Proper piano maintenance will ensure that your beloved instrument is always in good condition and that it performs as it should. You might even need to schedule fewer piano tuning calls if you care for and maintain your piano properly in between tunings, and will face fewer piano repair costs over time as well!
Proper piano maintenance includes caring for the body of the piano, playing the piano regularly, and scheduling regular piano voicing and regulation as needed. It’s also recommended to note where and how you store your piano on a daily basis.
A piano restoration technician and qualified piano tuning professional can offer personalized advice on how to care for your instrument in particular. However, note some general piano maintenance tips that every piano owner should consider, to ensure you keep your piano in pristine condition.
1. Piano Maintenance Starts With Proper Storage
The wood of a piano body expands as it absorbs moisture and then shrinks as it dries out. As a piano body goes through this expansion and shrink cycle, the parts inside the piano move along with it, causing damage to the strings, pins, and other pieces.
Metal parts in the piano are also prone to rust and corrosion when exposed to excessive humidity. To avoid all this damage:
- Ensure that your piano is stored in a temperature-controlled and humidity-controlled environment. Bring a humidifier and dehumidifier into the room as needed throughout the year.
- Store the piano away from sunlight and heat sources that might cause the piano’s body to dry out. Close heating vents or registers in the room where the piano is stored, as needed. Install heavy curtains or light-blocking shades along windows in the room as well.
- Air currents also dry out a piano’s wood body, so ensure the room in which your piano is stored is not overly drafty. Add weather-stripping to windows if necessary and keep the room’s door closed as much as possible!
- Ensure that your piano is placed against an inner wall rather than a wall adjacent to your structure’s exterior. Exterior walls tend to hold heat, cold, and humidity throughout the year, which might affect your piano accordingly.
2. Maintain a Piano’s Body and Exterior
Since the piano’s inner workings are affected by the piano body, you want to maintain a piano’s exterior properly. Avoid using soaps, detergents, or even overly wet cloths to dust a piano; opt for a lint-free cloth instead, and apply wax to a piano body only if instructed by the manufacturer.
To help avoid damage to the piano body, avoid putting items like flower vases and fish bowls, as well as food or drinks, on your piano. Never allow children and pets near the piano as they might risk sticky fingers and wet noses rubbing against the wood of its body.
Never use any substance near a piano that damages wood and wood finishes, such as nail polish remover, peroxide, bleach, and even aerosol air fresheners. You also want to avoid smoking near the piano and definitely do not place an ashtray on the piano body! Smoke itself damages a wood piano body as does fallen ash and hot embers.
3. Cover Piano Keys
- Dust, humidity, and other airborne debris settle between piano keys, causing them to stick. In turn, you might start pounding on the keys when playing, damaging the piano and its strings, hammers, and pins.
- Covering piano keys protects them from accidental spills if someone were to eat or drink in close proximity to your instrument.
- A piano key cover helps deter children and guests from playing or misusing the piano and potentially causing damage.
If your piano has a hinged key cover, called a fallboard or back-fall, be sure to close it after every performance or practice session. If your piano is without a fallboard, you can buy one and have it attached. There are also various drop cloths and other covers you can purchase for keyboards that provide protection for your piano’s keys.
4. Playing Your Instrument is Part of Piano Maintenance!
Regular piano playing keeps all the moving parts under the lid in good condition and also allows you to note if the instrument is in need of piano tuning or maintenance. It’s often recommended that you play a piano at least once per week, and be sure to listen carefully to the sound it produces as you do. If you notice that notes seem tinny or dull, it’s time to call for professional piano tuning!
5. Piano Tuning Is Vital
- Playing an out-of-tune piano puts added wear on its wires, hammers, pins, and other moving parts under the lid.
- Regular piano tuning reduces the risk of breaking a piano string or wire.
- Proper piano tuning reduces wear and tear on the pins and hammers.
- A professional piano tuner will typically note any undetected damage under the lid of the piano and make recommendations for needed repair or replacement of worn parts.
While you may not think of piano tuning as part of regular maintenance of your instrument, ensure that you’re having your piano tuned as often as needed, typically twice per year for most models. If you are an instructor or performer or play your piano consistently for any reason, you might consider regular piano tuning even more often throughout the year!
New pianos also need tuning more often during the first year of ownership. New piano wires tend to stretch very slowly over the first few months of use, and the piano itself might slip out of tune as it adjusts to the temperature and humidity of your home. Consistent piano tuning during that first year will ensure the piano performs as it should and will help avoid unnecessary repairs as well.
6. Piano Tuning is Not a DIY Job!
It’s often tempting to perform a DIY piano tuning but to keep your instrument in good repair, leave this job to the pros! Not only will a proper tuning ensure an accurate, true sound with every note, but a professional piano tuner ensures that wires under the piano lid are tuned as needed without being pulled too tight or left too loose.
As said, a professional piano technician will also recognize signs of damage, excessive wear and tear, aged parts that will soon need replacing, and so on. Leaving piano tuning to a professional is one of the best choices for keeping a piano in good condition and sounding its best.
7. Never Clean the Inside of a Piano Yourself
The strings, hammers, pins, and all other parts under the lid of a piano are more delicate than many piano owners realize. Wiping them down with a cloth, using wood or furniture polish on those parts, or trying to perform other repairs on your own is a surefire way of damaging those pieces.
If you open your piano’s lid and notice that the inside seems overly dusty or if there is lint and other debris clinging to the inside pieces, call a professional piano repair technician to address this issue. He or she will ensure the piano is cleaned properly and thoroughly and without damage.
8. Use Professional Piano Movers
Always use professional piano movers even if you’re moving a piano from one room to another. The delicate strings and other moving parts under the lid of a piano can easily snap or break from being jostled and jarred during a move.
It’s also very easy to overlook the edge of carpets and flooring tiles, uneven floors, narrow doorways, and other obstacles when moving a piano. Professional piano movers know how to scope out a path and how to measure a piano accurately, to ensure a smooth transfer from one spot to another.
If a piano is being moved from one building to another, professional piano movers also ensure that the instrument is packed and padded properly while in transit. Professional piano movers can also disassemble a piano as needed and then reassemble it at its new location, ensuring a smooth transfer and reducing the risk of damage.
9. Investigate Piano Voicing and Piano Regulation
Piano tuning ensures an instrument is in proper tune while piano voicing adjusts the overall sound and response of the piano. If your piano doesn’t create the sound you expect, you might be tempted to bang on the keys or otherwise misuse the instrument. Piano voicing creates the pitch you want from your piano in particular.
Piano regulating adjusts and replaces worn parts and ensures that the keys respond to your speed of play. Proper piano regulating also reduces the risk that you might strike the keys too hard while preventing excess wear and tear on all the parts under the piano’s lid.
A piano regulating service also allows a piano repair professional to note if your instrument is being misused in any way. He or she can then make suggestions for proper piano maintenance, tuning, and other work needed to keep your beloved instrument in good repair and always sounding its best.