Even if your ear doesn’t extent to the rare gift of perfect pitch, you’re probably aware when your piano is slipping out of tune, particularly at the changing of the seasons. Like us, pianos need a bit of maintenance from time to time, and it’s worth noting on the calendar when to call the piano tuner whether you think it needs it or not, especially as it is likely to spoil your enjoyment of playing.
Like your spring cleaning, the more general spot checks and regular upkeep you carry out, the less work it is. We would recommend booking general tuning at least every six months, and budgeting for additional maintenance such as replacing strings or felts once a year. If you live in a part of the world where there are distinct changes of season, or your piano gets a lot of use on a daily basis, we would even recommend a visit from the piano tuner as often as every three months.
If you’re wondering why your piano might need tuning so often, think about what happens to other wooden furniture over time in terms of warping. During warmer months – whether that’s summer, or winter with the heating on – the soundboard will contract and the pitch of the strings will drop. Even if you can’t hear much of a difference, we’ll bet that if you’re given to singing along to your practice, you’re finding it harder to hit the low notes!
Just as you would maintain a piece of heirloom furniture, think of your piano as a lifetime commitment rather than a disposable item – we can probably all think of at least one beautiful piano dating from the early years of the twentieth century amongst our family and friends. These older instruments need considerable attention to keep them in playing condition – it’s worth making friends with a good piano technician; ask around for recommendations, as there is much to be said for continuity when caring for your piano. Many technicians will also give discounts for regular maintenance appointments, as there’s less work to do if your piano is well cared for.
As you dust your piano this spring, give internal as well as external upkeep some thought. If you don’t have any piano playing friends or neighbors, we would recommend asking your piano teacher – if you have one – or even asking your local music shop for some recommendations of nearby piano tuners. If you’re not currently having lessons, a well-tuned piano may even be the incentive you need to start.