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Piano Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How often should my piano be tuned.
  2. Doesn't a cracked soundboard mean a piano is worthless?
  3. What's wrong with putting a piano on an outside wall?
  4. Is there anything wrong with keeping my piano near a hot-air vent?
  5. What is A=440?
  6. Isn't tuning all my piano needs?
  7. How should I check out a used piano?
  8. What should I use to wash the keys?
  9. The keys on my piano click when I play. What's wrong?
  10. Some ivories on my piano are chipped. What can be done?
  11. One key on my spinet piano stays down & won't play anymore. What's wrong?
  12. The bass on my piano sounds thumpy and "dead". What can we do?
  13. Is there any way to protect my piano from changes in humidity?
  14. Every summer my piano gets stiff and hard to play. Why?
  15. What was the first piano built in the U.S. like?
  16. What is a "laminated" soundboard?
  17. Where can I learn to be a piano technician?
  18. My keys are turning yellow! What can I do?
  19. What exactly is a square piano?
  20. The notes on my piano won't repeat quickly. Why?
  21. Since we moved, the touch on our piano is lighter and the sound is much softer. What's wrong?
  22. Is a rebuilt piano any good?
  23. What is a piano's "pinblock"?
  24. One note on my piano makes a zinging noise when I release it. Why?
  25. Some of my bass notes make a metallic rattle when played. Is this expensive to fix?
  26. Why is my piano's touch so heavy?
  27. I have a good ear. Why can't I tune my piano myself?
  28. One key on my piano feels spongy and sounds weak. What's wrong?
  29. The keys on a piano I'm considering buying aren't level with each other. Can this be fixed?
  30. Some keys on my piano sound more than once when I play them. Why?
  31. How often should piano hammers be filed?
  32. How quiet should I be when my piano is being tuned?
  33. Should I buy a pre-1900 piano?
  34. Is it okay to put thumbtacks in my piano's hammers to get a "rinky-tink" sound?
  35. What is "tone regulation" of piano hammers all about?
  36. What does the middle pedal on my piano do?
  37. When my technician is tuning, he plays the notes so loud I get a headache. Is this pounding really necessary?
  38. I heard that a piano must be in tune before it can be tuned. What kind of double-talk is this?
  39. Isn't a squeaky pedal easy to fix?
  40. What are the differences between spinets, consoles, and uprights?
  41. Why is "tightening action screws" so important?
  42. Which brands of pianos are best, and worst?
  43. What are the effects of moving a piano?
  44. My tuner said the piano's plate needed tightening. Why?
  45. Why is regular service so important?

1. How often should my piano be tuned?

The standard answer for pianos in home use is between two and four times a year. A specific recommendation for your piano would have to be based on three items:

  • humidity variation in you home
  • condition of your piano
  • and the use your piano receives

If the humidity varies widely in your home between summer and winter, your piano will go out of tune more frequently and more radically than if the humidity is fairly stable. If your piano's tuning pins are loose, naturally they won't hold the strings in tune as long as tight pins will. Lastly, if you play your piano heavily, as a rock pianist might, or for long hours, as a student might, it will require more frequent tuning. Ask your technician to evaluate these factors for your piano, and then follow the tuning schedule he or she outlines for maximum pleasure and life from your instrument. (Top)

2. Doesn't a cracked soundboard mean a piano is worthless?

No, it doesn't. Cracks are usually caused by excessive humidity variation, and although they are cosmetically ugly, they don't detract appreciably from the piano's tone. They may cause buzzes, but your technician can repair that. Some manufacturers have even cut slots in their soundboards at the factory so the board would have room to expand and contract, and hopefully not develop cracks. When you have all the strings replaced on your piano, the cracks can be filled or shimmed to restore the board's original beauty. (Top)

3. What's wrong with putting a piano on an outside wall?

Outside walls can offer three main dangers to pianos:

  • dampness
  • temperature changes
  • direct sunlight

Moisture condensation in the outside walls of some houses can increase the humidity in your piano beyond the safe level of 42%, causing sticky keys, sluggish action, and rust. Some outside walls change temperature during the course of a day, and this affects the ability of the piano to stay in tune. In addition, a window above or beside your piano could permit direct sunlight to fade or check the finish. If you must use an outside wall, pick one that doesn't expose you instrument to these three dangers. (Top)

4. Is there anything wrong with keeping my piano near a hot-air vent?

Definitely. Low humidity is one of a piano's worst enemies anyway, and localized dry heat, whether from a hot air vent or a radiator, concentrates it in one spot.

