What does it mean to “tune” a piano?

Tuning is the process of adjusting the tension at which the strings are stretched, using a wrench called a tuning hammer, so that all the strings vibrate in pleasing harmony with one another in accordance with certain acoustical laws and aesthetic and musical customs. Although the tuner may also perform other adjustments to the piano […]

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Why does a piano go out of tune?

A piano in good condition goes out of tune primarily because its soundboard and other wooden parts expand and contract with changes in humidity, which changes the tension on the strings. This happens whether or not the piano is played. Also, a piano in poor condition, with the tuning pins loose in the pinblock, can […]

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How often should I have my piano tuned?

How often your piano should be tuned depends on how sensitive you are to out-of-tuneness, how sensitive your piano is to the humidity changes that cause a piano to go out of tune, the climate you live in, how much you play, and your budget. For most people, one to three times per year is […]

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How much does it cost to maintain an acoustic piano?

It depends on how much you play and on how conscientious you want to be about piano maintenance. Typically a piano will be tuned twice a year at a cost of $100 to $200 per tuning, depending on geographic region and the experience and reputation of the tuner. Some tuners in high demand charge more. […]

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Why do some pianos stay in tune longer than others?

Actually, all pianos go out of tune continuously. It just may take a while before you notice it. How soon you notice it depends on such factors as the design of the piano (though, interestingly, not necessarily on its quality), the various pressures and tensions being exerted on the soundboard and structural elements, climatic changes, […]

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What is A440?

This means that the A above middle C is vibrating at 440 cycles per second. This is the standard pitch to which most pianos and other instruments are tuned, also known as “concert pitch,” although some orchestras prefer to tune to a slightly higher pitch. […]

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What is pitch correction (pitch raising/pitch lowering)?

When a piano is tuned, the tuner first tunes one note, usually the A above middle C, to a standard such as a tuning fork or electronic tone. Typically, the standard is A vibrating at a frequency of 440 cycles per second. Then the rest of the piano is tuned relative to that pitch. When, […]

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Where is the best place in my home to put my piano?

The best place is where the temperature and humidity will remain relatively moderate and constant, and away from big drafts, open windows, and direct sunlight. Especially, keep the piano several feet away from heating registers and radiators, or block off or redirect the heat from such registers and radiators if the piano must be placed […]

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What is the best temperature and humidity for my piano?

Some manufacturers like to say that the temperature should be at 72 degrees F. and the humidity about 45 percent. However, given climatic realities, human needs, and energy conservation issues, this may not always be possible or practical. In truth, pianos are not so delicate that they require such precision in their environment. Any temperature […]

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Should I have a humidifier system installed in my piano?

Piano climate-control systems can help smooth out seasonal humidity changes, resulting in better piano sound and operation, longer life, and possibly less frequent tunings. Even if you already have whole-house humidification and de-humidification, you may benefit from the extra protection. Ask a piano technician or piano dealer about having a climate-control system installed in your […]

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Why does a piano need to be tuned after being moved?

Subtle differences in humidity between the new and old locations cause the piano to go out of tune. Very inexpensive pianos that are structurally inadequate may go out of tune because of the handling of the piano, but this is not a big factor for most instruments. The tuning of vertical pianos may be affected […]

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What is “regulating”?

Regulating is the adjusting of the action and keys to restore them to their factory-default specifications. See also the answer to the next question. […]

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Can the touch or feel of my piano’s action be adjusted?

Within certain narrow parameters, the touch can be adjusted by regulating the action. Regulating is the process of restoring the dimensional relationships (positions, angles, distances, etc.) of the action parts to their factory-specified defaults. Over time and with playing, these dimensions gradually change and must periodically be restored in order for the piano to function […]

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What is “voicing”?

Voicing is regulating the tone of the piano. The primary vehicle for this is the softening or hardening of the hammers. Softening the hammers is usually accomplished by pricking the hammer felt with needles to reduce its density. Hardening is usually done by chemically treating the hammers or ironing the felt. Other more sophisticated aspects […]

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How can I lower the volume of my piano?

You can have the piano voiced, which mostly involves softening the hammers to produce a more mellow sound. You can also change the room acoustics by adding rugs, upholstered furniture, draperies, wall hangings, and other sound-absorbent objects. Storing some cardboard boxes under your grand piano, while not very attractive, can do wonders for softening the […]

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Why do my piano’s keys sometimes stick?

Sticking keys are usually caused by humidity changes. Interestingly, keys can stick in both humid and dry weather. Humid weather can cause wood and cloth to swell and interfere with the movement of other parts. Dry weather can cause holes to contract and bind on guide pins. In most cases, the remedies are fairly simple, […]

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My piano has a broken key. Is that a major repair?

When someone complains of a “broken key,” usually they mean that something is not working right. It could actually be a broken key, or it could be that something else in the action is broken or stuck. In any case, it’s usually not a major job to repair it. But neither is it necessarily trivial. […]

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My piano has a broken string. Is that a major repair?

A broken string is neither major nor trivial. If the string is a bass string (steel wound with copper), the replacement string will have to be special-ordered because each model of piano, and each bass string within that model, has unique specifications for length and thickness. If the broken string is plain steel wire, the […]

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What is the soundboard?

The soundboard is a large, thin sheet of wood (or a laminated wood product), usually of spruce, that amplifies the vibrations of the strings and broadcasts them through the air to the ear. […]

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If the soundboard is cracked, does that mean the piano is junk?

No. Solid spruce soundboards have a tendency to dry out, shrink, and crack as they age, especially in environments that have pronounced seasonal variations in humidity. The shrinkage often results in a loss of crown, or curvature, of the soundboard, which can sometimes be detrimental to the tone. But the cracks themselves are usually harmless […]

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What do the initials RPT stand for?

RPT stands for Registered Piano Technician, a membership category of the Piano Technicians Guild. A person with RPT status has passed a series of examinations that test for basic competency in piano tuning and technical work, and in a general understanding of piano technology. Hiring an RPT helps assure that you will receive competent and […]

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How can I clean my piano?

It depends on what you want to clean. The wooden furniture portion of the piano, including high-polished finishes, is usually cleaned with a soft, lintless cloth, slightly dampened with water if you wish. If the wood has a grain, wipe in the direction of the grain. Be careful about using commercially available furniture polish; manufacturers […]

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How can I tell how old my piano is?

Each piano is given a serial number at “birth.” It’s usually located somewhere in the tuning pin area of the cast-iron plate, though sometimes it’s elsewhere, or difficult to find. See this illustration or this video for typical locations. (If there appears to be more than one serial number on the piano, usually the longer one is the real […]

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Can I put a piano on an outside wall?

There was a time when people were advised not to put a piano against an outside wall. Today, however, most homes are insulated well enough that that advice no longer holds. That said, I would suggest allowing an air space of a few inches between an outside wall and an upright piano. Note: Sometimes heating […]

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Why do some tuners use an electronic device to tune the piano?

Electronic tuning devices have become extremely sophisticated in recent years and are used by some of the most skilled tuners. The best tuners can also tune by ear, which is necessary to check the work of the device and to do some aspects of the tuning job that are not easily done electronically. However, use […]

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