How to Keep Your Piano in Tune

Piano Lessons / piano tuning / How to Keep Your Piano in Tune

Today I’m going to tell you how to make your piano stay in tune. There is nothing like a freshly tuned piano! This adds richness, beauty and purity to the sound. Once your piano tuner leaves and you get a chance to play it, it’s so refreshing. But before you know it, it’s going out of tune again. In a perfect world, we’d have live in tuners who would tune our pianos daily. If I were a billionaire, I would definitely have one! Getting back to reality for a minute, are there things you can do to get your piano to stay in tune? Fortunately, there are quite a few things! I am going to touch bases on some of them for you.

First of all, as I’ve talked about many times before; the stability of the environment where the piano is located is crucial. If you have a place where the temperature or humidity fluctuate drastically, the piano is not going to be stable. Afterall, the soundboard is made out of wood and the wood will expand and contract with the changes in the environment. The strings arc over the bridges which are attached to the soundboard. So any changes in the soundboard will affect the tuning.

This brings us to another factor which is how often your piano is tuned. Sometimes people go years without tuning their pianos not realizing that it will take several tunings to get them back to where they need to be. Usually a tuner will do two tunings right in a row just to get the piano up to pitch first, then do a fine tuning. Sadly, even that second tuning won’t hold very long. People who tune their pianos as many as four times a year or even monthly, may be rewarded with much more stability in the tuning of their pianos. But not if they play a great deal since this can knock pianos out.

In the recital hall at Indiana University, there were two Steinway concert grands on stage; an old Steinway and a newer Steinway. People would choose one or the other. The interesting and wonderful thing was that they were always perfectly in tune. How can this be? I touched on this a moment ago. I was friends with one of the tuners and learned that those pianos were tuned every single day! Apparently, it was rare for even one unison to go out on those pianos because they had been tuned daily for so many years that they just didn’t go out of tune anymore.

I recently had a similar experience. I inherited my father’s 7 foot Baldwin SF-10 that he bought new in 1972 and as I mentioned, he had his pianos tuned piano monthly. He also touched up unisons that would go out of tune between tunings. I have never owned a piano which is so stable. If you really want to get your piano to hold tuning well, tune it as often as you can and keep the environment as stable as possible.

There is another aspect to this. There is something referred to as “concert tuning”. What is concert tuning? Well, they’re all kinds of techniques for getting a piano to hold better than just a regular tuning. You might wonder what that entails. There is even one technique I’ve been sworn to secrecy about, so I won’t reveal that one. But I’m going to tell you one that is really fascinating. At one of my father’s recording sessions, there was a tuner who had a really interesting technique you may have never have seen before. Some tuners play very lightly which is nice because it doesn’t blow you out of the room. Other tuners are more aggressive. This particular concert tuner had a block of wood with felt on it and he would bang every key on the concert grand while tuning. You would wonder if he was going to destroy the instrument! The whole idea was that after he was done tuning, my father could do anything on that piano and it would be very unlikely to go out of tune since it withstood the intense blows the tuner inflicted upon the piano. The technician sat there through the session and indeed, unisons would go out of tune in the course of the session with massive Rachmaninoff, Liszt and other pieces he was recording. But at least it had a fighting chance of staying in tune. At my father’s recitals, since he was such a powerful player with a huge dynamic range, the pianos would have to be touched up during intermission. So, at least at these recording sessions the pianos would hold their tuning longer.

The third thing here aside from providing a stable environment and tuning your piano often, is to find the best tuner you can. Ask for a concert tuning because different players require varying levels of tuning. Let your tuner know what you are after. You may pay a bit more to get top notch work, but the tuning should hold longer. So, there are several techniques for keeping your piano in tune longer! Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com Your Online Piano Store 949-244-3729 info@LivingPianos.com