If some of the wood in your piano was not dried thoroughly enough at the factory, heat may make it warp or split open. If your piano is old (50 years plus), the natural tendency of wood to become brittle and break as it gets older may be accelerated.

Even properly aged wood in new pianos will not stay glued together if heat is concentrated on the glue joints. On a cosmetic level, the hardwood veneer glued on the case parts may unbound. On a structural level, the soundboard, its supporting ribs, and the bridges can pull apart, necessitating costly repairs.

Last, but not least, dryness will cause the piano to go out of tune by drawing moisture out of the soundboard and allowing it to contract. (Top)

5. What is A=440?

"A-440" is an abbreviation for the official government standard of musical pitch in the United States. Related to pianos, it means that the strings for the "A" just above "middle C" should vibrate at 440 cycles per second.

"A-440" is important to you as a piano owner because it is part of the design of your instrument. The tension of the strings controls to a large degree the tone or timbre of a piano, and manufacturers today design instruments to produce their best tone at "A-440". In addition, the tension required for an instrument to be at "A-440" is used for other purposes, such as keeping the strings properly spaced, and in some cases, helping keep the piano in tune.

You should always request, not only that your piano be tuned, but that it be tuned to "A-440." While it's possible to make a piano sound harmonious at a lower or higher level of pitch, you will not get the best tone and may damage your instrument. (Top)

6. Isn't tuning all my piano needs?

Tuning is an important part of piano service, but it does nothing for the thousands of working, moving parts that translate the motion of your fingers into sound. These parts form an interlocking assembly of wood and metal called the "action," and need periodic attention to work properly.

The wood may warp or twist as it ages, and the felt can change dimensions through wear. Metal parts may rust or corrode from moisture in the air,. Glued parts can come unglued; screws may loosen and allow parts to move out of position.

Correction of these and other changes comes under the general heading of action regulation and reconditioning. Almost every piano needs work in this category. Does yours? Until you have a competent technician examine it, all we can say is ... Maybe not -- but probably so. (Top)

7. How should I check out a used piano?

When shopping for a used piano, there are several things you can do yourself before calling a technician for a pre-purchase inspection. First, play all the notes both loudly and softly, slowly and quickly, listening for rattles, buzzes or clicks. See if the pedals work properly and without squeaking.

Next, check the strings and tuning pins for rust. Rusty strings may break when you have the piano tuned.

Find the piano's serial number, usually four to seven digits in the tuning pin area with this and the brand name of the instrument, you can find out the piano's age.

If the piano passes your part of the inspection, call your technician for a thorough examination and appraisal. He'll be able to find any major defects in the instrument as well as tell you what things need immediate attention, and what problems you might expect in the future. (Top)

8. What should I use to wash the keys?

Although my customers have told me of using such diverse solvents as alcohol, benzene and milk, a mild soap such as Ivory® is best. Dissolve a small amount in warm water and apply sparingly with a cloth and plenty of elbow grease. Wring the cloth out thoroughly; Ivory key tops are porous, and too much moisture could cause them to come unglued. Also, water dripping down the sides of the keys would cause rust and swelling. For a heavy layer of dirt, increase the amount of elbow grease, not solution. (Top)

9. The keys on my piano click when I play. what's wrong?

The clicking in the case which prompted this question was actually caused by the keysticks themselves, not by some problem in the action of the piano. The situation was that the bushings in the key which control its movement from side to side had become worn and were allowing the keys to hit each other during performance. In a normal keyboard, the amount of wear needed to cause this problem would be extensive. However, this keyboard had plastic key coverings known as "sideskirts" which cover not only the Top of the key but the sides as well. so with a relatively small amount of wear in the bushings, the keys could come close enough to each other for the plastic covers to touch and cause clicking.

