What made my piano go out of tune? Myth vs. Fact

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It’s time to separate myth from fact.

I get many questions and comments from clients about what makes a piano go out of tune. Let’s dive right in…

MYTH: A piano goes out of tune whenever you change its location.

Truth: Let’s say you move the piano from one room to another and they have the same temperature and humidity levels. The tuning will remain stable.

If it were moved from one home to another, loading it into the truck and hauling it does not shake or bump anything out of place. It’s actually the change in the ambient temperature and humidity that makes it go out of tune.

MYTH: A piano goes out of tune when you let kids bang on the keys.

Truth: A good technician will tune it with what are called “stabilizing blows” and they whack the key harder than any 4-year-old can. This ensures that the strings do not shift whenever someone plays a passionate Rachmaninoff composition or when little Johnny slams his tiny hands into the keyboard while performing his latest jazz piece.

Here’s what will keep your next tuning stable and is supported by science and research in the piano technology:

1. Stable temperature. If you keep the piano by a fireplace, drafty area, or keep turning the thermostat WAY down, the piano will go out of tune quickly.

2. Stable humidity. As you are aware, the moisture content of the air in Alaska can change quite drastically throughout the year. In January, your skin is cracking and you’re generating enough static electricity to light up a Christmas tree. In September it rains so much that you seriously consider building an ark. The change in the moisture content of the air has a tangible effect on your piano. The wood will swell as it absorbs moisture in the rainy season and the pitch goes sharp. Actions get sluggish and keys are more likely to stick. In the winter, the soundboard shrinks and the pitch goes below the standard A440.

3. New strings. If your piano is new, the strings are still “in training” due to being too elastic. They will continue stretching for about a year after you purchase it. Individual strings that get replaced by your technician will take several adjustments before they hold steady and stop stretching.

4. Tuning pin stability. Each string is attached to a tuning pin, which can be rotated any time the tension in the string needs adjustment. (That’s what your piano technician does when they come to tune it.) If the tuning pin does not have enough torque, it will not hold the string in a stable position. Tuning pin instability only becomes a major issue in old pianos with cracked pin blocks.

There you have it. You are now an educated consumer. 🙂

Need a local piano teacher referral? I’ve got you covered. Send a message from one the contact forms on my site.

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