How Soon After Moving Should You Tune Your Piano?

Posted by Gordon Bolton
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Whether it’s because of a change of location or the purchase of a new instrument, a successful piano move can be a challenging process. Because pianos are so delicate, there are a few things to consider when moving them. One of the biggest questions is whether an instrument must be tuned after a move.

Is re-tuning necessary? It can be under some circumstances, including humidity shifts, relocations, and other environmental changes. Read on to learn why your piano may get out of tune and how to move it safely.

Humidity and Its Effects on Piano Tuning

In many cases where pianos are moved from one location to the next, they suffer from temperature fluctuations. Unless your instrument is moved in a climate-controlled van, it may react adversely to these shifts. Though most moves happen quickly, so do a piano’s reactions to sudden humidity and temperature changes.

If there’s not enough airborne moisture, the piano’s wood may shrink and its parts might shift, crack, and loosen. When this happens, it’s almost inevitable that an instrument goes out of tune. Because pianos are made of so many natural and delicate materials, it’s important to keep them in controlled environments.

The components from which a piano is made need the right humidity level to maintain their functionality and tuning stability. To ensure this, many instrument owners use humidifiers.

The right moisture level for pianos is between approximately 40 and 45%, and humidification systems constantly adjust and monitor the condition.

Dryness Causes Different Problems

Though humidity is a big worry, dryness can also be damaging. A piano’s soundboard shrinks as its internal moisture evaporates. When the component has lost most of its moisture, it may crack. This condition is quite common in pianos.

Without a controlled environment, cracks are a certainty. Dryness may also cause an instrument’s pitch to flatten, and an extreme lack of moisture might weaken the glued joints that hold the soundboard and other wooden parts together.

How Quickly Do Pianos Acclimate After They’re Moved?

When delicate instruments are moved from location to location, they must be allowed to acclimate to their new surroundings. Tuning the piano immediately after a move would likely be a wasted investment.

The wooden parts from which a piano is made must react to airborne moisture as well. Though there’s no harm in waiting longer, the average instrument needs a minimum three- to five-day acclimation period before it’s tuned.

Because it takes time for the instrument to settle, it’s quite likely that it will be knocked out of tune once more. As the piano acclimates, all its parts must adjust to the moisture level in the new environment.

The same process must be repeated each time a piano is moved. Because the environment changes each time, especially for brand new instruments, they may need seasonal tuning. A new piano should be re-tuned at least three times within the first year of ownership. After that, the tuning frequency can be reduced.

Moving Affects a Piano’s Tune

If you have never moved a piano before, you might not know just how challenging the process can be. Instruments must be partially disassembled when they’re relocated. Here, the legs and pedals are removed before they’re wrapped with the rest of the casing. Then, the piano is lifted by a crew of professionals, turned on its side, and put onto a dolly.

Depending on the piano’s original location, getting it to the moving truck may be difficult. Long moves, especially those coming from upstairs rooms, may cause an instrument’s parts to loosen, shift, and crack.

Sometimes, a simple change in location causes a piano to go out of tune. Other actions, such as excessive turning or shaking, may knock parts out of place. However, the primary reason for de-tuning is the moving truck’s temperature. In most instances, these vehicles are very humid and they’re not climate controlled.

If an instrument is being moved a significant distance, it will have more than enough time to lose its tune no matter how well it’s wrapped. When there’s an extreme temperature shift, it takes little time for a piano to suffer the effects.

How to Keep Your Piano Tuned While Moving it

Relocation, in and of itself, isn’t what causes pianos to lose their tune. More often, the things that happen after a move are what cause the problem. Even a long-distance move won’t cause a piano to be de-tuned. While it seems to be a cause, there are a few ways to stabilize an instrument’s tune during a move.

The first step is to schedule the relocation as late or as early in the day as possible. During the morning and evening, temperatures are much lower, which means the moving van won’t be as humid. It’s best to hire a moving crew that specializes in piano relocations rather than an all-purpose moving company. Dedicated piano movers have climate-controlled vehicles that help instruments maintain a stable tune.

When moving a piano, it’s a good idea to use a humidifier within the instrument if possible. If the moving truck has an auxiliary power supply, the device will work throughout the move. By using a portable humidifier, the instrument will get the right level of moisture and it’s more likely to stay in tune.

After a piano is in its new home, the humidifier may be useful once more. With proper humidifier use, you’ll shorten the acclimation period before re-tuning can occur.

Conclusion

Pianos are resilient instruments, but they’re quite sensitive to changes in location, temperature, and humidity. Generally, a piano should be tuned with each change of location, unless the move is within a single building. In most cases, a move from one room to another part of the home won’t cause problems unless the new room has a different climate, such as a patio, a garage, or a den. To ensure the safety and stability of your instrument, trust the pros to get the job done.

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