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May 25, 2023

Piano 101: How Often Will My Piano Need to Be Tuned?

If you’re a piano owner wondering how often do pianos need to be tuned, it’s vital that you understand and follow the right schedule for your beloved instrument! Piano tuning not only ensures a keyboard sounds its best but also keeps it in good working order, helping to avoid premature damage and otherwise unnecessary repairs.

Most piano manufacturers recommend tuning a new piano four times during the first year and then twice yearly after that; at the very least, a piano needs tuning once a year. This schedule needs adjusting according to usage of your piano, as the more it’s played, the more often it needs tuning!

Whether you play piano professionally or have a piano at home you only use on occasion, you might consider some added information about piano tuning, including signs that it’s time to call a piano tuning expert! You might also consider what is and is not included in standard tuning visits, so you know when to schedule additional services for your instrument.

As always, discuss this information and other questions you might have with a piano restoration company or piano tuner near you. Professional advice and services are especially vital for antique or otherwise uniquely valuable instruments, so they’re given proper attention and care and retain their value over the years.

How Often Do Pianos Need To Be Tuned?

Piano tuning depends on its age and usage. Note a few added details about what this means so you can ensure your piano is always in proper tune and good condition.

How often should you tune a new piano?

A new piano should be tuned about four times in the first year. This schedule is needed because the wood that makes up a piano body and other parts adjusts to its new environment the most during that first year; as wood absorbs surrounding humidity, it will expand and then shrink as it dries out.

As a wood piano body goes through this expand-shrink cycle, it pulls on the wires inside, causing them to stretch and then go slack. In turn, you’ll need to have the piano tuned more frequently during that first year, after which the piano will have acclimated to its new environment and won’t need such frequent tuning.

Note, too, that new strings stretch out more easily and go out of tune more readily. Tuning those new strings more frequently during that first year reduces the risk of breaking a string during play and ensuring they’re always in proper tune.

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How often should a home piano be tuned?

After the first year, most home pianos need twice-yearly tuning. This schedule will compensate for average and occasional playing and for the piano continuing to shrink and expand just slightly as humidity levels in the home adjust throughout the year.

While twice-yearly or annual tuning is often recommended, note that a piano starts going out of tune the minute it’s played and will also go out of tune if left idle for long periods of time! The more often those hammers strike the piano wires, the more stretched they get so that they will need tuning. However, when left idle for several months, those wires will begin to sag and stretch on their own.

This is similar to what happens with guitar strings: they stretch and need to be tuned. Piano strings, however, are much thicker than guitar strings and don't stretch nearly as much. That's why tuning is so important—it ensures that the piano will remain in tune throughout its lifespan.

Adjust your own piano tuning schedule accordingly. If you play daily, consider twice-annual tuning, if not more often. If your piano has sat untouched for the last six months, have it tuned so that the wires can be adjusted as needed, especially before playing it again.

It’s also recommended that you schedule more frequent tuning if your home goes through severe changes in humidity levels throughout the year. Most homeowners will keep a humidifier, dehumidifier, space heater, and other such small appliances in the same room as a piano, as needed to ensure consistent temperature and humidity levels. If you don’t use these appliances or your home suffers inconsistent humidity levels for any reason, schedule more frequent tuning throughout the year!

What Happens If You Don’t Tune a Piano?

Piano tuning does more than ensure the instrument produces music correctly; tuning a piano prevents damage that occurs when someone plays an overstretched string. Proper tuning reduces the risk of a piano wire snapping during play.

Note that piano tuning is a time-consuming, painstaking job, and the longer you go without tuning, the more work is needed during each visit. Regular tuning makes it easier for a piano tuner to get your instrument back into proper tune; if your chosen expert charges by the hour, more frequent tuning can actually mean saving money in the long run.

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Can a Piano Be Tuned After 20 Years?

Every piano is different, so there is no “one size fits all” answer about whether or not you can tune a piano after 20 years or any other time length. Some antique pianos might need added work but, with the proper servicing, can be played no matter their age.

However, note that tuning pins can wear out and become loose over time, so they cannot be tightened enough to hold wires as they should. In turn, the piano cannot be tuned and needs to have those pins replaced. Whatever the case, never assume that your piano is too old for tuning but call a piano restoration company near you no matter its overall condition, as they can assess the instrument and note what’s needed to make it usable again.

