This is a very common question. Many times when people want to sell a piano that has been in the family for a long time, they don’t know where to start. When we receive calls from from people in these types of situations, we always ask them the last time the piano was tuned.
The reason we ask this is because pianos need very regular maintenance. The longer they go without tuning or other work, the more problems they might incur. It’s certainly possible that if a piano sits in the right climate for a long period of time and remains untouched it could need very little work, particularly if has been tuned on a regular basis. For a piano that has been in a home where the temperature and humidity have affected it over the years and the owner neglected to tune it on a regular basis, it can sometimes put undue stress on the instrument trying to get it stable again.
Sometimes pianos can’t be tuned. No matter how many times you try and tune them they will continue to go out of tune or simply can’t be tuned at all. Many times this means the piano has to be rebuilt because there is most likely an issue with the pin block which can’t hold the tuning pins tightly. The pinblock is a multi-laminate piece of hardwood custom shaped to the plate of each piano that sits right below the plate.
In order to replace the pinblock you have to remove the strings and pins and then use a crane to lift the plate out of the piano. Then a custom pinblock must be made for the specific piano – which is a very skilled job. This involves substantial expense and not something you will want to embark upon with just any piano. Rebuilding costs thousands of dollars and is only worthwhile on worthy instruments.
So what do you do with a piano that has loose tuning pins and isn’t worth the rebuilding costs? Luckily there are a few things you can try to see if you can salvage some more life out of the piano. The simplest solution is to tap in the pins a bit further into the pinblock to get more friction. There must be some room between the coils of the strings and the pinblock to allow for tapping. This can sometimes alleviate tuning problems. Other times it can only be a temporary fix depending upon the integrity of the pinblock. This is something that can only be done by an experienced piano technician or irreparable damage can be inflicted upon the piano.
If that doesn’t work you can have the piano restrung with fatter tuning pins. Every time you restring a piano you have to put a little bit larger tuning pins into the pinblock in order to get them to stay securely in place. If the pinblock is in good shape, this can solve the problem in some instances. This is a bit more expensive than tapping the pins down but less costly than rebuilding. If the pinblock has cracks, using larger pins will just enlarge the cracks. Also, there is a limit to how large a tuning pin can be used in a piano.
As a last resort I have heard of people trying super glue in the pins! This isn’t to lock them in place, but to add friction to the tuning pins. I would not recommend this unless you have absolutely nothing to lose because the piano is not worth rebuilding.
Something to keep in mind is that if you have a piano in a humid environment that has pins that are slightly loose, moving the piano to a desert climate can make the pins looser and you may have serious tuning problems.
So depending on your situation there are a number of options for a piano that can’t be tuned. If you have a piano that is valuable like a Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Bechstein or other high-end piano, then it might be worth rebuilding if other structures of the piano are sound. With low end pianos that can’t hold tuning, you may be better off seeking out another piano.
I hope this has been helpful for you. Thanks again for joining me Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729
This is a very common question. Many times when people want to sell a piano that has been in the family for a long time, they don’t know where to start. When we receive calls from from people in these types of situations, we always ask them the last time the piano was tuned. The reason we ask […]Read More