When a Piano Can’t Be Tuned

When a Piano Can’t Be Tuned

When parents decide to enroll their children in piano lessons, the first task is to buy a piano for their kids to practice on. And that’s where many parents go wrong. 

With a little search online, you’ll find an array of pianos available for purchase. Search Craigslist and you’ll even find pianos for free … simply haul them away, and they’re yours!

But is that the best way to bring a piano into your life? That’s usually where many parents go wrong. 

Here’s why. 

If you find a free piano, or one for a very low cost, it’s usually from a homeowner that no longer wants the piano, and has no idea how to get rid of it. They may try to sell it to no avail. So they offer it for free using online resources. 

When people reach this point, it’s usually because the piano has no value. Chances are it’s sat without being played for years. 

Maybe it sat in a corner without maintenance. It was stored in a basement or garage, subject to harsh conditions. 

And that impacts playability. 

When you get it into your home and play it for the first time, you might hear something off. The tone is off. The notes don’t blend together. 

So you call in a professional to tune your piano. And that’s when you get the bad news: it can’t be tuned. 

A piano is made from wood and metal. If not properly cared for, exposure to the environment, including heat, cold, and moisture, will all take its toll. Extreme dryness can crack the soundboard and pinboard, eliminating any chance that the pins holding the strings can be fixed without complete renovation. 

When you receive the bad news from a technician, you’ll have two choices: renovation, or purchase another piano. 

Isn’t it better to ensure you have a quality piano your first time around? 

Understanding Humidity and Your Piano

Understanding Humidity and Your Piano

Understanding how humidity affects your piano starts with understanding how humidity impacts wood. 

Wood products that are subjected to high amounts of humidity will be susceptible to expansion due to excess moisture in the air. As moisture penetrates the wood, it causes it to swell or expand. If they are exposed to an excessive amount of moisture for extended periods of time, they may not return to their original size. 

Your piano is made up of thousands of pieces crafted from wood, felt, wool, and metal. If any of these materials receive too much moisture, they will all change accordingly. But what happens if any of these parts do change?

Pitch and tone

The first part impacted on a piano will be the soundboard, the single largest structure of the piano. Think of this as the speaker of the piano, the part required for producing proper tone. It’s designed to have a slight curve. But if the curve changes due to humidity, it can have a profound impact on the tone. If humidity drops and the soundboard shrinks, it can flatten out the tone. If it absorbs too much humidity, it can swell and allow the pitch to go sharp. 


There is a complex inner working of parts to have the keys connect with the strings to produce sound. This process is called the action. To ensure this process stays in good working condition requires regular adjustments called regulation. If humidity changes the structure of the piano, precision is lost in the action. If it’s not regulated regularly, it can change the action enough that replacement is the only way for correction. 


Each key is placed precisely into the keyboard to keep it working well. Humidity can change the space between the keys, causing them to become tight and not fit very well. If they stick and have trouble playing, it might be because of humidity. 


As humidity impacts wood furniture, it causes squeaks, rattles, and other noises as you open drawers, close doors, and move the item around. Pianos work similarly. As parts are impacted by moisture, they no longer work as designed. This can cause a host of noises that run counter to the music you’re producing. 


It’s not just the wood that will be impacted. The strings on your piano are responsible for producing the sound. With humidity changes, these metal strings can rust and corrode. That means they won’t move as designed, and won’t hold tuning. 

If humidity is a problem, and impacts the inside of your home regularly, there are ways to regulate humidity levels around your piano. 

Ask us how!

When It’s Time To Let An Old Piano Go

When It’s Time To Let An Old Piano Go

Buying a piano can bring you a lifetime of enjoyment. In most cases, you can expect a piano to last anywhere from 30 to 50 years. 

But what does that really mean? Whether you’re considering a used piano, or are leaning towards a new one to add longevity to your purchase, these few tips can help you make a wise decision before you buy. 

How old is too old? 

We often hear this question when people are considering a used piano. Should you invest in an instrument that has already been played for years? 

