Piano Tuning Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
How often does my piano need tuning?
Each piano is different and has different tuning needs.
- New pianos need to be tuned four times in their first year as strings will stretch, and the felt on the hammers compact.
- Home pianos generally are acceptable to be tuned once a year, although as the skill level of the student increases then more regular tuning may be required.
- Concert or performance pianos need to be tuned just before every concert or every three months (whichever comes first).
- Music schools, schools or places where many different pianists regularly play the piano may need attention twice or more a year.
Can my older or neglected piano be raised to concert pitch?
While improvement is possible with many older pianos, unfortunately not all neglected pianos can be tuned.
If your piano’s pitch is lower than 10 cents* below concert pitch, then it may be possible for us to organise a pitch adjustment as part of bringing it up to concert pitch level.
A pitch adjustment is where we adjust the 220-250 tuning pins and strings to the correct pitch in your piano. The instrument is then able to be played with other instruments or recordings.
These may each need several rounds of adjustments to bring them up to the required level as often neglected pianos don’t hold their tune. So instead of tuning 240 strings on the first pass, we may have to tune 480 strings or more to ensure the piano stays in pitch.
Pitch raises take significant time and skill to do correctly to ensure the instrument will have some stability in the tuning. If the pitch is lower than 50 cents below pitch, the instrument will then require further tuning in around two months to ensure the instrument stays in tune.
* 1 Semitone is divided into 100 parts, called cents.
Where is the best place in my home for a piano?
Pianos need an even temperature and humidity to maintain their tune for the maximum time.
Avoid placing your piano in direct sunlight, near a heater, in a draft, directly under air-conditioning ducts or near and outside wall that receives direct sunlight.
Also avoid placing your piano near bathrooms, kitchens or laundries if you regularly use clothes dryers as these rooms often have high humidity.
What can I do to protect my piano?
Humidity is the greatest threat to a piano. It affects the tune of your instrument, can encourage rust of your strings or metal parts, cause felt to deteriorate and can create glues used in the manufacture to fail.
We recommend every piano (whether upright or grand) be fitted with a Damppchaser Climate Control System. This system senses changes in humidity in your piano and automatically regulates it by either adding or removing humidity as needed. The system is unobtrusive, quiet to run, uses minimal electricity.
We also recommend the installation of a custom string cover to protect your instrument further. Contact us for more information.
What is the cost of tuning a piano?
We believe in full transparency of our piano tuning fees, and don’t quote low only to add on sneaky fees and charges when we visit your piano. You can see the full current list of our fees on our Piano Tuning Prices page.
What is concert pitch?
Concert pitch (A440Hz) is where the note A above middle C is tuned to the frequency of 440Hz or 440 cycles per second.
All instruments in an orchestra are tuned to this pitch to allow them to be played together in harmony.
When a concert piano is playing as part of a chamber ensemble or for a piano concerto, we may be requested to tune to A441Hz or A442Hz.
How is the piano tuned?
Many technicians choose to use an electronic device (ETD) to tune a piano. I choose to tune the piano aurally. I use a tuning fork or sometimes use an electronic pitch to tune the A4 at 440Hz. The rest of the piano is tuned using intervals in accordance with the musical properties of the instrument.
The electronic device only listens to one string. However, the human ear listens to the whole sound of the strings as well as its harmonics. The human ear is the final judge of whether a piano is in tune, not a machine.
What causes pianos to go out of tune?
In Brisbane, the most common cause for pianos to go out of tune is the change of humidity and temperature with our wonderful weather.
Strings in a piano are tensioned to produce particular notes when struck by piano hammers. Changes in humidity cause the soundboard to expand and contract, which creates changes to the tension to the strings. Over time, the strings slowly lose their tension, and the piano drops in pitch.
Another challenge is the strings. Every time a note is played, a hammer hits a string. The more often a string is struck, or the harder you strike the strings, the more your piano will go out of tune.
How should I maintain my piano?
Pianos require minimal exterior maintenance. Just use a slightly damp microfiber cloth or soft chamois to keep the keys and exterior looking good and dust-free.
Don’t use any commercial furniture polishes as many polishes contain silicone which can harm the gloss finish of your piano. Never place water vases or any other wet objects on or near your piano.
When not in use, if you have a grand piano, it is best to lower the lid to protect the soundboard and strings from dust and corrosion. An external cover will protect the finish of your instrument.
What type of Caster Cups should I use?
We recommend rubber cups for your piano casters for upright pianos. Plastic caster cups tend to snap so are not recommended. For grand pianos, we recommend plate type cups as they distribute weight over a larger area. Remember always to lock the brakes on the casters of grand pianos when not being moved to ensure maximum safety.
Should I buy a second-hand piano for my child to learn on?
Unlike violins, pianos don’t generally age well. A poorly maintained older piano may require substantial reconstruction or repair that could end up costing more than the value of the piano.
If you are not sure about your piano, give us a call for a realistic assessment of the extent of work a piano would need to bring it up to a reasonable standard.