Piano Tuning: How Important Is It?

Do You Really Need To Tune That Piano?

“We haven’t tuned our piano in quite a while but it sounds pretty good. So, why bother paying for a tuning? “

That question is a valid one and it’s one that reflects the mind set of many piano owners. It deserves to be acknowledged.

The very idea of a piano tuning is equated with making a piano sound better – and rightfully so. Naturally, a good piano tuning should make a piano sound more pleasing to the ears. However, a very significant reason for tuning a piano regularly is all too often overlooked. One fact that is responsible for this oversight is because the inner workings of a piano are usually out of view and not understood. Thus, the phrase “out of site, out of mind” seems applicable.

The soundboard of a piano is what you could refer to as the “amplifier” of the instrument. It is the part that allows us to actually hear the sound created when a string inside the piano vibrates.

Well, on average, there are 215-220 strings in a piano. These strings are attached indirectly to this soundboard by being tightly stretched between tuning pins on one side and hitch pins on the other side. This is only a general picture being presented but just enough for us to understand the importance of tuning on a regular basis.

A Piano Tuning Helps To Keep Your Piano In Shape

The tightness of those strings, when combined, consists of approximately 19 tons of pressure! Now, here is the important part. The pressure that those strings exert actually cause the soundboard to form a bit of an arc. Now, this “arc” is actually ever so slight – so slight, in fact, that it can be difficult to see this curvature with the naked eye. However, this arc is necessary if the soundboard is to do its job properly. If you can imagine the bow of an archery set, you might think of this as a very exaggerated visual as to how the string in a piano maintains that curvature.

Obviously, if the string was not kept tight, the bow would lose its arc, at least to a degree. Well, the tightness of those piano strings maintains the curvature of the soundboard in a similar manner. Much of the piano tuning process involves keeping those strings tight, thus resulting in the structural integrity of the soundboard being maintained. If the strings are not tended to regularly, the soundboard can “relax” into a flatter shape. Over a prolonged time of not being tuned, other parts associated with the soundboard (the bridge, for one) can suffer as well. Tuning a piano whose strings haven’t been stretched for a long time can actually contribute to a soundboard cracking (since its original curvature hasn’t been realized in quite a while).

Another way to look at it is from the perspective of keeping your body in shape. If our muscles are not properly stretched regularly, we usually feel the results and can even experience problems. Also, stretching them after long periods of not doing so can also lead to much discomfort.

In short, the cost of tuning a piano once or twice a year is small compared to the cost of repairs necessary to fix the damage that can result from negligence. It simply makes sense to want to get to know your piano better and provide it with the tender loving care it deserves in return for the many happy musical rewards it brings to you year after year. So, yes, enjoy the better intonation that results from that next piano tuning. At the same time, feel good about having done the right thing for your piano’s overall health.