For most mass-produced pianos, they typically provide thirty good years of playing. It’s not uncommon for a well cared for piano to last 50 years or beyond. The key is maintenance. If a pianist takes care of the instrument, it will give you a long life. 

For hand-crafted pianos, they can last for decades with proper care. They are made from the finest materials, and will stand the test of time. 

When should you replace a piano? 

With most things in life, you upgrade as you become proficient and require different features. A piano is no different. 

We often suggest beginning students select a workhorse that can provide high-quality while they learn the basics. Then as you become more proficient in your skill level, you can upgrade to have a piano better suited for your needs. 

Listen to the quality of the sound. We each hear tones and pitches differently. If it sounds good to your ear, you’re more likely to sit down and play. 

Is buying used okay?

The key here is ensuring you are buying a quality piano, no matter how many years of enjoyment it’s given previous owners. This is where it pays to rely on a reputable dealer who will ensure the piano has many years of life left in it. 

Playing is only part of what keeps a piano in good working condition. Location is everything. Pianos should always be kept in an area where temperature and humidity fluctuations are relatively stable. The piano should always be tuned regularly. It should be kept out of harsh sunlight, and away from drafts.  

If your piano has been subjected to any of these conditions, and it no longer sounds good to your ear, it may be time to let your piano go. 

What questions can we answer about selecting a piano to suit your needs? 

Piano Care Is a Bit Different for Piano Teachers

Piano Care Is a Bit Different for Piano Teachers

If you want your piano to remain in good working condition for years to come, maintenance is an important part of the process. 

Homeowners can provide minimal care throughout the year and still have a highly functional piano. But for piano teachers, it takes more work to maintain a piano. Without proper piano care, you might be replacing your piano more frequently than desired. 

Pianos are built to be played. But depending on your instruction level, your piano may get heavy usage. And that impacts your piano in different ways than standard residential care. 

As with all mechanical devices you use daily, preventative maintenance ensures a long life. It reduces the likelihood of letting more minor issues grow into more significant problems, and keeps the instrument in good working condition for every time you sit down to play. 

As a piano teacher, what are some things you can do to protect your piano? 

Keep your space clean

If you don’t have a table or other storage area nearby, bring one in. Piano technicians consistently find pens, paperclips, buttons, coins – all the small things you may regularly come in contact with as you move through different piano lessons. Having a place to store or dispose of them prevents you from setting them on the piano, where they ultimately fall in. These tiny items can lodge under a key or between hammers or strings, causing the action to be thrown off as the piano is played. You may not notice it immediately, but this can impact the moving parts. 

Avoid liquid

It’s tempting to bring a drink with you when you’ll be sitting near the piano all day, but liquid is one of the harshest enemies for a piano. Glasses can cause ring marks. Liquid can seep into the wood, warping it. You should also avoid flower vases or plants sitting on the piano, as they can leak too and impact the wood. If fluids seep into the action, it can corrode metals and cause the wood to swell, which will impact the piano’s performance. 

Piano placement

If you have a piano at home, you may be aware of aesthetics needed to keep your piano well functioning. That doesn’t change when you provide piano lessons, even though it might change where you place them. All acoustic pianos are heavily influenced by their environment. Ensure it’s not near registers or vents where warm or cooled air can impact the wood. Avoid placing the piano where direct sunlight may be a problem. You should also keep it away from drafts through windows or doors. Humidity levels should also remain somewhat constant to keep the piano in good playing condition. 

Whether you teach one student a day, or have a regular eight-hour routine, maintenance is key to a long life. Work with a technician for regular tuning and repair. They can help you keep an eye on possible problems, and ensure your piano stays operational through all of your playing. It’s the best way to ensure a long life. 

Rent or Buy a Piano – Which Is Right For You?

Rent or Buy a Piano – Which Is Right For You?

So you want to introduce your child to music. Where do you begin? 

