My piano was designed to sound like beautiful music, right? And I have learned from my technician that all the parts play a part, so to speak. So I have figured out a few things that you might want to know to protect your investment the better and the cheapest way. So here they are.
1. Location, Location, Location
Your piano should be located in a room where there is fairly even temperature and humidity control. Much of a piano, as you know well, is made of precious wood, and is, therefore, extremely sensitive to fluctuations in humidity.
The piano’s wooden soundboard is designed to have an arch, or crown. The crown increases or decreases with changes of humidity, changing the tension on the strings and throwing the instrument out of tune.
Larger fluctuations in humidity can affect regulation, and even cause parts to crack. If humidity changes are extreme, the soundboard can warp so much that it can collapse and lose its crown, which may require rebuilding or replacement of the instrument. Expensive!
Extreme dryness can also be detrimental by causing wood joints to weaken. If you really want the best protection, use in-piano humidity control that effectively buffers against these swings in humidity.
Never place a piano up against a wall. Leave about a foot of space between it and the wall. You don’t want those excess reverberations causing more problems than you bargained for.
Sunbathing might make the piano player feels good, but not the piano. I didn’t say sunbathing is good for you; it is not. And similarly, sunlight can literally destroy your piano’s finish as well as cause damage to the pinblock, soundboard, and other areas.
Keeping the piano away from air vents, heaters, open windows, open doors, direct sunlight, and the kitchen can help prevent damage, since all these are potential sources of sudden changes in humidity. However, even with these precautions, changes in weather can affect indoor humidity.
An Incredibly Simple Solution to Humidity Swings
You have to know that we have very humid days and very dry days where I live. My technician told me that, if I wanted to control room humidity even placing a humidifier under my piano is bad. Plus, I had to remember to fill the darn thing. An absolutely great solution that my piano technician recommended was a simple, easy-to-maintain, non-demanding, and inexpensive combination of an in-piano humidity control system and the humidifier.
The in-piano humidity system is something called Music Sorb. It works like a shock absorber for a car, reducing the shocks of humidity swings and, for that I did not need the humidifier. But, we have long periods of dryness (often when I am on a trips somewhere for a month at a time).
So he said, put the humidifier near the piano and put a timer switch on it to turn it on and off only once during the month I am gone. The humidifier reloads the Music Sorb units if they should dry out too much. I have to admit that I have forgotten to turn on the timer or fill the tank on the humidifier and, still I have never had a problem.
This simple product is incredible. Check it out here.
2. Okay, I am a Fan of My Technician
A very basic way to ensure that your piano will run smoothly and sound its best is to find a piano technician. A technician/tuner can hear things in the piano besides the frequencies of the notes. He or she can tell when something doesn’t sound right.
What is a “regularly scheduled tuning”?
Regularly scheduled tuning is essential to your piano’s overall health. Is it worth it? I don’t know; why take your car to service? If piano tuning is overlooked, most forms of maintenance will be overlooked as well. Pianos should be tuned twice a year: Once in mid-autumn, and once in mid-summer. This coincides with the first drastic temperature/climate changes, after the heat or the air conditioner has been turned on for about a month or so.
3. Don’t Be Dirty
Keeping It Clean
Kiss that baby. Even the outside needs to be kept cuddly clean. Okay, so pianos are not so cuddly, but it will make better music for you if you keep it right even on the outside.
Lacquer finishes –
Use a polish that has been designed for use on delicate furniture. You get what you pay for so cheap polish is a no-no. Spraying polish on the piano can cause a build-up of residue where you don’t want it. Either spray on a cloth or don’t use spray.
And while piano playing can be romantic punch the person who tries to place a drink on top of your piano. Plants need water so it is safer not to use your piano as a plant holder in any way, shape, or form.
Polymer finishes –
A polymer finish does not require waxing. A clean, lint-free cloth – dry – works best to remove dust or light smudges. If you have really screwed up, use only a diluted solution of mild detergent, and a damp – not wet – cloth. Then run over a dry cloth to remove any streaks immediately after wiping with the damp cloth.
Unless you play with gloves, your finger oils will rub off onto the keys. Keep the key lid closed whenever the instrument is not in use. You may want to dust the keys once in a while, but usually it’s best to ask a technician to do the key cleaning during maintenance.
4. Be a General Practitioner of Your Piano (not a surgeon)
You want to be able to report strange things about your piano to your technician (surgeon).
To quickly run through them:
- Odd sounds
- Odd chords
- Odd vibrations
- Sticky keys
- Un-level keys
- Sticky pedals
- Dead notes
- Dead animals (okay, just a joke, I hope)
5. The secret fifth Tip
The best tip for piano maintenance is to pound the keys regularly. It’s maintenance that I’m happy to perform every day of my life.
What are your best practices for maintaining good piano health? Leave a comment below and share them with us.