A piano is a prized possession in many households. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always get the care that it needs and deserves.
If you want to treat your piano right and ensure its longevity, then use these simple maintenance tips.
Tuning for Success
This may be the most critical step you can take to ensure that your piano serves your family over the long term. Thanks to seasonal changes in temperature and humidity, your piano probably needs to be tuned at least twice a year.
Most piano owners opt for tuning in the spring and fall, though some may be advocates for summer and winter tuning.
If your family just purchased a brand-new piano, then you may want to have it tuned even more frequently for the first year. Most experts recommend having a new piano tuned in all four seasons because the process helps to stretch the strings while also assisting the piano to settle. Having your piano tuned four times in the first year will set it up for holding its tune for twice a year tuning in subsequent years.
If you think that having your piano tuned twice a year seems excessive, consider what is done for pianos that are used to make studio recordings or those that are used in performances by professional musicians. Many of these instruments are tuned before each studio session, rehearsal or performance. In a busy studio, this may mean that a piano needs to be tuned numerous times each day.
When put in this perspective, twice a year tuning doesn’t seem excessive at all.
What kinds of issues can humidity cause? Here are some examples:
- Unstable tuning
- Rusting of the steel strings
- Tuning pins become loose
- Hardening of felts
- Swelling of action parts, including keys, that leads to sluggish notes and sticking keys
Because the wrong humidity levels can be so detrimental to pianos, it is critical that it be taken into consideration in all four seasons. Keep in mind that pianos do not like extremes. Both too much and too little humidity can cause damage to your piano. Accordingly, you’ll want to find the Goldilocks zone at which your piano will be perennially happy.
Traditionally, pianos are mostly made of wood. This produces a rich, fantastic sound, but it’s important to remember that wood is highly attuned to changes in temperature and humidity. In fact, humidity can cause expansion and contraction in the wood, which leads to all of the problems listed above.
In the winter, your piano is likely to suffer from insufficient humidity. Your home’s heating system is essential to keeping your family warm and comfortable, but it can be really detrimental to your piano. A good rule of thumb to follow is to assess how dry your skin feels. In other words, if your skin feels dry when you’re at home, then the air is probably too dry for your piano.
How can you prevent your heating system from damaging your piano? The best method is to keep your piano away from heat sources such as:
- Space heaters
- Windows or doors that allow in drafts
Your piano’s condition also may be affected by the amount of exposure to sunlight that it receives. If possible, try to place your piano in a location where it will not receive direct sunlight. Since you need to keep your piano away from heat sources and direct sunlight, this may limit your options for where it can be placed in your home. Still, it’s wise to take these precautions to heart so that your family can continue to enjoy your piano for years to come.
Unfortunately, humidity concerns do not disappear with the arrival of summer. This is the season in which the weather is likely to be hotter and more humid. With an excess of moisture in the air, the obvious consequence is that the wood in your piano will swell. As it swells, the wood comes into contact with many of the piano’s metal components, and this is another factor that causes damage to pianos.
The shrinking of winter and the swelling of summer are inevitable, even in homes with state-of-the-art climate control systems. What can you do to protect your piano?
Adding a Humidity Control System
You can certainly find a humidity control system for your entire house, but such a solution isn’t always necessary. A more economical choice may be a humidity control system that is aimed specifically at protecting your piano.
Such systems contain both a humidifier and a dehumidifier, making it a four-season solution to the problems of shrinking and swelling. With the level of humidity kept constant, you don’t have to worry so much about seasonal changes. This means less concern over wood pressing against metal tuning pins and cracking the soundboard. With a piano humidity control system, each tuning will last longer and you’re less likely to deal with stuck keys.
The Benefits of a Humidity Control System
A piano humidity control system protects the finish on the piano while also protecting the instrument against glue failure. Glue failure can be a surprisingly time-consuming and expensive problem to repair, so this is a major benefit of a humidity control system.
Moreover, these systems are proven to prevent rusting in strings and other metallic components. Because rusting can lead to breakage, this is a decided advantage. Humidity control systems further keep the hammers from becoming either too firm or too soft, both of which can detrimentally affect the sound quality of the instrument.
Essentially, investment in a piano humidity control system saves you a lot of time, money and frustration over the long run, making it a smart choice.
Caring for Your Piano’s Finish
The largest components of your piano are wooden, and that wood typically is finished and polished to a perfect sheen when it leaves the factory. Accordingly, a piano is not only a musical instrument but also a fine piece of furniture that may be a centerpiece in your home.
This means that you want your piano’s finish to look fantastic year after year. By doing three things, you can protect this gorgeous finish.
By cleaning it regularly, keeping it out of direct sunlight and avoiding extremes of temperature and humidity, your piano’s cabinet will still look new many years after you brought it home. This means that you will want to keep your piano in a room that has consistent temperatures throughout the year and where it doesn’t get exposed to direct sunlight. Keep drinks and potted plants away from the instrument, and don’t set things on the piano without using a felt pad or soft cloth to protect the finish.
Regularly dust the cabinet with a damp cloth made of very soft fibers or a feather duster. Avoid using products like furniture polish and lemon oil on your piano as they may actually dull or harm the finish. If the finish ever does become damaged, have it restored by a professional who knows how to protect the piano’s inner workings during the treatment.
Clean the Keys
Depending upon the age of your piano, its keys may be covered with materials including everything from plastic and celluloid to ivory, walrus tusk and woolly mammoth tusk. Additionally, several different types of glues may have been used to adhere the covering material to the keys. Some chemical cleaners can have an adverse effect on these materials or the glue that was used to bind them.
This is why most experts agree that it is better to avoid using chemical cleaners on piano keys. Instead, clean the keys with a soft, damp cloth that is white, and follow this up with a dry cloth. Take care to prevent moisture from penetrating into the wood. Treat stains only with a gentle soap and water combination.
Cleaning Inside the Piano
A surprising amount of dust can accumulate inside the piano, causing all sorts of problems. Consequently, you will want to occasionally clean inside the piano, including underneath the strings. The action cavity and many internal areas can be vacuumed. Specialty tools for cleaning the soundboard beneath the strings can be obtained inexpensively, and they are easy to use.
Grow Your Love for the Piano with Prodigies
Whether a piano is a central part of your home or not, music is a fun way to bring the whole family together. Explore everything that the world of music has to offer by watching some of our video lessons with your children. In just a few minutes, your family can discover a fascinating subject that will bring them joy for a lifetime.