Tuning a piano involves placing the 220 piano strings in the correct relationship to one another. A standard tuning begins by adjusting the strings of note A in the middle of the piano to standard pitch, which is 440 hertz. The tuning then expands out from middle A one note at a time, until all scales, intervals, and chords sound harmonious. A standard tuning also includes adjusting the pedals, and inspecting the piano for repairs and adjustments that may be needed or recommended.
1. What makes a piano go out of tune?
Daily and seasonal humidity fluctuations are the primary reason pianos go out of tune. This is because the piano’s main acoustical structure, the soundboard, is made of wood, usually 3/8- inch thick Sitka spruce. And while wooden soundboards produce a wonderful sound, they also react constantly to the weather. As humidity goes up, a soundboard swells, increasing its crowned shape and stretching the piano’s strings to a higher pitch. During dry times, the soundboard flattens out, lowering tension on the strings and causing the pitch to drop. Unfortunately, the strings don’t change pitch equally. Those near the soundboard’s edge move the least, and those near the center move the most. So, unless it’s in a humidity-controlled chamber, every piano is constantly going out of tune!
2. How often should my piano be tuned?
It depends on the piano, the environment around the piano, and how often the piano is used. Most home pianos need to be tuned once or twice each year. Once a year is the minimum to maintain the piano in reasonable condition. If the piano is used regularly it should be tuned twice a year to keep it sounding musically correct. New pianos should be tuned three times the first year because of string stretch and settling. Heavily used or performance pianos may require more frequent tunings, or tuning before each performance. Since pianos go out of tune whether or not they are used, a piano that’s idle should still be serviced once a year.
3. What happens if a piano isn’t tuned?
If not tuned regularly a piano for more than a year or two, soundboard movement and string stretch will lower your piano’s pitch gradually will never give you its full sound potential and can inhibit the development of a musical ear. If neglected and cause a tension imbalance. Several tunings and additional maintenance may be necessary to restore the pitch and stability of the instrument.
4. What is the best time of year to tune my piano?
There is no perfect time because the humidity is constantly fluctuating and it only takes a 10% rise or fall to affect the tuning and action mechanism. A regular tuning schedule and a humidity control system will offset these changes.
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