30 Articles

Piano humidity control


Originally posted on 24/05/2013 12:00

In our last post we briefly looked at the dangers of overly dry or humid conditions around one’s piano. Dry conditions are considerably more common, and can lead to problems such as loose tuning pins,rattling keys, and cracks in the pinblock and soundboard. Overly moist conditions cause wood to swell, crushing sensitive parts under undue pressure, and will cause the thousands of moving parts in the piano’s action to lose proper regulation, leading to sluggish response times/performance. Excess moisture also causes convex bulging in the bridge, putting excess tension on the strings and causing the pitch to go sharp. In dry conditions, the bridge goes flat, and creates the opposite problem.

The solution is quite simple. Keep your instrument away from heat and a/c sources, and maintain proper humidity levels, which can be checked with the qauges mentioned in our last post. There are several ways to go about this. Any standard humidifier/dehumidifier placed under or near the instrument will do the job, but there is a downside to this: cost. While it may seem like the simpler, more affordable fix when compared to buying a dedicated piano humidifying system, the annual cost of operation can be nearly ten times that of the on-board piano system. These dedicated systems, such as the Piano Life Saver from Dampp-Chaser, consist of a humidistat, humidifier, dehumidifier, a water-fill tube and an indicator panel to tell you when to top up the water supply. Not only are they cheaper to operate, they require less work, requiring attention only a couple times a month, as opposed to nearly every single day.

If you’d like to have such a system installed in your upright or grand piano, give IVORIES.CA a call today at 416-871-2550!

Keeping humidity in check


Originally posted on 15/05/2013 01:20

With the warm summer weather rapidly approaching, it’s not a bad time to revisit the topic of keeping your piano’s humidity at proper levels to avoid cracks in the soundboard, along with a variety of other performance and mechanical issues. As we’ve mentioned in prior posts, your piano should ideally be at a humidity level of 45% to help avoid problems caused by excessive drying of the wooden components of your instrument (which make up the majority of it!).

When out piano tuning, we’ll often see pianos that are placed in less than ideal spaces, often near fireplaces or other heat sources which contribute significantly to drying out essential structural components. Keeping a piano away from such places will greatly contribute to increasing its playing life.

It’s not only the larger structural parts of your piano that are affected by humidity. Overly humid conditions can cause your piano’s keys to stick, making playing difficult, not to mention annoying. The humidity levels also cause your piano’s pitch to change. High humidity will result in a sharper pitch, while low humidity will cause your piano to go flat.

A Humidity gauge is an inexpensive but important tool to have around to make sure your piano isn’t being exposed to extreme humidity or dryness. In our next post, we’ll take a close look at the options available to treat and protect your instrument from the dangers of humidity we touched on here.

Buyer beware…What to look out for when buying a used piano.


Originally posted on 08/05/2013 01:35

In our daily travels in the piano tuning business, we often come upon a variety of unfortunate, but entirely avoidable situations. One such occurrance is finding customers who’ve recently acquired used pianos, usually through on-line or print classified ads, that end up being not only not as advertised, but often completely unplayable and tunable without a considerable additional investment in structural and mechanical repairs.

Once must be cautious of purchasing pianos bearing brand names. Not all are what they first appear to be. While less common than in say the guitar industry, there is no shortage of scam artists trying to fool buyers into purchasing a well known brand name piano, when infact, the instrument is far lower on the quality scale. It is imperative to look for the brand name non only on the fallboard, which can be easily replaced, but also on the plate/harp and soundboard. A quick bit of on-line investigating comparing these features to other similar makes and models can go a long way in confirming a piano’s authenticity. This goes for serial numbers as well, which can be stamped or painted/printed on. There are many useful sites on-line that can be used to research these serial numbers and see not only if the piano is from the said manufacturer, but when and where it was made. A quick bit of Google research can ensure you buy a Lexus, and not a lemon.

As the old saying goes: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. This most definitley applies to buying used pianos as well.

Before you buy new…


Originally posted on 02/05/2013 11:56

We’ve touched on this issue briefly in other parts of the site, but as it’s something that keeps coming up, we thought it best to point it out here as well. When dealing with older, run-down and generally neglected pianos, we often get asked “Is it worth fixing?”. Often, the answer will be a clear and simple “NO”. This is most often the case with entry level instruments of lower quality, and some solidly built, but poorly designed pianos that have complicated action and damper set-ups that require work that would surely cost more than the value of the instrument itself. Be aware of such pianos when scanning the classifieds for a “good deal”. Often, we’ll get called to repair such newly acquired instruments, only to have to tell the customer that their piano is beyond tunability and repair, making their seemingly amazing $500 investment a complete write-off.

