Venezia Piano Service

Piano Maintenance 

Overview: Your piano is designed to sound its best when tuned to A-440 the international pitch standard. At this pitch, power and tonal range are optimum and your piano will match the pitch of other instruments. When your piano varies from A-440, a piano tuning is required to bring it back to standard pitch A-440. By always maintaining your piano at standard pitch, you create long-term tuning stability allowing the strings and structure to stay in equilibrium. You also maintain proper ear training because you always hear your music at the correct pitch. All pianos require regular maintenance in three areas: tuning, action regulation and voicing. Tuning is usually required more often than the other service areas, but all three should be a part of any piano's maintenance.

What Causes Pitch Changes: Climate change is the main cause of pitch change. That's because the piano's main acoustical structure -- the soundboard -- is made of wood. While wooden soundboards produce a wonderful sound, they also react constantly to climate changes. As the relative humidity goes up, the soundboard swells, increasing its crowned shape and stretching the piano's strings to a higher pitch. Then during dry times the soundboard flattens out, lowering tension on the strings and causing the pitch to drop. The drop in the dry season tends to exceed the rise during humid times, so the net result is a drop in pitch each year that the piano isn't serviced.

New Pianos: Due to string stretching, settling, and the effects of climate, a new piano should receive at least four tunings in the first year. After that, it is recommended that the piano is tuned at least twice a year.

Pitch Raising/Lowering: If a piano has been exposed to temperature and humidity changes without regular tuning its pitch may have dropped far below A- 440. This means that each of its approximately 220 strings need to be adjusted considerably, causing tremendous additional tension to the piano's structure. The problem is that as each string is manipulated, the additional load causes the pitch of previously adjusted strings to change. Thus it is impossible to make a substantial change in pitch and end up with a fine, accurate tuning in one step. Instead, a process called "pitch raising" must first be done, in which all strings are raised to their correct average tension levels. (Likewise, when a piano's pitch is higher than standard, a pitch lowering procedure must be done to reduce string tensions to approximate correct levels.) Only then can the piano be accurately tuned. An accurate tuning is only possible when all strings are relatively close to their proper tensions and that only small adjustments are needed during the final tuning. These small adjustments then do not disturb the tuning of other strings allowing the piano to hold an accurate and fine tuning that will last.

Conclusion: The backbone of any maintenance program is regular tuning. These tunings should occur as needed to compensate for changes in humidity and temperature and movement of strings from use. A rule of thumb is that tunings should be done often enough to hold pitch between A439 and A441. Depending upon your humidity control and the condition of your instrument, this probably will mean at least two to four tunings per year. Minor repairs and adjustments can be made at the same time.


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