Slight adjustments and re-spacing of the keys solved the problem this time. When it recurs, replacing the bushings will probably be the only solution. (Top)

10. Some ivories on my piano are chipped. what can be done?

Your solution will depend on how many ivories are damaged and how sensitive you are to the way the keyboard looks. Due to the fact that ivory discolors as it ages, it is usually difficult to color-match replacements with the rest of the keyboard. For those whose only concern is having a smooth surface on each key, this will be immaterial. For others, it may be visually disturbing.

If only a few keys are damaged, economics will suggest they be recovered individually with new key tops If many keys need attention, you should consider having the entire keyboard (all 52 white keys) professionally recovered by your technician. You might be interested to know that the black keys can be refinished or replaced so they have a "like-new" appearance also. (Top)

11. One key on my spinet piano stays down & won't play anymore. What's wrong?

Although this situation could have many causes, the problem it brings to mind is a broken elbow.

In some spinet pianos, small right-angle parts called elbows are used to link the keys of the piano to the action. In the late 40"s and early 50"s, these elbows were made of plastic. Unfortunately, the catalyst used to make the molten plastic harden never stops working. So the elbows get harder and harder over the years until at age 20 or 25, they begin to shatter in normal playing. Replacement of the elbows restores the piano to its original usefulness. (Top)

12. The bass on my piano sounds thumpy and "dead". what can we do?

First you need to understand why the tone in the bass has deteriorated. Bass strings are wrapped with copper winding so they will vibrate slow enough to produce low tones. Over the years, corrosion builds up between the copper windings and the steel core, and inhibits the free vibration of the strings necessary for a full, rich tone.

Sometimes it is possible to revive the old strings by taking them off the piano and flexing them to break up the corrosion. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee how long this procedure will remain effective, if it works at all. The permanent solution is installation of new, custom-made bass strings. (Top)

13. Is there any way to protect my piano from changes in humidity?

There are two ways to maintain the 42% humidity your piano needs. One is to install a commercial humidity control system in your home. Working in conjunction with your heating and air conditioning units, this will control humidity not only in the piano but in the whole house.

Where this is not practical, a special humidity control system built just for pianos can be used. Called a Climate Control System, the entire unit fits inside the piano. It consists of a humidifier, a dehumidifier, and a humidistat to sense the amount of moisture in the air and turn the units on and off as needed. the only maintenance involved is keeping the humidifier reservoir filled with water and replacing the humidifier pads once a year.

The benefits of humidity control are immediately apparent. the piano stays in tune better between tunings, and problems caused by extremes of humidity (such as sticky keys, sluggish action, loose pins, and rattles) are minimized if not eliminated. (Top)

14. Every summer my piano gets stiff and hard to play. Why?

Most of the piano's moving parts -- the keys, hammers, whippens, etc. -- are made of wood which has been machined to very close tolerances. High humidity in the summer causes these parts to swell and bind, so the piano feels stiff and sluggish.

If this were the first time you had noticed this problem, I'd suggest we just ease the keys and lubricate the center pins on which the various parts rotate, so everything works freely. Since you indicate this is a perennial occurrence, however, I think we should install an automatic piano dehumidifier. this device will keep the humidity in the piano at safe levels summer after summer, so the parts won't swell and bind in the future. (Top)

15. What was the first piano built in the U.S. like?

The United States' first piano was probably built by John Behrent of Philadelphia. Early in 1775, Mr. Behrent advertised for sale an "extraordinary instrument, by the name of pianoforte, in mahogany in the manner of the harpsichord." This instrument, currently preserved at the Smithsonian, is rectangular in shape, has only 54 keys, and more closely resembles an old German clavichord than anything else. Extensive repairs indicate it once had a long and useful life. A carbon copy of this piano is currently being built by the Piano Technicians Guild so that , in our 200th year as a nation, we'll be able to step back and sample what American colonials were listening to in our country's first year. (Top)

16. What is a "laminated" soundboard?

A "laminated" soundboard is one made from several layers of wood glued together cross-grain, like plywood. Compared to a regular single-layer board, its advantage is that is almost never racks or splits. Its disadvantage is that it does not produce as nice a tone. It is usually used only on consoles or spinets, where tone quality is less important than in larger verticals and grands. You can tell which type soundboard a piano has by looking at it from the back. The grain on a laminated board usually runs horizontally. (Top)

