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November 19, 2018

Answering 7 Basic Questions About Piano Repair

Piano Repair 2

If you own a keyboard of any sort, you should know some basics about piano repair. While a high-quality piano should last for many months if not years before needing repairs, even the best keyboard will eventually require fixing and some replacement piano parts. Knowing a little bit about piano tuning and the repairs these instruments often need will ensure you know when to call an expert, and why you should rely on their services versus trying to address piano repairs yourself!

1. What Does It Cost to Get a Piano Tuned?

Piano tuning can cost anywhere from fifty dollars to several hundred dollars, depending on the amount of work that is needed to get the instrument adequately adjusted. Along with the condition of the piano, a tuning professional might also charge more if you request a change in its sound; if you want a richer sound or something a bit deeper, your piano tuning expert might need more time to adjust the keyboard's internal parts, and might then charge you an added fee.

While piano tuning prices can vary widely, note that you don't necessarily want to hire the cheapest professional you find. Precisely tuning a piano takes years of practice and experience, and a highly-qualified professional will charge you accordingly. A very cheap piano tuner might not have the right tools or experience needed to tune that keyboard precisely, so the sound may not be what you expect and you might then need to schedule additional tunings sooner than expected.

2. How Do You Clean Sticky Piano Keys?

Piano keys can get dirty quite quickly especially if a child is using the keyboard and isn't always concerned about having clean hands! Black keys especially can show fingerprints and other smudges and smears. Debris can also make its way between those keys, causing them to become difficult to move. Note a few tips for cleaning sticky piano keys:

  • Mix vinegar with warm water. Use a lint-free cloth to buff this mixture onto the keys gently and then another dry cloth to buff the keys until they're clean and dry.
  • Use plain dairy milk to whiten yellowed keys.
  • Apply toothpaste onto a damp cloth and rub this onto the keys and then follow with another clean, wet towel, buffing the keys until clean.
  • Remember to clean the sides of the keys as well as their surface, so you remove any debris or sticky substances that can make the keys hard to press.
  • Never use materials designed for piano scratch repair on the instrument’s keys. A piano body is typically made of timber while keys are a mixture of wood and plastic. Wood wax and other such products might make keys even more sticky than before!

Note, too, that high humidity inside a piano can cause the keys to become sticky. A piano's hammers may absorb that humidity and then expand so that they don't move as easily. If this is the case with your keyboard, it might be time to call for piano tuning or repair work.

Why Wait to Tune a Piano After Moving It

3. Why Wait to Tune a Piano After Moving It?

Wood naturally absorbs humidity in the air around it, or it will lose moisture, according to its surrounding climate. Timber then expands and shrinks as it goes through this cycle. The wood of a piano body is no exception; if you move the piano to a more humid environment, it needs to absorb that added humidity and expand accordingly. If you move the keyboard to a dryer area, it will lose moisture and then shrink.

Tuning a piano before it goes through this cycle can be pointless; as the wood body of the keyboard expands or shrinks according to its environment, it will move its strings along with it. In turn, you may need to tune the piano again once it's fully acclimated. To avoid this unnecessary work and piano repair cost, wait at least two weeks after moving a piano, even to a new room of your home, before you have it tuned.

4. What Is the Difference Between Piano Repair, Tuning, and Restoration?

Piano owners often get confused about tuning, repair, and restoration work for their keyboards, and may use these terms interchangeably. However, note a few differences between these services:

  • Tuning is done to adjust the strings under the lid and to create a specific type of sound from the piano. As said, a piano owner might want a deeper or more high-pitched sound, and tuning the keyboard will make it more accurate and more to the preferences of the performer.
  • Piano repair refers to fixing broken or otherwise damaged pieces; apart from standard tuning, or you might need repair work done if you moved the piano and broke a foot pedal or leg, if there is damage to the lid or a section of the body, and so on. Player piano repair is the same; these pianos might need tuning, or they might need more extensive repair work, especially if they’re used quite often.
  • Restoration work is done on a piano that is no longer playable but still salvageable. A piano restorer might need to rebuild the entire body of the keyboard, replace all the string and other such piano parts, or otherwise rebuild the instrument rather than merely repair some damaged parts.

Note that a piano might also need rebuilding, which involves replacing several of its major parts, including the hammers, strings, dampers, and perhaps the soundboard. This work is a bit more complicated than standard piano scratch repair or repairs to its internal parts, but not as involved as piano restoration.

How Do You Tune a Piano

5. How Do You Tune a Piano?

Piano tuning, as well as any repair work, is not a DIY job. Online tutorials often promise to show you how to tune a piano properly, but there are many reasons why it's good to leave this to the experts. Note a few steps involved in tuning a keyboard so you can better understand why it's often more complicated than you might realize, and why an expert should be called to perform this work:

  • Strings are isolated with the use of mutes, or foam wedges that silence surrounding strings. The first string is tightened or adjusted according to the sound from an electronic tuner.
  • Other strings in that note are then tuned by ear.
  • The nearest octaves to those strings are then also tuned by ear.
  • As the pins are tightened, they are often slightly overworked and then loosened. This process allows the strings a slight bit of slack so that the piano stays in tune for as long as possible.

While this process might seem simple enough, note that it takes years of training and experience to handle this job correctly and without damaging the piano. Overworking strings can cause them to snap while failing to tighten them enough can result in a dull and inaccurate note.

A piano tuner also needs to strike the key firmly and adequately to get an accurate sound from the string, but without putting too much stress on any of those pieces. These skills are not easy to master and cannot be learned from an online tutorial!

6. What Is a Piano Tuning Lever?

A piano tuning lever is like a small wrench that is used to turn piano pins while the strings are being tightened and tuned. If a piano owner is thinking of making any adjustments to their instrument, they should invest in such a lever, and never rely on household tools. Using tools not meant for piano pins can allow them to be overworked, or might not grip them properly so that the job is much more difficult than usual.

It's also good to invest in a quality piano tuning lever rather than the cheapest model you can find. A high-quality lever will have a comfortable grip and might also include various attachments that make it easier to tighten pins as needed, without overworking them or damaging anything under the piano's lid.

How Do You Maintain a Piano

7. How Do You Maintain a Piano?

Having a piano tuned on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do to keep that piano in good repair and sounding its best. However, you might note some added steps for maintaining a keyboard and avoiding unnecessary piano repair costs:

  • Regulating a piano adjusts all the mechanisms involved with the hammers hitting the keys. This regulating will ensure that the hammers don't hit the strings too forcefully and that those strings don't wear out sooner than they should.
  • Voicing refers to an adjustment of the hammers themselves. As hammers change in density, their force also changes. The strings might be under undue stress, or you might note that it becomes more difficult to hit the keys properly and achieve a rich, full sound.
  • The inside of a piano can collect dust and other debris; some piano tuners have even noted finding mice and other such pests nesting inside keyboards! Be sure you open the lid and very gently dust the strings and other inside pieces with a soft, lint-free cloth on a regular basis, to avoid a buildup of dirt and debris.

The most important consideration for maintaining a piano is ensuring it's surrounded by a healthy environment that is not too humid and not too dry. A moderate climate will keep the wood of the piano body from expanding and shrinking so that you avoid unnecessary piano repair work.

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