David Weiss Piano Service
(434) 823-9733, davidweisspiano@gmail.com
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Piano Services

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. As you might expect with any investment of this size, a piano requires periodic servicing to provide good performance year after year. Regular servicing by a qualified technician will preserve your instrument and help you avoid costly repairs in the future.

A typical piano contains over 5,000 moving parts. Because many of these parts are wood and felt, it is subject to change with climatic conditions. Humidity fluctuations cause the soundboard and other parts to swell and contract, affecting tone, pitch and touch. Your piano will perform best under consistent conditions, optimally at a temperature of 68 F and 42 % relative humidity. Often I recommend a humidity control system designed and built specifically for pianos.

While pianos generally fall into vertical and grand model categories, each manufacturer selects its own materials and utilizes its own unique scale and furniture design. Every piano requires a different level of maintenance, depending on the quality of the piano, its surrounding environment, and the level of use. I can provide you with specific service recommendations to provide the best care for your instrument.

Piano Tuning

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 humidity controlled chamber, every piano is constantly going out of tune!

2. How often should my piano be tuned?
The answer is 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 on a regular basis 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 will never give you its full sound potential and can inhibit the development of a musical ear. If neglected for more than a year or two, soundboard movement and string stretch will lower your piano’s pitch gradually 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

5. Does my piano need a pitch adjustment?
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Although we think of a piano as a musical instrument, it is also a mechanical device with approximately 5,000 moving parts. Most of these parts are wood, felt, leather, or metal. Felt and leather parts will wear and compress, wooden and metal parts will break, dislodge, or warp. This happens on even the most expensive pianos. Keeping everything on the piano in good working condition will help maintain the value of your instrument, and make the piano enjoyable to play.
Typical repairs include:

  • Sticking keys
  • Notes that don’t sound
  • Broken strings
  • Rattles or buzzes
  • Pedals that squeak or don’t work at all
  • Broken keys
  • Notes that keep ringing
  • Discolored, chipped or missing keytops
  • Broken legs or casters
  • Broken music desk
  • A piano that won’t hold a tuning

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Action Regulation

The touch of the piano can be improved by regulation. This is the process of resetting the piano’s internal moving parts to manufacturer’s specifications. A well-regulated piano will have a good touch, and will play freely, smoothly, and evenly. If a piano is not regulated it will be difficult to play softly or repeat notes rapidly, and creates obstacles for the beginning student. A well-regulated piano is a joy to play because it is consistent and responsive to the demands of the pianist.
Most home pianos need to be regulated every 5 to 10 years. Performance or heavily used piano need to be regulated more often. Signs that a piano needs regulation:

  • Keys seem to go down too far, or don’t go down enough
  • Uneven touch from one note to the next
  • Keys are not all at the same height
  • Difficulty playing very softly or very loud
  • Keys feel too heavy or to light
  • Keys are sluggish, notes won’t repeat rapidly

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The tone of a piano can be improved by a process called voicing. The tone of all pianos will change over time. As the hammers strike the strings they wear and compact, causing the sound produced to become harsh or overly bright. Voicing can make a harsh tone more mellow, and can also make a weak tone stronger. Additionally, voicing can help even out notes that vary radically from their neighbors.

Your piano may benefit from voicing if:

  • Your piano sounds different than when you purchased it.
  • You don't like the sound even after it has been tuned.
  • Tone varies radically from note to note.
  • You cannot achieve a range of tone (mellow to bright) at different volumes.
  • The piano has lost its ability to play softly.

Before deciding if a piano needs voicing, it should be well tuned and well-regulated. Then, play a wide variety of music on it. Most voicing procedures are long lasting, so give yourself some time to explore the sound of a new instrument before deciding to change it.

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Over the years, pianos accumulate dirt and grime inside the piano case and in the moving parts of the piano. This can prematurely wear out felt, leather, and wooden action parts. In addition, insects often lay eggs inside a piano and mice love to tear felt out of piano for making their nests. Coins, paper clips, pencils and just about anything else you can imagine fall inside the piano. A full cleaning includes polishing the cabinet and the keys, and thoroughly cleaning the inside of the piano, including the piano action. This will make your piano look years younger, and make sure foreign objects are not causing potentially expensive problems.
The best way for you to clean dust and finger marks off the piano is with a soft, lintless cloth slightly dampened with water and wrung out. Follow that with a soft dry cloth to remove any remaining moisture. The keys can be cleaned in the same way. Most piano manufacturers recommend against the use of furniture polish. Cleaning the soundboard or piano action requires special tools and training and should only be done by a qualified piano technician. This should be done every 5 to 10 years.

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A piano that is old, or a piano that has been damaged can be restored to its original condition. This involves replacing or rebuilding worn parts, and refinishing the cabinet. Very often an older piano that has been well restored will look better and out perform a new piano. A 75- or 100-year-old piano, completely restored by a skilled craftsman, will be a beautiful musical instrument for another 75 or 100 years.
A piano restoration can be partial, or complete. In a complete restoration, every part of the piano is replaced, rebuilt or refinished. A piano that still has some parts looking or working well may only need a partial restoration.
Here are some things that can be done in piano restoration:

  • Refinish the cabinet, and repair any cabinet damage
  • New keytops for white and/or black keys
  • New hammers
  • Pedals can be replaced or re-plated to look new
  • New strings
  • New dampers
  • New soundboard

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Piano Humidity Control

Your piano is made primarily of wood, a versatile and beautiful material ideal for piano construction. However, being made of wood, your piano is greatly affected by humidity. Seasonal and even daily changes in humidity cause wooden parts to swell and shrink, affecting tuning stability and touch. Extreme swings in humidity can eventually cause wood to crack or warp, and glue joints to fail. This can be especially damaging to the piano’s soundboard and pinblock.
Other materials in your piano also are affected by changes in moisture content in the air. The many felt and leather parts in your piano’s action can change dimension, affecting regulation and friction, or stiffness of the touch. Very high humidity can even create condensation on metal parts such as string, tuning pins and hardware, eventually causing them to rust.
A very practical and effective way to protect your piano is to have a humidity control system installed in the piano itself. These systems consist of three parts: a humidifier for adding moisture to the air, a dehumidifier for eliminating excess moisture, and a humidistat or control unit which senses the relative humidity of the air within the piano and activates the system to add or remove moisture as needed. These systems are designed to maintain the relative humidity of the air within the piano at the ideal level of 42%. The components are installed out of sight, don’t make any noise, and work better than room systems or anything else available. For more information about humidity control for your piano please visit www.dampp-chaser.com.

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There are many reasons you may want a written appraisal of your piano's value: when securing a rider on your insurance policy, insuring it for a move, or before placing it in storage. Additionally, when selling your piano, a written appraisal will provide a solid basis for setting your price and negotiating with potential purchasers.

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Purchase Consults

We are available to assist you in purchasing a new or used piano, either from a store or from a private party. Buying a new piano is a large investment, and the process is often confusing because of the large variety of brands, models, and competing claims. When buying a used piano, it is difficult for the purchaser to ascertain the true value of a piano, if any repairs are needed, and how many years of good service it has left.
A purchase consultation is even suggested when a friend or relative wants to give you a "free" piano. It's happened many times that someone paid hundreds of dollars to have the piano moved to their house only to discover the piano is untunable, and the cost of repairs would far exceed the value of the instrument. A purchase consultation is a relatively inexpensive way to ensure you are making a good investment, and getting the right piano at the right price.

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