Piano Tuning and Care
As a piano owner, there are specific steps you can take in order to stabilize the humidity in or around your piano. Stabilizing humidity will greatly increase how long a tuning lasts and will avoid potential damage to your instrument caused by environmental extremes.
You have most likely observed that your piano goes out of tune over time. You may have also noticed that there is a dramatic change in the tuning when you begin heating your home in the winter and when you stop heating your home in the late spring. These shifts in the tuning are caused by the changes in humidity. It is a cold, hard fact: a piano will inevitably go out of tune when humidity changes. (See ‘why pianos go out of tune‘, for more information.) In addition to tuning, dramatic humidity changes can physically damage your piano and reduce its lifespan.
You’re likely all too familiar with the humidity instability in your home: it is dry in the winter and moist in the summer. Your piano should always be kept at a comfortable 45% relative humidity for optimal tuning stability. If you are not taking steps to stabilize the humidity in your home, it is likely that your humidity ranges from 20% or less in the winter to 70% or more in the summer, which is far too great a variance to preserve the tuning of your piano.
To stabilize humidity, we must to add moisture to the air in the winter and remove the moisture from the air during the summer. There are two approaches to improving the sability of humidity for your piano:
- Stabilize the humidity in your entire home, or at least in the room where your piano is kept.
- Stabilize the humidity inside your piano by installing a climate control system (designed specifically for pianos) directly into the piano itself.
Either of these approaches can be very effective, however there are some distinct advantages to the second approach.
If you pursue stabilizing humidity in your entire home or in your piano room, you will need to use either a furnace humidifier, which can be costly, or a room humidifier, which can be noisy. Additionally, maintaining 45% relative humidity in the coldest months could result in condensation on your windows and in cold outer walls. You must also monitor the humidity with a hygrometer and make regular adjustments to offset for changes in heating. In the summer, you will need to keep your home closed up and use air conditioning regularly, a significant expense, and is probably only modestly effective at keeping the air dry enough for your needs.
A climate control system installed directly into your piano will be noiseless, self-regulating, and has a stabilizing effect right where you need it: in your piano’s immediate micro-environment.
Some piano technicians stronly encourage all of their clients to have a climate control system installed in their piano and suggest that pianos will be damaged without them. While I see it a bit differently. I believe these systems should be installed only if either of these reasons apply to you:
- You want your piano’s tuning to be more stable and/or you want to extend the life of your piano for as long as possible.
- Your piano is in an extreme environment.
If neither of these apply to you, then there is not a compelling reason to install a climate control system in your piano.
If one, or both, of these reasons do apply to you, then I strongly encourage you to take the active steps to moderate humidity changes for your piano, and you may want to consider having a climate control system installed in your piano.
I am happy to discuss this more with you, and I am a certified installer for these systems. Read more about the climate control system that is the industry standard here.