Frequently asked questions
I get many questions about the services I provide. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
What is a "pitch raise"?
Your piano is designed to sound its best when tuned to A-440 (A above middle C vibrates at 440 cycles per second), the international pitch standard. At this pitch, power and tonal range are optimum and your piano will match the pitch of other instruments. When your piano varies from A-440, pitch adjustments are required to bring it back to standard. By always maintaining your piano at standard pitch, you create long-term tuning stability because the strings and structure stay in equilibrium. You also ensure proper ear training because you always hear your music in the correct key.
How often should I tune my piano?
Because of the amount of time your piano is in use and because ear training is such an important aspect of any musical education, your piano may require more tunings annually than other pianos. Your piano may also be used to make audition tapes for student scholarship competitions where impeccable intonation is vital for your students to sound their best.
The variations in the relative humidity of a studio or home are generally the most important criteria in determining how often a piano needs to be tuned. Normal homes may experience fairly drastic changes from season to season. Your situation is complicated by constant use which tends to deteriorate a tuning more quickly. A piano functions best under consistent conditions which are neither too wet nor dry, optimally at a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 42 percent relative humidity.
You can reduce the severity of these climatic effects by placing your piano in the room so that it is away from windows or doors which are opened frequently. Avoid heating and air conditioning vents, fireplaces, and areas receiving direct sunlight.
While manufacturers' recommendations on the number of annual tunings vary, they generally agree that a piano should be tuned at least two to four times each year, with additional tunings as needed.
What about "regulation"?
Periodically your piano will require the adjustment of its mechanical parts to compensate for the effects of wear, the compacting and settling of cloth, felt and buckskin, as well as dimensional changes in wooden and wool parts due to changes in relative humidity. This series of adjustments is know as regulation which involves three systems of your piano: then action, trapwork and damper system.
The action is the mechanical part of the piano that permits efficient transfer of power from the fingers on the keys to the hammers that strike the strings. We have technical drawings available for both vertical and grand actions. Consisting of over 9,000 working parts, the action requires adjustment to critical tolerances to properly respond to a pianist's performance. Because the piano's action will go out of adjustment slowly over time, you may not notice accumulating sluggishness or unevenness as it occurs. Your student's performance, however, will be affected dramatically. No amount of practice will compensate for a poorly maintained action. Poor legato touch, chord playing where all the notes of the chord don't speak clearly, a gradual loss of subtlety in phrasing, and an inability to execute quick passages or note repetitions evenly may be the fault of the piano -- not the student. Smooth, even playing is as much a function of a well-maintained action as a well-rehearsed student.
The trapwork is the assemblage of levers, dowels, and springs that connects the pedals to the action. The damper system is the mechanical part of the piano that stops the motion of the strings and is controlled by the keys and pedal system. Incorrect pedaling techniques may be related to poor regulation of the trapwork or damper system. Fine adjustment is essential here if you are to teach the nuances of pedaling to your students.
What about voicing?
Your piano also may require periodic voicing. The process of voicing can adjust the relative brilliance of a piano and provide an even gradation of volume and tone over the entire range of the keyboard. Voicing procedures may involve reshaping the hammers, the use of needles on the hammer felt and/or the application of special softeners or hardeners in order to produce the best sound possible. You should discuss with your technician what changes in your piano's tone are practical and together, decide what steps should be taken to effect these changes.
Although you may have your piano tuned regularly, you must specifically request regulation or voicing procedures. These procedures aren't included in a normal tuning. It should also be noted that voicing can only be accomplished after a piano has been freshly tuned.