Why do pianos go out of tune?
Pianos go out of tune as humidity changes. Here in Maine (and New England in general), humidity is highly unpredictable: Constant small fluctuations in humidity mean your piano can go out of tune even more quickly than in other parts of the country which experience only major seasonal changes.
Major seasonal changes are not the primary reason a piano in our locale goes out of tune.
How often should I get my piano tuned?
I recommend tuning your piano a minimum of once every six months. If the piano is used for performances, is in a high-traffic and high-use environment like a church or a restaurant, or is very new, I recommend a minimum of once every three months.
Why does my piano go out of tune so quickly?
The primary reason for a piano to go out of tune quickly is the environment and humidity changes in the environment the piano is kept. See “Where should the piano be positioned?”
Sometimes, loose pins can cause a piano to quickly sound dreadful, like two keys are being played at once. This usually happens in dry weather. However, some pianos with soundboard or bridge cracks can go out of tune very quickly. These will require more serious repair than can generally be performed in a home. You might consider a Dampp-Chaser Piano Life Saver System™ if humidity is not easily controlled in your piano’s environment.
How long does it take?
A newer piano that has been tuned within six months will usually take between 50 and 75 minutes. Older or dramatically out of tune pianos can take up to two hours.
Should I wait to tune the piano after I move it?
If the piano is in relatively good tune, I recommend waiting two weeks after a move before tuning the piano. However, if the piano is significantly out of tune, adjusting it up to pitch is a bigger change for the piano than the new environment, and it should be tuned as soon as possible.
If you’re just moving a piano within your house, the majority of pianos will not require any time to settle.
Will it cost more if it’s been a long time?
It depends. When a piano is dramatically out of tune, pitch adjustments considerably change the tension within the piano. A piano that’s a half-step out of tune will add about one ton of tension. This means the tuning does not last as long because the instrument will settle, and it also means the process of tuning it will take longer. You will want to consider getting it tuned a second time after about a month.
I do not charge extra if I can still tune it in my expected time frame of two hours, and I almost always can.
Do you tune by ear?
I tune using a Sanderson AccuTuner. After tuning, I will aurally evaluate the piano and will retune individual keys or perhaps a small section by ear if I think, for some reason, the machine’s “perfect” doesn’t match a human ear’s “perfect.” I do not, at this time, know of anyone in Maine who tunes primarily by ear, and if you know of one or are one please contact me!
My last tuner said the pins were too loose. Is this a problem?
A lot of tuners are not technicians—that is, they tune pianos but do not perform repairs. Tuning pins can often be sized up, or even just set deeper into the pinblock. However, if MANY tuning pins are loose or the pinblock itself is damaged (which is often difficult to judge in uprights), then the piano might be in need of a rebuild, which is extensive work done in a shop.
In short, a piano with some loose pins is generally worth a second look by a technician, and about two thirds of the time I find I can correct the problem in-home.
What’s the difference between a fish and a piano?
You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish.