Know Your Piano
All pianos must be tuned regularly. The variance of humidity & temperature levels affects your piano's soundboard daily, actually HOURLY. Did you know that the optimum number of tunings recommended for the Chicago Area is three times per year?
The old adages of waiting until the heat goes on or off, or "no one is playing it now" are false. Playing your piano a lot or a little, gently or rocking out, does nothing to affect the tuning.
Tuning and maintaining your piano on a regular basis, whether it is once, twice, or three times a year, is crucial to keeping your piano in prime condition. Additionally, when your piano is tuned regularly minor adjustments and repairs can be taken care of BEFORE they become major problems that will be costly to fix!
Pianos are an ivestment that can actually increase in value over time. It is important to care for and maintain them properly, not only for your enjoyment while playing, but also to protect your investment.
Regulation is the adjustment of the mechanical aspects of pianos to compensate for the effects of wear, compacting, and settling that affects the cloth, felt, and buckskin. Regulation can also help with the dimensional changes in wood and wool parts due to changes in humidity.
The three systems involved in the regulation process are: the action, trap work, and damper system.
The action is the mechanical part of the piano that transfers the motion of the pianist’s fingers pressing on the piano keys to the internal hammers that strike the strings. It is comprised of over 9,000 parts, which require adjustment to critical tolerances to be able to respond to a pianist's every command.
The trap work is the assemblage of: levers, dowels, and springs that connects the pedals to the action, which affects the sustain and dynamics.
The damper system is the mechanical part of the piano that stops the vibration of the string when you release the key, and it is controlled by the key and pedal systems.
Voicing is the adjustment of a piano's tone or quality of sound. Tone can be changed without affecting the pitch. For example, turning the bass or treble knobs on your stereo changes the tone but does not alter the notes the musician recorded. A skilled piano technician can voice a piano to change its tonal personality from mellow to bright, or robust to delicate. The degree of change possible depends upon the piano's design and condition.
One of your piano's most important assets is its tone. Properly voiced your piano can offer you a rich palette of musical expression. It can also inspire good practice habits in every member of your family. However, piano owners are not always aware that tone can be customized to their own tastes and acoustics of the room, and also to correct for the piano’s deterioration and age. If the only service your piano has received is tuning, the sound can likely be improved by voicing.
Swelling and shrinking of the piano's soundboard is the most immediate, and noticeable, effect of humidity change.
The soundboard, a sheet of wood approximately 3/8 of an inch thick, is made with a slightly crowned shape. The strings pass over the soundboard, and are connected to it by a wooden piece called a bridge. The upward crown of the soundboard presses the bridge tightly against the strings.
As the moisture level in the soundboard increases, during periods of high relative humidity, the crown expands and pushes the bridge harder against the strings. The strings are stretched tighter and the piano's pitch rises. Because this increase of the crown is greater in the center of the soundboard than at the edges, the pitch raises more in the middle octaves than in the bass or treble registers.
During periods of low relative humidity the soundboard shrinks, reducing the crown and decreasing pressure against the strings. The pitch drops, with the greatest effect noticeable in the center of the keyboard. When relative humidity returns to its previous level, the average pitch of all the strings will return to normal, although the exact pitch of individual strings will be slightly changed from their original settings. Thus, a piano will only stay in tune as long as the relative humidity level in the air surrounding the soundboard remains constant. Extreme humidity changes require making greater changes in string tension to bring the piano into tune.