Piano Finders

Piano Finders

Frequently Asked Questions about Piano Service and Repairs

Reflections of a Pianist

Tuning Questions

1. How often should I have my piano tuned?

Usually every six months to a year is sufficient for normal use. If your piano gets played a lot, you might need more frequent tunings, like every two or three months. Ideally your ear should be your guide. If some of the notes on your piano are sounding "sour," it's probably time to call the tuner. New or recently restrung pianos may need more frequent tunings for the first couple of years, because the new strings are stretching. Pianos with loose tuning pins also may need more frequent tunings.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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2. How much does a tuning cost? And how and where do I find a tuner?

Tuning prices vary widely according to cost of living in the geographical area, the experience the tuner has, and how much in demand they are. A recent survey of tuning prices across the country indicated a range of from $50. to over $200. The average currently seems to run from around $75 to 125.

Of course, it often seems that the more you pay the more you get. Lower-price tunings often consist of adjusting the strings and no more. Higher-priced tunings often include other work that the tuner finds necessary, such as fixing squeaky pedals or sticky notes, or touching up the regulation or voicing. But as always, there are exceptions to this general rule.

Often the type of piano and the its condition has a lot to do with the price. If a piano hasn't been tuned for several years, it is likely it will need not only a regular tuning but an additional, preliminary rough tuning (called a pitch raise) to bring it up to pitch. Perhaps some broken strings might need to be repaired or action problems fixed before the piano can be tuned. Things of this sort can often increase the price. Some of the higher-priced tuners take these additional needs into consideration and include them in the flat rate; lower priced tuners may tend to offer their services more a la carte, charging you extra for each additional service. Often the time the tuner is willing to spend on the piano seems directly related to what they quote you. For a low-priced or budget tuning, you can usually expect the tuner to spend perhaps an hour or less, and your piano may still have problems after the tuner leaves, unless you agree to additional repairs at additional cost. Higher-priced, higher-quality tuners tend to make sure you know what the piano is ultimately going to need before they even start; they make sure your piano is properly serviced before they leave; and they may spend 2 or 3 hours or more making sure everything is right and that you will be completely satisfied with the result.

Some tuners will quote you a flat fee over the phone when you first contact them, after asking you a few questions about what type of piano you have and how long it's been since it was last tuned. Others might give you a range of prices, reserving final judgment until they actually get to your place and see the piano and what sort of condition it is in.

When you are looking for a tuner it is often best to try and get a referral from a relative, friend or acquaintance who is a satisfied customer. Some other good sources of referrals might be your music teacher, church, a recording studio, local piano dealers, piano rebuilders, the local auditorium or concert hall, the local symphony orchestra, dance studios; in short, anyone or anyplace that depends on or uses pianos on a regular basis.

Good tuners may often be found by contacting your local chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild. Tuners who are registered as RPT's (Registered Piano Technicians) with the Piano Technicians Guild have had to demonstrate their competence in servicing and tuning pianos through a comprehensive set of examinations, and they also must subscribe to a code of ethics. Since piano tuners are not required to be licensed, membership in the Guild is strictly voluntary. There are currently over 3500 RPT's throughout the world. Many of them attend regular meetings and conventions where they have the opportunity to learn from each other and increase their skills and knowledge, and keep up-to-date on the latest piano industry developments. Certification as an RPT is significant because it provides at least some standard for performance. (It is important to note that the Guild also has an "Associate" member class for those who have paid the membership fees but who have not taken, or who are not going to take, the tests. However, only those who have passed the exams are allowed to call themselves RPT's.)

It's important to keep in mind, however, that qualification as an RPT alone does not make a tuner a great or even necessarily a very good one. It's up to the individual tuner to continue their education and training beyond the passing of the exams. The tests are simply to establish what the Guild feels is the minimum acceptable standard for tuning/servicing pianos. On the one end of the spectrum there are RPT's who are just starting out their tuning careers, and on the other end, RPT's who have been tuning for many, many years. Passing the tests to qualify as an RPT is indeed a significant accomplishment, but there is much beyond certification that is still required to make a truly competent piano tuner. Tuners are most often like fine wines: they improve with age and experience (so long as they don't lose either their minds or their hearing!). That is why it is also important to get referrals.

