temperature and humidity from day-to-day or place-to-place can cause the action to block up and not work at such close settings, and therefore is a custom procedure needed for each performance of the piano. Even more specialized or refined procedures / changes in the piano design can also be pursued, such as the ways the strings or bridge are treated, as explained in Level 7 status item #2 below, or the way the hammers might be hardened to achieve more brilliance for a particular concert hall.Click here for “Picture Gallery” for some examples.

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• Level 7: Hybrid Level Maintenance Service

Includes through Levels 5 service concepts plus the substitution of manufacturer’s original equipment with after-market special purpose parts designed to upgrade or change a piano’s performance; also, an original design concept might be altered to achieve some similar purpose.

Examples of Level 7 applications are:

1 – Replacement of original hammers with advanced or higher quality hammers is the most common example of the “hybrid” type of maintenance service — most common source is Renner Hammers, go to:

http://rennerusa.com

2 – Enhancement of bridge / string / soundboard efficiency — one method is a conversion to the Wapin Bridge System, go to:

www.wapin.com

3 – Ultra refinement of piano action weight and balance performance characteristics — most sophisticated method is the “Stanwood Touch Design”, go to:

www.stanwoodpiano.com

— Another very effective touch-weight modification is the “Touch Rail” system, go to:

www.pitchlock.com

4 – Many other parts substitutions might be considered, as well, depending on the goals set for the piano, and kind of use it is expected to get.

Also, Levels 3 and / or 4, 5, or 6 or 7 might sometimes be combined at the same time also for specialty performance purposes.

Click here for “Picture Gallery” for some examples.

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• Application of Maintenance Service Levels:

Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 service above apply to all acoustic pianos, regardless of their use, because they are physical machines which demand this service.

Level 5 service could apply to pianos used by a very advanced or professional pianist, or to concert venues such as concert halls, a music school recital hall, or to pianos used in professional level church music programs.

Level 6 service indicates some of the methods a recording studio might pursue when trying to achieve the most subtle perfection possible in a piano’s sound production; or, a concert hall venue might include to make their piano more suitable to its particular venue.

Level 7 service often occurs when very high quality used or old pianos are rebuilt, to cause them sometimes to exceed their original performance ability.

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