We’ve all seen it. A friend or relative has a dusty piano, just sitting in the house acting as an expensive shelf for keepsakes. No one knows how to play it. Then strike a chord on the keys and it soon becomes clear just how out of tune the owners have let their delicate instrument become. I find these stories so sad because getting a regular tune up for the family heirloom is so simple to do and protects a musical treasure for future generations who may want to learn to play.
Pianos are made out of organic materials — wood, cloth, felt, and metal These materials change over time, swelling and contracting in reaction to environmental factors like heat, cold and humidity and from simple aging. Over time, the changes in these materials cause changes in the tone and pitch of the instrument causing it to go out of tune, sometimes severely. If the owner lets this condition last too long, they may find it beyond repair, or worse, in need of significant repair or rebuilding. And while it is certainly possible to restore pianos to their former glory, I believe it makes more sense financially to simply care for it regularly. You may also find yourself more likely to play regularly if it is in tune regularly.
At some point, an owner may want to start playing again or learn how to play. If the heirloom they have used as an expensive keepsake holder for so many years is not in tune, the owner may give up on taking up playing again. And a beautiful grand piano or gorgeous upright may be ignored in an unused dining room or study.
A piano represents a significant investment of not just money. These instruments are hand crafted individually and with care. I have seen families keep them in their possession over generations, passing them down from parent to child. If treated and cared for properly, even an old keyboard will maintain a high quality of sound for decades.
I advise having your piano tuned by a registered technician twice a year, whether you play it or not. This will ensure the instrument is seen regularly by a professional who can assess how it is aging and if it needs any repairs other than the usual tuning. Take care of your family instrument and make music available to future generations by getting it tuned regularly.