February 19, 2019

Professional Piano Tuning: Too Expensive, or Worth the Cost?

Every keyboard needs regular piano tuning, but this service is especially vital for instruments used on a consistent basis, as playing the piano causes it to go out of tune quickly. Proper tuning is also vital for pianos used for performances or instruction so that the keyboard produces a rich, vibrant sound for audiences, and an accurate sound for students still learning to recognize notes, tones, and the like.

A piano tuning expert will have years of experience and hands-on training that ensure a proper adjustment to your keyboard, without damaging delicate pins, hammers, wires, and other such pieces.

A piano is often a steep financial investment or will have lots of sentimental value, which is one reason to ensure you make the best choice for needed tuning, repairs, and maintenance. However, playing the piano is also a beloved hobby for many keyboard owners and a way of living for others! To ensure you protect the instrument that is so important to your enjoyment and your livelihood, note some important information about professional piano tuning and other services, versus trying to manage this work on your own.

Tuning Starts With a Quality Lever

Difference Between Professional Tuning and DIY

While a piano owner might attempt their own tuning and can often improve the tone of a keyboard somewhat, a piano expert with years of experience in both playing and tuning a piano will be able to produce a much more accurate sound. For example, many piano owners who attempt to tune their keyboard will rely on an electronic tuner; this small device measures the sound produced by each string as you strike the corresponding key.

While an electronic tuner is useful, remember that a room's acoustics and other such factors will affect the sound of a note, beyond what an electronic tuner can measure! A professional tuner will often continue to make adjustments by ear so that every note produced during play is more accurate, making their services well worth your piano tuning cost.

A professional tuner can also typically pick up on what are called beats, or interference patterns in those sound waves that produce notes. A piano tuner can note if two keys struck at once are playing in unison and need adjusting, to ensure proper pitch. These types of small but essential details are often beyond the abilities of a piano owner, and a simple electronic tuner cannot typically assist with these tasks.

What Is Professional Piano Repair?

A piano is a much more delicate instrument than you might realize, and will typically need eventual repair. While a standard tuning typically doesn’t include repairs to your piano, you might note some possible reasons why your keyboard won't hold a tune or otherwise perform as it should. A piano repair person can then make adjustments or replace parts as needed, adding this to your piano tuning cost.

Professional piano repair technician working on piano
  • A piano's pinblock is the large piece of wood you will see just under the metal plate near the keyboard. There is a long set of holes drilled into this block, to which the pins of the piano are screwed or fastened. Those holes can eventually expand or become misshapen, due to age, dryness, excess humidity, and the like. Once this happens, the piano pins will shift slightly, and the instrument cannot hold a tune. The pinblock then needs adjusting or replacement.
  • The metal plate holding the pinblock in place rarely suffers damage, but chips, cracks, and other such defects can develop. When this plate is damaged, it cannot hold the pins and wires in place properly and needs replacing.
  • The soundboard sits in the front of the piano and acts as an amplifier for the notes created by the piano wires. A soundboard is very durable but might eventually suffer cracks and other damage. If your piano ever sounds a bit muffled or the notes are not rich and full even after a professional tuning, the soundboard might need repairs or replacing.
  • Bridges are small strips of wood that transmit the vibration of the strings to the soundboard. Over time, these bridges can eventually crack or chip, and the glue holding them in place might lose adhesion. A piano may then sound inconsistent or out of tune, and those bridges need repair or replacement.
  • While piano wires or strings are very durable, they can rust or otherwise corrode, or suffer wear points over time, so that they don't vibrate or resonate properly. Piano wires can also snap, and eventually will need replacing.
  • Note, too, that many of the parts inside a piano are made of wood, which can become soft and worn over time, and suffer chips, nicks, scratches, and other such indentations. The connectors attached to all the moving parts of a piano can also come out of place or otherwise need repair or replacement.

All of this damage can affect the overall sound of your piano, even after a quality tuning. A piano repair expert can pinpoint the cause of any such damage and ensure your keyboard is in good repair so that it always provides an accurate and rich sound.

How to Tune a Piano

A keyboard owner might make minor tuning adjustments to their piano in between visits from a professional; while a DIY tuning won't offer the same accurate sound as a professional tuning, some simple fixes can undoubtedly improve the overall music your instrument produces.

a professional piano tuner at work
  • Invest in quality piano tuning tools for tuning your piano. Don't rely on household tools, wrenches, pliers, and other such items for tuning, as these are often clumsy to use and may damage the pins and other pieces under a piano's lid. Invest in actual piano mutes as well, rather than everyday foam or rubber blocks, to avoid scratching the piano's wires or other parts.
  • Opt for an actual electronic piano tuner and never use a guitar tuner, as guitars do not produce the same number of sounds as a piano; an electronic guitar tuner might be cheaper, but it's also ineffective for helping you tune a piano.
  • Start with a good dusting of the piano's inner parts, and especially the wires. Dust interferes with the vibration of piano strings, and thick layers of dust can be very bothersome while you're trying to work!
  • Play a few keys with the piano lid open so you can see the strings moving. Noting the string attached to each key will ensure you don't adjust the wrong wire while striking a particular note.
  • Start with middle C and slide a mute under two of its three strings. You'll adjust the remaining string with your electronic tuner, and then the other two wires by ear.
  • Hit the key firmly while holding the tuner near the string. Your tuner will then tell you if you need to lower or raise the pitch.
  • Gently turn the pin to the string while striking the key again, until the sound produced by your piano and the electronic tuner are in unison. Remember that you turn the pin to the right to raise the pitch and left to lower it.

Repeat this task with the remaining keys, but remember to check your piano's sounds by ear continuously. If specific keys still seem out of tune, adjust them until they sound accurate to you, no matter the reading of your electronic tuner.

Piano tuning service working on the strings

How Much to Tune a Piano?

Many keyboard owners wonder how much does it cost to tune a piano, but note that there is no easy answer, as the work required to return an instrument to a proper tone is different for every piano. Regularly tuned pianos often need far less work during each visit, so consistent tuning can mean paying less for this work in the long run.

A piano tuner might also ask your use of the instrument as well as your budget, to determine how much tuning to perform. For example, if you only play as a hobby, he or she might do some minor, necessary tuning so that the instrument creates an acceptable sound; however, if you're an instructor or perform professionally, your piano might need a more detailed tuning, to ensure every note is accurate and always produces the most authentic and richest sound possible.

In some rare cases, a professional might also need to add extra charges if the piano is difficult to access for some reason. While many tuners will give the inside strings a good dusting before work begins, you can also expect added charges for any needed repairs, including replacement parts. As with any other service, ask about a professional's fees and ensure you're given a quote in writing before work begins.

Related Questions

Is a piano ever too old or damaged for tuning?

In some cases, a piano might need repairs or restoration before it can be appropriately tuned. However, many keyboards last for decades and are still usable, so never assume that your antique or older piano is too old for proper tuning and play.

What happens if you don't tune a piano regularly?

Neglecting needed and regular piano tuning results in a very poor-quality sound. Proper tuning also keeps the piano wires in good condition, so they're less likely to snap or break over time.

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