Piano tuning is an often overlooked detail in regards to piano care after moving. It is a necessary prevention in the sound quality and upkeep of your piano, especially since nobody wants to listen to an out of tune piano!
Why Does a Piano Go Out of Tune?
A common misconception about piano tuning is that moving a piano has a large impact on it’s tuning stability. Actually, it is the opposite.
Pianos are extremely durable and can withstand tons of string tension and heavy usage. Therefore, it is not very likely that physically moving a piano will have an effect, if any, on its tuning stability.
What truly causes a piano to go out of tune during a move is the change in weather.
Transitioning from a heated, dry home to a cooler space or vice-versa can shrink your piano’s soundboard, which in turn changes string tension and pitch.
Since pianos are made of wood, they are extremely sensitive to humidity fluctuations. Humidifiers and house plants, which release moisture vapor into the air, are some recommendations to combating humidity.
How to Tune a Piano
Piano tuning is a difficult process. It takes the skills of a professional tuner to get the job done right.
Before tuning a piano, you will need the following tools:
• Piano tuning lever
• Rubber mutes
• Orchestral tuner/chromatic tuner
Step 1. Tune One String in the Middle Octave
Pick one string to work on in the middle octave, which is the section between C4 and C5.
Place the tuning level on the pin that turns the string you want to tune.
Before placing the rubber mutes, place your foot on the sustain pedal to lift the dampers off the strings. Doing so will protect the felt of the dampers whereas the rubber mates will isolate the sound of the other strings.
Turn the pin counter-clockwise to slightly loosen the string. Simultaneously strike the piano key firmly and turn the pin slightly clockwise until your chromatic tuner shows that it is in tune.
Step 2. Tune the Remaining Strings in the Middle Octave
After tuning the first string, tune the other string(s) in the set.
Move the mutes so that the tuned string and the second string are free, but the third string is damped by a mute.
Place your tuning lever on the second string’s pin. At the same time, strike the piano key and turn the second pin ever so slightly clockwise until it sounds like one note.
Note: Tune by using your ear, not the chromatic tuner.
Repeat this process for the third string if necessary. Also, repeat for the rest of the notes in the middle octave.
Step 3. Tune by Comparing Octaves
Now that you have completely tuned the middle octave, you can use it as a reference for the remaining keys.
Note: Do not use the chromatic tuner.
Begin by tuning each section by ear, matching them to the middle octave (e.g. A4 to A5, B4 to B5, etc.).
Next, tune the other strings of the same note. Refer back to Step 1 in regards to using the rubber mutes and turning the tuning lever.
Finally, begin tuning outward (e.g. A5 to A6, A6 to A7, etc.).
Congratulations! If you have followed these 3 instructions carefully, you have successfully tuned your piano.
When to Tune a Piano After Moving
As a general rule of thumb, we recommend tuning your piano every 6 months at a minimum.
Newer pianos will need to be tuned more frequently. Brands like Baldwin, Kawai and Steinway & Songs recommend 4 tunings a year, at regular intervals, for optimal tuning stability and performance.
If a piano is moved from its environment into a room with similar temperature and humidity in a 1-2 hour timespan, tune the piano 6 months later.
If the piano is moved into an environment with a varying temperature and humidity and longer timespan, we recommend tuning the piano within 2-3 weeks after the moving date. It only takes a few hours for the piano to acclimate, but this timeframe provides you some time to adjust yourself and settle in.
Consult a Professional Piano Tuner
West Coast Moving & Storage is a proud partner of Portland Piano Company and Eugene Piano Company – home to some of the best piano technicians in the Oregon.
If you are seeking tuning or restoration services, contact them here:
Contact Us for All of Your Piano Needs
At West Coast Piano Moving & Storage, our team of licensed and certified professional movers is readily available to answer all of your questions and help you safely and securely move your piano into your new home.
We also provide climate controlled storage for pianos of all sizes.
Contact us today for a free piano moving or storage estimate in Portland and Seattle!