Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know when my piano is out of tune?
When you play unisons (single notes) the tone should be focused, smooth and pure. If the tone is “wavy” or “noisy” instead of smooth and focused, the piano needs tuning. When you play octaves chromatically up the scale, they should sound like they agree, and should again be focused, smooth and pure. If they sound at odds with each other and not focused and smooth, the piano needs tuning. Also, a properly tuned piano means that the A above middle C vibrates at exactly 440 cycles per second, hence the term A440.
How often should a piano be tuned?
Ideally pianos should be tuned twice a year. Most customers however, find that it is sufficient to tune once per year. Most pianos will stay reasonably well in tune with a once-per-year tuning. New pianos should be tuned two or three times the first year because new strings need to stretch and settle.
What causes a piano to go out of tune?
Seasonal changes cause humidity changes in the home and pianos are sensitive to this. Winter-time dry conditions makes the piano go flat. Summer-time humid conditions make the piano go sharp. By then, many pianos are out of tune. The more stable the humidity level in the home, the better the piano will stay in tune.
When is the best time to have my piano tuned?
A good plan to follow is to have the piano tuned the same month each year and try to keep the humidity level in the home as stable as possible.
What can I do to control the humidity in the home?
First have a hygrometer close to the piano so you know what the humidity levels are from month to month. Often it will be necessary to run a room humidifier in the winter time to raise the humidity level a bit, and a de-humidifier (or air conditioner) in the summer to lower the humidity level a bit. Acceptable humidity levels in the upper Midwest states are approximately 25% to 35% in the winter and 35% to 45% in the summer. Also, there is a climate control system called “Dampp-Chaser” which is effective if the environment is very dry for long periods of time. Bob Anderson is an authorized installer of the “Dampp-Chaser” system for grands and uprights.
What is a Registered Piano Technician (RPT)?
The Piano Technicians Guild has two types of members: Registered Piano Technicians and Associates. Associate membership is open to all individuals 18 years of age and older with an interest in piano technology. On the other hand, the title of “Registered Piano Technician” must be earned by passing a series of examinations.
To attain the RPT classification, a PTG member must pass three examinations. A written exam tests basic knowledge of piano design, tuning theory, repair techniques and various other topics relevant to piano technology. Two separate practical, hands-on exams test tuning and technical skills. The practical exams are administered by panels of RPTs under the leadership of examiners trained and certified in standardized exam procedures. On the tuning exam the candidate must match as closely as possible a “master tuning” created by a panel of examiners who have agreed – after painstaking experimentation and analysis – on an optimal tuning for the test piano. The exam is scored by using extremely sensitive electronic equipment to measure the deviation of the candidate’s tuning from the standard thus established. Candidates who use electronic tuning devices in their work must nevertheless demonstrate their ability to tune by ear, unaided by electronics. The technical exam requires the candidate to demonstrate professional – level skills in assembling a grand and a vertical piano action (the mechanical component of the piano) and in making all the complicated adjustments (called “regulation”) so that they function properly. The candidate must also demonstrate facility in various common repairs involving wood, cloth, felt, piano wire and other materials commonly used in pianos. All the procedures on these exams must be completed in prescribed time periods – thus demonstrating the fluency required of a professional. The written test takes about 1 hour. The tuning and technical tests take about 4 hours each.
Only Registered Piano Technicians are authorized by the Piano Technicians Guild to display the logo containing the words “Registered Piano Technician”.