I often come across pianos that have not been tuned in a while. When the owner has determined that the piano needs a tune, it is usually quite bad. I find myself using the piano/car comparison when talking about piano care. Just like you take your car in for an oil change, (even if nothing is wrong with the vehicle) your piano needs the same kind of forethought. Regular tune ups on both a car and a piano help prevent bigger problems from occurring as well as maintaining the overall health of your car or piano. Tuning your piano 2 to 4 times a year can also ensure that the tuning will last longer. Often when people don’t tune the piano for years, then decide to do so, it can sometimes take 3-5 tunings for the piano to hold the tuning.
It is especially important to tune regularly because of our weather patterns in Canada. Changes in humidity affect the wood and cause it to expand and contract. As humidity goes up, a soundboard swells, increasing its crowned shape and stretching the piano’s strings to a higher pitch. During dry times, the soundboard flattens out, lowering tension on the strings and causing the pitch to drop. Because the expanding and contracting doesn’t happen equally across the strings, your piano is constantly going out of tune.
Fortunately there are things you can do to help minimize this:
Keep the piano away from direct sunlight and air vents in your home. You want to have the piano in a location that is also away from an exterior wall. Use a portable humidifier/dehumidifier near the piano. You can even get your piano technician to install a special humidity control device for your piano.
Tune your piano regularly. Have your technician come every 3 months or at the very least, about 2 weeks after you turn on your heat in the fall/winter and about 2 weeks after you turn on your air conditioner in the spring/summer.
Another important time to tune a piano is after you move it. A piano is a very tough instrument, able to withstand 20 tons of string tension for years. Because of this, it is often that the move is not what makes the piano out of tune, more the environment. This is why it is recommended that you have your piano tuner tune after it has been in its new place for about 2 weeks. This allows the piano to settle and adjust to the new environment.