Owning an authentic acoustic piano can be an endless source of satisfaction and joy – but it can also come with some headaches if improperly cared for. Just like a car, computer, or any other machine, piano owners must regularly maintain their instruments to preserve their piano's health and longevity. And unlike cars or computers, if properly cared for a quality instrument has the potential to remain functional and delight players for over a century. Indeed, pianos are remarkable creatures.
To protect your investment in a piano, and ensure it remains enjoyable to play, stick to these 5 key guidelines...
Location – the first thing you should consider. Pianos are composed primarily of wood and metal, both of which are susceptible to temperature and humidity shifts. The ideal is stability. Proximity to windows, radiators, direct light – even being placed against an outside wall – subjects your piano to constant shrinking and swelling, compromising tuning stability and potentially causing damage such as soundboard cracking. Bad news!
Play regularly! - It's a fun, soulful break from the relentlessly digital modern world, and you'll be able to keep your finger on your piano's pulse – noticing as the tuning or touch changes so you can check in with your technician if anything seems off.
Consistent Care - Schedule two yearly service appointments – the best way to care for your piano is to find and develop a relationship with a qualified piano technician.
If you're reading this in NYC, your search is over - get in touch us at orpheuspianoco.com to learn more and schedule an appointment. If you're reading outside our service area and need to find a piano technician, make sure that anyone you invite to work on your piano is either a Registered Piano Technician, and/or has earned a good reputation, as evidenced via online reviews or multiple word-of-mouth attestations.
Pianos should be tuned every 6 months with the changing of the seasons. You'll notice that your instrument's tuning is likely to shift noticeably out of whack at these times as the soundboard, the broad wooden resonating surface beneath the strings, swells and pushes up against the strings during summer's high humidity, then releases tension on the strings when humidity dips in winter. Here's an easy guideline for when you should tune your piano - once two weeks after the heat goes on, and once two weeks after it shuts off. The two weeks allows the instrument to settle into the new humidity, so the tuning remains as stable as possible.
Early Diagnosis - In addition to preserving your piano's true mellifluous voice through regular tuning, the consistent visits enable your technician to spot small problems before they become big ones, saving your piano's health – not to mention your pocketbook's. Also, regular tuning keeps the overall tension of the strings close to its intended level. When pianos are allowed to fall severely out of tune, the sudden, dramatic change in tension necessary to bring the piano up to concert pitch is stressful to the instrument, and can degrade the strings' tone. Imagine if you hadn't stretched in 3 years, then were suddenly forced to touch your toes!
Piano Humidifiers – Although pianos don't usually come with a humidity stabilization system installed, we strongly recommend piano owners consider this valuable investment in their instrument's health. Even if you followed guideline #1 perfectly, and have a relatively stable home humidity, smaller humidity fluctuations that a human wouldn't notice can still have a surprisingly big effect on pianos. Piano humidifiers are specially designed to regulate the humidity around a piano's soundboard – simply put, they have a humidistat “brain” that alternately switches on a dehumidifying or humidifying component to continually bring the humidity level back to a comfortable median 42%. We recommend a full humidity control system, rather than just a humidifier or dehumidifier, as this is the best way to thoroughly ensure your piano's protection.
Please get in touch with us to learn more and ask questions – we look forward to meeting you and your piano!
Written by Isaac Wynn, RPT