Archive for the 'Piano Care' Category

Your piano is a finely crafted musical instrument with thousands of individual parts. These combine to create a blend of acoustic and mechanical properties which require care and regular servicing, called for by all manufacturers.

Top quality woods of many species, as well as copper, steel, iron, brass, plastics, wool and cotton all go into its making. The steel wire used in the strings represents the highest development in this product and only a few mills in the world manufacture it. When tuned, these strings altogether produce a stress on the piano equal to more than 14 tons, enough power to lift a two car garage off of it’s foundation!

When choosing a location for your piano, consider the effects that humidity and temperature has on a fine instrument. Prevent exposure to extreme sunlight, direct heat or excessive dampness. Avoid south facing windows, fireplaces and heating vents. Your piano will perform best in a moderately ventilated environment, free of extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations. Chose a location where your piano will sound best. Hardwood floors will add resonance while carpeting will have the effect of dampening the sound. The back of an upright piano should be left at least three inches away from the wall to allow for air and sound circulation.

Controlling the environment
Changing humidity is the chief culprit of piano woes. Relative humidity levels of less than 30% can dry out wood and compromise glue joints. Excessive humidity will rust the metals and slow down the performing mechanism. A humidistat, a device that measures humidity can be purchased at most hardware stores. This will tell you if you should be concerned about your pianos’ environment. If you do have concerns, you can have Piano Tune Canada install a dedicated humidity control device in your piano called a Dampp-ChaserTM. This can literally add years of life to your piano and help preserve the tuning.

Fine Furniture
Your piano is also a beautiful piece of furniture, and so will need periodic care. Avoid using silicone based polishes or paste waxes. If your piano is a highly polished instrument with a polyester finish, a soft, slightly damp cloth is all that is needed to keep it gleaming. For satin finish instruments, merely wipe with a soft, slightly damp cloth, and then dry immediately with a dry cloth. Always dry with the grain. If your piano has a lacquer or shellac finish, periodically moisturize with a slightly damp cloth mixed with a small amount of lemon oil. Ask your technician if you are unsure about which type of finish your piano has. Piano Tune Canada carries a large selection Piano Cleaners and Polishes.

Keep the keys clean from dust with a feather duster or soft cloth. The keys can be cleaned with a mild solution of soap and water, however, make sure you wring the cloth out well and don’t let moisture between the keys. Rub gently and dry immediately with a soft dry cloth. Do not use alcohol, furniture polish and/or chemicals when cleaning the keys. Ivory can be delicate, so use care when cleaning.

Your piano should be mechanically re-adjusted every 4-6 years. This process is called regulation and involves the entire mechanical action and pedal movements. There are more than twenty adjustments on each note to compensate for wear and tear. A properly adjusted action will have increased power, touch and tone, and give the player a great deal of pleasure. Proper performance depends on how well the adjustments are set.

Professional Service
A qualified professional piano technician should perform tuning and service procedures. Unqualified service personnel can damage the instrument and its’ components. Your piano should be tuned a minimum of once a year. (Annual visits are required to keep some warranties in good standing.) With Malaysia’s huge humidity swings, many piano owners find it necessary to have their piano tuned twice a year or more.

Before the Tuner comes…
The technician will have to lift the lid, and remove certain case parts in order to service your piano, so please make sure that all personal items have been removed from on top.

Pianos and Humidity
A piano is made from natural materials – wood, felt, leather, and wool. All of these materials absorb moisture from the air. When the air gets more humid, the materials absorb more moisture. Then they give it up again when the air gets dryer.

The moisture content of the natural materials affects their dimensions. This is especially true of the piano’s soundboard. The soundboard is a thin sheet of wood, about 3/8 inch thick, and has a bowed or crowned shape. Blocks of wood called bridges are positioned against the soundboard and press firmly against the strings.

As the relative humidity of the air increases, the soundboard’s moisture content increases along with it — this swells the wood. The soundboard’s crown increases with the swelling and intensifies the pressure against the strings. This raises the pitch of the piano. The opposite happens when the relative humidity decreases.

High humidity also causes the wooden parts of the piano’s action to swell. This can lead to sticking keys and a sluggish, unresponsive action. As the felts on the hammers swell from the humidity, the sound of the piano can become soft and muffled.

Humidity Can Damage a Piano
The repeated changes in the dimensions of the wood as the relative humidity rises and falls can eventually damage the piano. The sound board can crack and glue joints can separate. As the pin block repeatedly swells and contracts, the tuning pins that hold the strings can eventually loosen and the piano will no longer hold tune.

The Heater and or Dampp Chaser piano life saver is a great device that provides tuning stability and protection to an upright or a grand piano soundboard.

Humidity Control
Limiting the swings in humidity in the room’s air will limit the changes to the piano.

