Jim Faris - Registered Piano Technician

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How often should my piano be tuned?

Most manufacturers recommend tuning a piano twice a year. Having said that I must qualify it by noting that a new piano will need more frequent tuning as will a piano that has not been tuned in a long time. In the case of new pianos, the strings are stretching and the wood is settling. As for a piano that hasn't been tuned in a while, it will need to go through a settling-in period similar to a new piano. Another factor will be the environment in which the piano resides. Wide swings in humidity and temperature will require that the piano be tuned more often than one in a stable environment. The best judge of how often your piano needs tuning will be your piano tuner after he/she has worked with the piano through a few weather cycles.

Where should I put my piano?

Since changes in humidity and temperature will affect your piano, it is a good idea to place it out of the way of direct sunlight, damp drafts, heating ducts and air conditioners. Many piano owners are familiar with the advice against placing a piano on an outside wall. In the days when homes were built without insulation in exterior walls, that was a good rule. But now that houses are built differently, it's no longer cast in stone. Each location will have its own considerations. I like to tell folks that your piano was built to be in places where people like to be. If you don't like to sit in front of that picture window in the winter because of the draft, then that's probably not a good place for your piano.

Why does my piano go out of tune?

Once the instability settles out of a new piano, or it gets acclimatized to a new environment, the main cause of your piano going out of tune is the change in season. Seasonal changes bring changes in the amount of moisture in the air which causes dimensional changes in the wood of your piano. The very nature of wood makes regular tuning necessary.

My piano was just moved, when should I get it tuned?

Many piano owners are aware that they should have their piano tuned after it is moved, but that is not always the case. If a piano is moved from one environment to another (like from Arizona to Seattle) then it will probably need a tuning about a month after it is moved and may require a series of tunings before it is acclimatized to the new location. But if the piano was moved into another room in your home to allow the new carpets to be laid, the tuning probably won't be effected. It's not the actual physical move that effects the tuning; it's the change in environment.

Why doesn't my piano sound like my teacher's?

There are many factors that make a piano sound the way it does, only one of which is the tuning. So after your piano is tuned it may still sound different than other pianos. One major factor is the size of the piano. A bigger piano will have a bigger sound. Another important factor is how much wear a piano has had. As your piano ages it accumulates wear, some from use but some from the environment, which interferes with its sound. Many types of wear can be corrected with proper maintenance and your piano returned to its original tone.

Do you have perfect pitch?

One of the common misunderstandings about piano tuning is that it requires perfect pitch. The act of tuning a piano is accomplished by comparing one pitch to another, always beginning with the pitch that is known to be correct. In so doing, we are able to deal with very small changes in pitch. The phenomenon of "perfect pitch", as I understand it, is not able to distinguish the close tolerances that we require for setting a piano keyboard in tune with itself.

How does a person become a piano tuner?

The best way to learn the trade is through a program that offers a complete curriculum of piano maintenance. There are many schools throughout the country that offer such programs and there are some individual technicians that do as well. But make sure that you are learning more than just the skill of tuning. Without a broad base of experience in all aspects of piano work you will be at a handicap when it comes to building a business.

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