Piano FAQ

1.How often should I get my piano tuned?
A: At least one or twice a year, if you expect a good musical result.
Piano builders are serious about this: Yamaha warrantees are void if the piano is not tuned annually. More Info: Most piano builders want their pianos tuned  4 times or more
in the first year. The steel wire used in a piano has a “memory”; it’s springy, same as a safety pin or any other spring. It remembers it’s shape even after being bent, otherwise the coils would simply unwind or break when bent.
Since the molecules in the steel creep for a couple of years, the strings constantly go out of tune. When you tune the piano many times during these first years, the wire “memorizes” its position, and stays in tune far better in the future.
Changes in humidity then become themain factor in tuning stability unless it's heavily used.

2:How long will a piano stay in tune?
A: This question in other terms is: how long will a structure made mostly of wood , under 20 tons of tension more or less, stay put without distorting in even the smallest degree when another 500-1,000 pounds or more of tension is added? Strictly speaking, a piano will start to go out of tune after 3 days or so, losing its edge gradually, just as if a  pianist stopped practicing. It’s a slow process. That's assuming the piano is in good condition and tune to begin with.
All bets are off if the piano hasn't been tuned for 5 years or more. More Info: If the piano is very out of tune, it will actually be going out of tune while the technician is working on it because the load on the bridges and soundboard increases so much when the strings are tightened.
So, if you want your piano to stay in tune, don’t let it go out of tune much. Even More Info: The bridges and soundboard swell with more humidity and shrink with less. These changes alter the bearing of the strings, and over time they go out of tune. The cast-iron plate moves with temperature change, but far less than wooden parts.

3.What do I look for in a used piano?
A: The subject is large. Click here for information and videos on what to watch for.

4.How much does my piano weigh?
A: if it’s an upright between 36” and 42” high, probably between 350/500 lbs. Studio pianos:45-48” high- 500 lbs. Old uprights: 500/750, sometimes  1,000 for the largest. Grands: anywhere from 500 for a baby to 1,000 or more for a concert-grand. If you don’t want to feel shorter because you squashed your spine, hire piano movers.

5.Should I buy a digital piano?
A: The merits of digital pianos are: a good one sounds great through headphones (this gives privacy and quiet to apartment dwellers but can be hard on the ears if the volume is high); they’re portable; they can be less money than a new piano; they don’t need to be tuned , regulated or voiced. The merits of an acoustic piano are: they are much more responsive to how they are played and there is currently no equivalent to the feel of the let-off in a real piano action; there is no substitute for the “tone vapour” (the natural reverberation of all the strings vibrating when the sustain pedal is depressed); the soundboard is a much better “amplifier” than the amplifier and small speakers of a digital piano. In short, a real piano has what could be called a “soul” that is absent in the digital realm, and the player has some degree of control over tone that a digital piano doesn’t offer without actually changing the sound that’s loaded into it. I rather doubt many top pianists prefer to practise or perform on a digital unless they’re in an electric band.

6.What do the pedals on a piano do?
​A: Pianos really need only one pedal, as far as 99.9% of upright players go, and that is the sustain, sometimes called “loud”, pedal. The left one on an upright is usually a half-blow: this moves the hammers closer to the strings so the sound is quieter, but alters the touch so there’s a lot of play (lost motion). The middle either lifts the dampers off just the bass strings, or interposes a muffler strip between the hammers and strings for a dramatic change in tone and loudness. In the better pianos, the middle is a sostenuto; any  note(s) held while the pedal is engaged will keep ringing. The grand piano players often make use of  the left, usually a una-corda (Italian for 1 string, not quite the case these days) or “shift” pedal: the whole action moves toward the treble to produce a softer tone by having the hammer hit only 2 of the 3 strings. The middle pedal  is either a bass sustain, same as an upright , or a full sostenuto , as do some better uprights. Sometimes the middle is a dummy and does nothing. This is a dead give-away that it’s an El Cheapo piano. More Info:  Some 19th-20th century pianos have pedals that do all sorts of wacky things, from honky-tonk strips to bells and whistles, and even bass-pedals like a pipe-organ. Most of these are clumsy things with little musical value. Nowadays, synthesizers are handy for the way-out sounds.

7.Can I have my piano on an outside wall?
​A: Yes and no. In harsh climates in a house with un-insulated walls, it’s best not to.  In a modern, energy-efficient home, no worries. More Info: Pianos tend to stay in tune best where temperature and humidity never vary (you could consider a “Dampp-Chaser” in-piano climate control system). The closer you can come to this in your home, the better, and,as a matter of fact, your comfort zone is much the same as the pianos. So, avoid drafts and putting your piano near heating vents and cold-air returns, doors and open windows. Another aspect to this question is, what is the ideal humidity? For both you and the piano, between 40-50% relative humidity. Drier is hard on mucous membranes, damper encourages mold.

​   "Tune at least one or twice a year, if you expect a good musical result. Piano builders are serious about this: Yamaha warrantees are void if the piano is not tuned annually, Steinway wants 3 or 4 times a year."  
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