Basic Piano Service Recommendations
All pianos need periodic maintenance. Depending on the brand and type you own, the climatic/environmental conditions, and the frequency and intensity of play, service intervals will vary greatly. The three main areas of in-home maintenance are Tuning, Regulation, and Voicing.
Tuning, the area that will need to be most frequently addressed by your technician, consists of adjusting the tension of the strings to standard pitch--A 4, the A above middle C, set to 440 Hz., or cycles per second. Hearing music at this pitch is important for your child’s developing ear.
New pianos need to be tuned more frequently than older ones. Strings may be still stretching. Wood components are still adjusting to the relative humidity in your home. Tuning can change dramatically in a period of time due to climatic changes. Most manufacturers recommend tuning 3-4 times in the first year. Though our climate in the San Francisco Bay Area is a bit more hospitable than most, it should be tuned no less than twice a year for the first 2-3 years in order to maintain and stabilize at standard pitch.
Older pianos are usually more able to hold tune and pitch for longer periods of time: if played frequently or in an environment with a changing climate, at least once a year is the normal recommendation. Letting it go for more than 3 years without attention is never a good idea. When an old instrument drops well below A440, there can be problems associated with pitch adjustment.*
Squeaks, clicks, clunks, buzzes, rattles and other annoying noises that can be a detriment to your playing enjoyment may develop over time. If you are diligent about upkeep, many technicians will deal with these at your regular service call.
Regulation becomes necessary when felt and leather parts in the action** have become compressed or changed shape from wear. A complete regulation is seldom necessary on newer instruments, but there are several functions that should be addressed within 1-3 years of delivery to keep your piano performing as intended. If you are interested, I will be happy to demonstrate how the action operates.
Voicing deals with tone. What is “good” tone? That is up to the player. Some like a bright, lively sound, while others prefer a mellow, and darker sound. Regardless of your tonal preference, a musician should be able to play soft passages with delicacy, and loud passages with brilliance and power—within the limits of the instrument.
In order to be properly voiced, a piano needs to be well regulated and tuned. It can be a matter of going through all of the hammers to soften or brighten the tone. Often, it’s just evening out the tone by voicing a few hammers or sections of hammers that are overly bright. Sometimes a well-placed carpet, or change of position can benefit the tone greatly.
This is just a brief outline of in-home piano maintenance. If you would like more detailed information about specific functions, feel free to contact me at:
Dave Stahl, RPT
*A pitch adjustment is necessary when a piano has gone substantially below or above standard pitch.
**The action contains all of the parts of the piano between the key and the string. There are thousands of moving parts that need occasional adjustment.
Related Link: http://ptg.org/resources-pianoOwners.php
Give a gift certificate to someone who needs more harmony in their life!
ABOUT THE TUNER
I am a lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve been involved with pianos since 1968, when I began taking classical lessons with a local teacher. In 1970, I continued my musical education at San Jose State University, where I was a piano performance major for several years.
I began tuning pianos in 1977 while working at a local retailer, and have been in the piano business in varying capacities ever since: tuner, mover, salesman, amateur psychologist, and babysitter.
I’ve been working on my own since 2000 and my list of clients has grown steadily since then, to the point where there are almost 1200 clients in my database, including many teachers, schools, churches, concert halls, and stores. Most business has come to me through personal referrals.
My training has included personal teaching from several technicians, including Walt Jones, my original mentor, and many members of the PTG, as well as meetings, conferences, and late night phone calls, the Pianotech list, and wherever I can glean helpful tidbits. I am a graduate with honors from “The Randy Potter School of Piano Technology,” the most accredited correspondence piano technology school.
I achieved RPT certification with the PTG in March of 2007, but consider that merely another step in the continuing education that is available. My passion for pianos continues to grow as I get more deeply involved in this art/craft.
Musical tastes run the gamut from jazz and classical to ethnic, folk, pop, rock, and blues. Music is a way of life, and for many of us in this business, it is almost as necessary as eating or breathing.
On the personal side, I am married to Jill Stahl, nee Callahan, who is blessed with a tremendous amount of patience. I have a son named Lance (who appears underneath my “List of Rates and Charges” in this website). Two cats—Monty, who often oversees my work at the computer, and Gray, who is almost as large as the piano—share our residence in Santa Clara.