We invite you to read this guide that will help you get to know your piano better. You will discover how to keep your piano in good condition.
About 70% of the instrument consists of wood, as well as metals and felts. It consists of about 10,000 pieces and weighs between 200 and 700 kg. It has 88 notes, of about 220 strings, mechanics (easels, hammers, dampers, etc.), keyboard, pedals, harmonic set (harmonic board, easel and strings), and a cast iron frame, etc. This explains in part the difficulty in carrying a piano. On the other hand, a piano does not improve with time. It is always painful to see it deteriorate, whether through negligence or lack of knowledge about its necessary and indispensable maintenance.
Then, preserving the technical qualities of your piano (your investment) consists of keeping it in a place where the temperature and humidity (humidity of the air) are stable and then carry out an annual maintenance, which tends to degrade In three essential points:
A) Tuning: consists of placing the approximately 220 strings at the proper tension so that each note is at the correct frequency.
B) Mechanical adjustments: they are intermediate between the pianist and the piano through the touch. They consist of the good placement of all the pieces in space. The way it plays and the quality with which it does, the sound it produces when playing and the interpretation of nuances depends directly on the quality of these mechanical adjustments.
C) Harmonization: it is through it that the tone and color of the sound of your piano is defined.
A normal maintenance of a piano comprises the tuning and the current maintenance, such as:
- Matching Recovery
- Recovery of mechanical regulation, or slight adjustments
- Replacement of split ropes
- Elimination of parasitic noises (bank, mechanics, keys, lyre, etc.)
One question is asked more often: why is my piano out of tune?
In general, all stringed instruments have a very limited tuning maintenance in time (guitars, harps, violins, etc.). They should be honed every time we use them or at least every 10 days. Fortunately, in the case of the piano, this phenomenon is slower. However, the pianist’s challenge continues to be to ensure the proper functioning of his instrument.
A piano has about 220 strings that must be maintained at the correct tension. Each string assures an average tension of about 75 kg on the frame (or harp) (can reach up to about 120 kg on the bass strings of concert pianos), a total of about 16 to 20 tonnes depending on the size of the piano . The strings, made of steel and copper, also exert a pressure of about 350 kg on the easel and the harmonic board in pumped wood, which is the heart of the piano and acts as an acoustic amplifier.
The strings of musical instruments are under pressure and this energy naturally tends to decrease and contribute to a deterioration of sound quality in a progressive way. The piano loses a little of its tuning each day and our ear gets used to it. To keep the piano in the right tuning fork, it must be tuned at the correct frequency at 440 Hertz (440 string vibrations every second). Orchestras use La 442 Hz more often. Before each tuning your piano tuner will check with you the exact frequency of La (key 49) on your piano with the help of a tuning fork and calibrated mediation software. This frequency is just a reference, which is called tuning fork. Of course, when the piano is out of tune,
A piano can only give the best of its sonority if the central La (below the piano mark) remains at a minimum of 440 Hz. And that tuning fork is respected in all octaves. The La 440 was set by an international convention and remains a reference for ear formation. It is of all interest that the learning of the ear develops in a piano tuned in the correct tuning fork. Otherwise, the risk of poor ear formation is great. The tuning consists, through a very particular and very particular process, of stretching the 220 strings so that each note is at the correct frequency.
In addition to tuning, the tuner seeks to build a sound projection that expands and develops with a bright or sweet tone when playing a note, not a faint or cold sound that fades too fast. Incidentally, a qualified tuner and master of his art will in some way seek to model or manufacture the most beautiful sound possible for each instrument when tuning. The limit what a piano technician can do depends on the quality of the piano. And tuning is only a small part of the job. If the piano is not well-regulated, has severe wear, or structural problems, it will be difficult to ensure proper tuning and sound.