For many parents, a piano is the most logical choice. Piano builds a solid foundation for musical education. For a child that starts with a piano, they will have more advantages when moving to other instruments. That’s because the piano plays a wide range of notes. And with that, learners can quickly become accustomed to a full range of notes, including sharps and flats. They can also understand both bass and treble clef, and give a good foundation in reading music. 

Piano also helps develop a good sense of pitch. This can translate to other instruments, making them more musically inclined. 

All of that can start with the piano. But when you’re just starting out contemplating where to start, the price tag of a piano can leave you feeling a bit intimidated. 

Should you buy a piano when you’re unsure if your child will continue? Or is renting a better option? 

The good news is that as a piano dealer, we meet with people in your circumstances all the time. We can help you navigate your best course of action. 

Just like you wouldn’t give your child a flat soccer ball and expect them to play, you shouldn’t give your child anything but the best to start navigating learning how to play. 

Renting may work – as long as you rent the piano you’re considering investing in. It’s important to have a high-quality instrument for ensuring your child fully understands what it means to play. 

Also realize there are different levels of pianos. What makes a good starter piano won’t necessarily work as your child progresses. A high-quality piano dealer understands this, and offers buy-back programs to ensure you have the piano that best suits your needs. 

Is renting or buying a piano best for you? 

To determine your next step, stop by today. We can educate you on the best way to introduce piano into your life. 

Where To Put Your Upright Piano

Where To Put Your Upright Piano

With most home purchases, you buy it, bring it home, and put it someplace convenient with little thought. A new appliance may be placed on your countertop, or stuffed into a cupboard. 

But a piano is a little more difficult to maneuver. When you bring it home, it’s going to take up a lot of space. If your home is crowded, you may move a table, or wedge your new piano between a couple of pieces of furniture. That’s the beauty of an upright piano – it takes up less space. Why not place it anywhere? 

There are good reasons why you should pay attention to placement. When deciding where to put your upright piano, keep in mind that placement has a huge impact on sound, how much you play the piano, as well as overall condition. If you want your piano to last for years, and want to give yourself the best chance of regular playing, keep these tips in mind. 

Uprights belong next to a wall – this may seem obvious – most people buy uprights to save space – but it is the best placement for an upright. It helps control sound. It also helps regulate temperature. An inside wall is better than one outside to ensure the temperatures stay the same. Cool air or a changing air supply can cause the wood to expand and contract, leaving your piano vulnerable to cracks and changes. 

Uprights should stay away from windows and vents – placing your piano near the window can allow sunlight to fade and warp the various components of your piano. It can also allow cold, drafty air to impact the tonal quality of the piano. Pianos are best kept in areas where changes in temperature and air supply are at a minimum, to fully protect wood, metal, and other parts from corroding or breaking. 

Acoustics change based on placement – sticking your upright piano in a corner, surrounded by other furniture, may seem like the best choice, but it might not be the best placement for high quality sound output. Every room has its own acoustic properties. Vaulted ceilings can make the sound echo; too much furniture may dull the sound. Play with placement to find an area that brings out a rich quality that entices you to play more. 

Playability – nobody likes sitting in a corner, hidden from view. Tuck your upright piano away and you may find yourself never wanting to play. Uprights don’t take as much room as grand pianos; bring it out to be included in your room design. Make it a welcome part of your environment, and you’ll be more likely to play it.  

Have more questions about where to put your upright piano? Just ask. We’re happy to help. 

The Best Place In The House To Place a Piano

The Best Place In The House To Place a Piano

You’ve decided to buy a piano for your kids to learn music, something they will carry with them for life. 

A piano isn’t something you can hide away or tuck into a corner and expect your kids to remember to play. It’s an instrument you should think about carefully as you decide where to place it. Where is the best place in the house to place a piano? We have a few words of advice. 

Let’s start with room conditions. Pianos need consistent temperatures and humidity levels to thrive. That means you don’t want to place it in a dark, warm, or moist room where airflow doesn’t keep it well vented. Mold is never a good thing – that’s doubly true with your piano. Mold can weaken the wood and impact the wires and felt inside the piano – all of which impact the condition of your piano. 

