You're probably thinking "why should I tune my piano?" I haven't moved it. Or you may be thinking that since it's really not played all that much, why tune it? Maybe you think that because you moved it a few feet that it will be knocked out of tune. These are questions we hear hundreds of time a year. This article is to help inform you about how to properly care for your piano.
A piano is comprised of thousands of parts, from simple little felts and leathers to steel strings. The sound resonator that amplifies the strings vibrations is called a soundboard.
Humidity...a pianos worst enemy.
Humidity is the piano's biggest enemy. As moisture hits the soundboard it will contract and expand as it receives moisture and released it. We all know that wood will contract and expand. So does the steel on massive bridges. When the soundboard expands and contracts there is pressure exerted on to the strings that cross the bridges that are attached to the soundboard.
The more a piano is played the more it should be tuned. A safe tuning schedule is to be sure to tune it twice every year. Since the pitch of a piano is relative to tension it's best to keep the piano tuned so the tension does not drop. When a piano is not at its intended pitch (and tension level) the piano's tone suffers and major components, such as pinblock, soundboard, bridges etc can be severely damaged.
You may be thinking that you don't have much humidity because you keep your heat and air running consistently. However air systems are not sufficient in driving out the humidity once it enters the wood, felt and leather parts.
The felts will shed fuzz and residue from the constant friction inside the piano. This residue can accumulate under the keys causing the key's downward travel to be affected. Also it can cause you to sneeze. Have a piano technician clean your piano internally every few years. Gran pianos will have a build up of dust on the soundboard and around the tuning pins. Routine cleaning will prevent massive build up.
Caring for the Piano's Case
For wood finishes use a damp cloth to remove dust and finger prints. Once or twice a year you can use lemon oil as its very friendly to wood. DO NOT use aerosol products as many contain alcohol which will dry out the wood, damage the lacquer and cause hazing.
For the high polish finishes we have found that McGuires no grit polish does quite nicely to bring out the luster. Some people use Windex and Bounty towels to clean the finish. Bounty is the only paper towel that has no abrasives that can add light scratch marks. Polyester finishes are hard and durable. These products work well on them.
To clean the keys use a very mild detergent. Plastic keys are easy to clean and usually for stubborn jobs denatured alcohol works well. Don't use acetone as it will destroy the sheen of the keys. For ivory covering sometimes lemon juice works well. Some of the sharps used (black keys) are either plastic or ebony. Use a mild detergent to clean plastic sharps. For real ebony sharps clean them and then use 0000 steel wool to buff and clean.
If the pedals tarnish you can use Brasso or any other hardware cleaner. Be sure to place newspaper underneath the pedals to protect the floor. Other hardware can be cleaned with these cleaners, just be sure to keep these chemicals off the wood finish.
Humidity Control Systems for Pianos
A system called a Dampp Chaser humidity and dry climate system is designed to maintain consistent humidity, so the delicate parts inside the piano will not deteriorate from excessive climatic changes. Further the piano will maintain better tuning stability and helps prevent keys from sticking. For those of you in dry climates there is a system by Dampp Chaser that releases controlled amounts of moisture, again controlled to maintain safe levels of humidity. Too much humidity and not enough is the piano's nightmare.
The Piano Action
The action is a complex mechanism that converts the pressured applied by the musician's fingers to the hammers, ultimately striking the strings. The pianist should give no thought to the mechanism, simply play musically. However so many people, especially young students become disinterested in playing when the action's felts have worn to the point that it no longer performs as it should. Notes become hard to play; others will not respond properly and in general is no fun to play. Even Liberace could not play on certain pianos that were out of "regulation." Regulation is the procedure we use to reset all the parts precise settings so the piano plays as intended. A well regulated piano can bring many hours of fun to the player and the student is able to execute musically as desired.
The hammers, which are densely compressed felt, glued to wood moldings. As time goes by the hammers compress, become flat and deeply grooved from string cuts. When this occurs strings can begin to break, the hammers surface is increased and setting off more harmonics that are undesirable. The hammers occasionally need to be reconditioned by a special procedure by a qualified piano technician. When the hammers are reconditioned the beautiful tone is restored as well as helps prevent needless string breakage.
Tighten all Hardware
Have a technician tighten all crucial bolts and large screws, as well as hinges and all small screws. You'd be surprised how such minor details will cause loud noises.
Moving a Piano
Did you just buy a piano? Don't pull a Laurel & Hardy routine, people with any piano knowledge moving a piano that ends up in dozens of pieces on the side of the road. Hire a piano tuner who understands what will happen with every move made. Too many people buy a piano from a private home; go with a pickup truck to move it. They think the weight will hold it down...nope! Upright pianos are top heavy. You turn the truck one way the piano goes another! I remember about a couple of guys who said they could move the piano. They took 6 people with them. All six were working against each other. The piano tipped backward, busted through the wall, hit a gas line and electrical wire. Do I need to finish the story?
Hire a professional piano mover. In the long run the party's home won't be damaged; no holes in the wall, no needless hernias, and your piano will be cared for and secured in a specially equipped truck for piano moving only.
Long Haul Moving
Are you moving across the country? Many piano movers will do long hauls. I suggest if you are moving to call a reputable piano mover. If they don't provide long haul service have them pack your piano and load it onto the moving van or the U-Haul truck. Then acquire the name of a reputable piano mover on the other end to unload the piano and do the set up for you.
Caring for your piano as described herein will insure your pianos plays as it should for decades. However improper care or neglect will reduce the number of years the piano will play and help to maintain the value of your piano.
Proper care of your piano will provide years of enjoyment for your family. The author has been tuning, repairing and rebuilding pianos for over 35 years. Please be sure to visit his website [http://www.floridapianoworks.com]