Tuning Frequency & Stability
How often should a piano be tuned? The question should really be….
How long does a piano stay in tune?
How long a piano stays in tune depends on any combination of factors listed below
1. How good is your hearing and what are your expectations?
2. When was the piano last tuned?
3. How far off-pitch and how much is the piano out of tune?
4. Room temperature and humidity fluctuations during the day and night.
5. How often and for how long is the piano played?
6. How forcefully is the piano played?
7. The position of the piano in the home.
8. Is the piano exposed to draughts, direct sunlight, or heat from a heater?
9. Is the piano exposed to direct air from air conditioner outlets?
10. Types of air conditioners.
11. The environment in which the instrument lives.
12. Is a “Piano Climate Control System” installed?
How good is the piano?
13. The overall design and quality of the piano.
14. The structural condition of the pinblock.
15. Tuning pin tightness (torque).
16. The condition of the bass, tenor and treble bridges.
17. The tightness of bridge pins.
18. Are there false beating strings in the piano?
19. The type, design and quality of the iron frame.
20. The type, design, size and condition of the soundboard.
When Guus van den Braak tunes your piano, he automatically considers all 20 factors listed above and does the best possible tuning you and your piano allow.
Guus does not hurry his work. It does not mean Guus is a slow worker, but it means he does very thorough high quality work and has no “near enough is good enough” attitude!
There are good reasons for this:
- You are paying for first class service: you might as well get it.
- Naturally, you want to have your piano sound as good as possible and have it stay in tune as long as possible.
- If you are a beginner, have mediocre or good hearing, or are “tone-deaf”, you still get a first class tuning because you need to develop and improve your hearing. You may have a friend or piano teacher who is a very good player and who has very good hearing.
- Guus van den Braak protects his reputation and wants to be sure that every pianist is satisfied. He cannot do this if his standard of work is set lower than very high. Remember: “The bitterness of poor
quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
a) Guus van den Braak keeps excellent records on the service history, condition and use of every piano he tunes, so he can assess the tuning stability of the piano, suggest a recommended date to retune your piano, or recommend other services due, such as regulating the keys and mechanism, cleaning and lubricating, or repair work. His honest advice and recommendation is based on the best and most timely care for the piano.
b) Guus van den Braak also considers the wishes and budget of the owner. If you cannot afford to have your piano tuned frequently at recommended times, you will have to learn and live with the fact that your piano will not be as well in tune and as stable as it should be. Guus van den Braak does the “impossible” to make your piano sound at its best for as long as possible, but does not perform miracles. In other words, do not be unrealistic and expect the piano to sound beyond its capability.
Piano manufacturers recommend a minimum of four tunings per year because there are four seasons in a year. This may seem very often, but a piano is a sensitive string instrument, which by nature always wants to drift off-pitch. A tuning every three months allows the piano to return to its previously in-tune state after being altered by both playing and daily climatic changes, and this regularity will ultimately extend its life.
Tuning a piano twice a year, and for it to stay good in tune for about six months, requires good timing and luck, especially when the temperatures and humidity fluctuates lots. Twice yearly tunings only work if you play fifteen minutes a day or less and the piano is in a stable climatic environment at all times. If your piano is too far out of tune and/or “off-pitch” due to a lack of tuning (neglect) and/or frequent temperature/humidity fluctuations, the tuner will need to adjust the string tension to achieve proper pitch (“pitch adjust” tuning) before he can even begin to do a fine-tuning. This is because the string tension has changed too much and unevenly, causing the soundboard to be warped out of shape too much.
Some people think that the last tuning was not done properly when their piano has gone out of tune sooner than expected. While in fact the tuning was of the highest possible standard, the owner failed to understand and recognize that the piano was found to be so much off-pitch (due to neglect), that a “pitch adjust” tuning was required, and that the relative humidity and temperature also had a big influence on the tuning instability.
Some people cannot hear if a piano is out of tune, even if it sounds like a honky-tonk, yet on the other extreme, some people hear everything and want their piano to be in top concert condition and tuned to absolute perfection. Guus van den Braak has the difficult task of pleasing both extremes and everyone in-between. A piano which sounds worse than a honky-tonk piano will already be out of tune as soon as the first pitch-adjust tuning is completed. It will need to be retuned immediately after the first tuning and many times again over a number of months, before it sounds “reasonable.” The perfectionists, who want their pianos to be absolutely perfectly in tune at all times, will need their pianos retuned more often to maintain the tuning to their expectations. What is acceptable for one person is not for the next. Guus van den Braak’s work is of the highest standard. However, some people are unrealistic and expect their piano to stay in tune for a longer than reasonable time, or for it to sound beyond the capability of their piano.
Determining the best time of the year to have your piano retuned can be a tricky business, but your piano should be tuned as soon as you can hear that it is not in tune. In most cases, the piano is, by that time, already too much out of tune to be able to do a high quality fine-tuning, and a pitch-adjust tuning will be needed. Waiting for the weather to get better is futile when a piano has not been tuned for a year or longer, as the tuning and pitch will only deteriorate further. If you cannot determine whether or not a piano is out of tune, it is advisable to go by the recommended tuning date by Guus van den Braak. For more information on tuning frequency, go to “Budgeting for Tuning & Maintenance.”