Pianos have several thousand parts (8,000-12,000) and many of those parts are moving parts. To keep all the parts in good working order, pianos need regular care.
During the first year of a piano’s life it’s suggested to have it serviced two to four times. Then talk to your piano technician to decide what frequency to continue service at. Usually twice a year after the first year is recommended, but sometimes once a year is enough. Servicing includes having the piano tuned, regulated as needed, voiced as needed, and eventually having worn parts repaired or replaced as needed (<<a href="http://www.pianoscentral.com/tuning" target="_blank">http://www.pianoscentral.com/tuning).
Tuning is the adjustment of the piano’s strings. There are over 200 strings in a piano. The piano tuner technician will adjust the strings so they are at the correct pitch. This is ensures the notes will sound in harmony when musical intervals are played.
Changes in humidity are the main thing that cause a piano to go out of tune. There’s typically a large humidity change in the spring and one again in the fall. Don’t have your piano tuned right after a humidity change because it won’t hold very long (probably only about two months). Instead wait a month or two after the humidity change to have the tuning done. It will hold longer.
Regulation is the adjustment of the mechanical aspects of the pianos because the cloth parts compact and settle, and the piano changes dimension somewhat due to changes in humidity. Uneven keys and keys that stick are signs that a piano needs to be regulated. The frequency of regulation needed for a piano varies according to how much the piano is used along with the climate it’s kept in.
Voicing is the adjustment of the piano’s quality of sound or tone. The technician will voice the piano to ensure the tone is even from the lowest to the highest notes. A piano’s tone will change with use. As the hammers wear and compact, the tone will often become too harsh. Before having a piano voiced, make sure it is well-tuned and regulated first. Then ask your piano technician about voicing if: the tone varies significantly from note to note; the piano has lost its ability to play softly; you don’t like the sound of the piano after the tuning has been done; or your piano sounds different than when you purchased it. Voicing typically only needs to be done once every one to five years. It depends on the piano and the amount of use.
In addition to making sure the interior components of the piano are kept in good working order, take care of the case and outer components too. Clean the keys and the case with a damp soft cloth that is lint free (cheesecloth works well). If you want you can use mild white soap to clean the keys but don’t ever use chemical cleaning fluids or solvents on the keys. Avoid using furniture polish on the case. You may find it surprising, but most manufacturers don’t recommend using furniture polish on the case. Stick with using the damp soft cloth. Or check with your piano technician or piano store to see if they have any cleaners specially formulated for piano cases. If you decide you have to use furniture polish, be careful that it only touches the case and that it doesn’t contain any silicone.
A piano will also need periodic reconditioning by the piano technician which is cleaning, making any needed repairs, and replacing specific parts if needed. When your piano technician comes over to work on your piano, it’s a good time for you to dust the hard to reach areas of the piano such as the behind the lower panel where the pedals are.
If a piano has severe deterioration it may need to be rebuilt. Rebuilding involves completely disassembling the piano; repairing and replacing parts as needed; reassembling the piano; and then testing and adjusting it to a performance level as close to original as possible.
Your piano is a major investment which deserves to be protected through regular servicing by a qualified technician and regular care by you. Properly maintained, your piano will sound its best and give you and your family a lifetime of enjoyment.