- Piano Tuning to the international pitch standard of A-440
- Action Regulation (the touch, feel, and performance)
- Voicing (Tone Regulation)
- Reconditioning/ Refurbishing/ Rebuilding
- Humidity Control (Piano Life Saver System)
PLEASE NOTE: We do not service electronic keyboards or digital pianos. Nor do we work on the player mechanisms or bellows for player pianos.
Piano Tuning, Regulation, Repair, Rebuilding
Pianos can be “bright” or “mellow,” “warm” or “icy,” “rich and dark,” or “light and sparkling.” What sounds good to one player might not appeal to another. If you play a lot of classical music you might like a rich, dark tone. If Jazz is your thing, you might prefer a brighter, livelier tone.
Voicing is the process of tailoring your piano’s tone. Your piano’s tone changes as the felt hammers wear. Voicing of the hammers is periodically necessary to give your piano an even, full tone throughout the entire scale, and to produce the widest possible dynamic range (from soft to loud). Via subtle manipulation of the felt hammers we are often able to give your piano its “voice” back.
If your piano sounds harsh or too-bright, or seems uneven from note to note, it's often a problem that can be resolved by voicing. Or if you like what you hear but are looking for something a bit softer or brighter, artful voicing by a skilled technician can be the answer. In these cases, we needle the hammers with a special tool to voice them softer or use techniques and materials to voice them brighter. In either case, a competent voicer can bring your piano to its full potential.
In the worst case scenario, many older pianos have noticeable ridges where the strings have worn into the felt over the years. In these cases you can be nearly certain your piano’s tone is sadly impaired. To remedy this we file and reshape the hammers and expertly match them to the strings.
In any event, voicing should be part of your extended maintenance schedule. Every 5 years or so the hammers should be checked and voiced as necessary so you can be certain you are getting the most from your instrument—that its tone is all that it should be.
The definitions can vary in the industry but essentially, reconditioning and/or refurbishing are processes that dramatically improve the appearance, condition, function, and performance of an instrument while stopping short of a total rebuild.
Very few pianos are good candidates for a complete rebuild, an often prohibitively expensive procedure where nearly all the parts, including the entire action and pinblock, and often the soundboard, are replaced in an effort to restore the piano to a like-new or better-than-new condition.
With reconditioning or refurbishing the piano and its various parts are extensively cleaned, polished, buffed, lubricated, adjusted, regulated, eased, serviced, and maintained. Worn or broken parts are replaced; felts and cloth might be replaced; and depending on their condition, the strings or hammers might be replaced.
Reconditioning/ refurbishing beautifies the piano and restores the instrument to proper working condition.
We can custom tailor the work to your individual needs and desires, focusing on those specific parts of the piano your budget allows. Or we can take an iterative approach and over time, as your budget permits, bring your piano back to its full potential.
Reconditioning can be an economical way to transform an older piano to its former glory in appearance, function, and performance. Depending on the instrument’s condition, it can be the preferred method—reconditioning retains the original character of the piano.
Except where otherwise indicated, All Copyright © 2009 Amadeus Piano Co. All rights reserved.
What is Pitch Raising and Why Do I Need It?
©1993 Piano Technicians Guild
Your piano is designed to sound its best when tuned to A-440 (A above middle C vibrates at 440 cycles per second), the international pitch standard. At this pitch, power and tonal range are optimum and your piano will match the pitch of other instruments. When your piano varies from A-440, pitch adjustments are required to bring it back to standard. By always maintaining your piano at standard pitch, you create long-term tuning stability because the strings and structure stay in equilibrium. You also ensure proper ear training because you always hear your music in the correct key.
Why does a piano's pitch change?
Piano strings change pitch for two primary reasons: the initial stretching and settling of strings when the piano is new, and soundboard movement due to humidity variation. In the case of new pianos, the pitch drops quickly for the first couple of years as the new strings stretch and wood parts settle. It's very important to maintain any new piano at the proper pitch during this period, so the string tension and piano structure can reach a stable equilibrium. (Most piano manufacturers recommend three to four tunings the first year, and at least two per year after that.)
Aside from this initial settling, climate change is the main cause of pitch change. That's because the piano's main acoustical structure -- the soundboard -- is made of wood. While wooden soundboards produce a wonderful sound, they also react constantly to climate changes. As the relative humidity goes up, the soundboard swells, increasing its crowned shape and stretching the piano's strings to a higher pitch. Then during dry times the soundboard flattens out, lowering tension on the strings and causing the pitch to drop. The drop in the dry season tends to exceed the rise during humid times, so the net result is a drop in pitch each year that the piano isn't serviced.
