How Piano Tone Is Created

How Piano Tone Is Created

What does it take to make beautiful music?

Even the best singer in the world didn’t start out that way. They sang because they enjoyed it. They sang with their favorites songs on the radio. They signed up for the school musical. And somewhere along the way a coach jumped in to help refine their music, hit the notes that made their voices sound magical. And they keep refining to this very day.How Piano Tone Is Created

The same goes with a piano. Piano refining is about creating beautiful piano sound. Piano tone doesn’t happen at the time a piano is built. Piano tone isn’t something that’s set and never needs work again. Piano tone is something that is acquired through work and restoration, over and over again throughout the life of a piano.

And it happens whether it’s with a newly built Steinway or a decades old piano you take loving care of every day.

Why?

Every time a key is pressed and a hammer jumps into place on a string, a system is put into play. If any part of that process isn’t pure precision, the tone of the piano is “off.”

This is where tone regulation comes into play. It’s a multi-step process. It includes:

  • Piano hammer voicing
  • Piano string voicing
  • Piano action regulation

Piano Hammer Voicing
Each time a key is pressed, the hammer strikes the string. This “whack” bends the string ever so slightly before returning to its original state. Piano hammer voicing defines how much pressure is behind the hammer when it hits the string, and how the bend in the string takes place during that contact. To regulate hammer voicing takes a variety of accomplishments, from steaming the hammer felt, to hardening the hammer, to adding or removing hammer weight, and more.

Piano String Voicing
Piano string is a stiff, taut wire. The wire is connected and wrapped around various bends and loops as it connects the pieces together. These bends and turns must occur in a certain way and be consistent to have the string vibrate in a certain way. If the turns or connections are off, the tonal effects will be anything but pleasurable.

String bends must be consistent throughout the piano. Notes use more than one string in order to produce sound; if one of the strings is off, it will impact on sound quality. String voicing is performed on all pianos, from the brand new to the decades old. Without consistent string voicing, tonal quality will always be off.

Piano Action Regulation
The piano action is the series of levers that connect the keys to the hammers. The way the hammer contacts the string defines the quality of the tone. The speed at which the process takes place also has impact. This is where action regulation comes into play. Different accelerations create different tonal qualities. With even a tiny adjustment in the speed, a tone can be dead on or completely off. Furthermore, if the action doesn’t provide precision connection between the hammer and the string, connection isn’t perfection and the result can be noisy and harsh.

For all of this to happen in unison, it takes a specially trained technician to fully adjust every part, every step of the way. With 37 steps in the process, it’s important to have an expert who knows how to retain tonal quality every time.


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

Easy Ways To Change Your Piano’s Tone

Easy Ways To Change Your Piano’s Tone

Have you ever listened to a piano in a grand concert hall, impressed with its overall sound? Then you return to your home, play the same song, and wonder what happened to the quality of the music?

Your piano’s tone depends on a variety of things. A piano will have a bright tone if it has many upper partials; a subdued tone if it lacks. If it is placed on a hard surface, it will reflect the sound; a soft surface will absorb it.Easy Ways To Change Your Piano’s Tone

Just by changing the position and location of your piano, you can adjust the sound your piano produces. Hardwood floors, tile floors, carpeting, high ceilings, hard walls, glass windows, upholstered furniture, drapery, even people will all change the acoustical conditions of the room, and thus impact the sound being produced.

If you prefer a bright sound, a room with hard surfaces will help you create an incisive sound. If you prefer a more subdued tone, add softer elements to help absorb the sound.

For a bright tone:

  • Open the lid of your grand piano. The strings will reflect the sound outward, and amplify it into the room. The lid should open into the room, not into a wall.
  • Draperies should be kept at a minimum. If you choose to cover your windows, choose freeflowing, unlined drapery that will help produce a richer sound. One caveat: if your room has lots of windows, make sure sunlight doesn’t stream onto the piano, which can cause it to go out of tune in a much faster timeframe.
  • Use light fabrics for your decorating. Avoid velvets and brocades and choose cottons and satins instead.
  • Replace carpeting with wood or tile.
  • Remove acoustical or textured ceilings.

For a subdued tone:

  • Close the lid on the grand piano, or use the half stick.
  • Use acrylic caster cups on the piano legs to isolate the piano from the flooring, to prevent the floor from acting as a soundboard.
  • Use soft wall treatments, such as cork, and make sure all doors and windows are properly sealed.
  • Use heavier drapery.
  • Select heavier upholstered furniture.
  • Install wall to wall carpeting.

When you work to change the tone being produced by your piano, don’t forget to have a technician voice your piano when your redesign is completed. A revoicing will help further create the tone you are looking for.


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

Why Does A Piano’s Pitch Change?

Why Does A Piano’s Pitch Change?

Imagine you’re at a concert, enjoying the music. The violins, the cellos, the flutes and the clarinets are all carrying the tune. The piano fills in the melody. And then it happens. One loud note comes out of nowhere, and its completely out of tune. Ouch.

