How to Care for and Maintain a Piano

Posted by Gordon Bolton

A well-made piano is much more than merely an exquisite instrument. It is also a large and formal piece of furniture. A piano adds formality, grandeur, stateliness, and substance to one’s home. A piano’s presence makes a statement. It is likely one of the most significant pieces of furniture in the house. Quality pianos are not inexpensive and represent a substantial financial output. As is the case with any treasured investment, it behooves a piano’s owner to invest in proper care for this queen of musical instruments.

What Does My Piano Need?

Careful planning leads to thoughtful action. Consider your piano’s needs the way you would those of a new family member. A piano has the following requirements.

Suitable Location

Piano care begins with piano placement. Give careful thought to where the piano will go. In decades past, people were advised not to place pianos on outside walls. Before the onset of well-insulated homes, temperature changes near the outer walls were more pronounced. Today, discard this advice if the house is well-insulated. Do take care to place the piano away from fireplaces, radiators, heating ducts, and stoves. Also, try and ensure that no direct sunlight reaches the piano.

Regular Tuning

Your piano will benefit and stay tuned longer if you regularly schedule its tunings regardless of whether it seems to need it. It often is someone other than the pianist who is responsible for having the piano tuned. Know that it genuinely does need regular tuning if it is to perform optimally. Concert pianists frequently have their pianos tuned each time they play. New pianos should be tuned once each season for the first year and twice-yearly after that, more often if needed.

Your piano might a tuner’s help when it suffers from keys or pedals that stick, lack of sound, sharp or flat notes, or changes in the keys’ action. Piano strings are like those on a guitar in that they eventually wear out and require a replacement.

Climate Change

Despite its substance and size, a piano is a surprisingly sensitive instrument, particularly to changes in temperature and humidity within its immediate climate. Hot, dry temperatures, such as a wood stove or in the absence of temperature-controlled forced heat and air-conditioning, are prone to structural damage arising from swelling during periods of humidity and shrinking when dry.

Strings rust, keys stick, tuning pins loosen, and felts become hard over time when subjected to too much moisture.

Providing a piano with ideal conditions isn’t always easy, even in the grandest of homes. Fortunately, the installation of a humidity control system takes care of a piano’s immediate environmental requirements. Humidity control systems frequently come already installed in new pianos. Still, they may be employed for piano humidity maintenance at any point in a piano’s life, assuming no damage has yet occurred.

Piano Cleaning

Pianos are happiest when clean and free of dust. This state is readily achieved by dusting the piano as needed and polishing its surface with a polish made specifically for pianos. Once each month, use a vacuum with a soft brush to remove dust from the strings and cabinet area and vacuum the back of upright pianos. Take care never to use the piano as an end table, as wet glasses will leave permanent white rings in the finish. Ivories may be wiped first with a damp cloth and then with a dry one. Pedals may be polished with brass polish as needed.

Care When Moving

As anyone might imagine, moving a piano, especially larger pianos, or those located in on upper stories, is a job for the experts. Depending upon the piano’s location within the home, the home may need partial dismantling, and a crane might be required. Each piano moving job is different. By working with piano movers, you’ll have insurance should anything go wrong.

However, if a DIY move is how it has to be, make sure there is at least one strong man for every hundred pounds of piano weight. Rent a dolly, if necessary, or a piano skid. Make sure to protect the piano’s finish by wrapping and tightly wrapping it in moving blankets. Lift from below the piano and stop every few feet if needed to get a better grip.

Before the day of the move, take time to clean the piano to ensure it is free of dust. Lock the top and keyboard cover. Measure the piano and doorways that it must pass through beforehand to make sure the piano will fit. Make sure the movers will have a clear path in which to move. Remove scatter rugs, cords, and pets that might cause a mover to trip.

Decide in advance where the piano will reside at its new location. Upon arrival, carefully unwrap the piano and set it in place. Allow it a couple of days to acclimate to the home’s existing environmental conditions. At that point, depending upon temperature and humidity conditions, you may wish to employ a humidity control system then. Once the piano has adjusted to its new environment, treat it as a new piano the first year by tuning each season, and then twice annually.

A Pianist

Every piano needs a pianist to sit with it and to play it, however inexpertly. A piano that never gets played, no matter how beautiful and stately, or how properly maintained, is somehow sad. Pianos need to be played, even if the player is the child next door just learning her scales, or whether it sits, waiting, for holidays when the family gathers around it to sing festive songs of hope and cheer. Pianos like this are the heart of the home when families gather around it.

In conclusion, a piano, when properly maintained, should last for a lifetime and beyond, both as a musical instrument capable of beautiful music and as a beautiful piece of furniture. Beauty comes at a cost, however, and in this instance, the beauty of this instrument’s sound and appearance comes with precise care needs that piano owners should never ignore.

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