Caring for your piano

After purchasing your piano it is important to know what steps to take to protect your investment so you can continue to enjoy it for years to come (and to protect your resale value).

Where to place your piano

Because of the damaging effects of hot dry air, try to place your piano away from radiators, heat ducts or any source of hot dry air. In our climate it is preferred to have the piano placed IN A CLIMATE CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT. Avoid placing it near a window, outside door or any source of dry or hot air. With upright pianos, allow an inch or so of space between the piano and the wall, as the wall will reflect the tone emitting from the back of the piano and act as a secondary sounding board.

Taking care of the finish

Black pianos are usually not damaged by ultraviolet sun rays. But if the outside case is a wood grain, you should NOT put the piano in front of a window because it will discolour fast! You can clean wood finish pianos with a soft cloth (cotton or cheese cloth works well) slightly dampened with furniture polish. If you have an ebony or ivory finish, put 2 parts Glass Plus without ammonia to 10 parts of water in a bottle and shake well. Then spray your cloth lightly and wipe the finish and keys. Always spray your cloth; never spray your piano directly.

Keeping the interior of the piano clean

The interior of your piano should be dusted periodically. You can use one of the smaller hose attachments on your vacuum cleaner to pick up much of the dust. If any toys, coins or other foreign objects should find themselves inside your piano, don't try to remove them (unless it can be done easily). Go to the "find a tuner" part of our website and let a qualified tuner-technician remove the object. 

Tuning your piano Back to front page.

It takes time for a piano or grand piano to "settle in" and adjust to the individual climatic conditions in your home. Correct tuning and servicing is particularly important during the first year. Manufacturers agree that a piano should be tuned twice a year. We suggest that you take advantage of your free in-home tuning three months after delivery. You’ll find that as your piano mellows, it will actually improve in performance as long as it is tuned properly and at regular intervals.

The action

With nearly 10,000 separate parts, the action is a mechanical marvel that causes a hammer to strike the string(s) of a given note when the key is depressed. This means converting downward pressure on a key into forward motion of the hammer in vertical pianos, and upward motion of the hammer in grand pianos toward the strings, with the hammer traveling five times as far and approximately four times as fast as the front end of the key. A piano action would be fairly simple if striking a hammer against a string was all that was required. However, the hammer must also instantly rebound from the string(s) so that the sound of the vibrating string(s) is not muffled by the hammer being pressed against it. This happens even though the finger may be still holding down the key. The hammer must then be caught, or "checked" on its rebound from the string(s) so that it doesn't bounce back against them a second time. When the finger releases the key, the hammer is released and returns to its starting position and is reset for another blow. In a modern piano, all of the above happens in a fraction of second. The mechanism that accomplishes all of the above is a complicated system of levers, hinges and pivots which must be designed and assembled with painstaking precision, and the result is an action that responds to a player's touch with lightning quickness and accuracy, allowing the player complete freedom of musical expression, and rapid, clear articulation. Piano actions are largely made of wood, felt, woolen bushing cloth and leather, all materials that react to humidity changes, and yet most with tolerances sufficiently small that a fraction of an inch affects the performance of the piano. Just consider the skill required to assemble thousands of small moving parts so that they work smoothly and silently for 50 years or more without constant lubrication and adjustment. An action MUST be regulated at minimum every 5 years!

The dampers

Part of the action, the damper is a delicately balanced device that lets the performer stop a string from vibrating. More than 900 precisely made parts are required for a set of dampers. The "regulation" of dampers is very important as part of enjoying your piano to the maximum. When damper leak, we often get a "warranty" phone call. However, leaky dampers are usually an indication the humidity in your house is too low or too high and the wood has expanded or contracted too much.

The sound board

The sound board reflects and amplifies the tone caused when a hammer hits a string. It is without any doubt the most important part of the piano. Without it, no music would be produced. Like a hi-fi speaker, a sound board is a vibrating diaphragm. It must vibrate at exactly the same rate as the strings, and to work properly, must be under constant tension. This is accomplished by having the center of the board arched, or crowned, with the strings pressed down on the board where they cross the bridges. For a sound board to vibrate freely, it is usually only 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. Ribs help strengthen the board and preserve the crown. Woods used in a sounding board obviously must be carefully selected and seasoned. Also, the heavy and massive cast iron plate that covers the sounding board never touches any part of the sounding board. Caution: Lack of humidity will make the board split, with the consequence that the piano will lose its amplifier! This will result in a lower quality sound.

The strings

The pitch or sound of each note is determined by the number of vibrations per second of each string's "speaking length" (the part between the wooden bridge at the bottom of the sounding board and where the string bears on the iron plate). The number of vibrations given off by a string can be controlled three ways:

  • By tension on the string. (The lower the tension - the lower the pitch).
  • By length of the string. (The longer the length - the fewer vibrations and the lower the pitch).
  • By diameter of the string. (Wrapping additional wire around a string lowers the pitch).

These three factors are called the scale design. Piano manufacturers obtain the 88 different notes by varying the scale.

To lower the pitch a single octave, you must double the string length and so on, redoubling all the way down the scale. However, if you started with a two-inch speaking length string, kept string diameter and string length constant, when worked down all 88 notes, you would end up with a 22-foot upright piano.

This is why strings in the bass section are wound with wire. In the extreme bass, another wire is used around the first wrapping because a single winding heavy enough for the proper diameter couldn't be wrapped tightly enough around the center wire.

The tone

When a hammer strikes a string, not just a single sound, but a combination of sounds are produced, each overlapping and blending in a way only a trained ear can distinguish. The pitch of the string, called the fundamental tone, sounds first. The lowest pitch a string makes is produced by the vibration of the entire speaking length. Next the strings produce a number of higher tones called harmonics. The first harmonic is produced when the string divides itself in two and each half vibrates separately. Then, almost simultaneously, the string divides itself again. This time it breaks into three partial sections each vibrating at three times the original rate a producing a still higher tone. Back to front page.