Piano Care

Servicing & Maintenance

How often should my piano be serviced?

Your piano is an investment in your future. It can bring you and your family a lifetime of music, adding immeasurable joy and beauty to your home. Since it is also such a large investment, it should be maintained with the utmost care. Regular servicing by a qualified technician will preserve your instrument and help you avoid costly repairs in the future.

Because your piano contains materials such as wood and felt, it is subject to change with climatic conditions. Extreme swings from hot to cold or dry to wet cause its materials to swell and contract, affecting tone, pitch, and action response or touch. You can reduce the severity of these effects by placing your piano near a wall away from windows or doors that are opened frequently. Avoid heating and air conditioning vents, fireplaces and areas which receive direct sunlight. Your piano will perform best under consistent conditions neither too wet nor dry, optimally at a temperature of 68 degrees F and 42 percent relative humidity.

While pianos generally fall into vertical and grand model categories, each manufacturer selects its own materials and utilizes its own unique scale and furniture designs. Every piano requires a different level of maintenance, depending upon the quality of materials used and the design and level of craftsmanship. Manufacturers can provide general advice on tuning frequency but your technician can give specific recommendations based upon your usage and locale.

Here's what some of the major piano manufacturers recommend:

Baldwin Piano Company

Professional service is the key. In the first year, the National Piano Manufacturers Association recommends that you have your piano tuned four times. This is a period of environmental adjustment for a new instrument, and proper attention is important.

After the first year, the piano should be tuned at least twice each year, depending upon the frequency of use and atmospheric conditions. Contact the Piano Technicians Guild for a list of qualified technicians to perform this service.

(Also Chickering, Wurlitzer)

Kawai Piano Company

Quality pianos demand quality care. Fine pianos require regular maintenance in three areas: tuning, action regulation and voicing. Tuning is usually required more often than the other service areas, but all three should be a part of any fine piano's maintenance.

Due to string stretching, settling, and the effects of climate, a new piano should receive at least four tunings in the first year. After that, the type of use and the location of the piano will dictate the number of tunings required, but Kawai recommends two tunings per year as a minimum.

Pearl River

Changes in temperature and humidity, the amount and type of use it gets, and the musical requirements of the owner will determine how often your Pearl River piano will need service.

In general, Pearl River recommends that your new piano be serviced four times the first year and twice a year by a qualified piano technician.

Samick

The careful selection and installation of the highest quality tuning pins, string, and pinblock materials assures excellent stability. Regular service by a qualified technician will assure the continuing pleasure that comes only from a properly tuned and regulated piano.

We recommend two to three tunings the first year and a minimum of two tunings per year thereafter. Avoid placing your piano where it will be exposed to extreme heat or cold, moisture, or direct sunlight, all of which can cause unstable tuning, warpage, and finish damage.

(Also Knabe, Kohler & Campbell, Conover Cable, Bechstein & Sohmer) 

Schimmel

Your Schimmel piano should be tuned and serviced only by qualified professionals. Questions regarding tuning can best be answered by your local piano technician.

As a rule, a brand new piano should, depending on its location and climatic conditions, be tuned two to three times in the first year or two. An instrument played often and intensively could require additional tunings.

Steinway & Sons

Your Steinway piano was tuned many times before it left our factory. It was tuned to and should be maintained at A440 pitch. This is the internationally accepted standard and the standard for which all Steinway pianos are engineered.

Unfortunately, no matter how expertly a piano is tuned, atmospheric variations and the nature of the piano's construction constantly conspire to bring it off pitch.

Your Steinway has been designed and built so that in normal use and under normal conditions it should need only periodic tuning. We recommend that your technician be called at least three or four times a year. You, however, are the final judge and should have the piano tuned as often as you think necessary. To put the matter of tuning into perspective, remember that a concert piano is tuned before every performance, and a piano in a professional recording studio, where it is in constant use, is tuned three or four times each week as a matter of course.