Is It Bad to Play an Un-Tuned Piano?

Improperly stretched piano wires are at greater risk of breaking during play, as said. Since piano wires are often expensive to replace, and they need replacing before you can continue playing, it’s often more cost-effective to just have the piano tuned as needed rather than putting off this work and then playing the piano while it’s out of tune!

If you’re using a piano to instruct someone, it’s vital that the instrument is in proper tune, so your pupil can learn appropriate pitches and tones as they play. You might also find that you enjoy playing the piano more often when it’s tuned properly.

Is It Worth Tuning an Old Piano?

Whether or not you should invest in tuning an old piano depends on your use of that instrument; for example, if you have a piano that you keep in the home more for decoration or sentimental value than playing, you might not need to tune it until you are ready to use it. However, if you want to sell that piano or start using it regularly, it’s vital that you have it inspected and tuned first.

If you have an old piano that is damaged severely, you might consider its value versus the cost of restoration. If it will cost you far more to have the piano restored than you might earn by selling it, unless that piano has sentimental value, you might consider simply scrapping it for parts. Call a piano restoration expert near you to find out how much it might cost to restore your piano and how much you might earn by selling it, so you can compare those figures and make the best decision!

How Do I Know If My Piano Needs Tuning?

While it’s best to schedule regular tuning even if your piano seems to be producing proper notes, you might also consider some signs that it’s time for a tuning schedule. Knowing when to call a piano tuner will ensure your instrument is always in proper tune and good condition.

First, consider if your piano produces notes that sound more like a buzz than crisp, clear music. You might also notice a slight “twang” from the piano when it’s out of tune. Notes can begin to sound flat and not resonate as they should.

If you have a digital piano that's on a piano stand, the good news is you don't need piano tuning!

Some experienced players might also feel a lack of response from piano wires as they play. Rather than a firm strike on those strings, the keys might feel flat or dull. You might also notice some variation in pitch when you hit two or three strings tuned to the same pitch. These all indicate that it’s time to schedule piano tuning!

How Long Does It Take to Tune a Piano?

Usually, piano tuning takes between an hour and a half to three hours to complete. But every piano is unique. If your piano is older, hasn't been serviced in a while, or needs a specific type of tuning, it could take longer.

Sometimes, if a piano has been left alone for too long, it might need a 'pitch raise.' This is when we adjust the overall pitch before fine-tuning each string. That can take up to 4-5 hours. Of course, the tuner's experience matters too. Seasoned technicians can work faster without compromising quality.

And let's not forget about where your piano is located as well as the environment's temperature and humidity. All these factors can affect the tuning stability and, therefore, the time it takes.

One last thing to remember - tuning isn’t a one-and-done deal. It's part of your piano's regular maintenance. To keep your piano sounding its best and lasting a long time, you should get it tuned at least twice a year.

What Is the Average Price to Tune a Piano?

National averages to tune a piano fall between $100 and $150, although this price will vary according to your location, piano age, and condition, how long it’s been since your last piano tuning, and how often you play. If you use your piano regularly, such as once a week or more, tuning might be more involved and cost more. However, a piano played just lightly over the last year might need only slight adjustments, so your costs might be lower overall.

If you’ve neglected tuning and maintenance of your piano, it might need more work to bring it to proper tune, as said, so you end up paying more per tuning visit. According to Thumbtack.com, some piano tuners might also charge more for pianos used by professionals, especially those in concert halls and other such venues, since they may need more time to ensure precise, expert tuning.

Note, too, that piano tuning is different than pitch correction, voicing, and repairs. These services typically cost extra but are worth it if it means having a piano that produces the rich, clear sounds you expect!

DC Piano Tuning by PianoCraft is happy to bring this information to our readers, and we hope it helped answer the question of how often do pianos need to be tuned. If you’re in the DC area and need to schedule an expert piano tuning, voicing, repairs, or full-scale restoration, give us a call! We work on virtually every piano make and model in use today and take pride in outstanding customer service you won’t find anywhere else. To get started with your FREE consultation, give us a call today.

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