There are no rules specific to the frequency of piano tuning. However, all manufacturers recommend and recommend at least a half-yearly tuning (even if the piano is not used. Concert pianos are tuned to each show (eg 3 concerts per day = 3 tunings per day ) And in recording studios, a number of tunings are made per week (the tuning is sometimes corrected by a recording session). In large conservatories such as Paris CNSM, pianos are often used (sometimes around 16 hours a day ) And they should follow a daily maintenance plan.These are tuned every day.In the case of new pianos, it is advised to set a quarter for the first three years (until the materials stabilize). Performance.
And on the periodicity of the tuning, taking into account the influence of variables such as temperature and hygrometry, we would say:
An unused piano: provide a tuning every 1 or 2 years for tuning fork.
- A piano used 1/2 hour per day: to provide a tuning per semester
- A piano used 1 hour per day: predict one tuning every semester, ideally three tunings per year
- A piano used between 1 and 4 hours a day: predict a tuning every quarter
- A piano used in concerts should be fine tuned to each performance (eg 3 concerts per day = 3 tunings).
As a complement to the information, you can consult the 2010 Piano Buying Guide available on the Yamaha Europe website (briefly translated). This guide has been conducted by Yamaha and will give you more information on this subject. You can download directly from the Yamaha France website.
The tuning of a piano is a task that requires great concentration, calm and experience. During this work from about an hour and a half to two hours, it is necessary, if possible, to make noises (radios, televisions, grinders, drills, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, noises with papers or newspapers, etc.). The end result also depends on the circumstances in which the tuner does its job.
A piano in which the tuning fork is less than 440 Hz, or that has not been tuned for several years, will require one or more pre-tunings before final tuning. Placing the strings at the correct tension, the pre-tuning is therefore a pre-tuning task, and allows you to quickly reposition the 220 piano strings at the right tension so that the piano tuning fork is at 440 Hz. This operation, faster than one (It is advisable to wait at least 2 to 3 weeks between the pre-tuning and the final tuning). Without this pre-tuning work, a tuning will have little chance of staying in time and setting itself for reasons inherent in the piano’s own physical properties.
Listen and compare the following two examples (before and after tuning). It is preferable to listen using headphones, since the quality of computer speakers is not always the best.
Piano that was not tuned a few years ago
The tuning fork is at 420 Hz
Piano after pre-tuning work
The tuning fork was raised to 440 Hz.
The tonality has changed and the piano has been tuned
Once stabilized and according to the use you make, your piano will need to be tuned every six months or annually to keep the correct tuning fork and preserve tuning and musicality. The pianos are manufactured and calibrated to function optimally (at their best) at the frequency of La 440 Hz. Out of this frequency, the loudness is affected.
If your piano has not been tuned for several years, you may need several pre-tunings before final and effective tuning, check the tuning status one semester after the intervention, and then continue with an annual (minimum) tuning cycle. Maintenance and setting of the tuning will improve considerably and the tuning will last longer.
In older pianos (more than 30 years), and more particularly with wooden harps, semi-metallic frames and / or with the old bayonet damper system, the setting and duration of the pitch is by definition smaller. If the piano, despite normal maintenance, degrades more quickly, it is necessary to perceive the causes, controlling the state of the pieces of the mechanics as well as the strings and pegs and the tuning of the tunings, simply the age of the piano. However, in the case of a piano of good quality, a restoration may be possible.
A piano whose pitch is too low, around 1 pitch (392 Hz), 1/2 pitch (415 Hz), or 1/4 pitch (427 Hz), relative to the 440 Hz pitch:
- Higher risk of breaking strings when pre-tuning. To raise a piano one tone, is equivalent to increasing the tension of the strings in the whole structure of the piano by about one ton. The strings change easily but need time to stabilize (2 to 4 stress relays)
- Risk of malforming the ear of a beginner and in particular of a child. To form the ear in a bad tone is a handicap in the formation of the pianist, either when playing, or in the practice of solfejo, or accompaniment of other musical instruments.
It often happens to all piano technicians and tuners to be confronted with the phenomenon of tune-up strings or faux-beat strings. That is, a single string emits a sound identical to that produced by a unison tuned or just. It can be verified whether, by touching this single string with a pick, this string emits the beating sound. The result is that, after tuning a piano, there are notes that are not perfectly fair or tuned.
