Piano Keys

Frequently Asked Piano Questions

In addition to being a beautiful piece of furniture, the piano is a complex musical instrument with over 220 strings and a combined tension load of over 35,000 lbs.  The inner mechanism, called the action, is assembled with thousands of intricate springs, levers, and pads made from wood, metals, leather, wool felts, high tech plastics, and other materials.  It has been designed and engineered for over 200 years to bring you a unique acoustic sound and touch.

The following information is a compilation of facts that I've gathered after many years of experience working with manufacturers, dealers, and other professional technicians, along with thousands of pianos I've serviced in homes and institutions across the metro area.  Here are the answers to the ten most frequently asked questions about pianos.  For further info. contact me now. bruce@genckpiano.com

1. What makes a piano go out of tune?

There are several factors, but humidity change is the primary reason. The soundboard expands and contracts against the strings as moisture in the air fluctuates. This movement changes string tension, which alters pitch.

2. How often should my piano be tuned?

New pianos should be tuned four times the first year due to string stretch and settling. Twice a year thereafter is a minimum in this climate for good tuning stability and sound. However, heavily used or performance pianos may require several tunings, or tuning before each performance. Remember, pianos go out of tune whether used or not, so one that's idle must still be serviced a minimum of once a year.

3. What happens if my piano isn't tuned?

If not tuned regularly, a piano will never give you its full sound potential, and can inhibit the ear training of any student. If let go for a long period of time, soundboard movement and string stretch will gradually lower your piano's pitch and cause a tension imbalance. Several tunings and additional maintenance may be necessary to restore the pitch and stability of the instrument.

4. What is the best time of year to tune my piano?

There is no perfect time because the humidity is constantly fluctuating and it only takes a 10% rise or fall to affect the tuning and action mechanism. A regular tuning schedule and humidity control will help offset these changes.

5. How should my piano be cleaned?

Clean your piano with a soft damp cloth on all finishes and keys followed by a soft dry cloth. A mild dish soap may be added for heavily soiled areas. The inside of a grand piano around the strings and soundboard should be periodically vacuumed out by the owner. The piano and action should be thoroughly cleaned by a certified technician every 5 - 10 years. The inside of uprights should be done about every 10 years.

6. What other maintenance will my piano require?

In addition to regular tunings, your piano will need occasional cleanings, minor repairs (strings and action parts), regulating (resetting specs for action parts), and voicing (changing or restoring the piano's tone through string leveling, hammer filing, needling, or chemical application). These needs are determined by the piano brand, model, size, age, past care, usage, environment, your proficiency level, and personal preference.

7. Will moving my piano make it go out of tune?

No. It's only affected when moved to a different environment where the humidity and/or temperature is higher or lower.

8. Can I put my piano on an outside wall?

Yes. Homes today are well insulated. However, the piano should be kept away from heating/cooling vents and direct sunlight.

9. Who should service my piano?

Use an experienced, full-time, registered piano technician. A series of rigid testing must be completed to obtain a registered certification through the Piano Technician's Guild, which is a national non-profit organization of skilled craftsmen involved in continuing education through regular meetings and seminars. A seasoned pro that does this for a living will have all the special tools, knowledge, and advice to help keep your piano performing at its best. He can also work more efficiently, and make the proper recommendations to save you money in the long run. You get what you pay for.

10. What temperature and humidity is best?

A temperature range of 68 - 72 is best, but a constant humidity level of 42% is critical for protecting your piano and making your tunings last. Here in Minnesota, we have one of the worst climates in the world for pianos. It's not uncommon to see humidity readings of 10% during the winter, and over 80% during periods of the summer.

For a piano, this kind of change is extreme and not only affects the tuning, but can cause additional problems with loose tuning pins and cabinet parts, soundboard cracks, string rust, action part noises, warpage, loosening, and sluggishness. Even with air conditioning and furnace/room humidifiers, control efforts are only slightly improved as is evident in the thousands of humidity readings I've recorded over the years in a wide variety of homes and institutions.

To protect your instrument, I highly recommend the specially designed climate control system for the inside of your piano. This product, made by Dampp-Chaser Corporation, is both a humidifier and dehumidifier that alternates automatically to keep the humidity at 42% throughout the year. The unit is silent, hidden, easy to care for, and works better than anything else available. It's been around for decades, and continues to prove its effectiveness in the hundreds of installations I've done over the years.

The climate control system is endorsed by piano manufacturers, the Piano Technician's Guild, and many experienced technicians throughout the country. This product is the most effective way to care for your piano while saving yourself hundreds of dollars in unnecessary repair and maintenance costs. The climate control system will allow your instrument to give you its best in performance and sound for many years to come.

  • I play professionally, and have had Bruce Genck service my piano for 29 years.
  • I can truly say that in our search for just the right piano,
    Bruce was a very important factor in making it happen.
    I felt I could trust him completely as his client.
  • I have fallen in love with my piano all over again.
  • His tuning, voicing, and other recommendations have it sounding better than ever!
  • I am amazed at the level of care and timeliness
    with which Bruce responds to those rare emergency calls.
  • The piano was quite dark and muddy sounding
    when delivered to me, and now it sounds fabulous!
  • Bruce's work has always been first rate; he has been available
    if we needed him in any emergency situation.
  • Bruce's work has always been first rate; he has been available
    if we needed him in any emergency situation.
  • Because of his thoroughness and experience,
    I could never trust another piano technician.
  • I never realized how much better my piano could sound with his work!
  • I have taught piano for 25 years, and Bruce Genck
    has tuned the pianos in my studio the entire time.
  • You just don't stick with someone for 30 years
    unless the service is outstanding.
  • As a teacher, my piano gets a lot of hard use, and Bruce
    has done an excellent job of keeping it in good shape.