Piano Care

Caring for your piano might seem like a scary thing, but it certainly doesn't have to be. First you need to make sure you've given your piano a safe environment to live in.


A piano should not be exposed to great variations of temperature or humidity, which will make the piano go badly out of tune, could cause glue joints to separate, and may damage the finish. Constantly fluctuating humidity is one of the most significant factors in the aging of a piano. Ideally, the relative humidity should remain constant at approximately 40%. A reading significantly below this amount is cause for concern. If you have purchased a new piano, I suggest you obtain a calibrated digital hygrometer to monitor the relative humidity in the area of your piano. The humidity can be maintained within reasonable parameters with the aid of various devices, ranging from simple room humidifiers to more elaborate ones that are integrated with your heating and air conditioning system. I recommend a steam-generated unit designed to humidify the whole house. I do not recommend units that are attached to or placed directly under the piano. You will want to avoid drafts of air across the instrument from open windows, doors, or heating and air conditioning ducts. Direct sunlight on a piano can cause it to go rapidly and dramatically out of tune and can damage the finish over time (or in a short time if the heat builds fast enough).


The best sound will come from your piano when it is (1) at the correct pitch, (2) well tuned, and (3) well voiced.

Pitch. After your piano has arrived at your home, the instrument acclimates to its new environment. In a matter of weeks, its pitch level will most likely drop (in Colorado) but may not necessarily sound badly out of tune. The degree of change will vary depending on the piano and the environment. If the pitch drops significantly (which can occur within three or four months) the tone of the whole piano will suffer. It will then take extra work to raise the pitch. The instrument's frame, strings, bridges, and soundboard will undergo unnecessary stress that may cause irreparable long-term damage.

Tuning. Since it is an acoustical instrument, your piano will go out of tune even if it is never played. I recommend that a new piano be tuned at least four times the first year or until the string tension has stabilized. Thereafter, for the good of the piano, it should be tuned at least once a year. If the piano is played often and for long periods--in a teaching studio, for example--it will need more frequent tuning (and other maintenance). Of course, for your musical pleasure, your piano should be tuned as often as is feasible, balancing what your checkbook and your ear will allow. Remember that a piano tuning will stay just as the tuner set it for only a short time, and that concert artists consequently expect a fresh tuning before every performance. Each time a technician tunes your piano, he can recommend when it should next be tuned based on its pitch level and environment.

Voicing. Voicing is the art of adjusting the tonal characteristics of the piano to obtain the optimum sound. The tone of a piano is the effect of many complicated factors, some of which are dynamic rather than static--that is, they change as the piano is played and as it acclimates to a new environment. A change that occurs after even a little use involves the hammers-the felt-covered mallets that strike the strings. Since felt is softer than metal strings, it will get packed down. On older pianos that have not been maintained, one can often observe deep grooves in the hammers. This change in the density of the felt will affect the character of the tone, making it brighter or "tinny." Those notes most often played will likely begin to "stick out" from the other notes, or a particular area of the keyboard may begin to sound louder or otherwise less appealing than the rest. A principal element of voicing involves working with the hammers to restore an evenness of hammer shape and tone across the whole keyboard. Periodic voicing on your piano will be necessary throughout the life of the instrument.


The action of a piano is the playing mechanism that transmits energy from your fingers to the strings (including the dampers which silence the strings.) The action is engineered to respond in a certain way to your touch. The action comprises thousands of moving parts, most of which are subject to wear, and to keep them operating within their optimum parameters, adjustments will be necessary. This process is called regulating the action. As with tuning and voicing, the degree and frequency of regulation will depend greatly on the piano, its environment, and use. If your piano is played an average of 10 hours a week, it will likely benefit from a regulation after three to five years; if played 30 hours a week, some regulation will be required much sooner. Your piano technician can advise you concerning your piano's need for regulation.


The fewer the objects placed on your piano, the better. Pencils, coins, plant leaves, and stranger objects that have dropped inside the piano are often the root of noises and notes that don't work properly. For cleaning the case, I recommend using a damp chamois. I do not recommend furniture polishes that contain oil or silicone. These polishes will over time cause the finishes to crack. The keys (ivory or plastic) can be cleaned with “Cory Key Brite” products or a damp cloth with a mild detergent. For cleaning the inside of a grand, it is best to have a technician perform a more thorough cleaning with special tools.

Keeping the lid closed on a grand when not being played will help to keep dust off of the soundboard and strings. Dust that has settled on strings will accelerate the deterioration of tone, especially the wound bass strings.

    Source: Chris Finger Piano's