Questions about tuning pianos? Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions..
What does a tuning entail? The main object is to adjust all the tuning pins in the piano so that the instrument is well-tuned and at the proper pitch. In addition, during the visit, I also check on various structural 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 in which the piano resides, the frequency 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 gives a much nicer feedback to the pianist 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 is 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. For those interested in details, my article on Aural Tuning of Pianos can be downloaded from the menu.
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 several companies that I have been recommending. Please drop me a note or call for my latest list.
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. 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 its “off-key” sound becomes obvious. My customers are often pleasantly surprised to hear how much better their tuned piano sounds versus its old state. My customers also often say how much better the piano feels.
What is MPT? Master Piano Technicians of America is a piano tuner-technician organization. From the MPT Web site, the organization’s two primary missions are to “(a) Advance the economic, ethical and social well-being of its members, and (b) Advance the highest standards of technical proficiency in the piano servicing industry.”