17. Where can I learn to be a piano technician?

Employment in a piano factory used to be the recommended training for piano technicians. But today, due to assembly-line methods, it provides little if any comprehensive exposure to piano service. Now the best approach is training in a specialized trade school with concurrent and continuing membership in the Piano Technicians Guild. this provides a solid background in the fundamentals and association with the best minds in piano technology today.<also see http://www.ptg.org/schools.htm> (Top)

18. My keys are turning yellow! What can I do?

The only thing you can do personally is leave the keyboard open more. The problem is that the ivory was originally yellow color and was bleached to lighten it for keyboard use. If kept in darkness, it tends to revert to its original color. If the yellowing is only on the surface of the keyTops, your piano technician may be able to whiten them by scraping and polishing. If it has penetrated the entire thickness of the ivory, the keys must be recovered with new material. (Top)

19. What exactly is a square piano?

A "square" grand piano is a rectangularity-shaped instrument that closely resembles a coffin on legs. It became obsolete around 1900 due to the advent of the upright and the modern, wingshaped grand, and its manufacture was largely discontinued. Taking them as trade-ins became a problem for dealers of the era, so to demonstrate their worthlessness, the National Association of Piano Dealers assembled 1000 of them on the beach at Atlantic City in 1904 and set them afire. Flames were seen for 20 miles, and the accompanying publicity accomplished their purpose. (Top)

20. The notes on my piano won't repeat quickly. Why?

Considering the time of year, I'd say the high humidity we've been having has swollen your piano's action centers, causing them to bind and operate slowly if at all. Your piano technician can lubricate these centers with a special solution to relieve the situation for now. If it recurs, you would be wise to have him eliminate the excess humidity causing this problem by installing an automatic piano dehumidifier. (Top)

21. Since we moved, the touch on our piano is lighter and the sound is much softer. What's wrong?

Sometimes movers will tilt a piano, causing the hammer rail to disengage from the dowel connecting it to the pedal. When the piano is set up straight again, the hammer rail remains out of position, causing the problems you describe. Since your piano will need to be tuned as soon as it has adjusted to your new home. just mention this situation to your technician when he comes. A simple adjustment should take care of it. (Top)

22. Is a rebuilt piano any good?

A "rebuilt" piano is basically a used piano that has been remanufactured to one extent or another, usually by a craftsman specializing in this type of work. Whether it is good or bad is dependent almost entirely on his judgment, expertise and experience.

In shopping for and comparing rebuilt pianos, you should find out the age of an instrument, the specific parts which have been replaced, and the remaining life expectancy of those original parts which have not been replaced. If no parts have been replaced, the piano has really been reconditioned or refinished , not rebuilt.

While I do not rebuild pianos myself, I will be happy to refer you to a reputable rebuilder if you so desire. (Top)

23. What is a piano's "pinblock"?

The pinblock, or wrestplank, is the part of the piano that the tuning pins are driven into. How tightly it grips the pins influences how well the piano stays in tune. Its original construction, the way it was installed at the factory, and its age determine how well it does its job. Whenever you buy a used piano, always have a technician check the tuning pin "torque", or tightness, before purchases to avoid a costly mistake. (Top)

24. One note on my piano makes a zinging noise when I release it. Why?

When you release a key after playing it, a piece of felt called a damper falls on the string to sTop it from sounding. In all probability, the "zing" you hear is a hard spot on this felt caused by excessive moisture or age. If the crustiness is only on the surface, your technician can remove it; otherwise the damper felt will have to be replaced. Either way, this shouldn't be a do-it-yourself effort -- damper felt is very fragile, and so is the regulation of the damper mechanism. (Top)

25. Some of my bass notes make a metallic rattle when played. Is this expensive to fix?

That depends on what's wrong. The most likely possibilities are:

  • A foreign object is touching the strings. Solution - remove it. Costs: little or none.
  • The copper winding on some of the strings are loose. Solution: twist the strings to tighten the winding, or replace the strings. Cost: little to moderate.
  • The bass bridge is split. solution: remove all bass strings, repair or replace bridge, re-install strings and tune. Cost: expensive to more expensive. In any case, it is best to consult your technician and let him help you decide on the proper course of action. (Top)