Humidity is probably one of the biggest reasons why pianos deteriorate so quickly. It’s what can make your piano go out of tune. Pay attention to how close you place a piano to windows, which can allow cold to infiltrate the wood. 

Vents, registers, fireplaces, and wood stoves can also impact the quality of the wood, drying it out and causing fluctuation in the way the piano sounds. 

Pianos thrive best when everything remains much the same. Try for 45 to 70 percent humidity levels, and temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees. 

Before you move a piano in, consider your rooms carefully. Going up to the second floor or above may require additional costs to place it there. Grand pianos are different from uprights, though both need special care to ensure they move safely. Taking a piano down a narrow hallway will mean greater potential hazards for both the piano and your walls. 

We often tell clients that the center of a room is the best place for a piano. It cuts down on the chance of sunlight streaming through the windows, and keeps it far away from vents and registers. It allows maximum airflow to ensure both humidity and temperatures remain fairly constant. 

While many choose to place it in a busy place in the home, think twice about just how busy the room is. It’ll be harder to get in daily practice tf there is never time to play without disturbing other activities. One option can be to ensure your new piano comes equipped with headphones, so your child can play no matter what’s happening in the room. 

What other concerns do you have about bringing a new piano into your home? 

How To Tell When Your Piano Is Out Of Tune

How To Tell When Your Piano Is Out Of Tune

Whether you’ve been playing your piano for years, or have recently purchased your first piano, determining if your piano is out of tune seems like a straightforward task. If you play a few notes, you should be able to hear if something is “off.”

But it’s not as simple as that. 

It might be your first clue. If you play a song and it sounds tinny, sharp, or flat, it’s your first indication that it’s time for a tuning. 

But a piano’s pitch may be off long before you notice it in the way you play a song. 

Pianos can go out of tune for a number of reasons:

Humidity – humidity can impact your piano quickly, especially if it changes frequently inside your home. Music rooms should be kept at a minimum of 68 degrees, with humidity levels between 50 and 70 percent. Not only will a stable environment keep your piano in tune, but it will also prevent damage from the wood swelling. 

It’s always a good idea to be conscious about where you place the piano in the room. Too much direct sunlight can further damage the wood. If you notice consistent fluctuations in the temperature or humidity levels inside your music room, it may be wise to invest in a dehumidifier to help keep the room’s conditions constant. 

Lack of tuning – pianos need constant care. If it hasn’t been tuned in a while, it will take more maintenance to return it to playing conditions. When you work with a regular tuner, they can get a better understanding of what your piano needs to stay in tune. Once or twice per year is standard for a piano once it resides inside your home. 

If you haven’t tuned your piano in years, it might not be able to hold a tune without extensive restoration. A full inspection can help you further understand the condition of your piano. 

Poor tuning – while you can find videos online that will help you tune your piano, tuning isn’t something you can learn from watching a video. The best tuners have thousands of hours of experience. If you have your piano tuned, and realize it’s out of tune just a few short weeks later, there’s a chance it’s been poorly tuned. 

Tuning an acoustic piano today means using electronic instruments as well as a well-trained ear to determine the proper tone. Don’t look at price alone when selecting a tuner – some may cut corners simply to bring in a customer base. Once you’ve found a piano tuner that you trust, try to maintain the relationship to ensure your piano stays properly tuned. 

Age – age impacts playability. The older an instrument is, the more maintenance it will take to continue sounding its best. 

That’s not saying a used instrument is bad. If you know its history and maintenance schedule, it can be a great investment. Still, realize that everything has a useful life, and the older it gets, the greater chance it will need maintenance work to keep it in good working condition.  

When was the last time your piano was properly tuned? If a piano is out of tune, it won’t sound its best, and will be more difficult to play. To create the best sound possible from your piano, get it tuned today. 