Then there are the pianos worth saving. In general, any quality brand name North American or European made antique upright or grand piano made of solid wood and properly constructed is worth another look. While on the surface the cost of completely restoring such an instrument might seem high, it will be a far cry from the tens of thousands of dollars more one would pay to get an instrument of similar quality new. While a thorough repair job may be in the same neighbourhood as the cost of a brand new entry level piano, the quality and useful life of the instruments simply do not compare. As the old saying goes “You get what you pay for”. In this case, a new piano at that price level will almost definitely be made of composit materials, and not solid wood. These instruments have been known to last as little as ten years before requiring work normally reserved for instruments much older. Properly restoring a well-built brand name antique will not only bring you many more years of playing bliss, it will also retain the value of the restoration in terms of re-sale value, and will provide you with a good-as-new high-end piano at the cost of an entry level clunker.

So, we couldn’t tune your piano… (Part 2)


Originally posted on 23/01/2013 19:23

As we mentioned in our previous entry, we often find underlying issues with some of the older pianos we’re called to tune. Here’s a quick look at some of the most common problems we come across. We should note though that prior to any mechanical issues being addressed, we first perform a quick check of the structural components, specifically looking for any major sound board cracks and bridge defects. A few tuning pins in each section are also checked to ensure they will hold the necessary torque.

Common mechanical issues:

1) Broken/brittle/worn and otherwise damaged bridle straps.

Most often age and humidity related. Bridle straps not only act as a back-up hammer return mechanism when hammer butt springs are damaged or out of position, they also keep action components firmly in place when action work is being performed. Missing bridle straps make removing and restoring a piano’s action safely much more diffucult, and as such, can lead to greater and far more expensive damage.
Cork straps are used only where unavoidable, and all hammer flange screws are unscrewed during the procedure, allowing for easier access to the area in question. In general, we estimate the cost for new bridle straps throughout (parts & labour ) at $ 295.00 CAD.

2)Broken hammer shanks.

Generally wear & tear/age realated. Repair cost (parts & labour): $30 dollars per shank

3) Mechanical clicking noises.

More often than not likely related to either loose front (hammer) flange screws, rear (whippen) flange screws or loose butt plate screws (depending on action design)

4)“Sticky” or slow returning keys.
This issue could be attributed to a number of factors, including: Overly tight balance rail holes, overly tight front key bushing or balance rail key bushings, excessively turned or improperly adjusted action frame pins


The problem could be centre pin related. This is checked by a quick/sudden forward push of the hammer rest rail. If hammers throughout return very slowly, both the hammer flange centre pins and and whipen flange centre pins require being replaced throughout ($ 350.00 each). This work will of course also require the hammers and whippens to be traveled/spaced to properly regulate the piano.

So, we couldn’t tune your piano…


16/01/2013 16:00

It happens much more often than one would expect, and certainly more than we’d like, but unfortunately, we are finding that an increasing number of instruments we’re called to tune are simply no longer tunable, at least not “gainfully” in their current state. Often years of neglect, exposure to dry or otherwise extreme temperatures, or simply age and regular wear and tear have damaged the instrument to the point where tuning it would do more harm than good. While often in these cases we could certainly bring it reasonably in tune at a lower pitch, such a piano tuning would most certainly last only a negligible amount of time, most likely only weeks, until the owner would once again be calling to have their instrument re-tuned. While we understand it may at times be disappointing to our customers, our company policy is strictly to not perform such non-beneficial tunings. We cannot take pride in work we know is substandard and will not provide the customer with any lasting gains.

In such cases, we do not charge for “dead calls”, as other may do, we instead prefer to provide affected customers with a free repair estimate addressing the underlying conditions which are keeping the piano from being properly tuned (more often than not loose tuning pins, cracked pinblocks and other structural issues). In most cases, attending to these issues sooner than later results in considerable savings down the road, and ensures that future piano tuners will be able to provide a tuning that will last and truly be beneficial to the customer.

Keeping a Canadian Icon in tune


Originally posted on 11/19/2012 12:30

Ivories’ technicians regularly tune at some of Toronto’s biggest and best known concert halls. This means we’re often tuning for some of the biggest names in classical and popular music. While this for the most part finds us tuning high-end instruments by brands like Steinway & Sons and Yamaha, we also occasionally get to tune pianos that are special for entirely other reasons. Case and point is the Chickering Grand piano found in the foyer of the CBC’s Front Street Studio. This structurally and cosmetically aged Chickering would first appear to be nothing more than a prop or discarded used instrument, but it is in fact the childhood piano of one of Canada’s most well known and respected pianists of the past 100 years, Mr. Glenn Gould. Gould rose to fame in the mid to late 1900’s with his technically masterful, yet at times unconventional interpretations of pieces by masters such as Bach, Brahms and Haydn. The often eccentric musician was nearly as well known for his television and radio productions as for his recordings. While a composer himself, he often left works unfinished and preferred to record the music of the masters, his renditions of which lead to four Grammy awards in his lifetime.


