A bit more on piano maintenace

by ivories

The life of a professional piano tuner in our harsh Canadian climate is not always an easy one during our chilly winter months, and not only because getting to a customer’s home or place of business can be a lengthy, slushy ordeal – especially on Toronto’s congested roads. No, the main source of hardship is when we must inform a customer who wants nothing more than to have a playable piano at day’s end that their cherished, but more-often-than-not long neglected instrument is no longer tunable in its current state, and will require at least some minor repair work to get it back into playable form, most often thanks to loose tuning pins that will no longer hold properly hold a tuning. That’s not to say we couldn’t pull the piano into reasonable tune at a lower pitch (after some tedious and lengthy prodding), but such a piano tuning would most certainly not hold for more than a couple weeks, if not days, and the customer would be out 100 of their hard earned dollars for minimum net benefit.

The cause of such issues lies mostly with the maintenance and care of the piano (or more specifically, the lack thereof). While regular wear and tear, as well as age no-doubt play large roles in the condition of a piano’s important structural and mechanical components, our wildly fluctuating northern weather conditions and extremes make it all the harder to keep a piano in optimum shape. Overly dry conditions (as well as exceedingly humid ones) can cause swelling and contracting of the instrument’s soundboard, inevitably leading to cracks not only in the soundboard, but also the pinblock, which in turn puts greater pressure and strain on the instrument as a whole. While there are a host of relatively quick and minor repairs that can be done repair these problems (which we’ll address in the future), the best possible thing one can do is to avoid them before they ever happen. The key here is to control the temperature and humidity levels in the vicinity of the piano in question. They should never be placed near fireplaces or other heat sources, and an inexpensive humidity gauge will let an owner know if their instrument is in need of further assistance by way of a built-in humidity system or nearby humidifier to keep the surrounding area at an ideal 45% humidity (anything below 40% or above 50% is asking for trouble). Looking after this key condition will go a long way towards ensuring that both the customer and the piano tuner have a more enjoyable, and music filled Canadian winter season.