January 10, 2020

What Is Piano Maintenance, and Why Your Piano Needs It!

A high-quality piano will last for years if not even decades, but only if you invest in regular piano maintenance! As with maintaining your car or anything else you own, piano maintenance ensures that your beloved instrument always sounds its best and is in good repair. Maintenance also extends the life of your piano, preventing otherwise avoidable damage.

Piano maintenance includes thorough cleaning of the keys, wires, and all other parts inside and out, as well as regular piano voicing and regulation. Maintenance also includes minor repairs and checks for needed tuning or replacement of various parts under the lid.

While regular piano maintenance is a crucial part of ensuring your piano looks its best, stays in good repair, and produces excellent sound with every note, many piano owners forego needed maintenance for their keyboard! Some piano owners also attempt their own maintenance and even many needed piano repairs, which can be a mistake.

To ensure you keep your piano sounding its best and in good repair, note some vital information about regular piano maintenance and other needed services. You can then discuss your needs with a piano tuning contractor near you and know that your piano is always in good condition and will last for decades or longer!

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What Is Piano Maintenance?

Piano maintenance is a bit different than tuning; tuning involves adjusting the wires inside a piano so they produce the proper note when struck by the piano hammer. Piano maintenance involves cleaning a piano and making minor repairs. Note the standard steps many piano maintenance contractors include when working on a piano of any size and model:

  • Dusting the entire piano both inside and out is usually the first step in proper maintenance. As a piano is not fully enclosed, it tends to collect lots of dust around the wires and other moving parts especially. This dust puts pressure on the wires and interferes with proper play, so a thorough cleaning is a vital part of piano maintenance!
  • Many parts of a piano are felt-covered. Felt can become hardened or lose its adhesion over time. Piano maintenance often includes replacing that felt or the pieces altogether, as needed.
  • While piano tuning includes tightening strings, a piano tuning contractor might not replace rusted or overly worn wires. This crucial part of piano maintenance reduces the risk of a broken or snapped wire during a performance.
  • Loose, rusted, or otherwise damaged tuning pins might need replacing and then readjusting.
  • Piano maintenance typically includes a full inspection of the keys. Swollen keys tend to stick while debris between keys or layers of dirt on the surface of keys slows down their action, often causing the player to apply too much pressure while performing. A thorough cleaning and other repairs of the keys ensures they’re in good condition.
  • Wood piano bodies tend to swell and shrink over time, and especially when exposed to excess humidity or an overly dry environment. Checking the body structure of a piano and ensuring parts are sanded down, polished, or otherwise repaired as needed keeps the piano looking its best while also ensuring the parts inside are protected.
  • Not all piano bodies need waxing as you might suspect, depending on the wood and its coating. However, applying wax where needed or buffing out scratches also ensures a piano that looks like new!
  • Old dampers often stick or might not respond to your movement as expected. Cleaning and repair of those dampers ensures they move easily, creating a true and accurate sound from your instrument.
  • While piano regulation is different than maintenance, this process might be included in your scheduled maintenance call. Regulation involves dozens of adjustments to the moving parts that affect a piano’s action or movement, ensuring it responds to your playing as expected.
  • As with regulation, piano voicing is different than regular maintenance but might be included in the work you need on your instrument. Voicing involves adjusting the tension of the hammer felt so that each note produces the tone you expect, whether that’s something brighter or deeper.

How Often Does a Piano Need Maintenance?

Storing your piano in a controlled environment is a vital step to its overall maintenance. Wood piano bodies and the many wood parts under the lid absorb moisture and expand, and then dry out and shrink, pulling those parts and all their connecting wires out of place as they do! Piano climate control helps reduce this expand-shrink cycle, so consider a humidifier, dehumidifier, space heater, and portable air conditioner as needed to control the environment where you store your piano.

However, even with the best environmental control, a piano will still expand and shrink and suffer wear and tear as it ages. Most pianos need maintenance every few years, whereas an instrument stored in a room without proper environmental control might need maintenance more often, to compensate for damage caused by humidity or excessive dryness.

You might assume that playing a piano causes added wear and tear but a piano sitting idle is actually more likely to get out of tune and suffer excess stress needing maintenance to correct! Play your piano at least once per week to keep it in good repair; if you play less often, the instrument might need maintenance more often than average. Your method of play is also a vital factor; banging the keys causes added stress on the wires, so your piano will then need tuning and maintenance regularly.

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What Does Piano Maintenance Cost?

Every piano technician will set their own prices for piano tuning, maintenance, repairs, and restoration. Their price might be set hourly or they might inspect your instrument thoroughly and then quote you a price based on the work needed to bring your piano back to its proper condition. In some cases, a simple cleaning and minor repairs might cost under $200, whereas major repairs and restoration work can cost upwards of $1000.

While it might be tempting to forego your expected piano maintenance cost, it’s vital that you keep your instrument in good repair for as long as possible, to preserve its sound and its value! This is especially important if you perform or instruct others, as your piano then needs to produce the truest, richest sounds possible.

Note, too, that a high-quality piano in good repair and that has been maintained properly over the years can last for decades. You might enjoy passing that piano down to the next generation after a lifetime of proper maintenance and care, and then seeing your family get as much enjoyment out of it as you did! You can also resell a piano and fetch a higher price if it’s in good condition and has been maintained over the years.

What Happens to a Piano Not Tuned for 20 Years?

If you’ve inherited a piano or bought an older model, or simply own a piano not tuned for 20 years or any length of time, don’t assume it’s no longer salvageable! Many piano tuning technicians can still tighten or otherwise adjust older wires so the instrument provides a crisp, true sound.

Piano restoration is also an option for many instruments. Full-scale restoration repairs or replaces worn and damaged parts and then ensures those parts are adjusted as needed, to make the piano seem like new again. New wires and hammers as well as adjustments to dampers and other moving parts ensures a piano is playable and sounds as good as the day it was manufactured!

If you’re still hesitant about calling for service on a piano not tuned for 20 years or so, remember that you certainly would not be the first person to own a piano neglected for that long! As with auto mechanics and dentists, piano tuning professionals are accustomed to working with people who have neglected the care and upkeep of their instrument and are only there to help restore that keyboard, not chastise you for neglecting it!

Related Questions

How often do piano wires need replacing?

Improper environmental controls lead to rusting and other damage of piano wires, as does improper playing such as banging on the keys. High-quality wires might last for decades before they need outright replacing while wires might snap in a neglected piano every few years or even more often!

What is the best brand of piano to buy?

As with virtually any other product you buy, name brand pianos often last far longer than off-brand products, which are sometimes manufactured with inferior parts and pieces. Investing in reputable name brands ensures that your piano lasts for decades if not centuries and that it will always sound its best!

How long can a piano last?

A high-quality piano can last for decades, if not even generations! Regular piano maintenance ensures the instrument stays in good repair for as long as possible, while professional piano restoration fixes major structural issues and damage under the piano lid, allowing you to continue playing and enjoying the instrument for potentially decades.

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