CARE AND FEEDING
Having your piano tuned twice a year is very important for keeping your piano sounding its best, but only you, the piano owner, can assure that the piano stays in tune!
Tuning stability depends almost entirely on the stability of the piano’s environment, humidity being by far the most important factor. The piano will stay very well in tune as long as the humidity remains constant. Whenever the humidity changes, the piano will go out of tune. The larger the change in humidity the more out of tune the piano will become. Also the piano should be placed away from drying direct heat sources like radiators and heating ducts. It should be protected from drafts and sudden temperature changes. Normal and even forceful playing is only a minor factor in tuning stability.
How can you stabilize humidity?
First, get a Hygrometer, which will tell the relative humidity. Keep it at the piano and take note of humidity readings. Accurate digital hygrometers are available online and from most home and electronic stores for under $20.
Keeping the pianos environment at the ideal 42% humidity year round may not be realistic in our climate where humidity in our homes can be below 20% in winter and above 80% in summer, but a great improvement in tuning stability can be enjoyed if you decrease the winter/summer swing; a change of 20% or less is an achievable goal. In winter, humidity must be added to the piano’s environment by means of a humidifier on your heating system or by room humidifiers. A minimum of 35% humidity should be maintained. In summer air conditioners or dehumidifiers can bring room humidity down to 50-55%. In addition piano humidity control systems can help. They are attached to the underside of the piano and automatically control the humidity year round at a constant 42% under the piano in the critical soundboard area. These systems alone will greatly improve tuning stability but not entirely. The ultimate in humidity control is to have both the piano humidity control system and whole room humidity control. This may seem a bit extreme but this approach will deliver a dramatic improvement in tuning stability.
Humidity Control Systems
Damp Chaser brand piano humidity control systems automatically control humidity year round at a constant 42% under the piano in the critical soundboard area. Just add water and the system humidifies or dehumidifies automatically as needed.
Generic piano dehumidifiers and humidistat control units are also available at lower cost. These systems allow a normal room humidifier to be plugged into the humidistat control installed under the piano.
More benefits of stabile humidity
With controlled humidity you can choose to tune whenever is best for you rather than waiting for the seasonal change to decide for you. Avoiding excessively high or low humidity will protect the piano from destructive forces that cause soundboard cracks and buzzes, loose tuning pins, sticking keys, squeaks and rattles and rusty strings. Your piano will last much longer.