I'm asked lots of questions about tuning pianos, so I thought it would be useful to reproduce some of them here.
What does a tuning entail? The main consideration is to adjust all the tuning pins in the piano so that the instrument is well-tuned and at the proper pitch. In addition, part of the visit, I also check on various aspects of care for the piano to ensure that all is well. This can range, for example, from looking for signs of moths attacking the felt to checking that the piano legs for a grand are attached properly after a move, watching for signs of structural problems with the metal plate, to checking the regulation of the action.
How often should I tune my piano? This depends on the manufacturer and model of piano, on the environment that the piano is in, the amount that the piano is played, the quality of the instrument, the humidity and temperature of the room, outside weather, and the audience. A tuned piano give so much nicer feedback to the piano player and audience. The tuning intervals vary from 4 to 18 months or longer, with 12 months being a fairly common interval. I usually provide my customers an estimate of when the next tuning would be recommended after I tune the piano and gain some familiarity with it.
Which is better -- Aural or electronic tuning? A skilled piano tuner-technician can do a good job in either approach, but the real test of quality of the tuning and the piano's sound will be based on what you hear, not what you see. The physics involved in listening for the beats of two notes (based on the interference from their partials) produces a degree of accuracy in the tuning of any one note that can likely be matched with a meter. But I personally feel that there are significant subjective decisions being made during a tuning, whether for unisons or scale stretch or tonal aspects, for which it is better to use your hearing rather than depend on looking at what a meter says. I personally prefer tuning by ear rather than by eye.
Why should I seek a highly trained tuner? Can't I just use a tuning tool myself? I enjoy showing my customers who are interested the intervals I use and how I listen for beats to guide the Aural piano tuning. They can see that to achieve a quality tuning, it takes a lot of training and knowledge, and so far none of them have tried to do it themselves. Also, the professional tuner is trained and prepared to service any mechanical problem that can arise in a complicated instrument containing about 6 to 7 thousand parts.
What kind of repairs do you do? I do varied types of piano repairs, from what is sometimes relatively simple inoperable notes to action reconditioning and restringing. I have had a lot of experience repairing pianos over the years and I am continually attending refresher sessions.
Can you recommend a piano mover? I have been recommending a family-owned piano moving business for many years that now extends to a third-generation of movers. The feedback I've received has continued to be favorable. Feel free to contact me for more information.
Is it OK for my kids to bang on the piano keys? A piano is pretty resilient on the outside, but you still need to keep children from banging. A key or the attached mechanism could be broken, and the key covering could be damaged.
Do I need a humidity system attached to my piano? Humidifier and dehumidifier systems do not come as factory-installed equipment. While many piano tuner-technicians will install them for their customers, others have differing opinions as to their effectiveness. I am quite reluctant to recommend humidity (additive water) systems specifically for a piano, since I prefer whole-house or room units instead; and I am cautious about the bacteria-related health problems resulting from standing water. However, I am willing to consider for installation a dehumidifier rod with an accompanying humidistat that automatically turns the heater rod on/off at 42% relative humidity. But first I prefer to observe the stability of tunings with the piano to see if installation of a dehumidifier rod is warranted.
What areas of town do you go to? I cover most of the DC and surrounding areas. Washington, Northern Virginia, and in Maryland I go to Montgomery and Prince Georges county and the Frederick area. So this includes Potomac, Rockville, Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park, Germantown, etc in Maryland as well as Washington, DC, and areas in Virginia like Arlington, Vienna, McLean, Reston, etc.
Why does my piano sound off-key? The sound of an out-of-turn piano can slowly build up on you, so that there is a tendency to not notice the changes until it can no longer be missed and then sound "off-key." My customers are always pleasantly surprised how much better their tuned piano sounds versus its old state. It is also common for my customers to say how much better the piano feels.
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