26. Why is my piano's touch so heavy?

A piano's touch -- the way it feels when you play it -- is influenced by three factors. The first is the basic design of the piano's action, including the keys, hammers, the inter-connecting parts. The second is the regulation of the action -- whether its moving parts are in the proper relationships to each other. The third is the amount of friction between those moving parts. Any one or all of these areas may be causing your problem. Ask your piano technician to examine the situation and recommend the proper solution. (Top)

27. I have a good ear. Why can't I tune my piano myself?

There's no reason why you can't if you're willing to invest the time necessary to master this skill. Tuning is a skill, not a talent, and while a sensitive musical ear will help you learn more quickly, it's no substitute for competent instruction.

You might also consider that tuning is more than just hearing what is right and what isn't. It's a mechanical process of manipulating tuning pins which are force-fit in wood at 125 inch-pounds of torque, or tightness. You also must deal with high tension strings and move them across several bearing points which exert substantial friction.

Your good ear will give you a good start. Proper training, practice, and experience are the other essentials you will need. (Top)

28. One key on my piano feels spongy and sounds weak. What's wrong?

You have given a classic description of the problems created by a broken key. To technicians, the term "broken key" doesn't simply mean that the note doesn't work. It means that the wooden key lever you play with your fingers is split at its fulcrum. As you play the key, it bends, causing the sponginess you noticed. Naturally, the force you apply to the key is somewhat dissipated by this bending, so the resulting sound is weaker than it should be. If left unattended, this split will grow until the key is broken in half.

The proper corrective procedure involves not only gluing the split together but reinforcing the area of the break with hardwood veneer. It would be wise to have your technician make this repair for you, as even a small error may cause sticking, clicking, or other problems with this key in the future. (Top)

29. The keys on a piano I'm considering buying aren't level with each other. Can this be fixed?

It certainly can. It would be wise, however, to explore the cause of this unevenness before purchase. the keys are actually wooden levers which pivot on a felt punching at their midpoint when you play. when this felt punching deteriorates from age or is destroyed by moths or mice, the level of the keys becomes uneven. this , in turn, interferes with the proper functioning of the piano's action. Replacement of these punchings and subsequent re-leveling of the keyboard will solve your immediate problem. You should realize, however, that the condition which affected the punchings may have also affected other parts of the piano's action, causing unseen damage. Better have your technician check out this piano before you buy to avoid unpleasant surprises in the future. (Top)

30. Some keys on my piano sound more than once when I play them. Why?

The condition you describe is called "double-striking", and usually occurs because escapement of the piano's action is incomplete. When you press down a key, the action in the piano begins pushing the hammer toward the string. Just before the hammer gets there, the mechanism "escapes", or is pulled away, so the hammer can fly into the string on its own momentum and rebound instantly into the backcheck. If the mechanism has not completely escaped, the hammer will hit it as it rebounds and bounce back into the string, causing a second tone.

The piano action was correctly regulated when it left the factory, but wear and packing down of the various felts has changed this. the answer lies in re-regulation of the action to factory specifications, together with replacement of any badly-worn parts. (Top)

31. How often should piano hammers be filed?

As often as they acquire string markings of any significant width and depth.

When a hammer is struck repeatedly, the strings, begin to leave an impression on its face. the original face of the hammer is curved so it strikes the strings at a small specific "striking point". As the hammer becomes grooved, this point becomes wider, and the tone of the piano changes.

Also, as the strings cut deeper and deeper, they sever the outer layers of felt on the hammer. The felt is stretched tightly,around the hammer's wooden molding to create tension in its outer layers. when strings cuts release this tension, the felt becomes dead and should be removed.