One of Gould’s most peculiar traits was insisting on playing in very warm climate controlled environments and at exactly 14 inches from the ground. It is unknown whether his insistence on playing in extremely warm temperatures contributed to the current condition of his cherished piano, but surprisingly, the weathered instrument is still used for recordings to this day. This is partially possible due to the care provided to it by our head technician Wolfgang, who regularly performs tuning and maintenance work on this prized instrument to not only preserve its history, but ensure that it can help nurture new Canadian greats for decades to come.

Lights, Camera, Tune!


Originally posted on 21/09/2012 12:11

While our technicians are accustomed to working behind the scenes for some of the country’s best known artists at many of Toronto’s most prestigious concert halls, and even for well known drama’s such as CTV’s Flashpoint, we recently had the pleasure of getting a bit more front and center of things by being asked to participate in a video shoot for a design series from Canada’s Fusion Television. Be sure to keep an eye out for our company president Wolfgang, as he makes his cable television debut on the W Network later this year! As for other new developments, is proud to announce that we are now the official piano tuners and repair specialists for the Toronto District Catholic School Board’s Western Region, serving over 100 schools in the city’s west end. If you live in the area, be sure to support your school’s talent shows and check out our work in action!

Avoiding Costly Structural Piano Repairs


Originally posted on 04/03/2012 13:39

Avoid costly structural repairs by keeping your piano in a properly humidified environment and well away from fireplaces or radiators. Humidity should ideally be at 45% and most definitely not fall below 40% or rise above 50%. Failure to do so can result in loose and straight tuning pins, swelling and shrinking of the pinblock and cracks in the soundboard. Humidity gauges are relatively inexpensive (around $25) and can help you ensure your instrument is in a favourable environment. They can easily be found online, in most good music shops, or even at your local wine store. If you find the humidity in your music room lacking, it is definitely in your best interest to invest in a humidifier, or if your budget allows, an in-piano humidifying system such as those offered by Dampp-Chaser. This will ensure your piano keeps a wonderful tone, remains tunable & in tune longer, and keeps you entertained for years to come.

Welcome to the new

Welcome to the new

Toronto’s dependable piano tuning, repair & restoration experts

Our experienced piano craftsmen and technicians have been providing Toronto and the GTA with a full spectrum of piano tuning, maintenance, repair and restoration work for well over a decade – the quality of which is unparalleled in the City. From a simple quick tuning for a child’s piano lesson, to the exquisite grands of Toronto’s most renowned concert halls, we’ve tuned and serviced them all.

In this ever competitive world, it’s not uncommon to be compelled to make decisions based purely on the dollar sign. We understand that there are cheaper options on the piano tuning market, and there are of course those that charge considerably more. You can come to your own conclusions as to why others charge what they do, we simply offer years of expert piano tuning and maintenance experience at a fair and reasonable price. Rest assured however that with an tuning, you get attention to detail unrivaled in the industry, starting with our popular $130 basic package, which includes extras such as a minor pitch raise and pedal adjustment.

We of course offer more than just piano tuning, maintenance and voicing work. We are fully trained and equipped to tackle any repair or restoration job you can throw our way. Be it a long neglected family heirloom collecting dust in a basement, or a more recent instrument that’s experienced unexpected heat or water damage, we’ll handle the repairs others are afraid to touch. Be it a single broken hammer or a baby grand in need of a complete cosmetic makeover, we’re prepared to exceed your every expectation.

Don’t have a piano? No worries! We have a small but exceptional array of fully and partially restored pianos just waiting for a new owner, all at unbelievable prices. Call, text or write us today to arrange an appointment to see what our piano sales department has in store for you.

Please take a moment to browse the site, and be sure to check out our frequent blog posts, where we offer glimpses into our everyday adventures tuning pianos in Toronto, information about interesting upcoming performances, as well as helpful tips to aid in maintaining your piano’s optimal condition.

Whether you’re simply looking for a trusted, experienced piano tuner, or a hassle-free one-stop shop to to take care of more demanding piano repair and restoration work, has the solution.