Vancouver Piano Tuner, Ina Dennekamp, RPT, Piano Tuning and Service

By: Dennekamp Piano  09-12-2011
Keywords: piano, Tuning

A piano brings a lifetime of enjoyment to you and your family. As you might expect with any investment of this size, a piano requires periodic servicing to provide outstanding performance year after year. An out-of-tune piano or unresponsive action can discourage even novice musicians.

As a qualified tuner-technician, I can help you determine a regular schedule of

and

services which will help preserve your instrument and help prevent costly repairs in the future.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD MY PIANO BE TUNED? Piano manufacturers recommend that new pianos be tuned two to four times in the first year. Some tuning instability should be anticipated during the first year because of the elasticity of the piano wire, combined with the piano’s normal adjustment to the humidity changes in your home.

Once a piano has achieved tuning stability, it should be tuned at least annually, preferably at the same time each year.

I provide a REMINDER SERVICE for tuning and servicing. Just let me know when I come to service your piano if you’d like to be put on the list.

WHY DOES A PIANO GO OUT OF TUNE?

Pianos go out of tune whether they are played or not. Changes take place because your piano’s overall pitch is dependent upon changes in the relative humidity and temperature, which fluctuate throughout the year, in some regions more than others.

Of course, heavy use of the instrument, as well as problems in the instrument, can necessitate more frequent tunings.

WHAT DOES A440 MEAN?

When a piano string is set into motion, it vibrates up and down repeatedly. If the note A above middle C is properly tuned, that string will vibrate up and down 440 times in one second. That's what A-440 means.

Every note on a piano is tuned using A-440 as the starting point. A-440 has been accepted as the universal standard.

WHAT DOES “PITCH RAISING” MEAN AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY?

A piano is designed to sound its best when tuned to A440 (A above middle C vibrates at exactly 440 cycles per second). It has been designed to perform at a specific tension, and when strings stretch beyond, or drop below this tension, pitch adjustments are required to bring it back to A440 Through neglect, pianos may deviate from this standard, making them unsuitable to play with other instruments and causing them to lose market value. In addition, lower pitched instruments can compromise the pianist’s ear training.

Pitch raising is a specific tuning procedure that will bring all the strings back to A440 and stabilize them at that pitch.

In order to improve the “voice” of your piano, a regular maintenance procedure called voicing is undertaken. Because the tone changes as the felt hammers wear, voicing of the hammers is necessary so that your piano will have an even, full tone throughout the entire scale, and produce the widest possible dynamic range.

Regulation is the adjustment of the mechanical aspects of the piano to compensate for the effects of wear, the compacting and settling of cloth, felt and buckskin, as well as dimensional changes in wood and wool parts due to changes in humidity.

The action of the piano is the mechanical part of the piano that transfers the motion of the fingers on the keys to the hammers that strike the strings. It is comprised of over 9,000 parts which require adjustments to critical tolerances to be able to respond to a pianist’s every command.

All upright and grand pianos need periodic regulation to perform their best. Frequency of regulation is dependent upon the amount of use, exposure to climatic changes, and the instrument’s quality, age and condition.

HOW CAN I TELL IF MY PIANO MIGHT NEED REGULATION?

If your instrument displays a lack of sensitivity or a decreased dynamic range, it’s a candidate for regulation. Also, the touch might feel uneven or sluggish.

No amount of practice can compensate for a poorly maintained action. Poor legato touch, chord playing where all notes of the chord don’t speak clearly, a gradual loss of subtlety in phrasing and an inability to execute quick passages or note repetitions evenly may be the fault of the piano – not the player.

For pianos in hard-to-control environments, a

might be a solution.

Alcohol stains. Gently rub the stained area with a paste made of baking soda and salad oil, covering the stain completely with the paste mixture. Then immediately remove the paste with a soft, clean cloth and follow up with a recommended furniture polish.

Candle wax. First, using a dull plastic cooking utensil (such as a spatula recomúmended for nonstick pans), remove the wax. It may be necessary to place ice cubes in a sealed plastic bag and apply the bag to the wax area to help the wax loosen and crumble. Be careful not to let any moisture from the bag of ice accumulate on the furniture. Once the wax is removed, wipe the furniture with odorless mineral spirits or naphtha and follow up with a recommended furniture polish.

Heat marks. Gently rub the marked area with oil of camphor or mineral spirits until the mark disappears. Remove the oil immediately and follow up with a recommended furniture polish.

Water rings. White rings may fade on their own without treatment after a few weeks. If not, gently rub a small amount of mayonnaise or olive oil and white vinegar on the rings, rubbing in the direction of the grain of the wood. Remove the cleaning mixture immediately with a soft, clean cloth and follow up with a recommended furniture polish.

Shopping for a used piano

A first step is to decide on a price range and appearance you're comfortable with. Remember, you'll have to see it every day even when you don't play it. Go to piano stores, look in the newspaper, and ask your local music teachers and tuners to let you know if anything turns up.

When you find one that's interesting, play it. Try every note, listening for buzzes or notes that don't work at all. Play some music that's loud and fast, and some that's soft and slow. If you don't play yourself, bring a friend who does.

And finally, when you find a piano you think you want to buy, have it inspected by a Registered Piano Technician (RPT). Would you buy a used car without a mechanic's advice? Save yourself the possibility of disappointment or disaster, and have a piano technician check it out for you before you buy.

How to sell your piano

When it comes time to sell your piano, whether you're trading it in on a new one or selling it outright, there are several things you can do to simplify the process and maximize the piano's worth. Here are some tips:

The easiest way to sell a piano is through an acquaintance. Let your friends know that your piano is for sale. Many instruments change hands quickly this way, with no advertising necessary.

Another possibility is selling it to a piano store. If you're planning to buy a new piano, it's common to trade in your old instrument. But retailers also buy pianos outright or will sell yours for a consignment fee. This saves you the trouble of advertising and showing it to prospective buyers. However, a store can only pay you a wholesale price, since they must pay to pick the piano up, do any necessary repairs, provide service and delivery to the new owner, and still come out with a profit.

If you have the time, energy and skill, you can often get the best price selling a piano yourself. The most common way is through a classified newspaper ad. Word your ad simply, including the brand name, piano type (spinet, console, studio, full sized upright, or grand), age and condition. For grand pianos, specify the length in feet and inches, measured from the cabinet's front edge (below the players wrists) to the lid over-hang at the back of the curved case.

To best determine a fair selling price, hire a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) for an appraisal. This will give you the most accurate idea of its worth, saving you time and money. Have the piano tuned. An in-tune piano sounds better, which means it can be sold more quickly and for a higher price. Don't worry that it may need tuning again after it's bought and moved.

Take care of minor problems. Piano shoppers are usually wary of instruments with sticking keys, buzzes, or pedals that don't work. Such problems are usually minor and easily corrected, so the repair cost will be money well spent.

Improve your piano's appearance as much as possible. Cleaning the keys and cabinet can greatly increase the eye appeal of a used piano.


Ina Dennekamp Piano Tuning and Service

(604) 520-3395

Keywords: piano, Tuning