Piano Care: How to Get More Years From Your Piano

piano care

For many people, the purchase or ownership of a piano can be a bit of a tricky proposition. Unlike violins, guitars, or other portable instruments, a piano tends to take up much space in a home and requires a type of care that most instruments do not. Fortunately, the ownership of a piano can be one of the most rewarding things in an individual’s or family’s life and can provide hours upon hours of rewarding playing and learning time.

For this reason alone, it’s important to keep a piano in good shape and make sure that with the right piano care it will be around for many years to come. Here are just a few ways to ensure that the piano has a long and healthy lifespan!

Understand How Heat and Cold Each Affect Wood Differently

Pianos tend to be made from a lot of wood, and it’s important to know how that wood will be affected by changes in temperature on a daily or even seasonal basis in your home. A gorgeous piano placed right next to a comfortable and cozy fireplace in a living room might sound like an ideal set-up, for example, but the truth is that this kind of placement would probably play havoc with the materials that make up your piano due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity caused by the proximity to open fire.

In fact, many of us probably do not stop to think that the kind of places that we usually associate with a piano (a living room or study room, for example) are also the kind of places with large shifts in heat and cold that occur when air-conditioning or heating are used to regulate temperature. Indeed, heat variations of this kind can easily cause the wood in a piano to expand or contract, and not only will this expansion or contraction cause a piano to go out of tune, but it will also quite possibly cause the wood to crack.

Depending on the age and quality of your piano, that can be very bad news indeed, as certainly, no one wants their vintage Steinway to suffer damage!

Protecting a Piano for Generations to Come

Fortunately, there are things we can do to protect our pianos from heat and cold. Remember, wood needs some degree of moisture to stay sound and in good condition, and air vents are another big red flag when it comes to choosing a location for our piano. Because air vents tend to cause things near them to dry out, it’s probably best if your piano is set away from a vent.

Moreover, the climate where you live is going to determine the kind of care your piano will need. Considering whether summers will be hot and humid or whether winters will be dry and cold (as is the case in many deserts and high-altitude areas) will help you to make a plan for creating the perfect piano-playing environment.

A humidifier is a great way to make sure that your piano doesn’t get too dry, for example, and it’s always a great idea to ask a trusted piano teacher for tips on keeping a piano in great condition. Talented and reliable lessons for the piano, as well as piano teachers, can be found through reputable teaching organizations in your local area, and they will usually be familiar with the steps needed to keep a piano in tip-top shape. And in addition to their knowledge of piano construction, they can also provide lessons for the piano, which can greatly improve yours or a family member’s skill level!

Take Care of the Machinery Too

While much of the weight of a piano comes from its wood construction, it’s important to remember that machinery is a big part of the equation in a piano’s build too. Moreover, pedals and other parts of a piano need to move properly to make your instrument sound its best, so don’t be afraid to ask your local piano store about how to fix a squeaky sustain pedal or other issue that is keeping your piano from sounding great. (While it may seem tempting to fix a piano’s technical problems on our own, it’s actually a good thing to rely on people with a good knowledge of piano construction to find a solution to various challenges we might be having with the instrument. Trying to work out a problem without help from an expert can actually cause lasting damage to a piano’s parts, for example.)

Research Your Piano

If you’ve already purchased your piano, you’ll probably be able to find much information on the builder and the types of woods used in the piano’s construction. With Internet communities dedicated to the appreciation of various piano makers springing up like wildflowers across the world, it’s pretty likely that you can find a group of people who are familiar with the brand that you’re using and how to maintain its construction for optimum effect.

Advice on how to preserve different types of wood, including spruce or mahogany, can go a long way towards helping you pick out a particular polish or conditioner that keeps the woodwork on your piano sparkling and looking great, for example.

Invest in Tuning

While it doesn’t have to be often, the tuning of a piano will enable you to hear your instrument at its best. An out-of-tune piano might be playable and even sound good, but the kind of resonance and tone that can be achieved by having a piano tuned by a professional is hard to beat, especially if you enjoy performing your pieces for other people.

Local music shops or music schools will often be able to refer you to a trusted piano tuner in your area, so be sure to do right by your piano and allow it to sound as it was designed to be heard!

For these reasons, keeping a piano may feel at times like a chore, but with the many rewards of keeping a piano in good shape and the chance to keep an instrument that changes our lives for the better (and can be passed down from generation to generation), it’s clear that the journey is well worth the challenges. Above all else, enjoy the process. That is what the enjoyment of making music is all about!

Vincent Reina began teaching piano lessons as a high school student, and has continued to do so ever since. He received a Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano Performance from Purchase Conservatory. He then earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching Music from Manhattanville College. Today, Vincent is co-founder of Music To Your Home, a New York City based music school. He’s the proud winner of many significant piano competitions, including the Westminster Choir College Artistic Excellence in Piano Award.

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Great info on various types of wood. Piano owners often assume that all pianos are made from the same type of wood or don’t understand how different species respond to the environment. Thanks for sharing!

The previous owner of the house we bought left a piano, and we want to give it the maintenance it needs. It caught our attention when you started finding a professional to tune the piano before using it. We will reach out to an expert to help us tune it and to provide us some suggestions on maintaining it in good shape.

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