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Check out pianoadoption.com if you are interested in donating or receiving a piano:)
The following books is a great resource for purchasing (or adopting) a piano; and what problems to look for before accepting it as your own:
Naturally, I prefer my students play on a well-tuned piano.
Most manufacturers recommend a piano should be tuned at least twice a year due to seasonal change (4 times in first year of ownership).
Seasonal changes & humidity: the dry winter weather causes the pitch to fall flat and the humid summer sends the pitch sharp. Having your piano finely tuned at regular intervals will help keep your piano at pitch and add to the quality of your playing and listening.
The more frequently a piano is used, the more often it will need tuning. If you play a lot and want it in tip-top shape, you should get it tuned every three months. (Studios and live venues generally tune a piano before each performance.)
If you use your piano rarely, and it is in a relatively climate-controlled area, then it may stay in tune for nine months or more. In that case, you may need a yearly tuning.
If the piano strings are new, or the piano has been moved recently, it may go out of tune due to settling.
If your piano is quite out of tune, it might need a pitch raise. If you would like to know in advance if your piano needs a pitch raise, you can call and play several of your notes over the phone, I will be glad to measure the difference from the standard (A=440HZ, which is the universal pitch frequency standard & refers to the A above middle C). If the note is 15% or more off, it will need a pitch raise.
How does tuning work?
Every piano is unique. The shape, size, and materials used all affect the way a piano tunes against itself. The average piano has 88 notes/pitches produced by approximately 230 strings.
A small portion of the lower register has only 1 string per note, whereas the rest of the bass register has 2 strings, and the upper 2/3 of a piano has 3 strings per note. Every note with 2-3 strings must not only be kept in perfect unison but also equally-tempered to the other 87 notes to hear the brilliance of your instrument. If an upper or lower range is "out," the piano quickly becomes dull and doesn't truly sing.
Though I learned to tune exclusively by ear and did so for a few years, I now prefer to couple tuning by ear with the usage of a $300 professional tuner's app called TuneLab. It is extremely accurate and saves us both time and money. The app creates an appropriate parabolic curve for each piano.
Pianos are built with a general frequency in mind, usually A440. There are many ways to tune a piano. I used to use a tuning fork to set A440 beat-less, tune the octave below (A220) beat-less, then count beats between A4 and F3, then beats between F3 and D3, set octaves F4 and D4, set D3-D5 using 4ths and 5ths, testing with ascending 3rds. Once the center bearings were set, I tuned remaining lower octaves, then remaining upper octaves. It's tedious work; quite suitable for my patient and project-oriented brain.
A well-regulated instrument offers the pianist faster repetition, more power, and better control. Techniques for performing advanced piano repertoire are difficult to develop if the action has excessive friction or an inconsistent touch from note to note. When a piano is built, action parts are regulated to factory specifications.
After years of playing, the felts compress and the regulating screws and springs need to be adjusted again in order to restore the ideal touch or response of the action. It can be surprising what a difference a proper regulation can make in your expression and the general feel of your piano.
If you instrument displays a lack of sensitivity or a decreased dynamic ranges, it's a candidate for regulation. If you notice that the keys are not level...some higher/lower than the rest, the touch is uneven or that the keys are sticking, you probably need a regulation. However, sluggish action or deep grooves in the hammers indicate the need for reconditioning or repair.
cross-section of action in a grand piano
click for larger jpg
The above image is from the piano technician's bible:
Arthur A. Reblitz's "Piano servicing, tuning, and rebuilding (2nd edition)."
Voicing generally involves working with the hammer felt to alter the sound quality of each note. More thorough voicing work may include alignment of action parts, regulation, hammer filing, and string leveling. Evening out a section of notes often takes less than an hour. A complete voicing can take up to one or two days. If you feel the tone of your piano needs improvement, we can decide together the best course of action.
A piano has to be finely tuned and regulated before it can be voiced.
Does your piano have slow or sluggish keys or keys that do not function at all? Many issues with the piano action can be assessed and repaired with a regular tuning appointment.
From replacing missing strings to fixing broken parts, I can bring your piano back to playing condition.
Before purchasing a new or used piano, it is important to have a qualified piano technician perform a thorough inspection. The structural integrity of the piano and the condition of the action should be carefully examined. (Cracks in the soundboard, cracks in the bridge, keyboard action, string condition--some pianos are not even worth the cost to move them.)
Reasons to consider a grand before an upright include: 1. Faster hammer action in a grand considering gravity which aids in the resetting of each note played, and 2. potentially longer bass strings for more robust low end.
Let me help you determine if the piano you are considering is a worthwhile investment.
If you are interested in knowing what model type your piano is, here are some measuring guidelines according to Arthur A. Reblitz's "Piano servicing, tuning, and rebuilding (2nd edition)."