However, because of its heater and or Dampp Chaser, its size it is truly limited in protecting the whole piano effectively if the piano is exposed to adverse conditions. In other words, if the inside of your house undergoes huge and rapid humidity and temperature swings from time to time, the Heater and or Dampp Chaser will not take care of this completely.

In our many years of experience dealing with wood-based products in this type of hot and humid climate, like pianos, it’s very important to also treat the whole room. High humidity promotes the growth of mold and dust mites. It can cause rot and damage any wood-based products and the structural integrity of your home.

Keep your room as stable as possible within the relative humidity around 42-65% and stay within 10% range and your piano will be fine.

For more precise regulation of the humidity in the vicinity of the piano’s sensitive sound board, we need to control the humidity inside the piano itself. If you keep your piano with a Heater and or Dampp Chaser in an environment that has relative humidity of below 30% and above 80%, don’t rely too much on the Heater and or Dampp Chaser as a miracle device. This is because your upright or grand does not only consist of the soundboard.

Many piano dealers, piano technicians or piano owners have suggested that Heater and or Dampp Chaser can protect the area surrounding the piano. However, considering the fact that this is a low-wattage system, this sounds impossible. After all, how would a 15 or 20 or 25 watt rod be able to dehumidify a space much larger than the soundboard? And, how would it be possible to reduce the extreme relative humidity around the piano with just a low powered heating rod? It just won’t work. To dehumidify a space with extremely high humidity, you need a high-capacity device that can handle large moisture loads. On the other hand, if the earlier claims were true, the whole-house AC units would only consume a few hundred watts (W) instead of a few kilowatts (kW).

Therefore, you can go with the Heater and or Dampp Chaser, but also make sure that you avoid extremes in your house by using the AC unit and or a dehumidifier coupled with a humidifier when necessary. Get a hygrometer to accurately displays the relative humidity.

Different dehumidifiers come with various features. Make sure you check with the local dehumidifier shops for recommendation. With the right device and measurement, it will help make your indoor environment as healthy and comfortable not only the piano but also to you and your family.


Climate – Humidity & Temperature
Weather patterns vary widely around the world, from high humidity cities to the dry cities. The fact remains, that, even within relatively small geographic areas have different “micro-climates”. Therefore, it is impossible for any piano manufacturer to “season for destination” and to ascertain the moisture content of the wood for the market for which is “destined” or “sold” or “export”.

Piano is largely made of wood which is greatly affected by humidity. Excessive humidity and extreme temperature are the enemies of the piano. The ideal relative humidity (RH) level for a piano is between 42-65% and should stay within a 10% range. Too dry or too wet will affect the wooden parts of the piano to shrink or swell, respectively. As a result the piano will not function properly and leads to major problems such as casework crack, veneer peeling, sticky keys, rusty strings, loose tuning pins, loose glue-joints, hammer-felt coming unglue, split soundboard, ribs coming apart, crack bridges, mold and so on.

The climate in Malaysia (and Singapore) is very humid where the “average” humidity level is above 70% and is very bad for your piano. For anyone who is serious about maintaining their piano in optimum condition they should look into climate control system. A Central Air Conditioning will helps to control the humidity level and protect your piano. If you do not have a Central Air Conditioning, a Dehumidifier may be used. A Dehumidifier should be placed in the room with the piano, but not directly beside the piano. In some cases it is true that we cannot control humidity but there are some things we can do to alleviate the conditions such as placing your piano where it won’t be exposed to sources of humidity like near a swimming pool, kitchen, windows, bathrooms and so on.

Temperature alone does not generally affect the stability of pianos but it decidedly affects fluctuations in humidity. It is recommended that a moderate temperature be maintained in the house throughout the year.

There are well over 220 strings in your piano, which are stretched at high tension across the frame of your piano so they sound in harmony with each other. The standard pitch of a piano is at A-440 Hz (the note A above middle C vibrates at 440 cycles per second).

Every piano has the tendency to go out of tune in time whether it is old or new or if it is played or not. Factors such as atmospheric variations particularly humidity, stretching of the strings, slipping tuning pins and hard and consistent playing will alter the tension and make the piano goes out of tune. Furthermore, not having your piano tuned regularly will slip flat in pitch and steadily deteriorate in condition. The increasing inequality of string tensions will have physical consequences that could lead to more permanent and costly damage.

To ensure the best sound quality and proper playing condition, it is recommended to have your piano tuned to standard pitch (440Hz) twice a year. In case of irregular usage, it is advisable to tune the piano at least once a year.

On pianos that have been neglected and have gone without tuning for many years, pitch raising (few tunings) is something that needs to be done before the piano stabilizes sufficiently to allow for fine tuning. The extra tunings involve in pitch raising add to the cost of tuning service.

It is important to tune the piano regularly, however, it is also important to note that your piano also requires a periodic servicing called Action Regulation to keep the keys working properly.

Action Regulation
If your piano displays a lack of sensitivity or decreased in dynamic ranges, the keys are not level, the touch uneven, the keys are sticking, buzzes, clicks, squeaks, pedals not working properly and so on, it is an indication that your piano needs regulation.

