Does Your Piano Need Work? | Three Things to Check
“Should I get my piano worked on? It sounds OK as it is I guess. Is my piano worth the work?”
These are questions technicians often hear from piano owners. Why spend the money and time to get your instrument worked on if nothing is terribly ‘broken?’ In some cases that is true. When attempting to decide whether it is worth the investment, we ask:
- What is the brand name? (A lower quality brand usually isn’t worth the work.)
- What is the type? (An upright restoration isn’t as likely to be cost effective as a grand.)
- How old is it? (An 110-year-old piano is probably going to need more work than one 10 years off the line. The brand and size of the piano dictate whether it is cost effective or not.)
These are a few of the first things to confirm. As a rule, however, basic maintenance and checkups can allow for greater enjoyment of your instrument and can possibly save you money over the long run.
Here is a list of three things to have looked at before restoring your piano:
1: The Tuning
This is one of the basics, although it is surprising how often it is ignored. A piano that is out of tune is obviously not at its full potential. You may get used to an out-of-tune sound, however, you will not be getting the best your instrument can offer. A regular tuning is essential to keep your instrument in good working order and sounding like it should. The pins in the pinblock can also become loose, preventing the piano from being in tune. Here at Chupp’s we recommend tuning your home piano twice every year, although this could change, depending on the environment. A concert piano should have a ‘touch up’ by a trained concert tuner before every performance. A regular tuning can indicate how much care the piano has received – as a qualified technician can examine the instrument when he visits it to tune.
2: The Soundboard
The soundboard in a piano is the surface the strings vibrate against. This greatly amplifies the sound. Over time the wood soundboard can be affected by changes in the environment around it. Swings in humidity can have a detrimental effect on the board and your instrument in general. This can cause the wood to swell or shrink which can result in a cracked soundboard. Although a small crack or two can be expected in the soundboard of an older piano, it is a good idea to get it checked out by a piano technician. If the soundboard is too far gone, we can replace it, and return the instrument to its former glory. When these humidity swings cannot be prevented throughout the room, a system such as the Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver System can protect the instrument itself. (These come highly recommended by us and other technicians.)
3: The Action
When you press down on a piano key, the action goes to work. Hundreds of small parts and pieces are utilized to transfer that keystroke energy into the sound you hear resonating from the soundboard. Incredibly, this important segment is often overlooked, although it is the component most responsible for your piano’s touch and feel. With each ‘hit,’ however, the parts gradually wear down. The action can develop verdigris (a green coating or patina) and can seize up, stopping the hammers from returning after a key is hit. Over time the hammer felt can also become worn, and detrimentally affect the tone and feel. You may have become accustomed to the degraded sound, but you can definitely feel and hear a difference when compared to a repaired, restored piano. We have extensive experience regulating actions for premiere concert pianists and we are ready to serve your needs as well.
Of course, there are many other components that go into an instrument as complex as a piano. We highly recommend you have yours examined by a reputable piano technician if you have any questions. Keeping your piano repaired and serviced will ensure decades of use and music.
Chupp’s Piano Service, Inc. has over 40 years of experience as a full-service piano business. From full premium Steinway & Sons restorations to tuning, moving, general repair and buying/selling, our family business is ready to serve your piano needs.