Why Pianos Need Regular Tuning

A piano is a very delicate instrument, with many forces acting on the frame, soundboard, and strings of the piano. When one force changes, it impacts the stress on the others, and as a result, the piano goes out of tune. Additionally, the bigger the change is stress on one component, the more stress it puts on the other components.

The most obvious stress is the tension of the piano strings. The strings put compression forces on the soundboard and frame. This causes these components to flex slightly, which directly affects tuning stability, throwing the piano out of tune. Also, strings themselves are elastic and have a tendency to relax over time. So, the piano goes out of tune as the strings relax.

It stands to reason that the more drastic the change in tension on the strings during tuning, the more drastic the change in the soundboard and frame. When a piano is tuned regularly, the changes in string tension are tiny. The result is that tuning does not disrupt the balance of stresses on the soundboard and frame as much. This results in a stable tuning that will hold for longer.

If a piano is not tuned for years, it is likely to have gone very flat. It will need a pitch raise. Pitch raises drastically increase the string tension. Which means that pitch raises are very hard on soundboards and frames. It will take weeks after a pitch raise for the piano to fully stabilize. So, it is not uncommon for a pitch raised piano to go out of tune again quickly. This is not because of improper tuning. It is because at the time the tuning was finished, the components were still under unbalanced stresses.

People often ask how long a tuning will last. This is a loaded question because the answer is totally dependent on the starting condition of the piano before it was tuned. A piano that is tuned regularly will be much more stable than one that gets scant attention. Tuning will be much less stable after a pitch raise.

The bigger the change in string tension during tuning, the quicker the piano will go out of tune. For example, if a piano has been neglected for years when I tune it and I do a pitch raise, it is likely to go out of tune within a week or so of tuning. Remember, big adjustments equal poor stability. But if I tune a piano every 6 months, the adjustments being made are very minute. This doesn't disrupt stability as much as a pitch raise does. So the tuning will be MUCH more stable.

It costs about $200 to do an extreme pitch raise on a neglected piano. But I can do a maintenance tuning for $120 because it doesn't take much time to do. Getting on a routine tuning schedule is only a little more expensive, but the benefit is that your piano ALWAYS sounds good. And it maintains its tuning for a long time. So, ask yourself - would you rather pay $200 for a tuning that won't last, or would you rather pay less per tuning, get it done more frequently, and have it sound good ALL the time?

Routine tuning is the key to stabilizing your piano. If your piano isn't stable, it will sound bad, and you won't enjoy it as much. You won't practice as much. You won't impress your accomplished piano friends when they play your poor sounding piano.

If you want your piano to sound its best, contact me and we will set you up on a recurring 6 - 8 month schedule. Prices for maintenance tunings are ~20% less than standard tunings ($120). It's not that costly, and the end result is guaranteed to be much better than if you try to skimp.

You wouldn't run your car 10,000 miles without an oil change. Likewise, don't make your piano wait for years between its tunings. Just like your car, your piano needs routine maintenance too.

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