Here are some explanations about this phenomenon:
With the time and the degree of use of the piano, the felt or wool of the heads of the hammers of his piano begin to be marked by the strings, the felt felds in the zone where it beats each rope. It is a normal consequence of the use of all pianos. The more the heads of the hammers are marked, the more they become hardened and the more the sound becomes metallic and aggressive. The tuning deteriorates more quickly in this area as well. The hammers, harder and harder, to hit the ropes, deteriorate and the metal of these tires and is used more quickly. This results in strings that no longer sound perfectly pure but have a sonority with a more or less rapid ripple.
In the jargon of piano technicians, we call them tune strings or strings with false beat. It is a recurring phenomenon in all pianos. Most often, it is relatively easy to find a zone of tune strings because it often corresponds to the area where the right hand is placed while playing. That is, a much sought after area. However, it is not just the strings that may be the source of these beats. The sillet, the contre-sillet, the staples and the easel, are also the object of mechanical demands, which, with time and use, may be the source of these beats.
The direct consequence is the impossibility of achieving a perfect unison, or the feeling of an imperfect tuning in this zone of the piano.
In this case, a tuner can do nothing. He will try to leave these notes as well as possible, trying to disguise or mask these notes.
In important conservatories such as the CNSM in Paris, technicians ensure regular and indispensable piano maintenance by replacing strings according to rules defined at the outset (piano age, type of use, number of hours of use, environmental constraints Humidity), piano range, etc.). In addition other parts such as the sillet, and contre-sillet, staples and trestles are also revised and replaced as required. In short, a rope replacement is desirable every 10, 15 to 20 years of use (depending on the type of use).
Even if you have your piano tuned twice in a row, even with 20 tuners and different piano technicians, the problems with the beating strings will persist and your dissatisfaction with your instrument will increase. It is therefore necessary to keep in mind the causes of the problem and not the consequences.
The solution is relatively simple: replacement of ropes, control of the condition of sillets and trestles, recovery of the surface of the hammer heads, or even replacement of the hammer head felts with mechanical adjustment and tuning.
This requires the intervention of a qualified and specialized technician. In this way, you will find qualities close to the originals, and give you a new life. This diagnosis is identical for all pianos and the only flat is the cost of this type of intervention, since it is a completely handmade task.
Only regular maintenance of the piano (hammerhead surface recovery, harmonization and regular tuning) prevents premature aging of this instrument, which, as we have seen, is not in accordance with the generalized but uninformed idea that A piano improves with time (as in the case of violins, for example).
A piano tuning technician can not be held responsible for the wear levels on the pianos, which prevent them from performing quality tuning. The tuning of a piano depends on the quality of its construction, the quality of maintenance, the type of use to which it is subject.
The regulation of mechanics is as important as tuning.
The piano is an instrument of strings hammered by hammers, in which the heads are made of wood and felt. The 88 notes work with the help of 88 mechanical parts that has about 35 adjustment points (3588 = 3,080 total adjustments). Each setting has an influence on touch and sound.
The 88 keys and mechanical parts should work in precisely the same way, to allow the pianist to keep a regular touch and be in a position to interpret well the connection of notes (legato) and nuances of pianissimo to the very strong. Whatever age you begin to learn piano, you will create your own sound. In this way, a note played by two different people will create different results, different sounds. Moreover this is one of the main interests of interpretation and music.
A good mechanical regulation will allow to control the fast repetitions of the notes well, or to separate the sonority of a note in relation to the others when performing chords. Poor regulation of mechanics can even lead to physical pain due to over-exertion and repetition of movement. It is common to find pianists with tendinitis, hand pains, elbows, shoulders and back. From here, the importance of good mechanical regulation is removed for a comfortable and regular touch.
