You Can’t Pack A Piano, But You Can Protect It
When it comes to looking after their instruments, owners of guitars, violins, cellos and other instruments made of wood have it relatively easy. Sure, when they carry their instruments around, they run the risk of exposing them to different levels of heat and humidity. Travel from New York to a concert in Florida, for example, and your guitar won’t thank you for it.
But they’re rarely exposed for long and when they’re not being played it’s relatively easy to store the instruments in a place with stable humidity and to take appropriate measures to keep the humidity levels around the instrument even.
Piano owners have it harder. Their instruments don’t move and they can’t be carefully packed away inside a case. They stay in the same place day after day, even as the seasons change and the humidity levels rise and fall around them.
In time, that will have an effect. There is, after all, far more wood in a piano than in a violin or a guitar.
Your Piano Is (Almost) Back To Normal
You can see it mostly in the soundboard. A length of wood about 3/8 of an inch think, the soundboard is shaped like a crown and connects to the strings through a bridge which presses against them tightly.
When humidity levels are high, the wood in the soundboard absorbs more moisture, expands and pushes the bridge even more tightly against the strings. That raises the pitch of the piano, especially in the middle of the soundboard. If you’re getting higher pitches in the middle octaves than in the bass or treble registers, there’s a good chance that high moisture is already damaging your piano.
When humidity levels fall, the wood in the soundboard gives up moisture, shrinks and releases the pressure placed by the bridge against the strings. The pitch will fall, and again, you’ll feel the change most in the middle octaves.
Without taking appropriate action, those changes will happen. But here’s the real danger. When humidity levels return to the average, the pitch should also return to normal. So at certain times of year, the instrument will play normally. Or almost normally because all of that movement will have changed the pitch of individual strings.
You will need to keep retuning your piano and in places with large swings in the levels of humidity, you can expect to be doing a great deal of retuning.
You can’t get away from a certain level of piano maintenance. But the closer you can keep your piano to its correct pitch level of A-440 cycles per second the less work your technician will have to do and the lower the degree to which he or she will have to raise or lower the pitch. You should also find that a stable humidity level will keep all of the wood parts in top condition, as well as the glue joints, the metals and the finish.
You might not be able to pack up your piano when the seasons change, and store it away. But you can still keep it safe from the elements.