How often should a piano be tuned?
Frequency of tunings depends on several variables.
- How heavily do you play the piano?
- How critical of a listener are you?
- How good is your humidity control?
- What kind of music are you playing?
In Indiana we have radical changes of weather that create humidity levels from around 25% in the winter to 85% in the summer. The humidity changes are the biggest cause of the piano going out of tune. With good humidity control on your furnace and air conditioning you can keep it in the 30-60% range. This won’t eliminated the need for tuning but it will help. Some pianos go up and down in pitch together and stay relatively in tune. Most pianos change in the middle usually around G or F below middle C. The bass stays in tune and the middle goes up or down and creates bad octaves.
Playing the piano, especially heavy playing can tend to knock the unisons out. The unisons are the tuning of the three strings for each note. I play heavily when I tune, but constant heavy playing will cause the piano to go out of tune sooner.
Some people are sensitive musicians and hear the piano going out of tune much sooner than others. Pianos go out of tune very gradually and only you can determine when the piano is out more than you can stand it. Sometimes people hear voicing problems that have developed and interpret that as going out of tune. They just know that one note doesn’t sound right.
If you are a beginner and mainly playing one note at a time, you may be able to go longer between tunings. Certain types of music show tuning problems more than others. Chopin with his large spread-out chords will show bad tuning much sooner than Bach who tends to use many melodies at the same time.
In general twice a year seems to do for most home situations. Some people go with once a year. In school or church locations, because of the lack of humidity control twice a year may not be enough. Typically, the pianos are bad in August when school starts. By November the heat has come on and it is very dry and the pianos need tuning again for Christmas programs. If the piano holds up when they turn the heat down over vacation they make it until spring when the rains come and the weather gets humid again. Most institutional places don’t tune three times a year but this is what they really need. Music schools really need four or more tunings a year to keep the pianos sounding good.
Concert tunings are usually done before each rehearsal and each performance. Obviously nobody does this in a home situation but that represents the one extreme. The other extreme is the person who told me that a tuner tuned the piano 28 years ago and did such a good job it hadn’t needed it since.