How Often Should I Have My Used Piano Tuned? An Owner’s Maintenance Checklist

Proper piano maintenance is essential to preserve your instrument and produce pristine sounds for years to come. A forgotten or neglected piano can quickly become out of tune and damaged. Making tuning and simple maintenance part of your regular routine will extend the life of your prized possession. In this post, we cover how frequently used pianos need professionally tuned. We also provide an at-home owner’s maintenance checklist to optimize performance between tunings. Following these tips will ensure your piano sings at its very best. Buying a used piano from a reputable provider like music shop Sacramento ensures you get an instrument that will be easier to maintain and keep in good condition.

How often should you tune a used piano?

Used pianos should be professionally tuned at minimum twice per year for best performance – once in late summer or early fall before the heating season begins, and again in late spring before air conditioning is turned on. Many piano technicians recommend tuning three times a year for high-use pianos.

Several factors can cause the pitch of a piano’s strings to fluctuate, necessitating tuning. Temperature and humidity changes cause the metal strings to expand and contract, altering their tension and pitch. The amount of playing also affects string tension over time. Older neglected pianos that are first brought back into use may need tuning every 4 to 6 weeks initially as the strings “settle in” after years of being untuned.  After an older piano has received a few thorough tunings to work out the stiffness, twice-yearly tunings should be sufficient to keep it performing at its best. Staying on top of regular tuning is especially important for older pianos to keep individual notes from getting sharply out of tune with one another.

Why tuning is important

Regular tuning is crucial to achieve the fullest, richest sound and resonance from your piano. When strings are perfectly tuned to their intended pitch, the harmonics between individual notes align, allowing chords to ring out with maximal fullness and clarity. In addition, all keys will respond evenly and smoothly when the pitch is accurate. An untuned piano cannot play to its full potential, and the uneven tension on strings from notes that are significantly sharp or flat can actually cause further damage over time. Frequent professional tunings ensure your piano’s mechanical parts continue to operate efficiently so your instrument will provide years of beautiful music.

Basic maintenance checklist between tunings

Dusting and cleaning the exterior weekly

Remove dust from the case and keys using a soft cloth. Vacuum under the keys to dislodge trapped dust and debris. Wipe the wooden surfaces with a damp microfiber cloth and dry immediately. Additionally, avoid excessive moisture and harsh or abrasive cleaners.

Regulating the humidity

Keep the relative humidity in the piano’s environment between 45% and 55% to prevent problems like warped soundboards, cracked wood, and sticking keys. Use a humidifier during dry winter months if needed. A dehumidifier may be necessary during humid summer seasons.

Checking the action and hammers every 6 months

Move the keys up and down to ensure the hammers move freely and squarely strike the strings. Look for any parts that appear loose or out of alignment. Minor misalignments can be adjusted yourself using piano action rails, but larger issues are best left to a piano technician.

Inspecting the dampers every year

The dampers stop the strings from vibrating after releasing the keys. Inspect for any worn felt, cracks, or tears that could affect how quickly the strings are muted. Replace any damaged dampers.

Checking the pedals annually

Move each pedal through its full range of motion to ensure they move freely and attach firmly. Apply a small amount of lubricant to pivot points if any pedals are stiff. Examine pedal rods and attachments for signs of wear. Cracked or broken pedal parts need replaced immediately.

Hope this maintenance checklist between tunings helps keep your beloved piano performing at its best! Regular dusting, humidity control, and inspection of key components are relatively simple tasks to perform yourself, while any needed repairs or replacements are best left to a professional technician.

When to call a professional

You should call a professional piano technician for any maintenance issues beyond basic cleaning, dusting, and inspection. A trained technician has the expertise, specialized tools, and parts needed to properly diagnose and repair almost any problem that may arise.

Issues that indicate you need a professional include:

  • Sticking or unresponsive keys. A technician can lubricate, adjust or replace parts in the action assembly beneath the keys.
  • Worn or damaged hammers that no longer strike strings evenly. A technician can reshape, balance or replace felted hammers.
  • Individual strings that are out of tune or broken. Only a technician can properly re-tension or splice piano strings.
  • Problems with dampers, action rails, or other moving parts that cannot be adjusted yourself. Many components deep inside the piano require a technician’s know-how to repair effectively.
  • Cracks in the soundboard, frame, or other structural wood components. These often indicate the need for gluing or reinforcing to prevent further damage.

Regular piano tuning twice per year and basic cleaning in between is something you can manage yourself to keep your piano performing well. But for any other problems or signs of wear, call a professional piano technician right away to prevent the damage from getting worse. Their expertise and special tools will bring your piano back to its best working condition.

Following the routine tuning and simple maintenance recommendations covered here will ensure your used piano continues to provide years of beautiful music. Regular tuning by a professional technician, coupled with basic care like dusting, humidity control, and inspection of moving parts according to the checklist, will keep your instrument in good working order between tuning sessions. But for any issue beyond those simple tasks, call an expert piano technician for repairs. With proper care, your treasured piano can serenade you for decades to come.