As your Wilmington DE Piano Tuner, I am frequently asked why a piano must be tuned, even if it is not being used.  A full explanation requires a little background on the design of pianos.

Even though a piano looks like any other piece of furniture, it is actually quite different.  A piano is designed to be a resonant musical instrument.  Because of this, it has relatively fragile wooden structures that are under tremendous pressures.  A piano has over two hundred strings, each with a tension of about 150 lbs.  That multiplies out to 30,000 total lbs. of tension on a wooden structure that is cast-iron reinforced.  The structure cannot maintain that tension indefinitely.  The tension is constantly dropping, and must be restored with regular tuning.  If a piano is left longer than a year without tuning, the tension drops significantly enough to cause problems with the instrument.

In that scenario, several things will happen.  One problem results from the fact that the tension does not drop evenly on the whole instrument.  Typically, the tension does not drop in the bass section as much as it does in the treble section.  The result can be a torsion on the instrument, resulting in premature degradation of wooden structures.

Another problem results from the need to raise the pitch back up to standard pitch, so the instrument can be played with other instruments and so that the pianos sounds the same as the teacher’s piano.  When strings are tuned to their proper pitch, the strings are on average pulled to 70% of their breaking tension. When strings are tuned regularly, they do not vary much from that tension.  The problem comes when strings have not been recently tuned, and they must be raised back up to the proper pitch.  In order to do that, they must be raised above the correct pitch by 10-38% of the amount that they were below the proper pitch.  Over the next ten minutes, they then fall back to the proper pitch as the whole instrument flexes due to the change of tension.  Raising the pitch on strings puts them significantly closer to the tension at which they will break, and piano strings are relatively expensive.

In summary, owning a piano entails some responsibility of regular piano maintenance, even if the piano is not played.  If you have any other questions about the care and maintenance of your piano, please ask us.  We are your professional Wilmington DE piano tuning service, and we’re ready to serve you. We also provide expert piano services the Philadelphia, Eastern Shore Maryland and Southern New Jersey areas.