Why does your piano need to be regularly cared for by a piano technician?
Your piano is made of thousands of parts that all need to be operating in harmony to produce expressive music that can be created with a smooth, even response, and a pleasing quality of sound. Most of your piano is wood, glue and felt that are very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity.
These are many of the services Chuck Beck Piano Services can provide for you and your instrument. I will always do everything I can for you within the capacity of the instrument. All are very important parts of a regular cycle of care your instrument needs for your piano to sound its best so musicians young and old can enjoy playing their piano.
Regular tuning service should be performed at least once a year for most instruments, and twice a year or more for pianos that are played heavily. The variations in humidity, moving, and the amount of playing all cause a piano to fall out of tune. Most pianos are designed to sound their best when tuned to A-440. When a piano falls in pitch even to A-438 a pitch adjustment tuning, and then a final tuning are necessary to affect a stable tuning. The tuning we are all used to hearing in contemporary music is equal temperament, where each of the twelve tones are equally spaced from one note to the next. Unless otherwise specified this is the temperament I’ll be using on your piano.
Regulating is a process of setting all of the mechanical adjustments of the piano’s action to compensate for the effects of wear. All upright and grand pianos require periodic regulation to perform at their best. If a piano’s regulating needs are not met, keys will be uneven in height; keys will feel and sound different from one another; a range of dynamics will become difficult to control, and be uneven from note to note. The fluid execution of expressive musical passages will become difficult to perform and your experience in playing will not be satisfying on a piano that is not properly regulated. If you have your piano serviced regularly, then some of the deterioration of the regulation can be prolonged with little steps and help keep the cost of your piano service down. ~Playing a piano that has keys that feel like bricks is horrible, but it can be fixed. Put the sledgehammer down sir, that piano just needs some regulating!~
When a piano is in perfect tune and regulated well, the tone can be addressed and the piano properly voiced. Every instrument has a voice, or tonal sound of its own, and as your piano technician I can help you get more of the tone you would enjoy out of your piano. A piano will sound very different if it is in a carpeted living room, or in a room with wood or tile floors. The sound can be made to be “warmer,” or “singing and full” or “brighter” to fit your preferences, within the capacity of each instrument. Selecting and replacing hammers, touchweight corrections and restringing when appropriate are also tone altering possiblilitie for some instruments.
A piano is made largely of wood, leather, felt, and glue. Maintaining a constant relative humidity at approximately 42% can greatly help prolong a good tuning, slow the deterioration of regulation, and prolong the total life of your piano. Installation of a humidity control system can help manage this process from inside the piano. You should be aware of the stress put on your piano by seasonal humidity swings. You can also keep a home humidifier running in the winter to help offset big swings in seasonal humidity.
All instruments reach a wear point in their life at which major repairs are needed. As a fully trained piano technician, many aspects of piano repair and maintenance are within my range of skills. When a job needs to be done, and it is too big for my shop, your home, or not economically viable for me to perform for you, some jobs can be completed through a network of professional rebuilders. ~PIANO ON!~
The life of a Piano
I have met many people who cherish their piano. Buying a piano is a big investment in yourself, your children, or even your grandchildren. Pianos are fine instrument, fine furniture, and an implied intent to better your life with music.
However fine they are, they are machines and they have a lifecycle to consider whether you have an older piano or you are looking for an older piano. How old is too old? Can a piano last forever?
The first year of a new piano or a rebuilt piano needs at least 3 or 4 tunings as the structure settles and strings stretch and bend. In years 1 – 2 years the piano stabilizes with regular service, some light voicing and regulating will improve the piano beyond what it was when it was new. 10-30 years brings some wear of action parts and seasonal swings will start taking their toll. Bass strings will start losing their brilliance. 30-60 years is the turning point in a pianos life. It will pass from a young piano to an older piano with action wear accelerating, it may not hold its tuning as solidly as it once did, Some pianos will have bridges cracking or splitting, finishing crazing, and bass strings will get dull and thuddy. Over 60 years, these pianos were made in the 1940’s and earlier. Uprights from the 30’s and 40’s are almost never in good condition; this is partly due to age and partly a reflection of changes in materials and build quality of the time. The old full size, shoulder high, uprights from the 20’s and earlier almost always have some serious problems. I always try to talk people out of getting a piano more than 60 years old. You will not get the feedback, the music, or the enjoyment from a piano that is hard to play, makes weird noises, or doesn’t tune well. The lifespan of a piano can be likened to a human lifespan. Young ones are fast and fun and the older we are the more problems slow us down. When needed I do offer controlled deconstruction and removal of unwanted and nonviable pianos.