How to Take Care of Your Piano
Pianos are wonderful instruments, truly amazing technology combined with beauty and craftsmanship all working together to provide the pianist with an incredible range of musical expression, like having a full orchestra at your fingertips.
Keep in mind though that the insides of a piano includes thousands of moving parts, all adjusted to extremely close tolerances to provide the piano player with this broad range of tonal expressions, giving him/her control over every note from a whisper to a roar. Like a fine racing car your piano should be maintained by a qualified piano tuner-technician, with regular tune-ups and periodic maintenance including cleaning, regulating (setting all the action/moving parts to the precise tolerances they were designed to operate best at) and if needed, repairs and/or restoration.
There are however some things you as the piano owner can do to help protect your piano and keep it in good playing condition.
We will cover what you can do, and what you should be expecting your tuner-technician to do in this article.
Your piano is a beautiful piece of furniture, and is also a wonderful modern machine for making musical entertainment. It needs and deserves intelligent care.Your piano is a complex blending of many diverse and costly raw materials. There are more than 9,000 parts in the key and action combination alone. If you were to analyze the materials in your piano, you would find top quality wood of many species, iron, steel, copper, brass, plastics, wool, cotton, various adhesives, etc.
Piano strings are known as the “Blue chip” of the steel industry. They represent the highest development in steel wire and but few mills have the ability to manufacture them. Remember that there are more than 200 strings in a standard piano and that their combined tension exerts a pull of better than eighteen tons!
These strings bear upon the sounding board by means of wooden bridges and a system of reverse bearings which practically lock the strings and board together. Each of these strings must be kept at the proper designed tension or it will be off pitch and produce an inharmonious tone.
In other words, it will be OUT OF TUNE!
You And Your Piano Technician
In order to maintain your piano in proper order, and to protect the major investment you have in it, it must be regularly serviced by a trained piano tuner-technician. Many piano dealers employ their own staff of tuner-technicians who are capable of doing this work. There are also many competent independent men in this field.
Because of the complex make-up of your piano, it will take some time for it to become thoroughly settled and adjusted to the atmospheric conditions in your home. this is true of all makes and models. Therefore it is especially true that your piano should receive proper service during the first year after purchase. During the first year it is advisable to have your piano tuned four times. In the years that follow it should be tuned as often as you feel necessary, but a minimum of twice per year.A concert artist has his piano tuned before each performance. The frequency of tuning depends on the use the piano receives and the conditions peculiar to its location. A piano will stay in tune better if the atmospheric conditions are uniform. Changes from moist to dry air cause wood to swell and shrink, thus changing the tension on the strings. Keep the humidity as constant as possible and your piano will need less frequent tunings.
As stated previously the piano action is a complex mechanism, and it is important that it be thoroughly checked during the first year after purchase, and then at regular intervals. Do not confuse the words “tuning,” which has to do solely with the pitch of the strings and “regulating,” which has to do with the adjustment of the mechanism by which the string is put into motion.Remember: It is good business to deal with a piano merchant in whom you have confidence, and it is also important to leave the care of your piano in the hands of a well qualified tuner-technician whom you can trust.
The Outside Finish
Piano finishes are famous for their quality, and are equal to or better than those used in fine furniture. If conditions in the home are reasonably good, they will stand up remarkably well. Consult the dealer from whom you purchased your piano for instructions as to the proper care of its particular finish. Behind the beautiful exterior lies the real beauty and principal value of a piano-the sensitive tone and playing mechanism, for it is primarily a musical instrument and only incidentally an article of furniture.
Piano felts, like fine clothing, are subject to moth-damage unless properly protected. Factory moth-proofing is excellent, but if you have a bad moth condition in your house, it is advisable to have your tuner-technician check this point when he is called in to service your piano.
Cleaning The Keys
To clean keys, slightly moisten a soft white cloth with water, to which a very slight amount of mild white soap suds has been added. This method can be used on both the black and white keys, but it is best to use different cloths. (The cloth may pick up a little of the color from the black keys).
Remember to dampen the cloth only slightly and rub gently. Dry with a soft cloth.
For even better results, check out “Key Clean” ! The safe, effective way to clean ivory or plastic keys.
Effects of Extreme Heat or Cold
Remember that extreme cold and extreme heat are not good for a piano, particularly if it is subjected to sudden changes of temperature. Excessive changes in humidity can do even more harm than changes in heat and cold.
Sudden or Excessive Changes
Rapid changes in heat and cold, and excessive changes in moisture and dryness, cause the various parts to shrink or swell – and such changes affect the tonal quality as well as the tuning and adjustment of your piano. Changes in atmospheric humidity will in time affect the moisture content of piano parts made of wood, even those parts that are carefully coated with lacquer. The result is a continual swelling and shrinking, expansion and contraction, of all wood parts in a piano.
Excessive humidity or dampness is very detrimental to pianos, causing rusting, sluggish actions, bursting of case parts, etc. This is especially harmful when followed by the excessive dryness of artificial heat in winter, and precautions should be taken in homes where there is extreme heat. Avoid excessive changes in humidity as much as possible.
There are many devices, both electrical and mechanical, designed either to increase or reduce the humidity in a home. Consult your piano dealer, piano tuner-technician or “Piano World” for advice on this subject. Visit the PianoSupplies.com for more information and purchase options.
Low humidity opens the joints in floors, makes the furniture become unglued, and sometimes cracks the piano soundboard. This does not necessarily harm the tone of the piano. However, with the new finishes, new glues, and continual perfecting of manufacturing processes, pianos have become surprisingly resistant to these atmospheric changes. Do not place your piano over a heat register or against a radiator or window. Also, it is better to place it against an inside rather than an exterior wall, unless the wall is fairly well insulated. If you take care of your piano, it will give long and satisfactory service. When in doubt consult the dealer from whom you bought the instrument, your piano tuner-technician, or write the manufacturer.