When hammers have been filed, it is a good idea to have a little filing and perhaps voicing done at each tuning thereafter, so the hammers always perform at their best. (Top)

32. How quiet should I be when my piano is being tuned?

As quiet as possible. You wouldn't think of standing in a jeweler's light as he tried to repair your, watch, and yet this is the effect of noise on your tuner. Most untrained ears can't distinguish the sound patterns he listens for even in dead silence. The noise produced by washing dishes, vacuuming, television, or even ordinary conversation can cloud his perception and lower the quality of his work. Give him the chance to do his best for you by keeping noise to a minimum. (Top)

33. Should I buy a pre-1900 piano?

If you want an antique, yes; if you want an everyday piano, no. In one respect, pianos are just wooden machines, and after 70 - 100 years, they're usually worn out. The wood and metal have aged and fatigued to the point of continual breakage. Extensive restoration would correct this, but is not always economically feasible. If you think you've found the exception that proves this rule, consult a qualified technician for a pre-purchase inspection - just to make sure. (Top)

34. Is it okay to put thumbtacks in my piano's hammers to get a "rinky-tink" sound?

Absolutely not. Every hammer has opposing forces of compression and tension inside it which cause it to produce a full, rich tone when it strikes the strings. Inserting a thumbtack in the crown releases this tension and compression, and reduces the hammer to a lump of dead felt. You can get a rinky-tink sound without damaging your piano by having a qualified technician install a special rinky-tink attachment on your instrument. (Top)

35. What is "tone regulation" of piano hammers all about?

Hammers are made under conditions that result in a great deal of compression inside the hammer and similar degree of tension on the outside. this tension and compression is balanced at the factory so all the hammers produce the same quality of tone. Playing over a period of time alters this balance, so some hammers begin to produce a harsh tone. Tone regulation restores the original balance so all the hammers produce the same even tone quality. (Top)

36. What does the middle pedal on my piano do?

Middle pedals have rather limited and specialized uses, and are usually designed to perform one of five different functions.

On some pianos (usually grands and large uprights), it serves as a selective damper or sostenuto pedal. The right pedal or damper pedal, sustains all the notes you play while it is depressed. The middle pedal in this case will sustain only those notes you are holding down when you depress it.

On other pianos, the middle pedal is a bass damper pedal, and sustains all the bass notes you play while holding it down.

On still others, it acts as a soft pedal, moving the hammers closer to the strings so they cannot strike with as much force.

On still others, it activates a strip of mute felt inside the piano, lowering it between the hammers and strings to make the sound very soft.

Finally, the middle pedal is sometimes only decorative, having a spring to push it back up after you push it down, and nothing else. (Top)

37. When my technician is tuning, he plays the notes so loud I get a headache. Is this pounding really necessary?

Yes, it is. Here's why: A piano string presses tightly against several bearing points along its length. When it is pulled tighter in tuning, the friction against these bearing points prevents the new tension from being evenly distributed throughout the string. So the tuner pounds the note to bounce the string up off the bearing points slightly and allow the tension to equalize. What if he didn't pound the note? The unequal tension between the various bearing points would equalize itself later as you played, and the string would soon "untune" itself.

Tuning is a very precise process, and the tuner must make absolutely sure each note will stay at the correct pitch. Pounding is one way he does this. (Top)

38. I heard that a piano must be in tune before it can be tuned. What kind of double-talk is this?

What you heard is a tuner's axiom which is a bit complicated for the layman. The truth behind it is as follows:

The piano is a high-tension instrument, with the strings exerting a cumulative strain of 18 - 20 tons. If it is badly out of tune, substantial changes in string tension will be necessary to tune it. As the tuner makes these changes, however, the frame and soundboard of the piano will adjust to these new tensions and in so doing, alter them. The result at the end of the tuning process will be a piano which is still out of tune. Only when the adjustments to the strings are very small will the tuner be able to make the piano stay in tune. Hence the saying that a piano must be "in tune", or very close to being in tune, before it can be properly and accurately tuned. (Top)

39. Isn't a squeaky pedal easy to fix?

To be precise, maybe so and maybe not.

Squeaks in general can be frustrating and challenging to eliminate because they are not always easy to pinpoint. Trial and error, fortified by experience, is the appropriate procedure for diagnosis. what sounds like one squeak can be a trio or a quartet of squeaks, all coming from different places. Eliminate one, and the others remain.