It is not mandatory to get an RPT to tune your piano. There are many superb tuners who do not currently belong to the Guild. Some never felt a need to join, others were at one time members who had passed the exams but for one reason or another simply allowed their membership to lapse. This happens a lot, since RPT's are required to pay significant yearly dues, and if they forget or neglect to pay one year, they have to go back and take the exams all over again to regain their RPT status. The important thing in this case is that at one point they did pass the exams and qualify, and have since kept up, or continued to improve, their skills.

Click on Hire a Technician and you will be able to find out if there is a technician in your area.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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3. What happens if my piano hasn't been tuned for a few years?

If it really is just a few years (i.e. 2 or 3) then there probably won't be much of a problem. If what is meant by "a few" is really "several" (i.e. four or more years) there are a number of consequences you may experience:

  1. The piano many need more than one tuning to bring it back up to pitch. (Additional expense - $$)
  2. You may get notes that still sound out of tune after the tuning due to something called false beats. This is due to little bends being formed in the piano strings where they pass around anchor points such as bridge pins. When the piano is tuned regularly these bends have a chance to be gradually eased out of the string. If the piano has fallen substantially below pitch (i.e. from not having been tuned frequently enough), the process of pulling the strings back up to pitch often brings these little bends out into the speaking segment of the string without having had the opportunity to straighten out gradually. A competent tuner can usually remove these unwanted bends in the string, but it's additional work, and you may get charged more. Some tuners who are not so competent just leave them and hope they'll straighten out over time. And sometimes, no matter how good the tuner is or how hard he tries to remove a false beat, you're stuck with it.
  3. The piano may go out of tune more rapidly until it has had subsequent tunings on a regular basis.
  4. Since the strings on new or recently restrung pianos are usually stretching or going out of tune much faster, it is important not to let these instruments go for more than about a year without tuning.
  5. Most importantly, the piano will not be as enjoyable to play if it is out of tune.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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4. My tuner says my piano needs 2 or 3 tunings to bring it up to pitch. Why is this?

Usually because the piano has been allowed to go out of tune for more than a couple of years. A piano that is tuned every 6 months to a year should not normally need more than one tuning. What happens, in a nutshell, is that every time a tuner tightens one string on your piano, it affects other strings and causes them to go slightly out of tune. If the piano has been kept relatively close to being in tune, these effects are not noticeable. But if piano has been allowed to drop significantly below pitch, or flat, over the years, and needs to have major tightening done to all the strings in order to bring it back up to pitch, the first strings the tuner tunes will have gone audibly out of tune again by the time he finishes with the rest. When a tuner must add additional tension to a string, (as when having to bring it back up to pitch), it not only affects the string he is tuning, but also the soundboard, the plate (or gold "harp"), the bridges, and numerous other structural components of the piano as well. This in turn affects all the other strings. Even in a normal tuning, strings that have already been tuned are affected by the strings tuned after them, and often tuners have to go back after the tuning is done and "touch-up" strings. The closer a piano is to being in tune before the tuner begins, the better tuning he can do.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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5. If the piano needs 2 or 3 tunings to bring it up to pitch, can I just have the tuner leave the piano below pitch for now, and do just one tuning?

It all depends. If the piano is not so far below pitch that it sounds tubby or dead, and still relatively in tune with itself, it can probably be tuned flat. The drawbacks are that you probably won't be able to play with other instruments, (such as certain woodwinds, like the oboe or flute), that can't alter their pitch down sufficiently to conform with that of your piano, but if you usually just play the piano by itself, that shouldn't be a problem. Most pianos made in the last 100 years or so were designed for A-440 pitch (i.e. the A above middle C is supposed to vibrate at a frequency of 440 cycles per second; and all the other notes in proper relationship to that A). Pianos designed for A-440 usually do not sound as brilliant or powerful at a lower frequency, but then, some people like the mellower sound. A lot depends on how far below pitch the piano is, and how much out of tune with itself. Musicians, vocalists or pianists who have perfect pitch may find it very difficult or impossible to play, or perform accompanied by, a piano that is below pitch, because they have an internal pitch reference that disagrees with what they are hearing from the off-pitch instrument.

