Piano Care and Maintenance
Now that you have invested in a beautiful piano and had it delivered, it is time to think about how to care for it through the years. Proper piano care ensures the instrument’s best playing condition and durability, providing enjoyment for yourself and the aspiring musicians of your family. You are probably familiar with standard maintenance like tuning and cleaning, but other services like voicing and regulation also aid in prolonging your piano’s use.
Piano maintenance encompasses all work on the mechanical parts, guaranteeing that everything functions correctly. As a piano owner, you will want to consider the best way to clean and polish it, choose a prime location in your home for it, and create an environment that protects the integrity of the wood.
Consistent tuning is essential to your piano’s yearly care and is necessary to ensure tonal precision. Regular tuning keeps all strings matching their respective pitch with adjustments of the tension of each string through its corresponding pin.
The soundboard and other various piano parts expand and shrink with seasonal humidity changes, leading to one or more tunings needed per year. Optimal tuning times are best before long, stable weather trends when the moisture in the air reaches a point of little change.
New, newly restored, and used pianos have different tuning needs regardless of their model, price, or quality. Three to four tunings are generally required for new and newly restored pianos, as their strings are still stabilizing. Used and older pianos function best with at least two tunings yearly, but frequency depends on factors such as climate and use. We recommend tuning every six months, but consulting with a qualified technician, such as Hulme and Sweeney, is the best approach to determine a schedule for your piano.
A piano’s cloth and felt parts settle and compact over time, requiring adjustment to bring the action of the key and hammer mechanisms back to prime condition. Without regulation services, you may notice a loss of responsiveness in the keys and an increased delay between the keypress and tone production.
The need for periodic regulation depends on the use and playing demands of the piano and humidity changes of the seasons. An initial regulation should be performed sometime during the first six months up to two years of a new piano. Afterward, a trained technician can advise on the frequency required for your piano’s particular use, generally every four to five years or as needed.
Some owners choose to adjust the voicing of their piano for a warm, mellow tone and subdue any harsh brightness. The voicing process allows technicians to harden or soften the hammer felts within limited parameters to adjust the tone. Upon consultation, a trained technician can determine which specific method of altering the density of the felt tips is best for your piano. These can include sanding the felts, ironing them, using a chemical treatment, or pricking them.
Voicing is a personal preference and is generally needed when the sound has fluctuated in a way that is not pleasing to your ear. Professional performers, for example, might choose to improve their piano’s voicing as they strive to achieve the best sound for rehearsals or a performance. Factors such as the environment, the piano’s placement, and usage may also prompt a desire to improve voicing. Tuning generally resolves many tonal issues that concern piano owners. Still, light voicing can be included every six months along with tuning.
Cleaning and Polishing
Piano care includes cleaning the keys, polishing the exterior, and vacuuming dust from the inside. A slightly dampened, lintless microfiber cloth or cheesecloth serves to clean and polish.
Simply wipe piano keys with plain water or a mild soap solution making sure excess water is wrung out of the cloth. Thoroughly dry the keys to avoid damage to their sides. Use a separate cloth for wood black keys to avoid smearing any stain onto the white keys.
Keeping your piano’s exterior free of fingerprints and scratchy dust maintains its beauty. The piano’s finish can be rubbed lightly with the same type of cloth as its keys, using long, straight strokes in the same direction of the wood grain. Piano manufacturers can recommend polish if available, ensuring that it is specifically for your piano’s finish. Do not apply household furniture polish or wax since these are not made for pianos.
Dust collects throughout the interior of pianos, regardless of your housekeeping skills. Ask your technician about removing the dust safely with a vacuum or other tools at your next tuning. Piano covers are available and can be an excellent option for your piano needs to prevent dust buildup. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to order, and come in numerous sizes.
A piano’s stability is greatly affected by humidity since the instrument is made primarily of wood. The optimal relative humidity for a piano is between 40%-45% to maintain its intonation and overall lifespan. However, keeping the level moderate and consistent is equally beneficial. Various helpful measures are available that can offer protection for your piano.
One accessible solution for most piano owners is maintaining a consistent temperature in their piano room through air-conditioning and heating. Preventing extreme changes during the hot and cold seasons helps stabilize your instrument.
Other options include using a room humidifier if your piano is in an arid climate or installing a climate-control system directly onto the piano. Another humidity control idea is to use non-toxic silica gel pouches, which attract or release moisture depending on the room’s humidity level.
Where to Place the Piano
In addition to humidity, direct heat and cold affect pianos of all makes and models. Assessing the room space and placing your piano strategically away from direct sunlight, heating or cooling vents, and windows will aid in preserving your instrument.
Intense heat can come from radiators and fireplaces, making it essential to avoid having your piano too close to these elements. Direct heat and sunlight also come from windows and cause damage and fading to the piano’s exterior. Along with solar screens for windows that provide UV protection and heat blockage, heavy curtains or blinds will also offer a certain level of protection.
If placement near a window is the only option, strive to create a space between it and the piano. Old or broken windows could allow excess moisture, heat, or cold to seep in and cause damage.
Caring, protecting, and maintaining your piano is essential to preserving its playability and financial value. Yearly tunings, plus periodic services such as regulation and voicing, add many years of functionality and tonal quality to your instrument.
When purchasing a piano, be aware of the piano care and maintenance challenges if you live in an area of extreme humidity changes and the solutions available to help. As you consider purchasing a piano, remember the importance of where you will be placing it in your home or studio. The room location you choose may adversely affect the instrument due to excessive temperatures or direct sunlight.
Hulme and Sweeney desire each customer to enjoy their piano for a lifetime and to help keep it in excellent working condition. Each piano purchased from our showroom comes with a free first tuning and a 5-year warranty on parts and labor. We look forward to answering your piano care questions and providing any maintenance your piano needs.