Can You Tune a Piano After 50 Years?

Can You Tune a Piano After 50 Years?

Some things inside your home have more value over time. We often are enamored by television shows that find buried treasure in the attics and basements of loved ones. 

Yet while a painting can be hidden away in a suitcase for decades and grow in value, a piano doesn’t hold those same characteristics. The definition of an antique is: a collectible object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age. A painting may never change, especially if it’s kept apart from the elements around it. A piano can and will. 

A piano isn’t a piece of furniture, though you may be proud to display it inside your home. Instead, a piano contains over 10,000 parts that make it come to life every time you sit down to play it. It’s made from wood, metal, felt, and other organic components that will degrade over time. 

  • Wood can become brittle
  • Hammers can get hard
  • Strings can become rusty and stretched

And that’s just the start. 

Whether you play the piano or not, the surrounding area impacts the playability of a piano. Humidity can settle in. Rising and falling temperatures can cause damage. The simple act of standing without touching it can affect how well it holds up over time. 

If you purchase an older piano on Craigslist, for example, you may buy a piano that has sat in a living room, unplayed for decades. Worse, it might have shuffled between a basement or garage to make room for other furniture. Then it was “cleaned up” to try and make money from it online. 

Without proper restoration, a piano will no longer function after years of neglect. 

When looking to acquire a piano, age matters. A lot. 

If a piano hasn’t been tuned in years, it will lose its ability to stay tuned. No matter how much you work with the strings, they won’t return to their proper sound. 

If the pins are in good shape, replacing the strings may be all that’s needed to hold the sound. If more extensive damage is in place, it may require complete restoration of the strings, soundboard, plate, and bridges to bring it back into balanced tension. 

In that case, it may make more sense to invest in a new piano. Or if there is sentimental value attached, a complete restoration may be the way to go. 

Piano Tuning and Piano Repair

Piano Tuning and Piano Repair

One of the most commonly asked questions we receive pertains to piano tuning.

A piano is a living, breathing instrument. Over time the sound adjusts based on the conditions around it. Climate, environment, where a piano sits, how often its played, all impact the overall sound quality. And around every six months or so, an adjustment helps keep it in quality condition, creating proper sound for the months ahead.Piano Tuning and Piano Repair

Piano tuning is the process of removing the tuning pins within the piano with a tuning hammer, then setting them to the appropriate tension in order to produce the correct sound.

The action, or the mechanics, of the piano are not regulated or removed during the piano tuning process. The way the piano plays will n0t be chanced. Tuning only refers to bringing the notes back to the correct sound. If the action of the piano had a problem before tuning, it will remain after the process unless repairs are made to correct it.

During the piano tuning process, if a tuner identifies a problem, he will notify the owner of the potential problem either before or during the tuning process. The owner can then decide how to proceed in order to bring the piano back up to full working condition.

Typically, a normal piano tuning process can help maintain a piano’s sound quality if it is tuned about every six months.

If a piano hasn’t been tuned in a year or two, or undergoes dramatic environmental changes between tunings, a tuner will typically perform a “pitch raise”, essentially a double tuning in order to bring a piano back to working condition.

If a piano hasn’t been tuned in years, before you schedule a piano tuning session, it may be wise to have it evaluated first for potential restoration and repair. The evaluator will be able to provide you with detail on how much work it would take to being it back to working order, or give you other options if you desire to have a quality piano in your life.

Have additional questions? The best way to proceed is to give us a call today to schedule the right service for your situation.

A Basic Guide To Tuning A Piano

A Basic Guide To Tuning A Piano

What does tuning a piano mean?

Have you ever watched a guitar player tune his guitar before he plays? He adjusts the strings to make sure they are perfectly in balance and create harmony while playing. That’s the same concept with tuning a piano. Tuning consists of adjusting the tension at which the internal strings are stretched using a tuning hammer. They are tuned to vibrate at a pleasing harmony to match in accordance with other instruments and to give it aesthetically pleasing sounds when played.

How often should my piano be tuned?

Tuning a piano is really determined by a variety of things. First, how sensitive to the sound are you? Some musicians are automatically attuned to notes and can instantly tell when a piano is out of tune. Depending on your environment, a piano is sensitive to climate and the humidity and may need adjusting in highs and lows. How much do you play? For most people, one to three times per year is adequate. For a professional musician or an instructor, more frequent tuning is necessary. Concert pianos are generally tuned before every performance.A Basic Guide To Tuning A Piano

Why does a piano need to be tuned after being moved?

When you move, a lot of changes and stress occur during the process. Your piano may experience bumps, thumps and impacts as it makes its way from your old location, into the truck, and into your new location. There may also be a change in climate and humidity. Vertical pianos may be affected by unevenness in the level of the floor, or differences in the level between old and new locations.

Should a piano be tuned immediately its in its new location?

There is an art to moving a piano and tuning a piano – they usually aren’t performed by the same person. And in most cases a piano adjusts over time to its move and its new location. A piano may sound fine when its placed in its new home, yet a week later sound out of tune. Its best to move a piano and let it settle in. Then a week or two later hire a piano tuner to bring your instrument up to its full potential.

Is there a “best” location for my piano in my home?

The best location for your piano is in an area where temperature and humidity will remain as constant as possible. Try to keep your piano away from big drafts, open windows and direct sunlight. You should also place your piano away from heating registers, radiators, windows or doors that will open and close on a consistent basis.

Can I play a piano that is out of tune?

Of course any piano can be played. Depending on your ear, you may not like the music that comes from the instrument. All pianos go out of tune continuously. If your child is trying to learn on a piano that is out of tune, she may not practice at the same level as if it were in tune. When she “hears” the way its supposed to sound at the instructors location, and has trouble making the same sounds in her home, frustration can soon set in. Quality does matter when trying to master individual pieces of music.

Is there anything I should do before a piano tuner comes to my home?

In order to tune your piano, the technician will probably need access to the entire piano. Remove sheet music, knickknacks, plants, decorations – anything sitting on any piece of the piano so access is quick. You may even vacuum underneath a grand piano, as the technician may have to lie under it to make an adjustment. Make a list of anything you’ve noticed. And make sure the surrounding area is quiet and well lit to allow the technician the easiest time possible to complete his work.