Expert advice on piano care.

Piano Care and Maintenance

Positioning: Modern pianos are constructed to be used in any part of the world, and to withstand extremes in humidity and temperature. However, placing your piano in the wrong position in a building can at best cause it to lose its tune quickly and at worst cause serious damage to its structure.

Never place a piano in front of a radiator. This will cause the soundboard, which is usually made of spruce, to lose its curvature, which in turn will affect the quality of tone and cause the instrument to drop in pitch. In extreme cases, glue joints may fail and the soundboard could actually split. Try to keep your piano out of direct sunlight for the same reasons, and to avoid the additional problem of the sun bleaching the cabinet. NEVER store a piano in a conservatory.

Older pianos are even more susceptible to heat damage, as they were never designed to cope with modern heating systems. Pianos require an environment that is constant in both temperature and humidity to remain free from problems and to retain their tuning for an acceptable period of time.

Damp conditions also have detrimental effects. Strings may rust, the finish of the cabinet can deteriorate, and keys and action components may seize. If you are planning to put your piano into storage, satisfy yourself that the conditions are suitable. Garages are usually a bad idea.

Tuning: Once your piano is in a suitable position, maybe after a house move, it should be allowed to settle for three to four weeks before tuning. This allows the timber in the piano to stabilise. The subsequent tuning should last longer as a consequence.

The temperature and humidity of any building fluctuates throughout the seasons, and this is the principal reason why pianos go out of tune, gradually losing their pitch with the passage of time.

Pianos should be tuned no less frequently than once a year, and ideally to concert pitch of A440Hz. This may not be possible on older pianos, which may have rusting strings or loose tuning pins, in which case a professional tuner should be able to advise on the highest pitch to which the instrument should be taken, to minimise the risk of tuning instability and broken strings.

Repairs and Restoration: This is a very large subject. A Tuner/Technician should be able to give advice from running repairs to full restoration work. Local estimates should be free, assuming the instrument is in a condition that makes renovation viable.

Regulation: Over time, felts and leathers in the keyboard and action wear and compress. As a result, the feel of the piano (the ‘Touch’) can get uneven. Regulation is the process of making adjustments to compensate for this wear and to allow the piano to perform at its best. An instrument can also be regulated to the particular requirements of a customer, and the depth of key travel, etc.

Voicing or Toning: This is the process of changing or equalising the quality of sound produced by the hammers as they strike the strings. The density of felt is altered by pushing needles into the felt behind the striking point of the hammers.



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