Its like fingernails on a chalkboard. You just cringe a little, hoping it will go away.Why Does A Piano’s Pitch Change?

Standard pitch is a universal frequency or note that all instruments are set to that allows musicians to play their instruments together in harmony. This standard pitch has been around ever since two individuals decided to play instruments or sing together. Without it, the results would be anything but pleasing.

Your piano is designed to play at a standard pitch of A-440, which means the A above the middle C vibrates at 440 cycles per second. At this pitch, the power and the tonal range are optimum, and your piano will blend nicely with the pitch of any instrument it chooses to play with.

When your piano varies from A-440, pitch adjustments are required to bring it back to the standard. By helping your piano maintain its standard pitch, you are ensuring that it maintains its tonal quality for the long term. The strings and structure maintain its equilibrium. And as a student of music, you will ensure your voice maintains the proper key to learn from and to grow from as you continue to play.

A piano’s pitch changes in two ways.

When your piano is new, the initial stretching and setting of the strings to the soundboard settle over time. The conditions change from the manufacturer to your home, and the pitch can quickly drop from these changes. It is very important to maintain pitch during this process, so the string tension and the piano structure can settle and reach a stable equilibrium. Most manufacturers recommend three or four tunings in the first year, and at least two per year after that.

As your piano ages and begins to settle, pitch changes due to climate variations. Your piano sits in a room that may have dry heat from blowing heat in the winter, humid conditions on and off all year through, and cool airflow in the summer. All of these temperature and climate changes can have a heavy impact on the voice of your piano. As humidity goes up, the soundboard swells, increasing its rounded shape, and stretching the strings to a higher pitch. When the conditions dry out, the soundboard flattens, lowering the tension on the strings, causing the pitch to drop. If you tune your piano after these changes, your piano will continue to hold its pitch. If you don’t, it will continue to drop in pitch for each year the piano is left unserviced.

How long has it been since your piano has been tuned? If you have any questions about the piano tuning process, give us a call. With decades of experience in the piano industry, we can provide you with the experience and the know-how to help you with all of your piano needs.


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172

What Is Piano Voicing?

What Is Piano Voicing?

When you begin to learn a new hobby, there are more aspects to learn than just the craft itself. Take, for instance, learning to play the piano. Not only do you have to learn the notes, scales, and finger placement, you also have to learn the buzzwords of the industry.

Like voicing.

Voicing refers to the changing tone of the instrument. Tone can be thought of as the brightness or mellowness of the sound. A note may be perfectly in tune, yet vibrating at a consistency that sounds harsh and bright. It can have a fullness to it that makes it seem like it hovers in the air, or it can have a flat, dullness to it that barely creates a presence.

There are three basic problems when it comes to tone:What Is Piano Voicing?

1. Select notes don’t seem to blend in with the others

2. Entire sections seem to be out of balance with each other – the bass may be bold while the treble is weak

3. The entire piano seems to be balanced, but the overall tone is too bright or mellow

These problems have nothing to do with tuning, and everything to do with voicing.

When you listen to music through a stereo system, you can control the sound in a variety of ways. The easiest is by turning the volume up or down depending on your preference. But with a sophisticated system, you have more controls than that. You can adjust the treble or bass to make the music sound richer and fuller. You can move the sound from one channel to another, creating surround sound. You are not changing the music; just the way you hear it.

The human ears are designed to pick up many different frequencies. Every frequency has its own volume and pattern. That’s why you can distinguish a friend’s voice calling to you across a crowded room, or why a mother can hear her infant cry in a room full of children.

If a piano is in tune and properly voiced, it will create a harmonious sound that is not only a joy to listen to, but also a joy to play. Imagine a beginning piano player sitting down and playing her first tune. She hears the melody, but knows the sound simply isn’t right. That’s where frustration can begin to set in.

Voicing is bringing every note into balance so that one note compliments the other as it is played. Instead of each note working individually, they work together to create one harmonious sound.

How is this accomplished?

Through proper tuning. The strings must be properly seated and firmly in place. Hammers must be in proper working condition and centered on their strings.

Think this is a job for just anyone? Think again. This is where the art of tuning comes into play. The art of listening and diagnosing the tonal weakness takes years of experience and a great deal of patience.

If its been a while since your piano was tuned, you may have noticed some issues with the tone. The voicing may be off. Which means its time to schedule tuning with a trained professional and bring it back into full working condition. Give us a call today; we can have your piano playing beautifully again in no time.


Since 1960, Coltharp Piano World has represented the finest pianos in Memphis, Tennessee, the Midsouth and the world. In addition to quality sales and service we offer moving services, restoration services and master piano tuning. We offer the best new, used and vintage pianos anywhere. And our prices simply cannot be beat. Come and see our newly remodeled showroom and our beautiful new concert hall. We specialize in piano restoration for the southern United States. We welcome your call.

We are located at: 4447 Summer Ave, Memphis, Tennessee 38122 Call us at 901.682.1172