The action of a piano is an amazing and complex and sensitive machine. It has over ten thousand parts and needs to be kept in adjustment so it works correctly. To compensate for wear, compacting of the felts, cloths & leathers and changes in wooden parts due to humidity, periodic adjustments must be made. Keeping the correct relationship between every part will prevent unnecessary wear and will make each key function smoothly and evenly. It is recommended to have your piano regulated every 2 to 3 years.

On the other hand, sticky keys are a typical minor problem with any new piano. The tolerances are tight to allow for wear and small adjustments often need to be made after the piano adjusts to its new environment. These happens to many new pianos from the least expensive to the most expensive.

However, a sluggish action or deep grooves in the hammers indicate the need for overhauling or repair.

Piano Voicing
Every piano have its own distinct sound. Some pianos are mellow and others are bright due to the density of the hammer felt. Harder hammers will give you loud sound and softer hammers will produce a mellow sound. The more you play the brighter it becomes. This is because the hammer felt compacts and wears down. When a piano is too bright or harsh, it becomes difficult to produce an even range of expression. Carefully shaping the hammers and needling will bring back the beautiful tone.

Cabinet & Finish
Piano finishes are famous for their quality and are equal to or better than those of fine furniture today. Avoid placing the piano where it will be exposed to direct sunlight. Always keep your piano clean and keep the keyboard covered when not in use to prevent dust. To remove fingerprints on the piano finish, always dust the piano first before wiping the case with a damp cotton cloth. A micro fibre cloth is useful for cleaning dust off high-gloss finish pianos. Never rub hard and always move the cloth in the direction of the wood grain.

Avoid the use of chemicals or solvents. While some are acceptable, others contain chemicals which can be absorbed into the wood. Even a small amount of mist from sprays can have a bad effect on the inside of a piano.

Key Tops
To clean the keys, use a damp cloth and drying them immediately. Don’t get water between the keys or they may stick. Never use any solvents stronger than alcohol on keys. Yellowing in ivory keys can sometimes be reduced though sanding or scraping. The key coverings can be replaced if so desired.

The Interior
Dust buildup in the piano may cause the mechanisms to stick or work more slowly. If you wish to clean or vacuum the inside of your piano or remove a small object that has fallen into the piano always ask your piano technician. While this may appear to be a simple task, care must be taken not to misaligned or damage the many small parts inside the instrument.

Without a proper & regular maintenance, even the best upright or grand piano is only a substandard instrument.

Does soundboard damage overtime and why is it so?
The soundboard is the single largest piece of wood and the most important part in a piano. A proper constructed soundboard has a crown or a slight dome shaped curvature to the top of the board to help it resist the down pressure of the strings on the bridges and to transmit sound better. The soundboard is made from either compression or rib-crowning method. Over the years, piano soundboard can lost their crown or their curvature caused by fluctuation of humidity in the surrounding air. As a result, the wood of the soundboard panel expands and contracts and eventually becomes damaged.

How do I know if the soundboard is damage?
You will see this damage in form of cracks on the soundboard. However, in some cases the soundboard shows no visible sign of damage. If that is the case, only a careful evaluation of the sound of the piano can determine the damage; for instance losses power, lack of dynamic range and weak sustain qualities. These are very important because they are the foundation of the piano personality in producing a good musical tone.

Can damaged and cracked soundboards be repaired?
The repairing of cracks on the soundboard is merely a cosmetic work and does little if anything to restoring the soundboard performance. Once the wood cells have undergone permanent crushing (compression set), as a result of stress cause by repeated swings in humidity, the soundboard is damaged and should be replaced.

How much does it cost to replace a new soundboard?
To replace a soundboard can be very expensive. Other than the high repair bill, it is largely depends on the skill and the experience of the person doing the work and the working facilities. A skill person will be able to make the soundboard to sound better and last longer than before.

I’ve been told that the wood used on earlier pianos is no longer available today.

This is completely false. The wood being used today is no different that in the past. Of course, there are some manufacturers have switched to using less-expensive wood in order to stay competitive as top quality wood is getting more scarce and expensive all the time. The fact remains that top piano manufacturers in Europe continue to seek and use the same type of wood as in the past. Also, with new technology being introduced today, a great deal more is known about how to make the soundboard sound better and last longer than before. And, modern glues used in piano making today last much longer than the animal glues used in the past.

When should a piano soundboard not be replace?
You should ask yourself about the value of a new piano of a brand similar in quality. The value of a used piano will never be, in cost, of a comparable new one. And if you decide to sell later, the ability of recoup the expenses spent on the repairing or replacement will be limited. In our opinion, if not for sentimental or historical reasons, older pianos should not be rebuilt. It will be better off to trade-in for a new good quality piano where it can produces powerful tone, wider dynamic ranges and good sustain qualities.

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