You’ve heard it before, the best way to care for a piano is to have it tuned regularly. But, is piano tuning really the sole factor that determines a piano’s health? The answer may surprise you, but regular tunings can prevent 80% of future damage to the mechanical parts of a piano. From the strings to the action, and even to the plate; almost every part of a piano is affected by a tuning.
The strings are clearly the most affected part of a piano when the piano is not tuned at a regular schedule. There needs to be a constant tension across those strings and it needs to be uniform across all the (roughly) 230 strings. When this tension loosens it can mess with the down-bearing of the strings and in turn mess with the tone of the piano. That is why when you get an old piano tuned properly it can sound like an entirely different piano, assuming it can hold the tune.
The action is also affected in a negative way when the piano is not tuned at a proper interval. The action of a piano is so intricate and fragile that there will be damage to it over time and there is nothing we can do to prevent this. The slightest humidity spike in the place of residence for the piano can cause those tiny wooden parts to swell and render a key useless. Whenever you tune a piano regularly the hammer on the action will not strike the string any different than before. This uniformity can extend the life of your piano beyond a comprehendible time frame. Something simple like this can be everything, especially with antique pianos.
Lastly, the soundboard is another key part that can be affected by irregular tunings. Earlier we mentioned the uniform tension across the strings, that tension is transferred to the cast iron plate, which is sitting atop the soundboard. Over time this tension is not proper across all strings the soundboard can actually start to warp and slightly change shape. This doesn’t seem like it would be much of a big deal, but the slightest adjustment in the angle of the soundboard can have negative impacts on the sound the piano produces. The soundboard is comparable to the engine of a car, if it’s not in great shape the car won’t run properly. Same with a piano, if the soundboard isn’t in great shape, the piano will “sing” differently.
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