Tuning is an art practiced by skilled professionals and under no circumstances should anyone other than a professional be allowed to tune your Steinway piano.

(Also Boston & Essex)

Yamaha Pianos

New pianos should be tuned a minimum of four times the first year to compensate for the normal settling that takes place. Subsequently, as a matter of standard maintenance, a piano should be tuned at least twice a year.

Of course, some musicians will choose to have their own piano tuned more often to satisfy their own personal musical requirements.

When your piano needs tuning, consult your authorized Yamaha piano dealer or call a skilled qualified specialist such as a Piano Technicians Guild Registered Piano Technician (RPT).

Young Chang America, Inc.

Piano owners will receive optimum performance from their piano if it is properly serviced during its lifetime to compensate for the effects of environmental conditions and use.

Due to the natural elasticity in new piano strings, we recommend that your instrument be tuned two to four times the first year, twice the second year and a minimum of once per year thereafter. Of course, you may choose to have your piano tuned more or less often to satisfy your own personal requirements.

Ask your piano technician to also inspect the action and mechanical parts of your instrument along with regular tunings. Registered Piano Technicians have proven themselves qualified to give advice on the needs of a piano in its specific environment.

(Also Pramberger & Bergmann)

Your piano, like those in homes and on stages throughout the world, is an instrument of extraordinary promise which can bring you and your family a lifetime of enjoyment.

To ensure its performance over that lifetime, it is important to have your piano serviced regularly by a qualified professional. Complete piano service should include periodic regulation and voicing in addition to tuning.

Your technician can consult with you to recommend a maintenance schedule customized for your instrument.

The Special Care and Maintenance of the Teaching Piano

For your students, your piano is much more than just a musical instrument--it's a unique vehicle for their self-expression. It can increase self-esteem and self-knowledge, and can also provide the opportunity for much-needed recognition. Your piano has a task far beyond teaching scales and chords, and it must be up to the challenge.

As every teacher knows, a good piano is a major investment. The cost of an instrument capable of performing up to professional standards and enduring constant use is considerable. And to keep that instrument performing its best over the longest possible time requires regular maintenance.

How often should I have my piano tuned?

Because of the amount of time your piano is in use and because ear training is such an important aspect of any musical education, your piano may require more tunings annually than other pianos. Your piano may also be used to make audition tapes for student scholarship competitions where impeccable intonation is vital for your students to sound their best.

The variations in the relative humidity of a studio or home are generally the most important criteria in determining how often a piano needs to be tuned. Normal homes may experience fairly drastic changes from season to season. Your situation is complicated by constant use which tends to deteriorate a tuning more quickly. A piano functions best under consistent conditions which are neither too wet nor dry, optimally at a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 42 percent relative humidity.

You can reduce the severity of these climatic effects by placing your piano in the room so that it is away from windows or doors which are opened frequently. Avoid heating and air conditioning vents, fireplaces, and areas receiving direct sunlight.

While manufacturers' recommendations on the number of annual tunings vary, they generally agree that a piano should be tuned at least two to four times each year, with additional tunings as needed.

What about regulation?

Periodically your piano will require the adjustment of it mechanical parts to compensate for the effects of wear, the compacting and settling of cloth, felt and buckskin, as well as dimensional changes in wooden and wool parts due to changes in relative humidity. This series of adjustments is know as regulation which involves three systems of your piano: then action, trapwork and damper system.

The action is the mechanical part of the piano that permits efficient transfer of power from the fingers on the keys to the hammers that strike the strings. We have technical drawings available for both vertical and grand actions. Consisting of over 9,000 working parts, the action requires adjustment to critical tolerances to properly respond to a pianist's performance. Because the piano's action will go out of adjustment slowly over time, you may not notice accumulating sluggishness or unevenness as it occurs. Your student's performance, however, will be affected dramatically. No amount of practice will compensate for a poorly maintained action. Poor legato touch, chord playing where all the notes of the chord don't speak clearly, a gradual loss of subtlety in phrasing, and an inability to execute quick passages or note repetitions evenly may be the fault of the piano -- not the student. Smooth, even playing is as much a function of a well-maintained action as a well-rehearsed student.

