Humidity – pianos are made of wood
Humidity control is the number one factor for keeping your piano healthy. The bridge (where the strings make contact with the soundboard), soundboard (the heart of the tone of the piano), the keys, the tuning system, is made of mostly wooden parts. To keep your piano healthy, keep it at a regular humidity amount. As if you are controlling the size of a piece of wood.
A hygrometer is useful to measure how much the humidity is fluctuating in your home environment. This is the one I use at my own home
Keep the humidity between 45-60%. The smaller the swings, the more likely the piano will stay in tune. Large amounts, or very large swings cause damage. High humidity causes rust, and wood to change shape.
You can purchase a humidifier and a de-humidifier from the internet, and some brick & mortar stores. Alternatively, a piano lifesaver system can be installed inside a piano if you’d like more control.
Also in line with this, keep glasses of water, vases, and water damage away from the piano. If possible keep it away from the outside wall of the house, especially in older houses with less insulation.
Steinway state on their The Making of a Steinway video, that their piano is 85% wood. Wood reacts to humidity, humidity is key.
Why do pianos need 6-12 monthly tuning?
In order for a piano to maintain its stability, we recommend having it tuned once a year. Large fluctuations in pitch are not ideal for the strings. It is a theory, I can’t be certain it is original. When the string touches the pressure points such as the pins on the bridge, it creates a notch in the string. And when it de-tunes the notch moves. The best thing is to keep the string close to the tension it should be at for the whole health.
Avoid overturning the pins
Moving pins too much is not healthy for the tuning system. The pins are basically screws that go into a laminated wooden block. If you screw and unscrew anything, with time this can loosen the thread. A piano tuned at large intervals will need pitch-raising on each tuning. When a tuner pitch-raises a piano, the tuning is much less likely to remain in tune for longer periods of time, the metal tension of the strings also fluctuates more.
Get the most out of your tuning
Here is a final tip. Tune your piano a few weeks (or months) into a seasonal humidity change. In Texas the summer is very humid and the winter can be dry. If you tune the piano 1-2 months into the summer, the wood would have saturated it’s intake of humidity and the bridge and pins will be less likely to move. Therefore your piano may remain more stable.
There are always freak high pressure or low pressure events that alter the humidity, but regular yearly tunings will make your piano more stable in the long run. And the tuners work more pleasant.
It is more than just tuning
After playing for multiple years, it is very likely time to have your piano regulated. Regulation is the process of setting up the action to factory (or industry standard) specifications.
When you do the pianisimo sections are more even, the repetition is quicker, and the overall balance of the keys, including their weight will be more accurate.
Pianos are known to go stiff when un-played for long periods of time. They are known to loosen with play. Lubrication, or part changes can return the action to a much better responsiveness, including weight of the keys which when well manufactured weigh between +/- 48-52g across octaves.
Hammers often are doped at the factory, and the liquid can go hard with the years that pass. In this case, pricking the hammers can softened the tone. The process is called voicing.
It also may be that the hammers have lost their top layer of surface, or grooves have marked themselves deeply into the hammer crown. This can affect the tone, and it is recommended that the hammers crown be made round again (refaced) before the action is regulated.
Restoration / changing parts
Parts wear as the playing hours increase (this is a good thing!). They can also be corroded by moth, made brittle with humidity, etc. When working on a piano sometimes parts need to be replaced for the regulation to proceed. Talk to us about regulation (832) firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cabinet & Keys
Wood fades with sunlight. We recommend keeping wooden pianos away from direct sunlight as it will whiten the cabinet
Keys may yellow if they do not receive any light. To keep the white don’t smoke in the room, and keep the keyboard open.