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Tuning & Appraisal

Piano Tuning In Chicago since 1980

Piano Tuning is the most essential regularly-scheduled form of piano maintenance.

Tuning is a process which alters the pitch of the piano. We use tuning as means to positively change intonation to best suit our standard of equal temperament and compliment the diatonic scale. Tuning restores the balance of the piano by returning it to the standard pitch for which it was designed.  Regular tuning in equal temperament allows the piano to sound well in in any chosen key.

Piano tuning involves the physical manipulation and movement of approximately 236 tuning pins altering the tension of the wire which is attached to each tuning pin, in order to change the pitch, either higher (sharp) or lower (flat). Each note is “set” at a place which provides for the distribution of frequencies and beat rates that we find most pleasing to our ears. Piano tuning is an art in itself and takes many years to develop the knowledge, skills and proficiencies necessary for artistic tunings. The overall skills needed for aural tuning require exhaustive practice, patience and dedication.

Piano tuning in Chicago on a regular basis is especially important due to seasonal changes and frequent swings in temperature and humidity levels.

F.A.Q. How often should I have my piano tuned:

A: Most pianos should be tuned twice yearly. Many of our clients have their pianos tuned much more frequently.  Recording studios, concert halls, performances venues, bars and clubs, some schools and fine pianists often request tuning on a more frequents basis, as these instruments are in constant use.  Most pianos should be tuned twice a year. If that can be done in accordance with seasonal changes, all the better. We tune to the U.S. Bureau of Standards pitch of A440.

Why does my piano go out of tune?

A: Pianos go out of tune for a variety of reasons. Pianos are sensitive to climate change, temperature and humidity levels. When moisture levels increase (such as during summer months) pianos often go sharp in pitch. This is because the strings are stretched from the tuning pin at the front of the piano to a hitch pin on the rigid cast iron plate or frame. Each string passes over a bridge (either treble or bass) and makes its connection to the soundboard via the bridge. When the moisture content of the soundboard increases, the board rises in reaction because it has absorbed ambient moisture from the air. Pitch rises or becomes sharp as the strings are tensioned by the enlarged soundboard, which has a diaphragmatic shape. The opposite is true when moisture levels decrease such as during winter months as moisture leaves the soundboard. Pitch drops (or goes flat) as strings relax due to shrinkage of the soundboard profile.

Pianos also go out of tune from frequent or hard playing as piano hammers impact the strings directly. Piano wire does also stretch for several years due to elasticity of the wire.  Over time it becomes more brittle and no longer stretches noticeably.

Pianos also go out of tune when the pinblock (wood, usually a thick maple block under the tuning pins) becomes weak over time and loses the ability to hold a necessary amount of torque at the tuning pins to prevent slipping. A common reason for piano rebuilding is the inability of the piano to stay in tune because of a pinblock failure.

Appraisal

An appraisal offers the piano owner a concise knowledge of reasonable value and a more thorough understanding of the overall condition of the piano being assessed.

Included in the Chicago Piano Service evaluation is a condition report on major components including:

  • The cabinet and  finish, including hardware
  • Keyboard and action: including hammers, repetitions, Keyframe and keybed
  • Belly including: soundboard, strings and bearing.  pin block, dampers and damper system
  • An examination of overall condition, structural integrity and serviceability.

Our evaluation includes a document with a checklist regarding condition of all major components.  A summary and valuation is offered.

It is important to know that an appraised value is based on professional opinion and is not intended to be definitive.  Although every piano may be considered on its
individual merits, other significant factors may include market value and values of similar pianos, age and the opinions from other knowledgeable sources.

Piano Appraisal serves the purposes of obtaining reasonable valuation for various purposes.  Common reasons for appraisal are sales and insurance claims.