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Almost all piano manufacturers suggest tuning a new piano four times in the first year and then twice a year thereafter. At a minimum, a piano should be tuned at least once a year.
Q. Will my piano need tuning if it hasn’t been played much?
It’s not so much playing a piano that causes it to go out of tune but rather changes in temperature and humidity, and settling of the piano itself. The amount of use a piano gets rarely has much effect on its tuning unless a pianist plays extraordinarily hard.
Q. Can not keeping a piano in tune damage it?
A. Letting a piano get very far out of tune isn’t good for it, but the harm is rarely irreparable. A piano adjusts to the tension of its strings (typically 38,000 lbs of pressure). When a piano is allowed to go out of tune, string tension is reduced and the piano settles to the new lower tension. When the strings are pulled up to proper pitch again, the piano typically requires days or weeks to settle again. As it adjusts the string tension is changed slightly and the piano needs tuning again. As a result pianos that are neglected for a year or more often require two or more tunings to reach stability, while a piano that is kept reasonably in-tune holds its tuning better.
Q. My technician says my piano will need a “pitch raise” before it’s tuned. What does that mean?
When a piano is more than a little out of tune, tuning causes a significant change in the pressure on the piano. If the tuner simply begins tuning each string one-at-a-time, by the time he gets to the last string the total tension on the piano will have changed so much that the first strings are out of tune again. To avoid the problem, the technician has to tighten each of the strings individually (raise their pitch) close to their eventual tension. Once the total pressure on the piano is close to its proper level, he can go back and tune each string more precisely.
Q. My piano doesn’t hold its tuning long. What could be the problem?
There are several problems that your piano could have. Most commonly the tuning pin block isn’t holding the tuning pins tightly enough. The tuning pin block is made of several layers of wood laminate, typically hard rock maple. Holes are drilled into it that are slightly smaller than the tuning pins that are inserted. The friction of the pin on the wood should hold the tuning pin in place against the tension of the string (usually about 180 lbs per string). If the pin has become loose in the tuning pin block, the pin will slip and release the pressure on the string. Sometimes the piano technician can apply a simple remedy, but often the tuning pin block is just worn out.
Other tuning problems are caused more by the environment than something inside the piano itself. If the piano is next to a door or window or the temperature or humidity in the room fluctuates substantially, the piano’s wood and other parts will expand and contract causing the pressure on the strings to change. The remedy is stabilizing the temperature and humidity around the piano. Often installing a Damp-Chaser — a device to stabilize the humidity — will help.
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