|This is the most commonly asked question I hear from my customers.
The answer? A piano needs to be tuned at least once a year without fail.
I would like to answer this question in further detail and in a way that
everyone can understand, but first, here are a few piano manufacturer's
EVERETT PIANO COMPANY:
"Since the piano owner is not capable of determining the condition of tone and pitch, they should leave this to the judgment of the professional tuner-technician. Frequent consultation with your tuner is the surest way of prolonging the life and insuring the lasting beauty of tone."
STEINWAY & SONS:
"We advise that the piano, whether used much or very little, be given 4 tunings per year."
BALDWIN PIANO COMPANY:
"It is always advisable to engage a competent tuner to take care of your piano by the year in order that it may be kept up to standard pitch. It is only in this way that the instrument can give the best results. This is most important. If a piano becomes badly out of tune it is difficult and risky to try to restore it suddenly to pitch. Do not allow strangers to tune or adjust your piano unless they are highly recommended by people you know."
"All pianos require periodic maintenance to sustain tonal quality and insure proper functioning of the action. Under normal circumstances, we recommend the piano be tuned four times the first year and 2 to 3 times a year thereafter. The best situation is to arrange with a reputable, established independent technician for regular care."
"We recommend that new Kawai Pianos be tuned 4 times the first year to counteract the normal stretching and settling, and twice a year thereafter in normal home use. Heavy usage, sudden and severe humidity and temperature changes and musicians precision requirements may make more frequent tunings necessary."
SOHMER & CO.
"We advise all owners of new Sohmer Pianos to have them tuned at least twice in the first four months after delivery. After this initial period, we recommend tuning 3 times per year if they are to be kept in perfect condition."
"Under stable temperature and humidity conditions, a piano may well require no more than 1 to 2 tunings a year. In areas with well defined changes of season, more tunings may be advisable. It is our recommendation that the piano owner employ only tuner-technicians of known ability, and that the owner be guided by the tuners advice concerning the proper care of the piano in its existing environment."
WALTER PIANO COMPANY:
"Our feeling is that most people do not have their pianos tuned frequently enough. Of course, how often pianos should be tuned depends to a large extent on where they are located and how they are used. Where we have maintained our own retail operations, we have urged our customers to have their pianos tuned 4 times per year."
STORY & CLARK:
"It is our belief that a piano should be tuned at least 4 times per year, although most instruments seem to give satisfactory service with only 2 tunings per year. We feel that no piano should have fewer than this if it is to give the satisfaction and enjoyment that it should."
If you notice, each one of these piano makers make it well known that you should tune your piano between 2 to 4 times per year, and they are correct in stating this. So when I say that a piano needs to be tuned at least once a year without fail, it goes without saying that this is the maximum time that you would want to leave your piano go without tuning.
It is necessary to understand why a piano goes out of tune. The whole instrument is under varying stress. The 220 plus strings are stretched at an average tension of 150 to 200 pounds a piece, so that the iron plate, together with the heavy wooden frame, carries a strain totaling from 18 to 20 tons. That is a great deal of pressure alone, but add to that a temperature or humidity change, and you can have a very sick sounding piano in a relatively short period of time. A guitar needs tuning every time it is picked up to be played. A piano doesn't need a tuning that often because it is built much stronger, however, it is a string instrument , and it does need periodic tuning.
The soundboard of a piano is crowned or bowed slightly upward against its strings as is the top of a violin. The steel strings vary in thickness and length and are, as I said before, stretched to approximately 20 tons of tension when the piano is tuned to proper pitch. Proper pitch is A440, meaning the first A above middle C vibrates 440 times per second. Every instrument in the world is tuned to this pitch, in fact, another name for A440 is "International Pitch". Each string also bears down on the soundboard crown with about 7 lbs. of pressure, which makes the total down bearing against the soundboard of nearly 3/4 of a ton. The piano is so well designed that when it is in proper tune, the great down pressure and tension are properly and harmlessly distributed.
During the spring and summer months however, the soundboard usually absorbs additional moisture, causing its crown to rise and press harder against the strings. If the piano is out of tune at this time, the tension and down bearing then will be unequally distributed and may warp or split the soundboard. If the piano is up to pitch and in good tune, there is little danger of this happening.
No matter what any salesperson may say, no matter how finely the piano may be made, or the price of the instrument, no matter , in fact, what the physical circumstances or domestic conditions may be, there is no such thing as a piano standing in tune month after month. Tuners know that if they had time to tune their own piano as often as their ears tell them, they would tune it at least once per month. From a strictly scientific point of view, it is probably true to say that no piano ever made has stayed in tune without a drop or rise in pitch for more that 24 hours unless it was maintained at a constant temperature and barometric condition.
From 45 years of experience, for the average piano owner, tuning twice a year should be sufficient, but once a year is absolutely mandatory. This must be done without fail in order to keep your investment in good condition.
When I call a customer to remind them that the piano should be tuned, I sometimes hear, "It sounds fine to me". This may be true in that the piano sounds in tune with itself, but what you don't realize is the drop or rise in pitch. This is why the piano must be tuned without fail at least once a year. If this is not done, the piano may fall or rise in pitch so much that it will take several tunings to bring it to its proper pitch and strings could and do break very easily because of this. In time, the bridges and soundboard could and do crack. What does this mean to the piano owner? $$$$$! Sometimes I also hear, "No one is playing the piano now". Whether the piano is being used or not, it needs periodic maintenance because of the rise and fall of temperatures and humidity conditions we experience throughout the year.
Keep your piano in tune and ready to play all year. This is worthwhile because it is fun to express yourself with music, which is why you purchased the piano. Simply tune the piano at least once a year and you will be saving money in the long run and protecting your investment.
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