Piano Tuning – How Often Should You Tune Your Piano?
When we are delivering pianos, our customers often ask us when is the right time for piano tuning. People feel that moving a piano will have affected the piano pitch and that they might need to get it tuned. This is not usually the case and changes in tune are normally down to humidity, but we will get to that later. First let us look at why pianos need to be tuned.
Pianos need to be tuned as the metal piano strings stretch over time, the high tension that piano strings are under cause them to slowly lengthen as they age, this happens whether you play the piano or not. It is a myth that you won’t need to tune your piano if you don’t play it, the piano will go flat if you don’t tinkle those ivories.
Did you know that each piano string is under about 170 pounds of tension? Each piano has 231 strings and this means that when you add up all that tension the piano frame is resisting 19 tons of pressure! Now that is a lot of strain and is the main reason a piano is so heavy, it has a strong metal frame to take the tension. This is also why it is not a good idea to move a piano by yourself, the metal frame in the pianos make them very heavy and cumbersome and it is very easy to either damage the piano or yourself when moving it.
If you have bought a brand new piano, first of all congratulations, second you should look to have your piano tuned every 3 months for the first year. That means you need to get it tuned four times in the first year to, as it were, break the piano in. New pianos need more regularly piano tuning because the steel strings in a new piano have never had any tension put on them before and therefore initially stretch faster than older strings, this causes a new piano to lose its tune faster than an older one.
For pianos older than one year we recommend getting it tuned every 6 months. It is not recommended to tune less frequently than this as the piano can not only lose tune but lose pitch. If the piano is left too flat for too long, the piano tuner may not be able to bring the pitch of the piano back up to what is called standard pitch (i.e. each piano at standard pitch should sound the same). Old pianos that have not been tuned for a long time may not be able to take the strain of raising the pitch back to standard, this could cause strings to break or worse damage the frame or pin block. See what some of the best piano manufacturers say about piano tuning at the end of this article.
If you find your piano is losing tune between the usual 6-month piano tuning cycle, the most likely culprit it humidity. A piano is normally about 85% wood and as such changes in humidity cause the wood to expand or contract which affects the piano tune. If you find your piano is losing its tune rapidly it may be a good idea to invest in a humidifier or dehumidifier. Your local piano tuner will be able to help you here, see the links below for more.
So we come back to the question of does moving a piano cause it to lose its tune. The answer is no, moving a piano does not generally cause the piano to go out of tune. Each piano is carefully wrapped and protected to safeguard it against temperature and humidity changes during the move. It is the humidity, temperature or physical changes from one location to another that alter the tune. For instance unevenness of the floor or differing levels between the old and new location may effect the tune of upright pianos. This means that your piano may sound good on delivery but lose it tune of a few days or maybe weeks as it adjusts to its new home.
We therefore don’t recommend that you get your piano tuned as soon as it is delivered to your new location. The piano move shouldn’t have affected the piano tune but the new environment will over time. So it is always best to leave it a couple of weeks after moving before you get your piano tuned.
This is what some of the top piano manufacturers say about the piano tuning:
Steinway & Sons
“We usually recommend our customers at least 2 or 3 tunings per year for a piano getting average use in the home.”
“To insure the quality of your grand piano we recommend to let it be tuned two times a year (before and after the heating season) or even more regularly by an experienced concert technician.”
“To keep your piano in the best possible condition, we recommend a regular tuning appointment every six months.”
“In general, Kawai recommends 2 to 4 tunings per year. However, your piano technician can best recommend the appropriate interval for your specific environmental conditions and use.”
These two links are a good place to start to find your nearest piano tuning expert: