Why Pianos Slip Out of Tune
Question: Why do pianos go out of tune? What has the greatest affect on my piano’s tuning stability?
Answer: A piano is made up of thousands of individual parts. A dizzying number of components constructed of wood, metal, and cloth all combine to create one musical instrument. In one way, all acoustic pianos are equal – they require tuning. Today, the standard pitch to which pianos are tuned is A440. Here are some of the reasons your piano will slip out of tune.
- Humidity Swings: The biggest factor that affects a piano’s stability of tuning are swings in humidity. Traditionally, a piano’s pinblock, soundboard and bridges are all made of wood. Wood can be very susceptible to swings in humidity which cause the wood to expand and contract. Constant swelling and shrinking combined with the thousands of pounds of tension created by the strings, causes the piano to quickly slip out of tune.
- Maintaining Consistency: A humidity range between 40% and 50% is optimal for your acoustic piano. The best solution is to maintain a constant humidity level in your home by using a whole house or room humidification control system. We also highly recommend the use of a Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver System installed on the instrument to help create a stable ‘microenvironment’ around and inside the piano. These systems are available for both upright and grand pianos.
- Acclimation: If your piano is newer or has been recently rebuilt/restored, new piano strings will take time to stretch and stabilize. In the first year of ownership, it is very likely you will need to tune your piano more frequently. If the piano has just been moved into a new location the change in humidity conditions will create a need for the instrument to acclimate to its new environment. This is why we recommend waiting a week or two after moving a piano before having it tuned.
- Regular Play: The impact of the piano’s hammers against the strings will have an effect. Each time the hammer strikes the string it can slightly pull the piano out of tune. When played regularly the normal stress of playing will result in an out of tune piano. And the more you play, the more your piano will need tuning. This is why professional musicians have their pianos tuned more frequently than the average pianist.
- Needed Repairs: Structural issues can have a detrimental effect on tuning stability. A pinblock that is beginning to de-laminate or a soundboard bridge that has developed severe cracks are just a couple of examples of issues that will greatly effect your piano’s tuning. If you are concerned that your piano may have stability issues that go beyond the norm, we suggest you contact a piano technician.
Keeping your piano in tune can be considered to be basic maintenance and part of the ‘job’ of owning a piano. We suggest having your piano tuned by a professional piano technician on average twice a year.
Along with action regulation and voicing work, keeping your piano in tune is key in ensuring you enjoy your fine musical instrument. For more on this, click here.
Do you need your piano serviced? Are you interested in the purchase of a vintage, restored Steinway & Sons Grand or a new Kawai piano? If so, get in contact with us today for more information.
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