Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much is a tuning?
A: Money is important, but if you’re shopping for a new technician to take care of your piano, you should ask many more questions than just the price.
It’s typical to think of tuning as all the maintenance a piano needs. But after more than twenty years in business, I think of a piano as having two major parts: a harp, with a typewriter that you play it with.
Tuning only makes the harp sound better; it’s not preventative maintenance. But just like your car, the piano’s 4,000 moving parts need lubrication, cleaning, and adjustment, which extends their useful life. Parts left out of adjustment will wear out faster, costing you money in the long run. And having each key work smoothly, like when it was new, makes playing much easier. If a note doesn’t play, or the pedals don’t work well, those are bigger problems than just the piano being out of tune.
After I learned to tune, I did a full year of training at the North Bennet Street School, where I learned the dozens of steps needed to adjust the moving parts to specification. I then passed the tests given by the Piano Technicians Guild in tuning, repairs, and adjustments, and earned the title of Registered Piano Technician.
This credential, which I earned decades ago, lets me provide Total Piano Service: a package that includes not just tuning, but also those needed adjustments to the keys, hammers, and pedals, which allow your piano to play more like when it was new. This usually takes about two and a half hours, which breaks down into about an hour and a half of tuning, and another hour adjusting the moving parts. In most cases, I charge a flat rate for this service. Contact me for more information.
Q: Does moving a piano throw it out of tune?
A: It’s not the move, but the change of environment (humidity and temperature). When humidity changes, the piano will gradually adapt to it, taking at least three weeks to adjust to a new environment. You should wait that long before having it tuned.
Q: How often should a piano be tuned?
A: At least once a year. Depending on your piano’s use, condition, environment and your preference, it might need tuning two or more times a year. New pianos need two to four tunings in the first year, as the strings stretch and the wood adapts to the pressure.
Q: Do pianos need tuning if they’re not played much?
A: Yes. There’s a tremendous amount of tension in a piano, which is gradually released over time, making pianos go flat. Each string typically has 150 pounds of pressure on it. With 220 strings in a typical piano (two and three strings per note on most notes), there’s about sixteen tons of tension.
Q: Does it harm a piano not to tune it?
A: A knife doesn’t need sharpening, but chefs need sharp knives. Musicians need tuned pianos. If a technician sees it regularly, possible problems can be spotted early. If a piano hasn’t been tuned for several years, it will need two or more tunings over a period of months to stabilize back at standard pitch. Most pianos in home use do fine with annual service.