Pianos are one of the most visually striking instruments as well as one of the most beautiful sounding ones. As lovely and captivating as a piano can sound, if it hasn’t been tuned or has its regular maintenance, it will sound absolutely off and unpleasant.
Piano tuning is an unavoidable and absolutely essential part of owning a piano. No matter if it’s an upright piano or a baby grand, making sure all 230 strings are perfectly in tune will not only help prolong its life but keep it sounding amazing.
Getting your piano tuned is no simple feat and is always recommended to be done by piano technicians who have the extensive training and knowledge to help keep your instrument in beautiful working (and sounding) condition.
What is Piano Tuning?
Simply, piano tuning is the act of tuning the strings and pitches to be in the correct range. To be more technical, piano tuning is the act of adjusting the tensions of the strings within an acoustic piano so that musical intervals between the strings are in tune. Piano technicians assess the vibrations and how they interact between the notes since this vibration will be different for each piano.
Depending on who your technician is, piano tuning can also include the following:
- Ensuring all keys are operational
- Checking and fixing “sticky” keys
- Minor fixes
Why Should I Tune my Piano?
Needless to say, you made an initial investment when you first bought your piano. These instruments need to have tuning done to ensure that it’s working and sounding properly. This type of maintenance is absolutely unavoidable.
The majority of manufactures strongly recommend getting your piano tuned once or twice a year.
But why? Unlike other instruments like the violin or the guitar, pianos cannot be tuned by their owner (unless you’re a qualified piano technician). Because of the sheer volume of strings, about 230 strings in fact, and the sophisticated build of pianos, they should only be tuned by professional piano tuners.
By having regular piano tuning you guarantee things such as:
- The health and life of your piano
- Correct pitch and sound of notes
- Proper tension and health of the strings
If you chose not to routinely tune your piano you could cause serious irreparable damage and potentially costly fixes or replacements. Tuning your piano annually is a simple way to avoid costly piano repairs and keep your piano sounding beautiful.
Why do pianos go out of tune?
The main culprit of pianos going out of tune isn’t them being played a lot but actually humidity and temperature. Yes, you read that right. It’s Not you constantly playing the key but environmental factors instead.
The main sound components consist of the strings, hammers and soundboard. The soundboard is the wood that supports the string and reverbs with each note, essentially the soundboard is responsible for that beautiful, deep, recognizable sound.
As temperatures or humidity increase or decrease, this causes the soundboard to either expand or contract. These fluctuations in expansion or contraction can put more pressure on the strings to go flat or sharp. This also comprises the tensions within the strings.
Another factor why pianos can go out of tune is simply time. Even in perfect temperature and humidity, the piano will succumb to going out of tune as the strings stretch over time. This stretching over time will cause the pitch to go flat
How Often Should I Tune my Piano?
The majority of manufacturers recommend getting your piano tuned at least once or twice a year.
However, there are some additional factors that can increase the number of times you need to tune your piano which can include:
- If you just purchased a new or used piano
- Where the piano is located (can cause changes in temperature or humidity)
- If there piano has been moved to a new location
How much does it cost to tune a piano?
When it comes to the cost of tuning a piano, there isn’t usually one fixed price. There are several different factors that can cause a change in price when it comes to piano tuning. It’s because of these factors such as the kind of piano you own, the condition it’s in, environmental factors or even additional repairs, can all affect the price you pay.
Usually there is a base fee you would pay that can increase from there as the technician works on your piano.
Piano Tuning Cost Factors
Your piano is unique in the sense that its tuning needs will differ from others, that being said your tuning price will also differ. There are general factors that are accounted for when it comes to piano tuning such as: the kind of piano you own, its age, maintenance, and any additional repairs needed.
The type of piano you own
Whether you have spared no expense and gotten a grand or baby grand piano or have a more affordable console or spinet piano, the kind of piano you own will affect the price. Because of how the piano is constructed and the positions of parts (like the soundboard or strings) need to be taken into account when it comes to price.
Level 1: Basic Tuning Service
This level is the simplest as it is just the routine maintenance of the piano. This type of service is done every 6 months or once a year, and standardly can take a technician anywhere from an hour to an hour and 30 minutes to complete.
At this level, the quality of your piano tuning technician will show, a good quality technician can charge anywhere from $110 to $150 for a tuning. While other possibly cheaper options can be more affordable at $50-$90 for a complete tuning.
Level 2: Operative Maintenance Service
If you have just moved or maybe missed a couple of years of piano maintenance this level will be applicable to you. This level is made for pianos that have been moderately maintained.