The trapwork is the assemblage of levers, dowels, and springs that connects the pedals to the action. The damper system is the mechanical part of the piano that stops the motion of the strings and is controlled by the keys and pedal system. Incorrect pedaling techniques may be related to poor regulation of the trapwork or damper system. Fine adjustment is essential here if you are to teach the nuances of pedaling to your students.

What is voicing?

Your piano also may require periodic voicing. The process of voicing can adjust the relative brilliance of a piano and provide an even gradation of volume and tone over the entire range of the keyboard. Voicing procedures may involve reshaping the hammers, the use of needles on the hammer felt and/or the application of special softeners or hardeners in order to produce the best sound possible. You should discuss with your technician what changes in your piano's tone are practical and together, decide what steps should be taken to effect these changes.

Although you may have your piano tuned regularly, you must specifically request regulation or voicing procedures. These procedures aren't included in a normal tuning. It should also be noted that voicing can only be accomplished after a piano has been freshly tuned.

What should my regular maintenance program consist of?

The backbone of any maintenance program is regular tuning. These tunings should occur as needed to compensate for changes in humidity and temperature, and movement of strings from use. A rule of thumb is that tunings should be done often enough to hold pitch between A439 and A441. Depending upon your humidity control and the condition of your instrument, this probably will mean at least two to four tunings per year. Minor repairs and adjustments can be made at the same time.

Your teaching piano should be thoroughly cleaned, the action regulated, and the hammers reshaped and voiced approximately every three years, or as needed, depending upon the usage and quality of your instrument.

What about long-term maintenance?

If you are advised that regulation will not improve the performance of your instrument, or that your tuning may not hold for more than short periods of time, your piano may require reconditioning or rebuilding.

Reconditioning involves cleaning, repair, and adjustment of your piano, and replacement of parts only where indicated.

Rebuilding involves the complete disassembly of your piano. A qualified rebuilder inspects and replaces all worn or deteriorated parts which can include such major components as the pinblock, action, soundboard, and bridges. Thorough rebuilding will restore your instrument to its original condition.

How should I go about selecting a piano?

If you find yourself in need of another instrument, be sure to consider all options, both new and used. Fine used instruments become available for sale for a variety of reasons. Your technician can help you select a piano in good playing condition and give you an idea of what type of maintenance you can expect in the future. Like selecting a used car, it's important to seek the help of an expert when making your purchase to avoid costly repairs in the future. Your technician also can provide you with guidance regarding the selection of a new instrument best suited for your demanding needs.

How can I help my students improve the performance of their pianos?

Many students don't like to practice their lessons at home. It's possible their instrument at home isn't tuned regularly, has never been regulated or voiced, and just doesn't sound good. A student needs a practice piano that functions properly in order to take full advantage of your instruction. You can help by introducing your students to a qualified technician and by letting them know how important it is to properly maintain their instruments.

How do I find a qualified person to service my teaching piano?

The Piano Technicians Guild, Inc. (PTG) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the knowledge and skill of professionals in the piano industry. The largest organization of its kind in the world, its membership includes tuner-technicians, rebuilders, piano designers, and manufacturers, retailers, and enthusiasts. Many other countries have similar organizations. PTG certifies Registered Piano Technician (RPT) through a series of rigorous examination designed to test their skill in tuning, regulation and repair. Those capable of performing these tasks up to a recognized worldwide standard receive certification.

As a piano teacher, you have invested years of practice and study in the areas of piano pedagogy and performance. Similarly, RPTs have devoted years of study to become competent in the areas of piano maintenance and service. By regularly utilizing the services of an RPT, and by recommending an RPT to your students, you can be assured that you and your students' instruments will be properly maintained for optimal performance year after year.