Many factors contribute to a piano going out of tune, aside from playing the piano. Humidity and dryness are factors as well as the existing tension to which a piano is always subject. The measured tension of all the strings on the plate of the piano when it is at pitch is approximately 40,000 pounds.
In the twenty-plus years that I have been in this business, I have rarely run across this unusual phenomenon of a piano that never needed to be tuned. I can recall maybe a half a dozen in twenty years (out of hundreds of pianos that I have tuned) that might, arguably, fit this category. In truth, more often than not, the person making the claim lacks the true understanding to really know if the piano is in tune or not. (If this is you, please don't be embarrassed. No one can be an expert at everything!)
Generally, a piano should be tuned twice a year. I usually schedule or send reminders to customers every 6 months. If your piano is used for a number of hours a day every day, you may need to tune it more often. A piano that is not used at all should, under no circumstances, be tuned less than once a year.
Yes. Placement of the piano is important. In today’s homes, the biggest problem is baseboard heating. Placing a piano adjacent to a heating source with the result of constantly subjecting the piano to that dry heat will shorten the life of your instrument as well as adversely affect the capacity of your piano to stay in tune. Pianos should also not be placed below air conditioners or against non-insulated outside walls.
This depends on your needs and financial situation. As far as verticals are concerned, I would recommend a console or studio as opposed to a spinet. In terms of Baby Grand, you should try to buy a piano that is at least 5’1” in length. As far as brands are concerned, the better the brand, unfortunately, the more the cost. Always get the best piano your budget can afford. Playing the piano is not easy and can be frustrating, especially in the beginning, so even though your children are just beginners, that is not a good reason to force them to play on an instrument of poor quality. Don’t be afraid of a used piano. A piano that had been well maintained can still provide years of enjoyment.
Steinway still remains the industry standard. Baldwin is an excellent piano but they are not the only good pianos available today. There are many quality pianos available on the market. There are many older pianos that were manufactured in this country which are excellent in my opinion. Mason and Hamlin, Knabe, Chickering, just to name a few and should not be ruled out as options. Whenever you purchase a piano, you should be certain to make the investment in having a piano tuner and technician look it over for you to be sure of its condition.
Consoles, studios, and uprights all have one important characteristic in common. They are all direct blow actions. Put simply, this means that the back of the key of the piano is placed directly beneath the piano action coming into direct contact with the action itself, thereby providing a direct connection between your finger and the response of the piano. Other than that, the only real difference is height consoles are approximately 40 to 42 inches, studios 42 to 45 inches, and uprights 45 inches and up. Upright pianos from the early to mid-20th century often stood as tall as 57 inches and in many cases are called a cabinet grand. This is because they had the same string length as a grand piano.
Spinets are different. They have what is called a drop action or an indirect blow action. The back of the key instead of going directly beneath the action is connected to the action indirectly. Different manufacturers do this in different ways but the result is the same the response is not direct but indirect and, therefore in general, not as responsive and less satisfying to play. The advantage to this design is height; the piano can be shorter as little as 36 to 37 inches tall and still have all 88 notes in other words a full keyboard. Spinets because of their design are more prone to mechanical problems and are generally not as well made or as reliable as the other types, however, I have seen some spinets that, when properly maintained and serviced, function quite well.
This varies. Your better pianos are always going to command a high price but dealers and manufacturers often have sales and promotions that can provide excellent opportunities to save money on your purchase. Whether you buy from a dealer or from a private individual, do not neglect to have the piano checked by a professional. Your better dealers encourage this and more often than not have the pianos they are selling inspected and serviced by qualified persons in whose skill they are confident.
The answer is no. Only use a mover who is experienced with the handling of a piano. Pianos can weigh anywhere from 300 pounds to 2000 pounds depending on the size and age. Van Ness Piano Service can refer you to the right mover for your situation. There are two things about moving a piano that must be realized and appreciated. One is that you are moving a large and heavy piece of furniture, a combination of wood, and cast iron. Your mover needs to be prepared for this reality with the manpower that is in possession of the necessary physical capacities to safely accomplish this task. I have seen moving men agree to move a piano only to arrive at the pickup location, take one look at the piano in question, and turn around and leave. If you are unable to use a mover that I recommend, always be sure that whoever you use is familiar with and experienced in the moving of pianos. If possible, provide the mover with the type of piano, the age of piano, and the dimensions. Be sure to know how many steps the piano will have to ascend or descend and communicate this to the moving company. This is an essential piece of information as it could impact the amount of men necessary for the task. The other thing that must be taken into account is that the piano is also an instrument with delicate moving parts, so if a piano is dropped or damaged, it is not just the furniture that has to be inspected for harm.
Pianos made in this country almost always have three pedals. The pedal on the far right as you are looking at the piano is the loud pedal, also known as the sustain pedal. When depressed, this pedal will cause the dampers to lift off the strings, allowing the tone to simply sustain. This is the same in both grand and upright style pianos. The pedal on the left is the soft pedal; they operate differently in grand and upright style pianos. In most grand pianos, the left pedal shifts the keyboard to the right (in grand pianos, the left pedal or soft pedal is sometimes referred to as the shift pedal). In upright style pianos, the left pedal generally pushes up the hammer rail which moves the hammers closer to the strings. This reduces the amount of force that you can use when you play the piano resulting in less attainable volume. Some grand pianos, especially player style grand pianos, have a soft pedal that works in this way as well. This brings us to the middle pedal. On most grand pianos, especially good quality grand pianos, the center pedal operates a mechanism called a sostenuto. If a note is played and the sostenuto or middle pedal is depressed, that note will sustain and the others will play normally. On upright style pianos, the middle pedal when depressed causes the bass section only to sustain this is also true on some grand pianos. Another possibility is that the middle pedal operates a mute rail, which is essentially an aluminum rail that is felted. This rail falls in front of the hammers, in between the hammers, and the strings of the piano. The result is a significantly muted piano. This system is often referred to as practipiano. It allows the piano to be played at a significantly reduced volume.
Tom Van Ness