For this type of service, your piano technician will need to turn all the tuning pins one time to pressurize the sound before they can do the tuning. Since all 230 pins need to be tuned, this process can take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes all the way to around 2 hours. This can cost around $160 to $220.
Level 3: Sore Arm Tuning
If your piano has been ignored or neglected for a lengthy period of time, there is no doubt that the notes have gone flat. The name ‘sore arm’ comes from the amount of work the technician will have to do in order to restore the piano back to a playable condition. This level of tuning can also apply to older instruments as well (for example pianos that are 60 years or older).
Level 4: Dead On Arrival
As the name suggests, this level refers to pianos that have many defects and are badly damaged to the point where they cannot physically be tuned. In this instance, your piano tech will most likely inform you there is very little point to tune your piano.
Although a dead-on-arrival piano cannot be tuned, the technicians may charge you an inspection service fee. This can set you back anywhere from $40-$80.
If you find your piano in this category, you are better off just purchasing a new piano and maintaining it.
How regularly your piano has been maintained?
Now that you understand the levels of piano maintenance, obviously how well you keep up with your piano maintenance will dramatically affect the price. If you give your piano the regular maintenance it needs 1-2 times a year, you can expect the minimum cost of tuning. If you occasionally forget or miss regular tuning, you run the risk of extra expenses related to more labour and even repairs.
This process will involve the technician doing two-pitch raises followed by a level one basic tuning. Since this level has a high degree of work and level of care it does take longer, usually around 2 hours and 30 minutes. In terms of price, you can look to spend in the range of $220 to $400. It is important to note that these are only approximations since the price can vary depending on the model of the piano; some techs may charge more if they are working on a spinet model.
Whether or not there are any broken strings
If your piano has a singular broken string or multiple this can increase the cost of your piano tuning. There are a few factors that need to be considered when replacing broken strings such as:
- Is it more beneficial to restring the whole instrument?
- The brand of piano
- The size of the piano
- The length or size of the string or strings that need replacing
- The type of material for the string
The Age of the Piano
Since strings stretch over time, new strings that are in new or freshly restored pianos need to be tuned more frequently than an older one whose has “broken in” strings.
If your piano is up there in years or has been left alone for a little while, you should expect some additional refinements and repairs on top of your regular tuning cost.
Another factor associated with age that can increase the cost of your piano tuning is if your piano has been unevenly tuned. This common problem occurs when the instrument hasn’t been tuned on time and on a regular basis or it can also occur when there is humidity change in the piano’s environment.
Whether there needs to be more repairs
Another factor that could increase the cost of your piano tuning is if your piano needs any additional repairs
See the table in the next section for more information.
Tuning and Additional Expenses
|Type of Service
|Inspection or Evaluation
|Pitch Correcting (ONLY)
|$175 to $600
|String cover installation
|$250 to $350
|$300 to $400
|$100 to $150
|Installation of under-covers
|Climate control installation
|Usually around $400
|$100 to $150
|Repairs (Typically charged per hour)
|$60 to $100 per hour
|Vertical action regulation and reconditioning
|$800 to $2,500
|Vertical action rebuilding
|Usually around $4,000
|Grand action regulation and reconditioning
|$2,500 to $3,500
|$5,000 – $8,000
How are pianos tuned?
Tuning is one of the most important and essential parts of piano maintenance. Understanding piano is not a simple concept but we will break it down to help you fully grasp how and what piano tuning is.
As a standard in North America, our pianos are usually tuned to a frequency of A440 which means that the A note (located above the middle C) will vibrate at 440 cycles per second, also known as 440Hz. When your piano is being tuned, the piano technician will adjust the tuning pins to ensure that all the strings have the correct tension or the right pitch.
When a piano is tuned correctly it will have the right musical intervals. What this means is that different notes will have the right pitch, whether they need to be a half-step down or up.
After all 88 keys and 230 strings have their tensions and pitches adjusted to the tuning of A440, you will now have a beautifully in-tune piano ready to be played until its next maintenance.
Where can I get my piano tuned in the area?
Now that you know the importance of tuning your piano as well as additional information such as the different levels of tuning, common problems, the price of tuning your piano and finally, how pianos are tuned, we have come to the conclusion of this article.
There is probably one more question on your mind: Where can I get my piano tuned?
Lucky for you PianoLand has reliable, experienced and professional piano technicians located throughout New York to help you with all your piano needs!
Our certified piano technicians can help you with any brand of piano and have experience handling various situations. You can rest assured that your piano with its 88 keys and 230 strings are in good hands with PianoLand.
We have locations in New York City, and its boroughs like Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island.
CONTACT US today about our piano tuning services!