Many tuners, when confronted with a piano needing more than one tuning, and aware of customers' objections to having to pay more than the normal tuning fee, will try to accommodate the client and attempt to make do with one tuning, either by leaving the pitch of the piano low (i.e. where it was), or by raising the pitch only partway, so that the piano doesn't sound like it's gone out of tune again when they are through. There may be some justification for bringing a piano up to pitch slowly, over time: It reduces the possibility of false beats (see above, under "what happens if I don't tune my piano for several years?") Also the piano will be more stable and hold its tune better if the strings are not pulled up so much all at once. While many experts on the subject of tuning advocate doing a "pitch raise" (basically a coarse tuning to bring the piano immediately up to A440 pitch) and then a fine tuning immediately afterward, there are other tuners and technicians who prefer to bring a piano up to pitch more gradually, over several weeks or months, to avoid the false beat problem just mentioned. Since each individual situation is different, it's usually best to consult your tuner, and have him tell you your options, and his recommendations.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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6. My piano tuner said that my piano can't be tuned. How can that be?

There are a couple of different things the tuner could mean by this. First, he may not be able to bring this particular piano up to pitch. This doesn't necessarily mean the piano can't be put in tune with itself, even if it's not up to A440 pitch. (See previous question). This situation could be due to a number of factors. The piano may be an antique that wasn't designed for A440 pitch. (Over the years there have been many different "concert pitches." It was only relatively recently that A440 was universally accepted as standard pitch, and there are still exceptions in places. Older pianos may have been designed for a lower pitch.) Or, the strings on the piano may be rusty and may break if the tuner attempts to stretch them the requisite amount to bring the instrument up to pitch.

The other thing that the tuner could mean is that the piano cannot be put in tune at all, even below pitch. This could be due to such things as loose tuning pins that will not hold the strings tightly enough to sustain a tuning, structural defects in the piano itself, such as a cracked pinblock or plate, or strings that are so old or rusty that the tuner breaks several in attempting to tune the piano. A bridge coming loose or falling apart, a pinblock installed poorly at the factory, or a number of other problems can make it impossible for a tuner to tune your piano.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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7. My piano went out of tune shortly after being tuned. What should I do?

The first thing to do is to call your tuner and describe the problem. If it's just one or a few notes that have gone out of tune, well, that happens sometimes, and most tuners will be happy to drop back by and touch them up. If there are a large number of notes out of tune, or if the piano seems to have gone uniformly flat (or sharp), it's usually for one of three general reasons:

  1. The tuner didn't do a good job, or
  2. The piano was way below pitch before the tuning, or wasn't in good enough structural condition that it could be tuned solidly, or
  3. The humidity or temperature changed radically since the tuning

Sometimes a tuner is relatively new or inexperienced, sometimes it's not a good day for them, and sometimes they are just in a hurry. Other times the piano hasn't been tuned for several years and really needs more than a single tuning before it will sound good or hold a tuning for any length of time. If the latter is the case, the tuner should be experienced enough to tell you beforehand what to expect. In addition, the piano may have structural problems such as loose tuning pins, too-tight tuning pins, bent tuning pins, or any number of other defects that make it difficult to tune properly. When in doubt, it's probably wisest to ask your tuner what the reason is, or, if his answer doesn't satisfy you, by all means get a second opinion.

You may have heard that some tuners will not tune on a rainy day or if the weather is changing dramatically. Some tuners will tell you if it is a good season, or a good day, to get your piano tuned. (Other tuners aren't too concerned with this. A lot depends on your local climate (both outdoor and indoor), and the tuner's experience with it. Some tuners feel that outside humidity fluctuations are too unpredictable to take into consideration. Indoor humidity swings, however, caused by central heating or air conditioning, can be quite severe and also quite predictable. Most times, when pianos go dramatically out of tune, it is immediately following the turning on of the heat in winter, which dries out the indoor air substantially. Astute readers will also note that this generally corresponds with the changing of the seasons as well, hence the reason some tuners like to tune only after the weather has changed.) While small humidity variations will usually not noticeably throw a piano out of tune, larger ones usually will. If the humidity change is temporary, the piano will often go back in tune when the humidity returns to normal. It's not a bad idea to keep a humidity gauge on your piano. At least it will let you know whether humidity changes are a possible cause of the piano's going out of tune.

