At Hilbert Pianos
, we hear a lot of frequently asked questions about pianos
. People visit our shop in Bristol, VT
, because they know that we possess a lot of piano knowledge thanks to our more than 90 years of combined experience.
How often should my piano be tuned?
Like taking your
teeth to your dentist for regular checkups, regular tunings will
serve you best. It is best to keep your piano well in tune for
several reasons. By maintaining a regular tuning schedule, you will
keep your piano at its best and be able to prevent it from
deteriorating. Delayed, or postponed tunings and maintenance will
often cost more in the long run to return your piano back to its
proper playing performance level.
Tuning once a year should be considered
a minimum, even for a piano not being used very much. Twice a year
would be considered a good interval for most home pianos being
used for student lessons or recreationally. Many serious
pianists have their pianos tuned four or more times a year depending
on how critically they listen. Concert pianos are often tuned
several times a week – certainly before every concert and often
“touched-up” at the intermission
is no one correct answer to this question. As for you, how often you
should tune your piano will largely depend on how you use your piano
and how stable your piano and your environment are.
Why does my piano go out of tune?
There are two main reasons pianos will
go out of tune: first and foremost are changes in humidity and
temperature, and secondly the slow progression of time gradually
causes changes in the piano.
Changes in humidity cause the largest pitch changes in most pianos by causing the wooden parts to expand and contract. This is especially true with the wooden soundboard which has a crown (or curve) built into it. The strings pass over the bridges which are glued to the soundboard. As the humidity rises (as it does in the summer months in our part of the country) the wood in the soundboard expands which increases the crown and that raises the tension on the strings causing the pitch to rise. As the humidity drops (think winter months) the wood in the soundboard contracts and the tension on the strings lessens. This causes the pitch to fall. Hence, in the Northeast, the pitch is changing all year round; but the changes are most notable in the winter and in the summer.
However, the pitch doesn't rise or fall
evenly across the scale of your piano. Some areas are affected much
more than others and thus certain areas go in and out of tune more
Changes in temperature will likewise
affect the tuning and can affect it very quickly if it changes very
Changes in humidity and temperature can
also be affected by where the piano is located in your home. Placing
your piano where the sun shines on it or near to a heating unit can
cause rapid and dramatic changes. Likewise being placed near open
doors and windows can cause the tuning to change quickly.
The overall structural condition of
your piano can affect its ability to remain in tune. Especially as
pianos get older, they can develop problems which cause the tuning
pins to slip and for individual notes to change dramatically.
Soundboards and bridges can also deteriorate and cause tuning
problems. Often these problems can be repaired by a good technician.
What Can Be Done to Make Tunings
The single biggest thing to make
tunings more stable is to control the humidity and temperature. Room
humidifiers in the winter and dehumidification in the summer months
can help a lot.
Still better is to have us install a
Dampp-Chaser Piano Life Saver System in your piano. We are both
Certified Installers and are listed by Dampp-Chaser as being among
experienced/trained installers. Between us we have installed
hundreds of these units and find they work very well.
The placement of
the piano in the room is also very important. Being placed away from
heaters of all kinds, kept out of the sunlight and away from open
doors and windows will all help to keep your piano more stable.
pleased to discuss with you how to keep your piano as stable as
What does regulation mean?
There are over 12,000 parts in most
pianos and they all need to be in proper condition and adjustment for
your piano to function at its best. Over time the felt, cloth, and
leather parts of your piano slowly wear away and compress. As they
do, the various parts lose their proper geometric and mechanical
As these changes occur, the piano will
get out of regulation. When this happens the notes no longer play as
they should and the pianist finds dynamics are not controllable, and
notes don't repeat as well as they should.
Reconditioning and regulating the
action will help to restore the mechanical parts so they again
function optimally. Your piano will feel and play much better when
What does voicing mean?
Voicing is adjusting the tonal quality
of the piano to suit the musical needs of the pianist.
To a large extent the tonal character
of a piano is built into the instrument by its maker. However,
within limits, we can make your piano more mellow or bright as you
Voicing is accomplished by adjusting
the position of the strings, properly mating the hammers to the
strings and by properly shaping and adjusting the resiliency of the
hammers. This is truly work best done by technicians with a lot of
How do I get my piano moved/Can I
move my piano myself?
While many pianos have been moved by owners and their friends, it is also true that many people have been seriously injured trying to move pianos. Likewise many pianos have been badly damaged as well as floors and other parts of homes.
Whether you should try to move a piano
by yourself is a decision only you can make. Typically smaller
pianos weigh around 400 pounds and up. Large uprights can weigh 700
to 800 pounds. And large concert grand pianos can weigh 1200 pounds
That said, we would highly recommend
you use a professional piano mover to help ensure that your piano
arrives at its destination in good condition. You and your friends
will also feel much better that you avoided the risk of injury.
Where should I put my piano?
Where it will be played and enjoyed. And please, don't place it where it will isolate students from the rest of the family.
Pianos are best placed in the most
stable environment possible. Inside walls are preferable, but
outside walls can sometimes be made safer.
Keep your piano away from heaters of
all kinds. Baseboard heaters behind pianos can literally destroy a
good piano in just a few years.
Also keep your piano as far from wood
stoves as possible. Radiant heat and sunlight can both ruin the
finish on a piano. Open doors and windows that allow overly moist or
dry air in will rapidly affect the tuning and can also change the
We will be happy to discuss your
options with you on this often complex question.
What are the best conditions for my piano?
Piano manufacturers state that pianos are generally designed to be kept around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and
around 45% Relative Humidity. Here in Vermont we have very unstable
climate conditions. Our humidity easily varies from the mid teens in
the winter to the high 70s or 80s in the summer. This can be very
hard on a piano's structure and will easily put a piano way out of
tune from season to season. Room humidifiers in the winter and a
dehumidifier in the summer can help; but the easiest and most
convenient way to stabilize the piano is to have us install a
Dampp-Chaser system in your piano. These work very well and are
worth installing in your piano. Give us a call and we can discuss
the benefits of the Dampp-Chaser systems with you.
How do I clean the keytops?
Most keys today are made of either plastic or synthetic composite materials. They can often be cleaned with a damp cloth(wrung out well) or if really dirty with some added mild soap.
Some older pianos still have ivory keytops. These keytops were glued on with hide glue which readily loosens if it gets wet. Thus the use of water with ivory keytops can be dangerous. We can supply you with a cleaner especially made for ivory keytops. Please ask us.
How do I remove objects that fall
inside my piano?
In many cases you can lift the top on the piano, see the object, and then just pick it out. If the object is not in plain view you should probably call us to discuss your best remedy. We may be able to help you over the phone or if need be, we'll come to your piano and take care of the problem for you,
Why do keys
Keys stick for various reasons but mostly due to changes in the humidity which can cause wooden parts to shrink and expand. This can cause parts to bind up. Another problem can be objects that have fallen between keys or inside the action making parts jam and not function properly.