Why Should I Tune My Piano?

Tuning a piano is one of the most important things you can do for your piano. It’s one of the key aspects of owning and maintaining a piano, but very few actually understand what it does and why do it. So why do you need to tune a piano?

Tuning a piano doesn’t just involve making it sound nice. In fact, tuning a piano will make it last longer. Over time, strings within the piano can stretch and move, causing the piano to go out of tune. This means that the tension exerted on the frame is not even, as the strings have moved slightly. 

This is accompanied by the unpleasant sound of an out-of-tune piano. Tuning the piano will equalize the combined string tension against the frame and soundboard. This will make the piano last longer and easier to tune in future and preserving the value of the instrument.

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Of course, the secondary reason for tuning a piano is to make it sound nicer. A non-tuned piano will not only sound pretty horrible, but in fact it can also inhibit your musical development. Playing at the wrong pitch all the time can impede your aural development, as your piano doesn’t play the same pitch as everyone else’s piano.

Why Do Pianos Go Out of Tune?
 

Pianos go out of tune for a number of reasons. Environmental factors, moving the piano, and over-playing can all cause a piano to de-tune itself. Let’s go through each of these in-depth.

Environmental factors are the number one reason why pianos go out of tune. The reason for this is that most pianos are made primarily out of wood. Wood is a porous material, and will expand and contract based on the humidity of the environment the piano is in. As humidity rises, the soundboard expands, which will stretch the pianos’ strings to a slightly higher pitch. When humidity falls, the soundboard contracts, which lowers tension on the strings and causes the piano to decrease in pitch.

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You might notice this if you live in a very humid environment, such as near the coast, for example. You’ll unfortunately have more issues with keeping your piano in tune than someone who lives in a very dry environment, such as in the middle of a desert. 

You probably won’t notice this happening on a day-to-day basis. However, over time, and because all strings don’t change tension in unison, you will find that this expansion and contraction of the parts within your piano can cause the pitch to change quite considerably.

Moving your piano is another common cause of a de-tuned piano. This risk unfortunately can’t be minimized, and is one of the reasons you should never tune a piano before it’s due to be moved; you’ll just be wasting your money, because it will need another tuning after it’s been moved.

The reason for this is twofold; humidity and environmental factors can play a part here, especially if the environment is radically different between the place where the piano was and the place the piano was moved to. Even subtle changes (perhaps the new location is ever so slightly closer to a heater, or the insulation in the new building is slightly better, etc) can induce a de-tuning.

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The other reason is that moving a piano can twist or bend the piano ever so slightly. No piano will stay absolutely solid when you’re moving it, unless it’s made of concrete. As a result, the very slight twisting or bending of the piano itself can cause parts inside the piano to move ever so slightly, which can have an impact on the string tension. Think about it; pianos weren’t built to be moved, they were built to stay in once place all the time. Of course, we need to move them from time to time, but most pianos don’t enjoy being moved too much.

Over-playing is also one of the reasons pianos de-tune themselves, but it’s much less common than the other two reasons. You generally won’t notice this if you own your own piano, because it’ll just be you playing it. However, if you’ve ever gone into a conservatory or a music school, some of those pianos get played upwards of 14 hours per day by practicing piano majors, accompanists, teachers, etc. 

Constant playing (especially loud playing) can make the piano more sensitive to humidity changes, which will knock it out of tune, as well as the fact that again, it can make some of the parts inside bend and twist slightly. With a private piano, this happens, but on a much smaller level and is usually not noticeable. However, when a piano is played constantly, this method of de-tuning is accelerated.

Can You Tune a Piano on Your Own?

So, technically, the answer to this is yes. It’s possible for you to go onto Amazon, buy some equipment and tune your own piano.  Should you?  Probably not.  Not only does it take months of practice and training by a qualified professional piano technician to properly tune your piano, you can cause extensive damage to your piano if not done properly.  With thousands of pounds of tension in a modern piano, you can even cause harm and physical injury.

Go easy on yourself AND your piano.  Book an appointment today with Chapin Piano Service LLC.

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