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Common Piano Questions

Answers to piano based questions below

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How often should I tune my piano?  

New piano ..... 3-4 times in the first year

After that .......... once or twice a year

This will keep the pitch stable. If this schedule is maintained, the piano should sound good throughout the year as long as the piano is in a fairly stable environment (without a lot of humidity changes).

The more often a piano is tuned, the better it will sound. It should be said though, that better sounding is in the ear of the beholder. What sounds bad to some, may sound fine to another (go figure). So, having said that, many people will have their piano tuned once a year. This works well if the owner doesn't mind that the tuning may start to sound 'off' in the second half of the year.. Frankly, some piano owners may not even notice it going out of tune. This is fine since they are still enjoying music and that is the whole point of having a piano. Tuning a piano only once a year will not do any harm and it will keep the tuning fairly stable throughout the piano's life.

Honestly, if the customer doesn't mind an out of tune piano or does not notice it is out of tune, you should have it tuned on some sort of regular basis anyway to help it from going severely out of tune which could cause problems down the line.

If you can afford it, have your piano tuned as often as is practical for you. Many bars and restaurants have their pianos tuned once a week. Some people wait ten years, which is not so good for the piano. Concert pianos are tuned before each performance and sometimes even during the intermission they are touched up. Bear in mind too that humidity changes will also put a piano out of tune, (like when you open the windows and doors in humid season and then close them and turn on the air conditioner.)

Tuning fork

Tuning fork mounted on small sounding plate

Standard pitch for musical instruments has changed over the years but is usually set to A 440 cycles per second or "A440" as it is usually referred to.

In order for the technician to establish this pitch for the piano, a tuning fork can be used as a reference. There are also electronic references that are just as accurate and in most cases more reliable since they are not affected by temperature like a metal tuning fork.

TOP Questions Menu

Just moved it. Should it be tuned?    

If it has only been moved a few feet, it probably is not necessary to tune it. There are at least 3 things that can affect the stability of tune while moving a piano;

1. Lifting the piano, setting it on a dolly, putting it on its side (for a grand), hauling it in a truck etc., stresses are placed upon the parts of the piano that help keep it stable and in tune. These stresses can make the pitch of the strings change, causing it to go out of tune. The degree it goes out of tune depends on the levels of stress involved. Lifting an upright piano onto a dolly - not so bad stress, dropping it off a truck - really bad stress (hope that never happens), riding in the truck over bumps - pretty good stress.

2. When the piano is moved to a different environment it receives the stress of the new surroundings and changes during the move; temperature changes, barometric pressure changes, altitude difference, and the worst of all, humidity changes.

3. Direct sun on the plate of the piano will cause a great deal of movement in pitch.

If you have moved your piano, let it sit in its new environment for 4 to 6 weeks, if possible, before having it tuned. This will give the wood parts time to acclimate to the new situation and will make for a more stable tuning.

How should I clean my piano? 

The answer to this question depends somewhat on the type of finish on the piano. Many new pianos have a polyester finish. Polyester is actually a plastic and thus should be cleaned like a plastic. Products used to clean plexiglas and window tinting will work well. You could also use a soft, clean, well dampened cloth followed by a soft, clean, dry cloth. Any good plastic cleaner will work too. For greasy stuff try a little window cleaner or a light water and vinegar solution. The problem with polyester is that it will scratch easily, so, the important thing is to make sure to use plenty of lubricant (liquid) when first cleaning it. Try not to let it get overly dusty in the first place. Also, test any cleaner in an inconspicuous spot before using it to clean the whole piano. Never use polishes with oils in them such as Pledge and others like it. This will leave an oily residue that will smear.

Many newer pianos and most older pianos have a lacquer finish. Some may have other usual finishes used on furniture as well. These finishes are easy to clean. Just use a damp cloth to dust them. Any type of furniture polish or oil is not necessary. These finishes already have a shine and the polish and oil will only soften the finish which will make them susceptible to damage. If you have oily or greasy stuff, use a very mild soap solution and rinse and dry right away. These finishes deteriorate after time and the same techniques used to clean fine antique furniture should be used to clean older pianos. Always be careful cleaning your piano. Treat it like a fine piece of furniture.

The brass hardware can be cleaned the same way you would clean any brass fixtures. Some pianos may have a finish over the brass that will keep it shiny and new looking. Brass cleaners could damage this finish. If the brass has this finish, do not use brass cleaner or polish. Sometimes the finish over the brass begins to wear, especially on the foot pedals. Not much can be done to correct this except stripping the finish to the bare brass which can be a lot of work. Be careful! Brass cleaner and polish can strip the wood finish from your piano. Always protect the piano's finish in some way when cleaning brass hardware!

How should I clean piano keys? 

Ivory key tops have not been used in piano manufacturing in a long time. Key tops are made of plastic these days and so can be cleaned the same way as the polyester piano finish described above. If you have really dirty or yellowing keys, follow the directions below for ivory.

How do you know if you have ivory? If you look closely they will have a grain to them similar to wood. Usually there is also a seam (but not always) right at the front of the sharp keys. Ivory is a very hard and durable substance. To lightly clean just use a damp cloth or mild soap solution. For yellowing or really heavy dirt, use a fine buffing compound followed by a swirl remover or polishing compound. These can be found at an auto supply store.

