Tuning

How often should my piano be tuned?
We haven’t been playing the piano, so it doesn’t need tuning – right?
What is pitch raising?
Are there any guidelines for placement of my piano?
How can I care for my piano?

Accutone offers its customers the highest quality tuning. We employ a technique called the “balanced temperament” tuning, which ensures that your piano will sound its very best. We do not employ electronic equipment, but rely on the highly-trained ear of our tuner to give your piano the best tuning it has ever had!

Why is an electronic tuning not more precise than a tuning by the ear of a skilled tuner? Quite simply because the frequency scale of each piano is slightly different, and it changes seasonally as well. Tuning your instrument to a rigid set of electronic frequencies will only leave your piano sounding dull, whereas a precise “by-ear” tuning to A-440 (“Concert”) pitch will harmonize with your own piano’s temperament. This type of tuning, performed by Accutone Piano Service, is used by only the most skilled and experienced tuners, but it will leave your piano sounding its very best and most brilliant.

How often should my piano be tuned?” Most piano manufacturers recommend that after the first year, a new piano should be tuned a minimum of twice a year for proper maintenance and health of the instrument. Some manufacturers recommend more frequent tunings, and some customers prefer to have their pianos tuned more often. Our tuner will be happy to give his recommendations based on your particular instrument, and your individual needs. Here is what just a few manufacturers of new pianos recommend:

Baldwin: “In the first year, the National Piano Manufacturers Association recommends that you have your piano tuned four times. This is a period of environmental adjustment for a new instrument and proper attention is important.

“After the first year, the piano should be tuned at least twice each year depending upon the frequency of use and atmospheric conditions.”

J Strauss & Son: Your piano should always be maintained by a trained piano technician. In fact, during the first year, a technician should tune your new piano four times as it adapts to the environment in your home. In the years that follow, your piano should be tuned at least twice a year.

Steinway: “Unfortunately, no matter how expertly a piano is tuned, atmospheric variations, particularly humidity, and the nature of the piano’s construction constantly conspire to bring it off pitch.

“Your Steinway piano has been designed and built so that in normal use and under normal conditions it should need only periodic tuning. We recommend that your tuner be called at least 3 or 4 times a year. You, however, are the final judge and should have the piano tuned as often as you think necessary. To put the matter of tuning into perspective, remember that a concert piano is tuned before every performance and a piano in a professional recording studio, where it is in constant use, is tuned 3 or 4 times each week as a matter of course.”

Yamaha: “New pianos should be tuned a minimum of four times the first year to compensate for the normal settling that takes place. Subsequently, as a matter of standard maintenance, a piano should be tuned at least twice a year.”

Young Chang: “It is recommended that a piano be serviced at least two to four times a year to keep a piano sounding good and working properly each time you sit down to play.”

We haven’t been playing the piano, so why should I get it tuned? It’s a misconception that it’s the playing of the piano that makes it go out of tune. Pianos are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity because of the materials they are made out of, and are under a great deal of tension. They will go out of tune without being played at all. The best thing for the health of your piano is to keep it tuned regularly whether it is being played or not. Then, when you are ready to start playing, you won’t run into pitch-raising issues or extensive multiple tunings to stabilize the instrument.

What is pitch-raising, and does my piano need it? Pianos are designed to be tuned to A-440 pitch – that is, when the A above middle C vibrates at 440 cycles per second. Keeping the piano at this pitch is best for the health of the instrument, as all of the components are kept in balance as they were intended to be. If it has been much longer than recommended since your piano has been tuned, it is possible that the pitch may need to be raised on the piano. This involves more than just a simple tuning. A new piano goes through a settling-in process where the new strings and wood parts are reaching an equilibrium. In the case of an older piano, the fluctuations in temperature and humidity cause the piano’s pitch to fall, then rise again. However, the rise is usually not equal to the previous fall. Therefore, if the piano is not tuned regularly, as each year goes by the piano’s pitch falls more and more. In order to bring the piano back to A-440 pitch where it belongs, the pitch must be raised gradually; otherwise rapidly increasing the tension on the strings may result in broken strings and will certainly lead to an unstable tuning.

Some customers ask why we don’t just “tune the piano to itself”. This is because the piano is engineered to sit under a certain amount of tension. When the tension is allowed to “bleed off” over a period of time, this can actually cause damage to the soundboard, one of the most critical components of your piano. Another reason is that playing and listening to a piano that is tuned “flat” will cause you to develop an incorrect sense of pitch.

Does it matter where I place my piano? Your piano is affected by changes in temperature and humidity because of the materials used in its manufacture, such as wood and felt. These materials expand and contract with changing temperature/humidity levels. This has an unavoidable affect on pitch, tone, and action response. By placing your piano as far as possible from windows, doors, outside walls, heating and air conditioning vents, fireplaces and areas which receive direct sunlight, you can minimize the severity of these effects. If you are concerned about the placement of your piano, our technician will be happy to discuss this with you.

What should I know about caring for my piano? In addition to regular tuning and correct placement, following a few simple guidelines will help ensure a long and healthy life for your valuable instrument.

  • Keep the piano clean. Keep the lid and key cover closed when the piano is not in use to reduce dust build-up inside the piano. Clean the keytops occasionally by wiping them with a cloth that has been dampened with plain water and thoroughly wrung out, then drying them with a dry cloth immediately. If the keys don’t come clean with plain water, then try adding a small amount of dish liquid to the water before dampening the cloth. Do not use any chemicals or other cleaning agents on the keytops. If keys are badly soiled or stained, contact your technician for a service appointment. For natural wood finish pianos, dusting and polishing with a lemon oil product is recommended. Do not use aerosol spray “furniture polish”, as this can damage the finish on your piano. For lacquer or epoxy finishes, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care of the piano case.
  • Never oil, adjust, dust, or tamper with the inner workings of the piano.
  • Never place cups, glasses, water-filled vases, or any other container of liquid on top of your piano. Spilled liquids can wreak havoc with a piano’s inner workings! If a liquid should accidentally spill inside your piano, contact your piano technician immediately.
  • Play your piano regularly. Not only will you enjoy it more, but you will also be able to more quickly identify problems that may need attention from your technician.
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