Some frequently asked questions regarding piano tuning and pianos in general.
As a general guideline 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 20 tons of string tension within its framework.
When your piano is brand new, the 233+/- new strings stretch like rubber bands and the piano goes out of tune more rapidly. This is a normal and crucial break-in process for all new pianos. The fresh wood is settling and it is 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. After the first year, the piano should be tuned at least twice every year.
Because humidity is the key factor in the piano’s tuning stability, 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 the heat off in your home in the spring, and once again, for two weeks after you turn the heat on in the fall.
Although piano tuning is a 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 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 perfect tuning. Equal temperament, allows you to play the same song in all keys with an equally proportional tuning, allowing the song to sound just as good in any key.
Pitch raising is the process of raising the tension of the whole piano when it has been neglected. The standard concert pitch today is A=440Hz, however violinists love slightly sharper at A=442Hz. Depending on how far the pitch needs to be moved, this process may require several tunings until stability is acheived.
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. This procedure costs approximately twice that of a piano tuning, but when performed correctly, will make a dramatic difference in the sound of a piano.
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 outside walls, air conditioning and heat vents, windows, fireplaces, and laundry rooms. If a satisfactory place cannot be found, consider having a Piano Life Saver Climate Control System by Dampp-Chaser installed in your piano. A climate control system maintains your piano at an average 42% humidity as recommended by all major piano manufacturers. If your piano soundboard is kept at a constant moisture level, shrinking, cracking and swelling are eliminated.
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 YES, as the temperature and humidity differs from location to location.
Usually, with two pedals, the left one is the soft pedal, technically referred to as the “una corda” pedal. On a grand piano, the soft pedal shifts the mechanism slightly to one side causing the hammers to strike two of the three strings, making the sound softer.
On a vertical or upright piano, the soft pedal moves the hammers closer to the strings. Because they don’t travel as far, they don’t strike the strings as hard, making the sound softer.
On both types of pianos, the right pedal, called the “sustain pedal” lifts the “dampers” allowing the notes to sustain until the pedal is released.
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 uprights and some baby grands it works as a bass sustain. Pressing down on the middle pedal, it only sustains the notes in the bass section. On some uprights, it operates a “rinky tink” or “honky tonk” bar or a mute.
On professional-grade grands, the center pedal is a “sostenuto” pedal. A sostenuto pedal sustains only those notes that are held down prior to the pedal being depressed. The sostenuto pedal should not be confused with the much more commonly used sustain pedal, which sustains all the damped strings of the piano.