If you feel uncomfortable cleaning keys yourself, just hire a good piano refinisher or tuner/technician to do it for you.

Should my piano be against an inside wall? 

That is more of a concern in the colder climates where condensation can occur on the walls in winter months thus exposing your piano to higher humidity.

Any situation where your piano is exposed to humidity over 55% relative humidity is not good. Direct sun is not good either. The heat and ultraviolet rays can damage the finish and wood. Using window tinting that blocks UV rays will help a great deal.

Any extreme condition is not good for a piano or you and me.

How do I clean under the strings?

Train mice to carry little rags under the strings and clean off the soundboard. When they are finished give them a big piece of swiss cheese for their trouble and send them to the next piano owner.

Do I need a humidity control system?

Having a humidity control system or climate control system is always a benefit if it has a "humidistat" which will turn it off and on automatically.

Northern climates will require a system that can humidify the piano in winter months when it can become very dry inside a home. Dryness in winter probably accounts for a majority of cracked soundboards and glue failures in a piano. Desert conditions will be the same.

In more humid climates like the southeastern U.S. adding humidity in for the most part not needed. Due to the higher humidyt in these areas, the drying part of the system is all that will probably be needed to keep the piano parts at a safer relative humidity. Ideally about 45% relative humidity is best.

What is pitch raising?

Pitch raising is something that needs to be done before a piano can be fine tuned. It is usually necessary for pianos that have been neglected and have gone without tuning for longer than a year. For more details; see "questions" on our Pricing page

What is regulation

Regulation is a term for making all the screw and spring adjustments on a piano. It also refers to other changes that are made to the "machine" that is called a piano. There are over 5,000 points on a piano that can eventually get out of alignment or adjustment and contribute to inefficiency. All these adjustments affect how the piano plays and functions. Severe wear can actually cause the piano to not work at all. Regulation on some sort of a regular basis can help to stop this from happening.

How can I sell my piano?

To get the best price for your piano you should sell it to a private individual. This, however, will require some work on your part. You will have to play the part of salesperson and ad executive. Putting ads in the local newspaper and other papers is a good place to start. Nothing says you couldn't try to sell your piano anywhere in the world as well. You can put ads in any of the newspapers in all the major cities in the USA or any other country for that matter. You will just have to pay the shipping or charge the customer. There are companies that will ship your piano where ever you wish. The internet is another possibility. Go to some of the search engines and do some research on piano selling. Of course, there is always Ebay. To sell your piano you will need one or more of the following; descriptions, pictures, invoices, appraisals, pricing info, make, model and serial numbers, and perhaps other info. Also, you will no doubt spend time on the phone, doing research, filling out ad forms and other paper work. There may be some travel time. Then there are the appointments to show the piano( with the risk of having strangers in your home.) Selling stuff is work and this is why piano stores charge what they do for a piano. The stores will usually put some type of warranty on their used pianos as well as give a free tuning.

Another way to sell your piano is wholesale to a piano store. They might come to look at it and offer you a wholesale price, which is going to be quite a bit less than if you sold it yourself to a private party. The advantage of selling it to a store is that you have no work to do. They come and take it away leaving you with a check.

So, there you have it. Balance out the advantages and disadvantages of each choice and go for it.

How can I find the right piano for myself?

Read the "Piano Buyer" website listed above and then go and find as many pianos as you can. Play the pianos extensively and think long and hard about them all. Use Mr Fines 'info and make a purchase when you are 95% or more happy with your choice. It's very rare to find a piano that is absolutely perfect. Just be sure you can live with whatever the imperfection may be.

If you feel you need some help, Berg Piano Services will help you choose a piano that fits your needs for a modest shopping fee. Call us for details.

How do I find a good piano tuner?

That can be a challenge. Sometimes it's just as important that you trust the tuner as a person as well as trusting his tuning skill. Some good resources for finding a good tuner would be:

  • A good friend may already have a piano tuner they are happy with and pass his name along.
  • Piano teachers usually know tuners in your area.
  • Piano stores usually know some of the local tuners and can perhaps give you some background on them.
  • Piano manufacturers might have some suggestions for choosing a piano tuner.

It's always a good idea to ask a prospective serviceman about his work background and the extent of his experience as well as any education or credentials he may have. Take control of the situation. You are going to pay him good money and you deserve good professional service. Generally speaking, the best price is not always the best service. Ask around to find a good worker you can trust and who other people would recommend.

Ask your piano tuner.

A friend or neighbor may have a referral.

Check with the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). If you call them they will probably have local contacts for you to find a teacher.

You could also contact the local schools and colleges and speak to the music department for some help.

Do a thorough internet search. Have a Google.

How can I find a piano teacher?

Ask your piano tuner.

A friend or neighbor may have a referral.

You could also contact the local schools and colleges and speak to the music department for some help.

Do a thorough internet search. Have a Google.

Where can I learn about pianos?

The library will have good information. Yes they still exist!

Talk to your piano tuner.

Do a search on the internet.

There are actually some schools that offer in depth piano technology courses. Do some college and school research. Have a Google

What is the Piano Technicians Guild?

It is a nonprofit organization set up to provide education, testing and enrichment for professional piano technicians.

There are other professional organizations for piano enrichment in the U.S. and worldwide.

Once again...have a Google