Piano Myths

Myth #1: Moving the piano puts it out of tune
Piano tuning is important and should be done at least once a year; the more often the piano is tuned, the better it will stay in tune. Moving per se shouldn’t affect tuning (especially if it’s just from one room to another). You should, however, schedule a tuning a few weeks after moving into a new house, since the new environment will have different humidity conditions, and this may change the piano’s tuning.

Myth #2: Cracks in the soundboard mean the piano is worn out
Most pianos eventually develop cracks in the soundboard, and they usually have no effect on tone, at least at first. When the crack becomes so big that the rib starts to separate from the soundboard, this may cause an unpleasant buzzing sound when certain notes are played, and the crack should be repaired. Cracks are repaired in grand pianos more often than uprights simply because they are more visible. A humidity control system will reduce the likelihood of your piano’s soundboard developing cracks over time.

Myth #3: I don’t need to bother having my piano tuned if nobody ever plays it
Seasonal changes in relative humidity throw your piano out of tune whether it’s being played regularly or not. Neglected pianos gradually go flatter and flatter to the point where the tone really suffers—and then they may need two or more tunings to get them back up to pitch and stable. (Imagine leaving your car in the garage all winter. You’d want to go in and start it up occasionally, or by spring you may find it just doesn’t want to start at all, and you need a new battery.)

Myth #4: You need perfect pitch to tune a piano
While accomplished tuners certainly develop a strong sense of pitch and pitch memory, tuners have never relied on this in learning to tune. Tuning is about the physics of vibrating strings. Tuners compare the relative beat rates of intervals, and adjust the tension on the strings so that the beat rates for all intervals are correct. (Beats—that rapid “wah-wah-wah” sound you hear when playing certain intervals—are produced when two vibrating strings’ coincident partials are slightly out of tune with each other.)

Myth #5: You must have a good ear if you’re a piano tuner
It certainly doesn’t hurt—but a tuner’s ear develops as s/he learns to tune. Having “a good ear” is no guarantee of success as a tuner—there are many different skills involved, such as tuning hammer technique, pin-setting technique, knowledge of tuning theory, the ability to work quickly, customer-relations skills, etc. etc.

Myth #6: You can’t become a tuner if you can’t play the piano
Again, it helps to be able to play, and to have some appreciation of music. Many tuners are also excellent players, but many excellent technicians do not play.

Contact me at dmafrancis@sympatico.ca to schedule a tuning.