In recent years piano owners are becoming more aware of the effects of humidity change on their instruments, and many are having humidity control systems installed on their pianos. Humidity control will often help your tunings, and your piano, last longer. There is more info on humidity control systems in the Piano Owners FAQ's.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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8. Can I tune my piano myself?

Possibly, IF you are willing to take the time, and have the patience, to learn how to do it properly. Warning: it's not as easy as it looks, and there are some dangers. Tuning a piano is not a procedure to be taken lightly, because you are dealing with over 200 piano strings that have a combined total of 20 to 30 tons of tension. If you don't know what you are doing you can break strings, break the piano's cast iron frame, or hurt yourself or others. However, if you conscientiously study any of a number of authoritative books on the subject, or take a course in piano tuning, and take the time to learn the proper technique, it can be quite safe.

Unless your piano tuner is just a rank beginner, he/she has probably put in several years mastering the technique. If you don't know what a piano in tune should sound like in the first place, it's going to be rough learning. However, even if you do know what a piano in tune should sound like, it doesn't necessarily make the task any easier, because you will be able to hear how far short of the mark your first tunings fall.

Piano tuning requires special tools, just like servicing new model cars does. If you don't have the proper tools, you cannot hope to do a satisfactory job. You cannot tune a piano with a normal socket or adjustable wrench. If you attempt to do so, you will inevitably mar the tuning pins, and make it difficult or impossible for anyone else to subsequently tune the piano. You will need at the minimum a proper piano tuning wrench (or tuning hammer, as it is called in the profession), a tuning fork or other appropriate pitch reference, and a set of mutes to silence the strings you are not tuning. And most importantly, incredible patience. The tools themselves are not that expensive. Learning to use them properly is, at least, in terms of the time involved.

Remember that tuning a piano is an art and a skill, just like playing the piano, acquired only after years of practice and study. It's not a task that can be learned in a weekend. Your first attempts at tuning a piano will be very frustrating, your first tuning will probably take you over eight hours to do, and when you are done it will probably not last very long or sound very good. But after doing a dozen or more tunings you may actually get to the point where the piano sounds better than it did before you started. After doing a hundred or more tunings you may actually be able to stand to listen to them.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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9. I'm thinking of selling my piano. Should I have it tuned?

Yes, unless you don't plan to let potential buyers play it. And not only should it be tuned, but you should have any sticky notes, squeaky pedals or other noises or problems taken care of. Unless you just plan on selling the piano to a dealer or rebuilder for wholesale (about 1/2 the current market value or less) the piano needs to sound and look its best. You will be competing directly with dealers whose pianos are generally well-prepped. Any piano that hasn't been tuned within three months can benefit from a tuning.

It might be different if the potential buyer doesn't play and is willing to just take your word that it's a good instrument. But usually people who don't play have a habit of bringing along someone who does, and then you will wish you'd had the piano tuned. We have pre-selected tuners for you across the country. Click on Hire a Technician and you will be able to find out if there is a technician in your area that we have selected.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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10. But won't someone buying my piano just have to have it tuned again when they get it home?

Usually, yes. But let's not put the cart before the horse. Before they take the piano home they first have to want to buy it, and that's why it needs to sound, and look, it's best in your home. -Because there are plenty of other pianos for sale out there that are in tune.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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11. My tuner says my piano needs regulation. What is that, and why is it necessary?

Pianos are made of wood, wire, felt, and leather, among other things. There are literally hundreds of different felts in a piano. Over time, felt, and also leather, compresses, wears, and changes dimensionally. Hammers (the felts which strike the strings) wear and get grooves in them. Felts underneath the keys and in action parts get packed down. After a few years of regular playing, a piano needs to be readjusted to compensate for changes in the felts, and other wear on the action parts. The process of readjusting the action to restore it to it's factory settings is called regulation.

In regulating a piano, a piano technician usually performs numerous adjustments on each note. These adjustments affect how the keys feel when you play them and how sensitively the piano responds to your touch. Regulation may also affect how the piano sounds. If your piano isn't feeling as nice, or responding as well as it did when it was new, chances are it needs regulation. It may also need voicing (see below).