How To Whiten Your Yellow Piano Keys

How To Whiten Your Yellow Piano Keys

Pianos aren’t something you keep in a faraway corner of the house. Pianos are often center stage in the most frequently used room. What better way to bring music to the center of attention. It’s a great way to keep it in your family’s lives. 

Yet cleaning a piano can be a difficult chore. A soft microcloth can do wonders to keep the dust bunnies away. But what happens when your piano keys start yellowing? How do you whiten them in such a way as not to hurt the keys?

First step – determine if the piano keys are ivory or plastic

“Tickle the ivories” is a saying developed long ago when piano keys were still crafted from ivory. That practice has been illegal for decades, but if you have an antique piano handed down through the generations, you may still have a piano with ivory keys. 

Depending on what your keys are made of determines how you can restore the look of your keys. Plastic keys are smoother than ivory. They usually are jointed at the base. 

How to clean plastic or ivory piano keys

With both ivory and plastic, avoid using soap and water. If water seeps down between the keys, it can damage the inner workings enough to call in professional help. 

Avoid using harsh chemicals when you clean. Most cleaning products on the market today will harm the finish and do more damage to the keys. When in doubt, stick with basics. 

Always start with a soft cloth. Microfiber works well for a variety of cleaning needs. If you do use any liquid products, be sure to dab them onto the microfiber cloth before rubbing the keys. Liquid directly on a key spells disaster. 

Natural over chemicals is also best. Dilute vinegar in water. A little milk on ivory keys can also be a good choice. Ivory is dental bone; using a child’s toothbrush can help you get to all surface areas and whiten them up. 

For both types of keys, it’s important to clean one key at a time. Avoid rubbing the cloth over all keys at once – this is what can allow moisture to seep between the keys. Work back to front, allowing each key to dry thoroughly. 

If you have questions, it’s best to seek professional guidance before you begin. We can help recommend the right cleaning tools for the job. We can also recommend a professional to help you with the task. 

If it’s ivory, leave it alone

One final thought if you have yellowing ivory keys. Some people prefer them to age naturally, and consider yellow keys a part of the charm. This keeps the piano in age-appropriate condition, and may even add to the value. 

If authenticity is important, consider speaking with an expert before you make any changes to your piano.

Owning a Piano With Ivory Keys – What You should Know

Owning a Piano With Ivory Keys – What You should Know

Tickle the ivories. It’s long been a phrase that refers to playing the piano, with possible roots referring to the fact that piano keys were once solely veneered with ivory

Of course, the use of ivory is no longer an acceptable practice. In fact, it’s illegal to sell anything made from ivory. 

That opens up a host of other questions about what happens if you have a piano with ivory keys. What do you do with it? Can you move it? Can you sell it? 

Until the 1940s, pianos were often constructed with an ivory veneer used to top the white piano keys. The key itself was created using wood, topped with a thin layer of ivory to give it fluidity. It didn’t require very much ivory – the top layer is paper-thin. That also means these coverings are prone to cracking, chipping, peeling, and flaking. You might also find they yellow pretty bad. 

The advantage of using plastic for the keys is they stay their true color, and hold up well, no matter how much playtime they receive.  

But if you have ivory piano keys on an antique or heirloom piano, what do you do? 

Selling this thin veneer ivory would be a waste of time. It’s such a small quantity, it wouldn’t have value. Plus, it’s illegal. Try to put up an ad with a piano with ivory keys, and it will be deleted as fast as you put it up on eBay or Craigslist. Try and move it with a professional moving company across some state lines, or to another country somewhere in the world, and you’ll receive another steadfast “no.” 

It’s a very small source of ivory, but it comes with a big problem. 

Some piano tuners, retailers, or restorers will buy out old pianos with ivory still in place. They save the keys for restoration projects where it’s important to keep the piano in original condition. Special consideration is given for this type of restoration. But even this has laws in place to ensure it isn’t overly used. 

Have additional questions about ivory piano keys? We’re here to help you find the answers you need. Give us a call today.