Pedal squeaks may be caused by :

  • foreign objects in the piano
  • loose, warped or broken parts in the pedal mechanism
  • rust
  • worn bearings
  • all of the above
  • none of the above

It might seem easy to squirt some oil here and there and solve the problem, but this would only succeed in converting a clean squeak into a messy one. after successful diagnosis, proper elimination of pedal squeaks usually involves tightening or replacing screws, cleaning corrosion from metal parts, replacing worn bearings, lubrication with Teflon or special grease, and proper regulation. whether this is easy or not will depend on your particular ensemble of squeaks. (Top)

40. What are the differences between spinets, consoles, and uprights?

Spinets are usually 35" to 38" tall. Their short height necessitates design compromises which tend to stifle the tone. The touch usually feels fairly light because a "drop" action, one that hangs down behind the back ends of the keys, is used.

Consoles are usually 40" to 43" tall. the design problems of the spinet are somewhat alleviated by this increased height; the tone is usually better. A "compact" action sits directly on the back ends of the keys, so the touch is a little better. Its "compactness," however, can cause or encourage sticky keys.

Uprights are usually 45" tall and up. Their height allows the best design, and hence the best tone, in a vertical instrument. the action sits on the back ends of the keys, as in the console, but it is full size now, all internal ratios are correct, so the touch should be the best of the three types. (Top)

41. Why is "tightening action screws" so important?

For one thing, the action of a piano needs to be a solid unit to work properly. If parts are loose, they rattle, vibrate excessively, and break prematurely. In addition, the tightness of the screws is all that holds the action's parts in proper position with each other and with the piano's strings. The screws are tight when the piano leaves the factory, but they loosen through expansion and contraction of the wood in the action rails and the parts themselves. Tightening action screws is a standard preventive maintenance procedure which should be performed on an "as often as needed" basis. (Top)

42. Which brands of piano's are best, and worst?

If there were a pat answer to this question, we'd have no competing brands of pianos. Different piano designs yield different sounds and different "touches", and so, appeal to different individuals. Some pianos are better built than others, and in this respect, you generally get what you pay for. A minimum price gives you what the manufacturer feels is the least amount of materials and workmanship that will produce a salable instrument. A higher price in the same type piano can indicate more expensive materials and more extensive labor, or it may just reflect the cost of a fancy case or unusual finish. While aesthetically pleasing, the exterior case design and finish have no effect on the tone. I've discussed in past columns the basic differences between types of pianos (spinets, consoles, uprights, and grands). Understanding these differences will help you shop wisely and decide which brand is best, or worst, for you. (Top)

43. What are the effects of moving a piano?

That depends on where you move it. If you only roll it across the room, the effect will probably be negligible unless it ends up near a hot air vent or in a draft. If it's moved around a large building like a school, its tuning stability will be affected somewhat depending on the frequency of moving. Moving across country, on the other hand, is as traumatic for a piano as it is for you, and the piano will probably take several weeks to settle down before it can be tuned. (Top)

44. My tuner said the piano's plate needed tightening. Why?

The cast iron plate in a piano, which supports the strings, is secured to the back or rim of the piano with screws which pass through it and into the wood behind. As the wood expands and contracts with rising and falling humidity, the screws get loose and need to be tightened. Keeping the plate tight is very important for tuning stability. There have been otherwise sound pianos which would not stay in tune only because the plate was loose. You may have to pay extra for this service, since it's not needed at every tuning, but it's well worth it. Don't try to save by doing it yourself. The plate supporting 40,000 pounds of tension from the strings (about 18000 kg.), and improper tightening could make it break, rendering your piano useless. (Top)

45. Why is regular service so important?

Let's answer tis question by examining the two different philosophies of maintenance applicable to piano care. The first dictates that problems should be dealt with only when they present themselves and make themselves unavoidable. Until such time, no thought is given to piano care. This is the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" theory. On the other hand, we may try to anticipate those problems which usually arise in a piano's life and deal with their causes before they occur. Thus, we solve the problem at our convenience, rather than allowing it to intrude upon us at an unexpected and possibly embarrassing moment. This is the "I don't like squeaky wheels" theory, and with a mechanical possession as intricate and expensive as your piano , we just think it makes the best sense for the long run. (Top)

Last updated on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 EST
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