Frequently Asked

Questions


Changes to temperature and humidity. As these rise and fall, the wood components of the piano (especially the soundboard) expand and contract, which changes the tension on the strings. Ideally you should stay as close as possible to 20 degrees Celsius and 42% relative humidity. Safe ranges are 18-22C and 35-55% R.H. An inexpensive hygrometer placed near the piano is a good way to monitor this.
How often the piano is played. The more playing the piano gets, the more the tuning will be affected.
The condition of the piano. Pianos with loose tuning pins or other structural problems will not hold a tuning as well.
With our hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters I recommend tuning twice per year. Ideally the timing will coincide with the start and end of the heating season, but really anytime is best. Once per year is the minimum.
Pianos go out of tune whether they are played or not. The longer the tuning is neglected the further flat the pitch will go. It is a complex problem, but the more times the pitch of the piano is way off and pitch raises are required, the more long term damage is done to the tightness of the tuning pins and other components of the piano. Pitch raises also carry the risk of string breakage during the tuning process, resulting in costly repairs.
A glass of water would be nice. Thank you.
An excellent resource for someone starting out is PianoBuyer.com. I strongly recommend you read the chapters related to piano purchases.
Next, decide on your budget and whether you want new or used. The internet is an excellent resource to help show you what you'll get for your money. DO NOT under any circumstances consider getting a 'FREE' piano. Free pianos are not free, as I will discuss in a separate FAQ post on this website. If you do get a free piano, call someone else. No joke.
If buying used in a private sale, contact me about having an assessment done before you make the deal. This is a good spend and can save you from making a costly mistake.
If you are considering a new piano, I will be happy to recommend local retailers and spend a few minutes with you on the phone. Lengthy consultations will be done for a fee.
A pitch raise is essentially an extensive tuning that must be done on a piano that is very out of tune, such as one left un-tuned for several years or more. When a piano is left un-tuned for a long time, so many strings become out of tune that the tension across the entire soundboard changes. In this condition, tuning one string will affect the tuning on other strings. A vicious cycle ensues where previously tuned notes lose tune every time a new note is tuned, like a dog chasing its tail. To correct for this, the tuner will do a pitch raise, where every string's tension is adjusted in one pass, to bring the tension on the entire soundboard close to what is desired. Then, often after a resting period, the tuner can perform the precise tuning of individual strings without affecting the others. Several passes may be needed before the pitches stabilize. Click here to learn more about pitch raises from the Piano Technician's Guild.
There are several things to try, from nearly zero cost up to hundreds of dollars.
A simple tub of water inside an upright piano is often enough to take the edge off the dryness in winter. Place this in the bottom of the piano out of the way of pedals and check it once a week. Margarine tubs or ice cream containers work well. Some people report good results by standing a sponge in the water to act as a wick.
If your furnace has a humidifer use it and monitor the effects with a hygrometer, adjusting as necessary.
A small room humidifier can be effective in some rooms. These cost anywhere from $50-200. Install a Piano Life Saver System, also known as a Dampp Chaser. These are fairly costly ($575-675) but are well worth if for higher quality instruments. This is an excellent product and highly recommended. I am certified by the manufacturer to do high quality installataions. Click www.pianolifesaver.com to learn more.
To determine a piano's ago you need to know the manufacturer and serial number. Manufacturer is usually found on the fallboard (the lid that flips down to cover the keys). The serial number is found by lifting the lid on an upright piano, and by looking near the tuning pins on a grand. There are many online resources available so try an internet search using [manufacturer name] [serial number] and [your serial number].
Yes I love animals! I only ask you help me do my best work by keeping your pets quiet while I am tuning.
No! I will give you the brutal truth here, and honestly tell you to find another piano technician if you do this.
Free pianos are not free. If someone is giving it away, that's because it has no value, and they don't want to pay to dispose of it themselves. If you take it, you are simply paying to dispose of it for them. You will pay $300-500 to move it, or do it yourself, which is a terrible idea. Then you will pay me $300-500 to bring it to an acceptable level, if that can even be accomplished. About once per month, I go to a new 'free' piano, and tell the owner it should go right to the landfill. The vast majority of these pianos have outlived their usefulness as musical instruments, and they are ready to be discarded. Nothing lasts forever.
Thinking about it logically, do you have any other functional items in your home that are 50-100 years old? Your TV? Your oven? Your washing machine? No you don't. Pianos are no different. Sure, they might look amazing and maybe even be refinished, but they no longer function as musical instruments, ESPECIALLY not for children to learn on. Would you give your child grandma's 100 year old bicycle to learn on? No you wouldn't. Pianos are no different.
If you don't have the budget to get a quality piano that functions at a basic level, you are much better off spending a bit of money on a digital keyboard than playing, or having your children play, an old wreck.

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