Maintenance is essential to keep your piano sounding and playing optimal. However, it’s easy to forget to tune your piano at least twice a year. If your technician says your piano needs a pitch raise before it’s tuned, they’re telling you that your piano is too far out of tune to tweak the strings to perfection. Below, we’ll discuss what a pitch raise is and why it’s necessary.
On average, a piano has over 200 strings. Each string is attached to a wooden soundboard which acts as the instrument’s main acoustical structure. Because wood can swell and shrink with factors like humidity, the tension in your piano’s strings will loosen over time. This loosening leads to a pitch drop.
When pitch drop occurs, a technician can’t simply tighten each string and individually tune them to A-440, the international pitch standard. That’s because the tune of one piano string can affect the pitch of another if they are not within the same initial pitch range.
Imagine your technician tightens the first overstretched string without a pitch raise. By the time they reach the last string, the tension between the first string and the soundboard changed. This pitch difference happens because each string pulls on the soundboard at different – and improper – tensions. Now, you’re right back to where you started – with an untuned piano.
To fix this problem, a pitch raise is used to bring all of the piano strings closer to their proper tune and prevent the over or under stretching of all strings. Thus, a pitch raise is necessary when your piano’s tune is farther out of tune than a normal piano tune can properly fix. Only after a pitch raise can a piano tune be done.
The process of a pitch raise is complex. Instead of immediately fine-tuning each string to A-440, your piano technician will first tighten each string around the correct pitch range. This way, all of your piano strings will be close to each other in pitch before finalizing the tune. After a pitch raise, the small tension increases required to tune each string will not cause a change in the tune of the other strings. This process then allows the technician to accurately tune your piano to A-440.
A pitch raise is typically required whenever your piano hasn’t had a tune in a while. This depends on factors like your climate, but a rule of thumb is to tune your piano at least twice per year. If you’ve skipped a tune or two, a pitch raise is likely necessary.
When scheduling a pitch raise, note that they can take just as much time as a regular piano tuning. Your technician may need to adjust each string multiple times to achieve the proper pitch range. After your pitch raise, your piano will be ready to be tuned to perfection.