Won't tuning restore my piano's pitch to A- 440?
If a piano has gone without tuning for an extended period, its pitch may have dropped far below A- 440. This means that each of its approximately 220 strings needs to be tightened considerably, adding tremendous additional tension to the piano's structure. The problem is that as each string is tightened, the additional load causes the pitch of previously adjusted strings to change. Thus it is impossible to make a substantial change in pitch and end up with a fine, accurate tuning in one step. Instead, a process called "pitch raising" must first be done, in which all strings are raised to their correct average tension levels. (Likewise, when a piano's pitch is higher than standard, a pitch lowering procedure must be done to reduce string tensions to approximately correct levels.) Only then can the piano be accurately tuned. In other words, accurate tuning is only possible when all strings are so close to their proper tension that only small further changes are needed during tuning. These small changes then do not disturb the tuning of other strings.
How far from standard pitch must a piano be before a pitch raise is necessary?
Just when a pitch raise or lowering is necessary depends upon how accurate the final tuning must be, and the size and quality of the piano. Any net change in a piano's string tension during tuning will distort the final result and reduce stability. Realistically, a pitch difference of a few percent can usually be accommodated successfully during tuning. For average situations, when a piano's pitch is noticeably different from that of other standard pitched instruments, a pitch correction procedure is necessary before tuning. Whenever exact pitch level is critical, such as in concert or recording instruments, any pitch deviation must be corrected before tuning.
How long does a pitch raise take?
A pitch raise is essentially a special tuning procedure designed to leave the piano approximately in tune. For moderate pitch corrections the procedure takes about the same time as a tuning, or less. Extreme pitch changes may require two separate pitch adjustments.
The pitch adjustment and subsequent tuning may be done in one visit, or the tuning may be scheduled for a short time later depending upon how far the pitch had to be changed. In general, the longer a piano has gone without regular service, the more tunings will be required to reestablish tuning stability.
Like your car, your piano is a major investment which deserves regular servicing to keep it working well and preserve its value. Most importantly, the well-maintained piano sounds better, plays better, and gives you and your family a wealth of musical pleasure.
The preceding article is a reprint of a Technical Bulletin published by the Piano Technicians Guild, Inc. Piano Technicians Guild is an international organization of piano technicians. Registered Piano Technicians (RPTs) are those members of PTG who have passed a series of examinations on the maintenance, repair, and tuning of pianos.
- First visit Tuning Fee: $200. (For an instrument that I have not serviced before). However, see "How much will it cost?" below for more detail on pianos that have not been regularly maintained; or serviced within the last year.
- Rates come down with frequency of tunings. *(See below).
- Pitch Raise: No charge if piano is within 10 cents of pitch. (Normal for pianos well-maintained or tuned within last year or so). Over 10 cents flat: $1/ cent. (See below for more details).
- Call or email for quote for other work—depends on piano type and condition and parts selected. We will happily give you an idea of costs via email or phone or a free quote after inspecting the piano.
- Appraisal—Full Written Report: $175. (For insurance purposes, or for a piano you are interested in selling, etc.).
- Appraisal—Verbal Report: $80. (For a piano you are interested in buying, etc.). ** 50% discount (rebate) if after buying the piano you elect to have us tune or service it for you.
*Rates come down for scheduled visits: quarterly, bi-yearly, yearly. And free touch-ups if desired when I'm in the area.
Prices subject to change.
We get this question a lot from clients who have purchased a used piano or are interested in having work done on a piano that hasn't been serviced in a very long time. (For pianos more regularly maintained, see Rates above).
When pianos sit for long periods without service they invariably go flat. Generally, the longer they sit the flatter they become; but every piano is unique and some fade more than others. With a piano that is otherwise in fairly good condition—no serious repair issues (like missing hammers or strings, broken parts, etc.)—a little more than a standard tuning might be required. For example, a pitch raise will likely be needed prior to tuning to get the piano back at pitch and the wire stabilized, and the piano might also require some minor service and adjustments.
A liberal rule of thumb is to add about $10 for every year out of service to the standard tuning fee. E.g., a piano that hasn’t been tuned in over 10 years might cost an additional $100 over and above the tuning fee to get the piano pitch raised, back into decent playing shape, tuned to A440 and sounding nice again. This fee generally covers some minor service issues as well, for example, a few sticky keys, minor cleaning and lubing, etc.
However, this is just a general guide. Your piano might cost significantly less or a bit more; the technician can't know for sure until he’s measured the pitch and assessed the piano. And we are always happy to go over our fees prior to beginning any work.