Regulation should usually be performed on a piano in normal use about every five to ten years. New pianos or ones that have been rebuilt will probably need regulation after the first six months to a year of use, because the new felts will be settling. On pianos for finicky artistic use or which get a lot of playing, regulation may need to be done more often. Regulation can be anything from a few touch up adjustments to a comprehensive restoration of all the factory settings. Usually regulation does not include parts replacement, but in order to do an effective regulation, a tuner or piano technician may have to replace felts or other parts that are worn unevenly or beyond their usefulness.

A touch-up or partial regulation may run anywhere from $50. to $200. A complete regulation may cost several hundred dollars or more on a finer grand.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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12: My tuner says my piano needs voicing. What is that, and why is it necessary?

Voicing is a general term pertaining to a number of different repairs and adjustments performed on the piano to improve the sound quality or change it to suit customer tastes. Voicing may include hammer reshaping, hammer hardening or softening, aligning strings to hammers and/or hammers to strings, adjustment and/or repair of strings and their anchor points, and also tuning, and/or regulating. Generally, most voicing has to do with adjusting the hardness, softness, or shape of the hammers (the felts which strike the strings), and adjusting their relationship to the strings. Generally the basic principle is that harder hammers will cause a brighter, louder, brassier or more metallic sound, softer hammers will sound more subdued or mellow.

When a tuner or piano technician voices your piano, they will usually be making it brighter or mellower to suit your tastes. They also may be building the power and tone of the piano's sound, or evening out the sound from note to note, so that adjacent notes sound similar to their neighbors, and so that you can play a scale with even pressure on each key without some notes sounding too loud or others too soft. Voicing, like regulating, usually gives you more control over the sound, and makes it so that you don't have to either work excessively hard, or else "walk on eggs" in order to get the particular tone or dynamic (loudness or softness) you intend when you depress a given key.

A technician usually softens a hammer by piercing it or loosening the felt with needles. Hardening a hammer my be accomplished by sanding it, ironing it, or adding chemical hardeners.

Most pianos will need voicing when the hammer felt packs down, or when grooves appear, or when the hammers have become flattened or lose their shape from playing. Typically, though, voicing usually only ends up being done when the tuner brings it to the owner's attention, or when the owner is dissatisfied with the piano's tone, even after tuning. On many pianos, voicing and regulation are never performed because owners are not aware they need to ever do anything besides tuning. And unfortunately, many owners become dissatisfied with their pianos and dispose of them or buy new ones when all the piano needs is some regulation and voicing.

Voicing can cost anywhere from $25. to 50. for some touch-up voicing adjustments, to several hundred dollars for complete voicing adjustments including major hammer reshaping and realignment of action parts and strings.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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13. What is hammer reshaping? Why and when is it necessary?

A piano's hammers are the felt assemblies which strike the piano's strings. Where hammers strike the strings on a piano, they develop string impressions, or grooves, over time. These grooves ultimately interfere with the hammers' ability to generate a pleasing tone. If the grooves have not become too deep, the hammers can be reshaped, by sanding or removing a layer of felt from the hammer's surface, restoring it to its original profile or shape (albeit smaller). Hammers can usually be reshaped a number of times, if the grooves have not been allowed to get too deep between reshapings. If the hammers have very deep grooves, however, or if the hammers have already been reshaped a number of times, the hammers will need to be replaced. (See rehammering, below.)

Hammer reshaping is a moderate expense. It may cost anywhere from $50. to $200, depending on how much reshaping is needed.

Hammer reshaping is often a necessary part of voicing. (See above, voicing.)

by Kendall Ross Bean

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14: What is rehammering? Why and when is it necessary?

Rehammering or hammer replacement is replacing the piano's hammers ( the felts which strike the strings), usually as a complete set. A piano's hammers are the felts subject to the greatest wear, much like the tires on a car. After so many years of use, they wear out, and need to be replaced. If a piano gets only occasional use, or not more than a few hours a week, the hammers may not need to be replaced for many years. Pianos in higher usage situations, such as in a practice room, recording studio, or teacher's studio, may need to have the hammers replaced as often as every 5 to 10 years.

If a piano's hammers are simply grooved, but there is still sufficient felt left, they may be reshaped. Depending on the depth of the grooves and the amount of felt left, this may be done a number of times. See hammer reshaping, above.

