Your piano – whether a magnificent grand, a studio
instrument, or a home-sized vertical piano – deserves to be serviced and
taken care of properly. I have prepared this guide so that you may be able to
protect your piano and keep it in proper working condition.
As a piano technician, I have learned that many of my customers feel concerned
about the care and protection of their investment. Since pianos don’t
normally come with “owner’s guides” I have assembled this
Piano Care Guide using information from several sources and also the input of
several other piano technicians. Customers generally have questions about placement,
tuning and other maintenance that their piano may need. This guide is to help
you maintain and protect your beautiful piano. If you have any other questions
or concerns about the care of your piano, or if you have questions concerning
specific brands or pianos, please call me. I’ll be glad to answer any
of your questions as well as I can.
The right environment
for your piano
Environmental conditions are important because they affect the piano’s
tone, tuning, stability, finish and the length of the instrument’s life.
Frequent or extreme changes of either temperature or humidity may result in
damage to your piano. By rigid control of the manufacturing process, good piano
manufacturers can reduce the susceptibility of pianos to future damage from
these changes. However, the piano’s environment
after it leaves the factory is important. Extreme atmospheric changes affect
the moisture content of wooden parts, causing them to shrink and swell. This
may cause finish cracks or chips, changes in string tension which results in
more frequent tunings, soundboard cracks and changes of critical tolerances
which keep the piano in excellent playing condition.
Generally, environments which are not comfortable for people are not good for
pianos either. For proper maintenance, avoid temperatures above 80F and below
70F. Also, avoid relative humidities below 50% and above 60%. Keep changes of
temperature and humidity to a minimum.
Don’t place your piano over a heat register or near a steam or hot water
radiator. Keep your piano away from windows or doors which are frequently opened.
Avoiding direct exposure to sunlight is also advisable as it affects not only
the finish, but also the tuning stability of your piano.
We know that in Utah, we experience winters that are very dry. The relative
humidity is usually quite low. In summer, many people live in homes with evaporative
(swamp) coolers. While this makes the air feel cooler in the summertime, it
also, of course, puts a lot of moisture into the air. May I make the following
suggestions if you use a swamp cooler:
1. Keep the moist air from blowing directly onto your piano.
2. Install a humidifier on your furnace so that the moisture content of the
air in your home remains more consistent during the changes in season. Not only
is it better for your piano, it is better for your health too.
3. Keep some live potted plants in the same room as the piano. This helps to
keep the moisture in the air when it is dry outside. A good suggestion is a
geranium to keep moths away as well.
Protecting your piano’s
A piano cannot remain in excellent condition
unless it is properly maintained and receives regular service by a competent
Because it takes time for any new piano to become thoroughly settled and adjusted
to atmospheric conditions in its home, proper tuning and servicing are especially
important during its first year after purchase. New pianos should be tuned several
times in this first year. During these tunings, your technician should check
and regulate the action to compensate for the settling of new parts to climate
I hear of many people who buy a piano, get their first free tuning from the
store where they purchased it, and let the piano remain untuned for years (sometimes
decades). This harms the piano because it loses stability and over the years
will not “hold tuning.” What a sad way to treat such a wonderful
I agree with the recommendations form the National Piano Foundation and the
Piano Technicians Guild stating that after the first year a piano should be
tuned twice each year, even after it has become settled in its permanent location.
Did you know that most concert grands are tuned before every performance? Recording
studios tune their pianos several times each month. If your budget is such that
you feel you cannot afford to tune your piano twice a year, please have it tuned
at least once a year.
Care of the action
Equally important as proper tuning is thorough attention to the action. This
intricate but durable mechanism responds instantly to every touch with a full-power
blow to the strings. If the thousands of interrelated parts are kept regulated
(or in good adjustment), the action will perform for many decades of faithful
As with tuning, a modest amount spent to have the action thoroughly checked
during the first year or two will add additional years of life to the instrument,
as well as satisfaction with its performance.
When the action has become settled to its surroundings, it will need less frequent
adjustment. Do not confuse tuning the piano with adjusting the action or any
other work. Tuning the piano merely adjusts the strings to the proper pitch.
The third main adjustment that a good piano technician can do to a piano is
called voicing. When a piano is new from the factory, it may require some voicing
in order to achieve a tone that is pleasing to your ear. That can be done to
a certain degree by a competent piano technician.
For instance, if the piano is too bright
or brilliant in tone, the technician can soften the hammers slightly to achieve
a more mellow tone. If the piano is too mellow or dark, the piano tone can be
brightened by slightly hardening the hammers with a special solution.
Realize that if the piano is not a very
good instrument to start with, voicing will not turn it into a great sounding
piano! As a piano is played over the years, the felt hammers can become compressed,
causing the tone of the piano to become brighter over time. Many people don’t
notice the difference because it happens gradually. I recommend voicing your
piano occasionally, especially if it receives heavy use. The tone will remain
much more pleasing.
Preserving your piano’s
Your new piano is not only a fine musical instrument but also a beautiful piece
of furniture. Preserving its appearance is important, too. Remember that extreme
heat or cold, particularly if the temperature has changed suddenly, may damage
the finish. Excessive changes in humidity can also result in damage.
Care for the finish. Before leaving the
factory, your piano was given a lustrous and lasting finish. With proper care,
your finish will stay beautiful for many decades of use.
For questions or to make an appointment call Dmitriy at (801) 638-1083
Photo copyright (c) 2008, Michael J. Fraughton, used by permission