Quite simply all pianos will naturally go out of tune whether the piano is brand new or old, played or not. Customers might often say, “Oh it hasn’t been used this year so doesn’t need tuning” or “It sounds ok to me, maybe one string perhaps…” I often find that it’s the “one string” that is in tune, the other 220 strings are out of tune!
Because it’s a gradual process over many months the human ear subconsciously adapts to how the piano sounds. Its only when a piano is properly tuned that its owner will suddenly say “Wow I didn’t realise….it sounds like new!”
The major reason why all pianos go out of tune is fluctuations in temperature and humidity which causes the timber soundboard to expand and contract. This movement stretches and slackens the piano strings, causing the pitch to rise or fall, which in turn creates the need for a jolly good Piano Tuner such as myself.
Older pianos usually go out of tune due to weak wrest pins in the pin block, (a glued laminated hardwood plank supporting the tuning pins) The pins can no longer sustain the average 160 lbs tension per string, an equivalent total of 18 tons in a medium upright piano & 30 tons in a concert grand piano.
Piano tuners will invariably tune an old piano to its weakest pin at below concert pitch. The piano is therefore tuned to itself, it’s still a playable musical instrument but with limitations. There are however ways to remedy this problem, provided the pin block has not been structurally compromised.
It’s generally accepted that all pianos need to be tuned regularly at six monthly intervals, this helps to stabilise the strings at concert pitch A440 and thus the piano stays in tune longer.
Professional musicians may even request monthly tunings. Fundamentally, piano tuning is all about stretching different lengths and thicknesses of steel wire, some singularly bound with copper or double wrapped, the single, bicord and tricords strings are then set to a specific pitch ie, the equal tempered scale.
When a customer acquires a piano I always recommend waiting 3 to 4 weeks to allow the piano strings to settle and acclimatise to its new environment before I give the piano its first tuning.
Pianos were first made popular by Johann Bach in 1768, when he played the relatively new invention at the manufacturer Zumpe's piano concert.
Queen Charlotte was impressed and her influence saw Pianos popularity soar. Over the following years they then became a status symbol and took up residence in many homes.
It's always wise to seek professional advice before accepting a free piano into your home.
For free advice, or a pre purchase evaluation, please feel free to contact me.
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