The short answer is constantly. Pianos go out of tune as soon as you start playing them and if you are practicing every day it will require regular maintenance. I touch up my concert grand nearly every day and I carry around my tuning tools no matter where I go. My father Morton Estrin always insists upon having a piano tuner at his recording sessions touching up the piano between takes! There really is no end to how much you can tune your piano – pianos benefit from regular maintenance.
But let’s be realistic, most people are not going to be able to tune their pianos every day. While you can buy a tuning hammer and a couple wedges to touch up the piano, tuning is something you generally will want to leave to the professionals. The good news is most people won’t have to tune their piano every day – or even every week.
There is an old saying among piano tuners, “You can’t tune an out of tune piano,” and as strange as it sounds, there is some truth to it! If a piano hasn’t been tuned in a very long time it can be much harder to get it back in tune. For example, if the piano has dropped in pitch, as you tune different sections of the piano, previously tuned sections go out. So the general rule is that you should keep your piano in tune as much as you can. If you tune your piano often enough you can get ahead of the curve and the instrument tuning becomes very stable. So you never save by putting off a tuning.
How much should you tune your piano really depends on how much you play it. If you play occasionally you should think about tuning your piano at least twice a year because of seasonal weather changes (heat to air conditioning and air condition back to heat). If you play a bit more you might want to get at least 4 piano tunings a year. If you practice a great deal you will want to get your piano tuned at least every month. If the piano is used for performance or recording, it should be tuned for each performance or recording session.
Keep in mind, tuning a piano is not like tuning other instruments – like a guitar for example. Sure, everyone has the ability to do it themselves but it is truly a job better left to professionals. I have been around pianos my entire life and while I do perform touch up work on my pianos constantly, a great tuner will get a piano to hold longer and knows how to refine the tone and touch which takes years to master. Tuning a piano is really a highly developed skill and the better technician you hire the better your instrument will sound.
Thanks again for joining me, Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729