As pianos age, they will get more and more out of tune whether they are played often or not. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to keep a tuned piano in tune without frequent tunings.
While it definitely is possible to learn how to tune a piano and do it yourself, there is quite a bit of work involved. Unless you are wanting to learn to develop experience and tune pianos as a career, I recommend you leave the tuning to the professionals. You could cause irreparable damage to your piano which could be expensive to fix.
Why do pianos go out of tune?
Normal Wear and Tear
If you are regularly playing the piano, you’ll notice it go out of tune rather quickly, especially if it’s a new piano.
Piano strings are stretched very tightly to produce the correct pitch for each note. Over time, as the hammers inside strike the strings, it will cause them to loosen ever so slightly until it’s enough to change the pitch of the note.
On the flip side, a piano that is not played often will have a similar problem going out of tune. If you have a piano in storage or that is not being used, it’s best to not skip the any maintenance on it because the longer it goes without being serviced, the harder it will be to keep it in tune.
Climate and Weather
Pianos are built using lots of wood. Depending on where you live, this could cause some issues and require more maintenance and tuning.
Many places have seasons of high and low humidity. The humidity is tough on wood because it causes it to expand which can alter the sound of the instrument entirely. This will cause the piano strings to tighten and loosen based on humidity levels.
Because of this constant change, you’ll want to minimize weather related hazards for your piano.
Try to keep the piano out of direct sunlight and away from air vents that might cause the wood to change shape over time.
If you are planning to move your piano, you might want to do some research beforehand to prevent permanent damage to the instrument.
In nearly all cases, if you are moving a piano that involves loading it in a vehicle to transport, I would recommend a professional tuner to come out and tune it up.
Transporting a piano is one of the most common ways a piano can get damaged. The pins inside will loosen as it moves around causing the strings to sag.
If moving a piano, make sure you hire a professional piano mover. Most movers aren’t qualified to transport a piano specifically, so you’ll want to ensure you go out of your way to find a licensed piano mover.
How often should I tune my piano?
There are many brands of pianos made with all different qualities of materials. That being said, the maintenance schedule really depends on the manufacturers recommendations.
If you have a new piano, you might think, it should hold the correct pitch for a while without the need for a tuning right away. However, new pianos perhaps need more visits from the piano tuner to begin with. This also goes for pianos that have been restrung.
Strings are always stretching and new pianos will still be acclimating to its new environment. New pianos may need up to four tunings in the first year of ownership.
Generally, you should be tuning your piano twice a year. Of course, if the budget allows, getting it serviced more often is always better to keep it tip top shape.
Is tuning a piano really that hard?
Learning to tune a piano properly can take as long as it does to learn how to play the piano! There are many things to know that only experience will teach you. It’s not easy to learn, but it’s very possible.
One of the biggest issues you’ll face is stability. It’s quite easy to get the pitch where it needs to be, but successful piano tuners are able to get that pitch to stay for longer periods of time before going out of tune again.
While there are only 88 keys on the piano, there are over 220 strings. Depending on the note that is being played, the hammer may strike two or three strings at the same time. Each individual string has to be tuned, so expect it to be very time consuming to begin with.
Expect it to take up to six hours to tune your piano the first time if you have all the right tools. This is why I recommend getting a professional to come and do the job.
However, if you are like me and love to see how things work, I say go right ahead. Learning to tune a piano can be fun and rewarding. The best part is you can even monetize it by offering your newly acquired skill to others!
What tools do I need?
The great thing about tuning pianos is the tools don’t need to be expensive. Sure there are expensive ones out there, but if you’re wanting to do it for fun, the basic tools will suffice.
I highly recommend this starter piano tuning kit. It comes with everything you need to start tuning (other than the tuning software/device).
The tuning hammer (on the right of the picture above) is what you’ll use to do the actual tuning. This particular tuning hammer fits most pianos and has a large handle to help give you the extra torque you need to get the job done. It also has a hexagon-shaped socket so it can fit on the pins at most angles.
The other tools that come in this kit are the little wedges called “mutes”. These help you “mute” other strings that you aren’t working on to isolate a single string at a time. I like this particular kit because it has a few varieties of mutes to help (rubber, and felt).
The last thing you need is some tuning software or a device. I find it easier to use software. I recommend Entropy Piano Tuner as it’s been the easiest for me to use. You load up their software on a laptop or mobile device and it will listen for the pitch of your piano keys and listen as you tune it and notify you when it’s tuned sufficiently.
Here’s a more in-depth video on how it works:
Learning the art and science of tuning a piano can be very rewarding. You should learn how to tune your own piano if you have a passion for learning or simply are curious to know how it all works.
I would recommend not doing it simply to save the cost of a professional tune up. It will cause far too much frustration getting it just right.