Piano Tuning FAQs

Some frequently asked questions regarding piano tuning and pianos in general. We will continue to add to this section. Please submit your piano-related question here.

How often should my piano be tuned?

As a general guideline, just to keep the instrument alive, the piano should be tuned at least two times every year. But with two slight variations in the piano tuning schedule, you will help extend the life of the piano and help reduce the chances of a cracked soundboard and bridges, as well as maintenance costs.

Whether it’s played or not, every piano, no matter whether it’s a spinet or a concert grand, is a high-tension instrument which bears thousands of pounds of string pressure on its soundboard.

New Piano Tuning Schedule

When your piano is brand new, the new strings will stretch out like rubber bands and the piano will go out of tune. This is a normal and crucial process for the piano. The fresh wood is settling and it’s very important to maintain the right pressure at all times. After the piano has been delivered, let it acclimate to its new humidity levels for one to two weeks and then have it tuned. After the initial tuning, have your piano retuned every three months for the first year. Tuning your piano more often in its first year will stabilize string tension and will help the piano hold its tune much better for future generations. After the first year, the piano should be tuned twice every year.

Tune by Seasons

Because humidity is the key factor in the piano’s stability in tuning, it’s best to have the instrument tuned after the major climactic change in the FALL and then again in the SPRING. The easiest way to remember to tune your piano on time is to schedule your tuning for two weeks after you shut off the heat in your home in the SPRING, and once again, for two weeks after you turn the heat on in the FALL.

What is the difference between tuning, pitch raising, and voicing?

Although piano tuning is separate process from voicing, some customers assume that one includes or even stands for the other. Raising the pitch of a piano is a separate process as well, even though it is related to the tuning of a piano.

Piano tuning is the pulling of strings to their appropriate pitch, to achieve equal temperament and a good relative tuning. Equal temperament, in short, allows you to play the same song in a different key with an equally proportional tuning, allowing the song to sound just as good.

Pitch raising is the process of raising the pitch of the whole piano. Pitch raising can be necessary for some types of contemporary music. For some early music, lowering the pitch is also common. The standard concert pitch today is A=440Hz. Today, some contemporary composers write for pitch A=445Hz and some even higher. Depending on how far the pitch needs to be moved, this process may require tuning the piano several times until it’s able to hold the pitch, as the strings stretch out to their new tension.

Raising the pitch of a piano is a potentially dangerous undertaking, which should be performed by an expert tuner only. It’s often recommended that a piano be tuned in several steps, spaced a few weeks or even months apart. However, it can be done in one day with a set of three or four consecutive tunings, if the piano can handle the change in pressure. The pressure from the strings on the bridges and soundboard is always set at thousands of pounds of tension. When a piano is out of tune, the change in pressure is so tremendous that it may cause cracks in the hardwoods of the piano, such as the bridges, soundboard, and pinblock. The technician should inspect the piano and determine whether or not the wood can handle such a stress in one sitting.

Voicing is sometimes misunderstood by amateurs and professionals alike. The purpose of voicing a piano is to adjust the hardness of the hammers to help even out the tone of the piano, dampening some imperfections in the quality of the hammers and compensating for some acoustical shortcomings of the instrument. In order to do this job perfectly, two highly-skilled technicians are needed on the job: one person to listen from different angles of the room and another to adjust the hammers according to the directions from the listening technician. This project costs approximately twice that of a piano tuning, but when performed correctly, will make a dramatic difference in the sound of a piano.

What if my piano can’t be tuned?

There is no such thing as a piano that can’t be tuned. Pianos are fine instruments whose value and sentimental memories can carry through several generations. No matter how old a piano is or what type of cabinet it’s enclosed in, every part of the instrument is fixable and we’re able to repair it. We can restore the original parts of the piano or redesign the piano from the inside out, to your specifications. Upon inspection of your piano, our technicians will make sure to tell you exactly how much it will cost to repair, present you with all available repair and finance options, and whether or not the piano is worth the investment.

Where should I put the piano in my home?

The best place for a piano inside a home is where the environment is most stable, especially when it comes to humidity and temperature. Place the piano as far as possible from all things that affect the change in humidity, such as air conditioning and heat vents, windows, fireplaces, laundry rooms, open kitchens and even outside walls. If a satisfactory place cannot be found, consider having a climate control system installed in your piano. A climate control system maintains your piano at an average 42% humidity as recommended by major piano manufacturers. When your piano soundboard is kept at a constant moisture level, shrinking and swelling are minimized.

What is the best way to clean my piano keys?

We have finally found a product that actually cleans keys! It is called “Key Clean” It keeps the keys clean of perspiration, dirt, dust, and will even remove crayon. “Key Clean” contains no harmful waxes, polishes or abrasives.

Will moving a piano make it go out of tune?

That depends on what you mean by “moving”. If you are just moving the piano from one room to another (or another area in the same room) the answer is no. If you are moving it some distance from one house (or store) to another, the answer is … maybe. If the piano is going to be jostled around in a truck and subjected to changes in temperature and humidity it will likely speed up its going out of tune.

What are my piano keys made from?

Ivory can be identified by its grain pattern, which with careful examination will be seen to resemble a wood-grain. Plastic and celluloid sometimes have a simulated grain, which will be much more uniform than that of genuine ivory.

What are the different piano pedals for?

Usually, with two pedals, the left one is the Soft pedal or the “una corda” pedal. On a grand piano, the soft pedal actually shifts the entire “action” mechanism (the moving parts that rest on the back end of the keys) slightly to one side causing the hammers (the oval shaped felt pieces that strike the strings) to only strike two of the three strings which makes the sound softer.

On a vertical or upright piano, the soft pedal moves the hammers closer to the strings. Because they can’t travel as far, they don’t hit the strings as hard, again making the sound softer.

On both types of pianos, the right pedal, called the “sustain pedal” lifts the “dampers” (felt covered blocks that normally mute the string sound when a key is released) which causes the notes to sustain until either the pedal is released or the sound dies out.

The addition of the middle pedal is a little more complicated. It can perform a number of functions depending on the model of the piano. On many verticals (uprights) and some baby grands it works as a bass sustain. That is, pressing down on the middle pedal only sustains the notes in the bass section. On some verticals, it operated a “rinky tink” or “honky tonk” bar that lowered a series of felt strips with little metal pieces on the ends of them so that they came between the hammers and the strings. This produced a “rinky tink” sound.
Sometimes the center pedal is a “practice” pedal that lowers a long felt strip between the hammers and strings, muffling the sound so that it doesn’t disturb others when the pianist is practicing. I have even seen (cheap) upright pianos where the center pedal was actually attached to the left pedal.

On most better grand pianos, the center pedal is a “sostenuto” pedal. A sostenuto pedal sustains or undamps only those notes that are being held down at the time the pedal is depressed. The sostenuto pedal should not be confused with the much more commonly used sustain pedal, which undamps all the damped strings of the piano.