Rehammering a piano is generally considered a major expense, in part because there are a number of operations that need to be performed along with it to restore the piano to it's original factory settings. In addition, parts connected to the hammers (called shanks, flanges, and knuckles) often need to be replaced at the same time. At the minimum, when a piano receives a new set of hammers, it will need to be reregulated and revoiced. Unfortunately, this is not always done, resulting in an instrument that does not sound as good as it could, or what it sounded like originally. Hammer replacement or rehammering may cost anywhere from several hundred to two or three thousand dollars, depending on the type of piano and how much associated work needs to be done.

Also see Piano Finders: Replacing the Hammers

by Kendall Ross Bean

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15. What is restringing? Why and when is it necessary?

Restringing is the replacement of the piano's strings, usually as a complete set. A piano is generally restrung when the strings get worn out and/or lose their tone due to a number of possible reasons. The point at which this happens varies from piano to piano and depends on a variety of factors, including how much the piano gets used, the type of environment it's kept in, and the quality of the strings themselves (how well they were made) and how they were handled (or mishandled) in installation. If the strings are high quality to begin with, and have not been exposed to adverse conditions such as excessive moisture or dust, and have not been played more than a few hours a week or had more than occasional use, they may still sound good after 50 yrs. or more. If the piano has had heavy use, or exposure to adverse climatic conditions, the strings may lose their tone in as little as 10 years. When your piano stops sounding as deep and rich or resonant as it once did, when bass strings start to sound dead or tubby and the overall sound becomes tinny and thin, then then it's probably time to consider restringing.

Strings can become stretch-hardened from heavy use, or repeated tunings, or they can become rusty or oxidized from exposure to excessive humidity or moisture. Airborne dust can lodge in the windings of bass strings and cause them to go dead or tubby over time. Windings of bass strings frequently come loose. Careless handling at the factory or rebuilder's can cause strings to have twists or kink in them that can ruin the string from the start. And every now and then the piano maker will get a bad batch of wire from the string manufacturer. Usually this is caught and sent back, but not always.

In addition, if a piano's tuning pins have become loose in the pinblock, it's usually standard procedure to replace the strings along with the tuning pins and/or pinblock. Whenever work is done on any part of the piano (such as the soundboard or the bridges) that cannot be accessed without removing the strings, all the strings are usually replaced as well.

When a piano is restrung, it usually needs to be reregulated and revoiced as well (see regulation and voicing, above). Unfortunately, this is not always done, resulting in an instrument that is not what it could be.

To keep costs down, sometimes a piano will be only partially restrung and only the bass strings will be replaced, because bass strings tend to go bad faster than treble strings. Most often though, if the bass strings have gone bad, the treble strings will have lost a significant amount of their tone as well.

Usually only pianos that are high quality or valuable are restrung, as restringing is a major expense that must be justified against the ultimate value of the instrument. Restringing, along with all the related repairs, can often cost from one to several thousand dollars, depending on the piano and its specific needs.

Also see Piano Finders: Replacing the Strings.

by Kendall Ross Bean

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16: My piano teacher says that my piano action is too heavy (light), what does this mean and can it be changed?

Click on this article for answer to this question. Why is my piano so hard to play?

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17. How should I prepare for a technician to visit my home and what should I expect from the technician when he/she is there?

You should expect a Piano Technician to:

  1. Abide by the code of ethics of the Piano Technician Guild, if they have stated they are a R.P.T. member.
  2. Set up an appointment with you in a timely manner after you have ordered a service through our web store.
  3. Treat your piano, your property and you with respect.

Suggestions for what you should do when a piano technician visits:

  1. Keep your appointment. It courteous to pay a technician if you miss appointment, since the technician has already had to make the trip and quite possibly turned down other work so that they could take your appointment.
  2. Respect the technician's space. While most technician's love children and dogs just like anyone else, they do have a job to do and other appointments to meet after yours. Be sure that children and pets are kept away from the tuner and his/her tools while they are doing work on your piano. Some things in the technician's tool box are not meant for curious toddlers or pets, who may accidentally hurt themselves on sharp tools, or swallow something they weren't meant to while the technician's back is turned.
  3. Remove items from on top of the piano. It will be necessary for the technician to open the lid of the piano, whether it is a grand or an upright, in order to get inside to tune it or inspect it. Please remove all pictures, throw rugs, plants (they shouldn't be on the piano anyway), and other paraphernalia so that the tuner can gain access to the piano's insides. It is better for you to remove these things beforehand than for the technician to have to try and do it: he/she is not familiar with them and may accidentally drop or damage something of value to you, causing an embarrassing situation for both of you. Also, when the technician is done, please don't expect him/her to put everything back in place. The technician may offer to do so, but kindly refrain from accepting the offer, unless, of course, you are handicapped or otherwise at a disadvantage. You know far better than the technician where everything goes.
  4. Provide ample light in the room. The technician will need to be able to clearly see the finish of the piano, the parts inside and underneath in order to complete their inspection and to tune a piano. If there is no electricity in the area, make sure to tell the technician. If possible have a bright or large flashlight on hand.
  5. Make sure that there is space around the piano. For both an tuning and an inspection, some piano disassembly is often needed. On a grand piano, a technician will need to remove the action from the piano, which will involve sitting at a bench and pulling the action out of the piano. This requires about 4 feet of space between the keyboard and a wall or any furniture. He/she will also need to see the entire cabinet to look for defects. You can expect him/her to crawl under the piano to take measurements, remove the music rack to test the tuning pins and to remove the fallboard and cheekblocks to remove the action. A grand piano must be set up on its legs to be inspected or tuned. It cannot be on it's side. On an upright piano, the technician will remove various panels to see inside and will need to see the back of the piano as well. The technician will reassemble the piano when the inspection or tuning is complete.
  6. Pay the technician the agreed upon fee before he/she leaves.

When the technician is tuning your piano....

Try to make sure it is as quiet as possible in the house, or at the minimum, in the room where the piano is, when the tuner comes. This is critical because the tuner needs quiet in order to be able to hear very subtle vibrations among the pianos strings, and to do the best possible tuning for you. If you have children running through the house, the stereo playing, the TV blaring (even if it's in another room), the vacuum cleaner running, construction going on, dogs barking, or other loud noises, it may make it difficult or impossible for the tuner to do his/her job.

About your piano and piano tuning...

  1. Your piano may need more than one tuning. Piano tunings should be done every 6 to 12 months. New pianos or recently restrung pianos usually need 4 tunings the first year. If your piano has not been kept in regular tune, it is possible it will need two tunings the day the tuner comes. This is because when a piano is out of tune for a long time, the strings stretch. A technician cannot bring all the strings up to pitch in one pass without risking a crack in the plate, so he/she often times will need to tune the piano in two passes. This is called a pitch raise and a tune. If the tuner tells you that your piano will need two tunings, expect to pay for both on that day. There is no other way to get your piano back into tune. Also, if it has been a years between tunings, it is likely your piano will go out of tune more quickly and you will need the tuner to come back within the next few months to tune it once more, until it stabilizes.
  2. Strings can break during a piano tuning. If your piano has very brittle strings, either because they have been exposed to excess humidity or are over 40 years old, strings may break while the tuner is tuning. This is not the tuner's fault. It means that the string was too brittle to be brought up to pitch. Sometimes new strings can break because they have flaws in them. If the tuner only breaks a few strings while tuning, then they can usually fix them on the spot by putting a special kind of knot in the string. If the tuner feels the piano cannot be tuned without too many strings breaking, they may tell you that you need new strings or if the piano is new, that it needs warranty work.
  3. Some pianos can't hold a tune without extensive rebuilding. The strings on your piano are held in tune by a pinblock. This is a laminated piece of wood that is very strong that is installed under the plate and into which all the tuning pins are driven. A tuner can tell if a piano's pinblock needs replacing in order for the piano to hold a tune. The tuner can usually tell by how loose the tuning pins are, whether the tune is likely to hold. He/she will inform you if it is not possible to tune your piano.
  4. If your piano is not tuneable, you will still need to pay the tuner for the visit. If your tuner informs you the piano cannot be tuned, it would be best to ask for an inspection instead of the tuning you had planned on. An inspection requires an entirely different process and is not usually done during a tuning. But, if the tuner cannot tune the piano, then an inspection is very important to have so that you can know what to do, how much it will cost and what condition your piano is in.

by Karen E. Lile

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