At C.J.’s Pianos we know one of the most common questions piano technicians get is “why does my piano need to be tuned?” The short technical answer is piano tuning is a very precise adjustment to achieve the proper frequencies as prescribed by cultural aural aesthetics. This means each note is spaced evenly to divide the octave into 12 parts. Your technician can adjust each pitch down to the tens of thousandths in relation to another pitch.
The follow up question to this is “why does the piano need to be tuned regularly?” There are a few reasons for this, but the most influencial factor for tuning is humidity.
Your piano is comprised largely of wood which is a rather porous material and allows for the absorption and release of water. When humidity is high the soundboard expands due to this absorption – similar to an old wooden door which won’t operate properly when humid weather sets in. The difference between the door and the soundboard is that the soundboard has no where to expand along its plane and therefore must flex, typically increasing tension on the strings which proportionately raises the frequency of the notes. The inverse of this is also true, where lower humidity yields a flatter pitch.
If all the pitches adjusted evenly during humidity changes few would notice the discrepancies. But consider how a stiff line flexes, very little on the ends and very pronounced in the center. This is why the notes near the center are the most changed (usually). Coupled with this is that, during tuning, your technician does everything possible to stabilize the pitch by ensuring the parts of the string not sounding have a balanced tension to the speaking length of string. Humidity change does not provide for this.
Climate Control can mitigate humidity change, but that’s another blog entry at a later time.
Some important questions to ask when hiring a technician-
Is tuning a standard flat rate? Or does pitch correction incur a higher fee?
Pitch correction is necessary when a piano has gone substantially out of tune, some technicians charge $40 or more for this part of the tuning.
Are minor regulating services included? Such as hammer alignment and similar minute repairs?
Is the technician able to make other onsite repairs if necessary?
If there are major issues with the instrument, how are they handled? Personally? Outsourced/subcontracted? Ignored?
C.J.’s Pianos currently offers a flat rate for tuning (including pitch correction) and minor regulation and repair for $110. I don’t like surprising clients with an inflated bill when I’m finished, it makes people feel cheated.
C.J.’s Pianos is a full service piano operation, from tuning to complete restorations.