gordon tuning

Gordon's Piano Tuning & Repair title
Central Maine's Complete Piano Service


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25 Maple Street, Hallowell, ME 04347 ph. (207) 623-4398

 

Frequently Asked Questions

(See the Contact page if you have questions not answered here.)

How often should a piano be tuned?

Most pianos should be tuned at least twice a year. (If you have a critical ear, you may want to have more than two tunings in one year.) New pianos usually require more tunings as well until the strings stretch and settle.

Why does a piano go out of tune?

The primary reason for a piano going out of tune is humidity change. In Maine we have humid summers and very dry winters. Since a piano is primarily made of wood, it is very sensitive to humidity change. High humidity causes a piano to go sharp, and low humidity causes a piano to go flat.

Does heavy playing hurt the piano?

High use will wear out a piano faster than one receiving normal use. But the tuning should not be affected by high use or heavy playing provided there are no structural problems with the instrument.

What makes a piano un-tunable?

Loose tuning pins or brittle strings can make a piano un-tunable. Sometimes a piano with loose tuning pins may be tunable at a lower pitch (lower tension on the strings), but a piano that is not up to correct pitch will never sound its best.

When is the best time to have a piano tuned?

In the fall, after your heating system has been running for a week or so, and in the spring after your heat has been turned off for a few days. But if your piano is out of tune, and you plan to use it, you should have it tuned regardless of what season we are in.

Does a piano need to be tuned after it has been moved?

Maybe. If you are just moving it across a room, it will probably be fine. If you are moving it to a location where the humidity level is different from what the piano is used to, it will need to be tuned. I usually recommend that a piano sit in the new location for a week or so before being tuned. This gives the wood time to adjust to the climate in the new location.

Is there anything I can do to control the humidity?

Yes, many things! Running a room humidifier in the winter and a dehumidifier in the summer will reduce the effects of seasonal changes. There is a climate control system, called a Dampp-Chaser, that can be installed inside a piano. (Your piano technician can give you more information about this.) In older homes, keeping a piano on an inside wall, away from heat sources and drafts, will help. Choosing a location where the sun cannot shine directly on the piano will also help.

What is "regulation"?

"Regulation" is the process of adjusting the mechanical portion, or action, of the piano so that every key works properly and evenly with all the others. A well-regulated piano is a pleasure to play and provides the pianist with the widest dynamic range, response and speed of repetition.

How often should my piano be regulated?

Manufacturers recommend that a piano be regulated every five years. Most pianos never get regulated or even partially regulated once they have left the factory unless something goes wrong. This means that most piano owners will never know their piano's full potential.

Are grand pianos better than uprights?

Usually yes, but not every grand is better than every upright. An upright piano is designed for homes and places where space is limited. Grand pianos have a more sophisticated action and give the player better control. For example, a pianist only needs to let a key rise half way before it may be played again. On an upright, the player usually must let the key return all the way to rest position. So a grand piano can repeat faster than an upright.

What does "A440" mean?

A440 just means that the A above middle C sounds at a frequency of 440 cycles per second. It is also known as standard pitch. Most pianos are designed to be tuned to A440.

How can I clean the keys?

The best way to clean keys is with a clean damp cloth. Usually any dirt on the keys came from the player's fingers, and it is water soluble. If necessary, you can add a small amount of mild soap, like Ivory, to the cloth, but be certain to wring out the cloth so that it is just damp. Avoid letting any water run down between the keys as this could cause them to warp and weaken the glue that holds the key top material in place.

Are ivory keys better than plastic keys?

This is mainly a matter of personal taste. Real ivory is porous and gives the pianist more grip. Plastic is more slippery. So depending on what you like determines which is better for you. I believe that people tend to prefer the key top material with which they grew up. Ivory has long been the traditional key covering material, and a piano with a perfect set of ivory is probably worth more than the same piano with plastic. But an instrument with many chipped, missing or broken ivories is probably going to be worth less than the same instrument with plastic.

What does "RPT" mean?

RPT stands for Registered Piano Technician. An RPT has been thoroughly tested by the Piano Technicians Guild in tuning and repairing pianos.

Are there any books available so I may learn more about pianos?

I highly recommend The Piano Book, Buying & Owning a New or Used Piano by Larry Fine, Brookside Press. It is usually available at bookstores. It is very thorough and well written. It is intended for people who know little about pianos, and it also includes reviews of all the current pianos in production. You can also find it online at www.pianobook.com.

 

~~Gordon R. Large, Registered Piano Technician


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