During my career as a pianist, I have had the opportunity to perform on many different pianos of all kinds. Some were beautiful concert pianos and some were potentially fine instruments, while others were badly in need of repair. They were all, however, in need of regular professional care.
When inquiring about the maintenance of these instruments, I have had a similar response from their owners and from many of my own students as well. They tell me it hasn’t been tuned for several years, or not at all since they acquired it. This is a great cause for concern. We, as piano owners, must educate ourselves about the instrument. A piano is not a piece of furniture that only requires dusting and polishing of the case.
With 88 keys, and each key connected to over 50 moving parts (not to mention the pedal action), the instrument does require professional attention to bring it up to good working condition and to maintain it, even if it is rarely played.
Consider your car, as a machine and as an investment. An automobile housed in a garage and infrequently or never used will still be subject to decay. The tires will rot, the oil gums up, and the engine can freeze. In tuning your car every six months, it requires more than just changing the oil. You occasionally have to adjust the timing and replace spark plugs, belts, and filters, to name a few.
Similarly, your piano requires not only regular tuning (which adjusts the pitch of each string), but also periodic regulation (which adjusts the touch and gives each key uniform responsiveness), and finally, voicing (maintaining or improving the tone quality). When you consider that a grand piano has some 9,000 moving parts, with over 30 adjustments for each key, you can develop a certain respect for the instrument, its maker, and the professionals who maintain it.
Some other points to consider: Try to maintain a fairly consistent temperature and humidity in the room where your piano is placed. A temperature of 68 degrees F and 42% relative humidity are ideal. Keep your piano away from heating and air conditioning vents, a fireplace, a frequently opened window or outside door, and direct sunlight. Placing the piano against an inside wall is best. And of course, keep ALL DRINKS and standing liquid containers OFF the piano.
Have your piano tuned every 4 to 6 months by a qualified piano technician. The change of seasons affects the pitch even if the instrument is not played. Regular maintenance can prevent expensive repairs in the future, and will protect your investment. But be sure that the servicing of your piano is performed by a qualified piano technician. To find a registered piano technician with the Piano Technicians Guild, visit www.ptg.org or call 913-432-9975. You can also obtain pamphlets of information about piano care from PTG.
A piano is like a living, breathing organism. Why else would the French composer, Camille Saint-Saens include The Piano as one of the creatures in his composition, Carnival of the Animals? Let us be good care-takers of our pianos, and they will bring us a lifetime of enjoyment.