It is advised to regulate and clean the mechanics of a piano every 5 years according to use. The mechanics of a poorly regulated piano will be used more quickly and therefore the ideal is to have regular control of the state of mechanics at the time of each tuning. Even for a new piano out of the factory, it will still require a working day in the store for preparation regulations, before the store will deliver it in perfect touch conditions (preparation, mechanical adjustment, tuning and harmonization). Remember also that the right to the manufacturer’s warranty depends, among other things, on an annual maintenance of your piano. At Piano Dream – Piano Workshop, we advise you on the best maintenance and correct conditions to satisfy the warranty conditions. Exemplifying, on the day your piano has a problem, The mark send a technician who will evaluate if the piano has been tuned and regulated regularly and if this work was done by a professional. As in the case of a car, if maintenance is not performed by a professional, you will lose the warranty.
The harmonization serves to give the piano a balanced and regular tone on all scales, which will allow it to sound evenly, from bass to treble. In a first step, the harmonization in a piano allows to define the sound color and the timbre of the piano. It consists of working the hammers’ felts with their own tools. Also this work depends on the quality and condition of the parts. A hammerhead that is parched or damaged will hardly produce a timbre. In this case the hammer heads must be replaced.
Another work on harmonization is to check the impact of each hammer on the strings. This operation is done for each note. To remember each note has one to two strings in the bass and three strings in the middle and treble. The tuner will thus seek a homogeneity of sound in all notes to avoid that some sound very metallic while others sound very muffled. The piano should then be able to adapt to a vast musical repertoire and respond to various forms of playing.
You must also take into account the acoustics of the room where you are at the piano.
That is why the harmonization of your piano should be finalized in the room and in the precise place where it will be used.
It is difficult for a tuner to obtain a beautiful and stable pitch if the hammers are marked or with grooves in the strings. This will result in a difficulty in obtaining beautiful harmonies, regularity in the timbre between the notes and homogenizing the sound registers.
In this next photo, you can check the difference between the hammers on the left, whose surface was redone and others on the right, with marks of the ropes.
Even after a new adjustment, and regardless of the piano technician involved, if the hammers are not the target of such an intervention, not to mention the control of mechanics and keyboard settings is very likely to feel a certain frustration by the sound result Of your piano. It’s like paying for a overhaul of your car’s engine, and putting aside the brakes, shock absorbers, or used tires. The engine would work perfectly, but the overall behavior of the car would remain very bad.
Reflecting on the importance of maintaining a piano is simple to compare with a car.
In cars, maintenance is indispensable and directly proportional to the number of kilometers traveled and the way of driving of each driver. With this we now compare the number of hours of use of a piano and the touch and use that each pianist gives.
We could say that the tuning of the piano corresponds to the change of oil and the rest of the maintenance in the automobile corresponds to the mechanical regulation of the piano. You could join the state of the road, comparing to the humidity conditions and temperature variations.
A well-tuned, well-harmonized and mechanically well-adjusted piano will give you more pleasure and comfort and allow you to progress faster in the evolution of your technique.
Avoid placing your piano near a heat source, as far as possible, in the area of heat rays of the sun, near a door with access to the outside (door or window), or against a wall to the outside. The vertical pianos should be installed about 10 cm from the wall so that the air can circulate behind (for better hygrometry and better sound). Avoid leaving plants and containers with liquids less than one meter from your piano.
As far as shiny black polyester surfaces are concerned, there are very effective own products. For non-varnished finishes, effective microfibre cloths against dust and stains left by hands work well. In the case of small scratches on glossy black surfaces, a car polishing product and another polishing product are the best solutions to reduce risk or eliminate them completely. However, for your safety and your piano, it is advisable to ask your piano technician to do this work.
Regarding the keys, the surface can be cleaned using either your own products that you can ask your piano technician, using a suede slightly humidified with warm water, and adding a small amount of soap or liquid from the soft dishware. In the case of darkened or yellowed keys, I can offer you some solutions for bleaching or discoloration depending on the material used in the key cover.
Two important tips:
- Always wash your hands before using your piano.
- Do not use liquid detergents based on alcohol, thinners or solvents.