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Being In Tune With Your Piano

Last Updated: December 26, 2010 / by Michael Kinney

The Nut Shell Concept: Winston Churchill once gave this advice to his fellow speech makers.

  • Say what you are going to say
  • Say it
  • Say what you just said

I will humbly try to do the same.

In a Nutshell - Pianos should be tuned twice yearly. Once yearly will get you by, but leaving it longer than that is doing damage to your instrument and will catch up with you money wise and performance wise.

The Nutshell: After more than 30 years in the piano business, I wish I could give one single rule about how often a piano needs tuning. As we all know, life gets in the way and we do not do those things we know we ought to do. So, as a professional piano technician I will set forth some basic rules for you to follow. But first let's start out with a few piano facts.

  • If you are fortunate enough to own a new or late model piano, it might very well be one of the top five investments you will ever make. There usually is the mortgage, then the car, and then the piano. This is not set in stone but it is often the case. Good pianos range in price from $5,000 to well over $100,000. It makes sense to maintain such an investment.
  • If your piano has been handed down through the generations, maintaining it just makes good sense from an historical viewpoint.
  • A piano's strings are stretched to a tension of between 14,000 and 22,000 tons! --- that's right --- tons!!! They need maintenance!
  • The majority of a piano is wood and felt, two components which move according to humidity levels.
    Therefore your piano does need to be tuned! No piano, no matter how good, can go without tuning indefinitely.

How Often Should You Tune Your Piano?

Rule of thumb: For your average piano owner tuning twice a year is sufficient and will enable your piano tuner / technician to find problems sooner rather than later which will save you money and ensure good performance of the instrument. Once a year tuning will get you by, but will not keep the piano at its best. But, it is far better than once every 5 or 10 years!

If your piano is being used by a young, beginner student it really should be tuned twice a year. Keeping the piano at its proper pitch is essential to proper ear training. An untuned piano can --- no, will --- cause damage to a young person's aural development.

For a piano teacher, 4 times yearly is not unreasonable. It is a tax deductible expense, so if you can manage it, you will reap the benefits of a well tuned piano all the time. And, probably not get any repair surprises.

Most professional pianists will have their performance instrument tuned before each performance. Their home and practice piano will normally be tuned 2 - 4 times yearly.

New Pianos

Now, here is the really important stuff! --- a new piano needs to be tuned 4 - 6 times in the first year! Don?t cut corners here. The manufacturers recommend 4 - 6 times in the first year. Piano trade organizations recommend 4 - 6 times in the first year. Piano Tuner / Technician Associations recommend 4 - 6 times in the first year. If I had a dollar for every piano I have seen which has never performed to its true potential because it never received these initial tunings I would be pretty well off! The new piano needs these tunings to achieve its potential!

Piano Tuning Trade Recommendations

National Piano Manufacturers Association: "In the first year have your piano tuned four times. After the first year, the piano should be tuned at least twice each year."

Yamaha Pianos: "as a matter of standard maintenance, a piano should be tuned at least twice a year."

J Strauss & Son: "During the first year, a technician should tune your new piano four times as it adapts to the environment in your home. In the years that follow, your piano should be tuned at least twice a year."

Steinway: "Steinway recommends that your tuner be called at least 3 or 4 times a year. Remember that a concert piano is tuned before every performance and a piano in a professional recording studio, where it is in constant use, is tuned 3 or 4 times each week!"

Young Chang: "It is recommended that a piano be serviced at least two to four times a year."

Baldwin: "4 times in the first year, twice or more after that."

Piano Tuning: The "Post" Nutshell:

No matter how you look at it, pianos need tuning. Many piano technicians will offer "reminders." A piano just cannot be "left." Tuning it once a year is good. Tuning it twice a year is better!

*Stay tuned for the next article where I will show you how to keep dryness from destroying your piano, and wrecking its tuning stability!

Musically Yours,

Michael RayBould

Piano Tuning by RayBould, USA
PO Box 31, Ferguson, NC 28624
828-964-7657 / 336-973-4197

About the Author: Michael Kinney

I have played piano since I was 5 years old. I started in classical and then quickly moved to blues and jazz. I studied at the collegiate level and have played professionally since I was 16. My favorite piano players (if I had to pick 3) include Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock). I own several keyboards but always prefer to play on a Steinway if one is available! I live to perform as much as I like to teach.

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