When you purchase a piano, you’ll soon realize it will require constant upkeep. It’s important to know beforehand what you need to do in regards to tuning and maintenance.
How often you tune and service piano can vary, and many factors can contribute to needing it tuned more often. Some of the factors include (but are not limited to) General wear and tear, piano build quality, piano type (upright, grand, etc), having recently moved the piano, weather and climate, and how often the piano is played. However, generally, it’s recommended you tune the piano at least twice per year.
More specifically, please refer to the table below for a recommended tuning schedule based on the type of piano you own.
|Piano Type||Optimal Tuning Schedule||Min. Tuning Schedule|
|Upright||2 tunings per year||1 tuning per year|
|Baby Grand||4 tunings per year||1-2 tunings per year|
|Concert Grand||1 tuning per month & |
|4 tunings per year|
Keep in mind if you ever move the piano, you will absolutely want to get it tuned. There are a lot of moving parts inside the piano. It’s always recommended you service it after a move. The longer you wait, the more problems you can have down the line.
Tuning and maintenance is different for each piano. We’ll cover some of the information you need to know depending on the type of piano you own.
This is the most common household piano. It was specifically designed to be more affordable and easier to fit inside the modern home.
As mentioned in the table above, it is optimal you get it tuned 2 times per year, whether it’s played or not. It seems like more and more often these days pianos are just pieces of furniture added as part of a design to bring the “look” of a home together.
Whether someone is playing the piano or not, you’ll want to make sure to have it tuned (at the least) once per year. Anything longer than that runs the risk of more costly maintenance in the future.
You will also want a qualified piano technician to inspect the hammers and other components. You may occasionally have a note that doesn’t play or have sticky keys. These are all things a technician can fix, or they can at least refer you to someone who does. Fixing a piano can be much cheaper than buying a new one.
Baby Grand Piano
There’s nothing more beautiful and stunning than a baby grand piano in the corner of your living room. Baby Grands are definitely an investment worth protecting.
If you’ve decided to make the plunge and purchase one, you’ll want to make sure to have it tuned often. I usually recommend getting it done quarterly (4 times per year), but you can get away doing it only 1-2 times per year.
Other maintenance you want to be aware of is be mindful of the dust. Baby and Concert Grands have a lid that exposes the strings and hammers for maximum volume.
Propping the lid open looks really good, but it shouldn’t be left that way. Closing the lid when not in use will prevent dust from settling inside. It is a lot easier to clean the dust off the lid instead of the inside.
Leaving the lid open also can warp it over time. If it gets warped, the lid may not close properly. This is a costly repair that can easily be avoided with proper care and maintenance.
When hiring a technician, make sure they are qualified to service Baby Grand pianos. It will be more expensive than maintenance for an upright piano, but it will be worth it if you do it often and do it right.
Concert Grand Piano
If you’ve ever played a concert grand piano, you’ll know how much fun it can be. When I was 15 I had the opportunity to play a concert grand piano that had just been purchased for $40,000. The sound was so pure, and the ability to accentuate the dynamics was simply amazing.
A piano like that requires nearly a full time technician. You’ll find these pianos in recording studios and concert halls.
These pianos are played very often and require the highest qualified technicians around. Because they are played so often, they require frequent tuning.
This is usually at least once a month, but also before every performance and often before rehearsals as well. Technicians are usually present or on-call if any issues are encountered the day of the performance/recording.
Tuning is just one aspect of maintenance that should be done for this type of piano. The mechanisms inside are often serviced to make sure they meet the minimum criteria for a flawless performance.
Can you tune a piano too often?
Most people don’t need to worry about tuning a piano too much. Often, Concert Grand Pianos are used in performances and studio recordings. They are almost always tuned before each rehearsal and performance/recording, which can be quite often.
If you own a studio or manage a concert hall, you likely have a piano technician on hand. This would be someone qualified enough to offer full service maintenance beyond just tuning such as repairs of the inner components, etc.
When it comes down to it, you shouldn’t have to worry about tuning a piano too often. It’s far more concerning to not tune it often enough.
Do I need to tune a piano in storage?
This is a common question. Most people tend to believe that if the piano is not being used, there is no need to tune it.
However, pianos will go out of tune whether they are being played or not. The tension in the strings is what creates the pitch. The strings are very tight, and as a result, they will slowly loosen. This will cause the pitch to change and the piano to go out of tune.
It’s important that the piano gets tuned as often as if it were in your house.
You’ll want to avoid storing the piano anywhere that doesn’t have climate control.
Do not store your piano in the following places:
- Your garage
- A storage unit (without climate control)
- Unfinished basement
Pianos are delicate. Storing one in a place that gets too cold or too hot, too dry or too humid can cause irreparable damage to the piano.
Heat will cause the wood to expand and cold will cause it to shrink. Over time it will affect how the piano plays and sounds. Be mindful where you store the piano. You will want it somewhere easy to access for maintenance and in a climate controlled room, preferably with a cover over it to protect the finish from dust, sun through the windows, etc.
What if my piano hasn’t been tuned in years?
If your piano hasn’t been tuned in a while, you’ll soon wish you had. I encountered this same thing. I inherited the piano I grew up with learning.
In fact, the piano is older than me! It was passed around between my siblings and it sat in a cold storage unit for a winter. Please don’t make the same mistake I did (see above).
Once I got the piano, we didn’t have much room for it, so we stuck it in our garage for another year. The wear and tear has made it difficult to restore the piano to its glory days.
I didn’t get around to tuning it for a while and once I did finally tune it, it had been over 10 years.
The problem with not tuning a piano for a while is that the piano strings is used to settling in the position that they’re in for so long, that they won’t want to stay stretched to the correct pitch.
Call a piano technician and get the piano serviced as soon as possible. I recommend scheduling a follow up visit and getting the piano tuned once a month for the next 3-4 months. The piano must be trained to be back in tune.
If you tune it once and forget about it, it will be back where it was in a matter of weeks or months. Once you get it trained to be in tune, you can follow the normal schedule as shown in the table above.
Don’t be like me, get your piano tuned quickly and often. It will save you a lot of headache in the future.
Recommended Tools for Maintenance
There are a few things you can do to extend the life of your piano in-between service visits by your technician.
If you have a high gloss piano finish, there is no polish better than this piano polishing and cleaning kit.
If you are storing your piano, a cover is essential. This is the one that I use now. It keeps the dust away and the price is well worth preventing costly repairs in the future. It’s also a great option for storing your piano too!
Sometimes a cover can be a bit much, especially if you play every day. A good alternative is a keyboard cover. It’s simple and keeps the dust out of your keys. I like how easy it is to take off and put back on.
There are many things to consider when getting maintenance done on your piano. Tuning is only one aspect of it, but it’s as important to the longevity of your piano as changing the oil in your car.
A qualified piano technician will be able to customize a plan for you and your piano based on the manufacturers recommendations since all pianos are built with different quality materials.