Wikipedia gives the following definition for piano tuning:
Piano tuning is the act of making minute adjustments to the tensions of the strings of an acoustic piano to properly align the intervals between their tones so that the instrument is in tune.
Not all that helpful unless you know what each of those words mean as applied to a piano. Basically, the strings attached to the keys are tightened or loosened as needed to ensure each key will play the correct note when pressed. While anyone can attempt to do this, I recommend using a trained professional. Pianos are delicate instruments, after all. Trying to tune a piano without knowing how can damage the instrument. Hiring a trained professional is cheaper than replacing a piano!
Why Do Pianos Need Tuning?
A properly tuned piano sounds better than one that is out of tune, important for those of us with sensitive hearing. Playing an improperly tuned, or out of tune, piano makes the piece being played – or composed – sound off or wrong. If you try to play a piece of music you are familiar with on an out of tune piano, it will sound different. The notes will be off.
Various factors can cause a piano to become out of tune. Humidity, changes in temperature, hard playing or even being played a lot can cause a piano to go out of tune. No piano will stay perfectly in tune forever. It simply isn’t possible, much as we may wish it were.
When Should I Have My Piano Tuned?
The general recommendation is twice a year. I would say that’s a minimum. Depending on how often – or how hard – the piano is played, it may need tuning more often. Add in weather and environmental conditions (especially with the crazy weather we’ve had this year), and you’re looking at even more tunings. Small changes in tune may not be noticeable, and, therefore, may not require a tuning.
If the piano makes a “wah-wah” sound, or you start to hear a sort of beating sound, it should be tuned as soon as possible. Such sounds will only get worse with time.
Even if the piano is never played, the weather will make it go out of tune, so it should be tuned before being played after sitting unused for a long time. Humidity and temperature fluctuations wreak havoc with the tune of a piano.
When was the last time you had your piano professionally tuned? Let us know in the comments.