Piano Maintenance Guide

Proper care and maintenance of a piano is not solely for keeping its elegant appearance, it should also be performed to keep the sound quality of the instrument.

Pianos are generally considered a valuable musical instrument. The restoration and rebuilding including the tuning, voicing and regulation should be done by individuals with expertise in the repair and maintenance of such instruments. Obviously, whether for home or stage use, the ultimate goal is to keep the instruments in tip top condition.

There are proper care steps that should be followed by owners. But in this guide, we will focus on the specific maintenance tasks that are performed by professional piano technicians.

Restoration and rebuilding

Original types of pianos can last for decades.  But they are composed of various components with essentially different lifespans. In pianos that are constantly used, some parts get worn out, and in most cases, regular restoration, rebuilding and or repair of some components can prolong its life for more decades.

Piano frames serve as structural support. They are generally made of quality hardwood, and therefore usually last for many decades. It is also vital to keep the frame in good shape so that other components such as the soundboard, ribs, strings, bridges, pinblock, hammers and action will remain intact. This also helps replacement and or repair of deteriorated components easier for technicians.

Tuning

Owners of pianos, whether for home use or stage use, usually have their instruments tuned regularly for at least once every 6 months. It is advisable to have the instrument tuned as soon as it gets out of tune. Doing this usually helps prevent further piano tuning problems from occurring. Piano technicians use special tools and techniques to get these instruments back to their proper pitch.

Regulation

Regulation is a piano restoration process that involves adjustments of the action. The goal of regulation is to get the action back to its optimal precision.  This maintenance task is performed when the action has been affected by physical decline of the condition of the instrument.

Voicing

Overtime, the felt hammers of a piano tend to harden and become compressed due to repeated impact, which could also cause grooves to form at the points of contact with the strings. As a result, the tone quality becomes unpleasant. To bring back the uniform tone, professional piano technicians soften the hammers with the use of special tools known as voicing needles.

 

 

 

 

Piano Buying Guide For Beginners

Apart from making a potential investment, having a piano in your own home is the best way to learn how to play good music.

Since the development of the pianoforte by Bartolomeo Cristofori back in 18th century, the piano has grown to be one of the most versatile of musical instruments. The piano doesn’t only blend well with other instruments, it also sounds great as a solo instrument. It is not surprising why many people love to play it. So, if you’re planning to buy a piano, how do you know which one is perfect for you?

What to keep in mind

Before you start the search, keep in mind that a piano can last for up to 40 years and you’ll possibly be having that instrument for years. Just like some music instruments, a well-maintained used piano may have little change in value or almost the same in value (during the time of your purchase) as it ages.

So, don’t skimp on your budget. Buy the best one you can afford. Investing in a quality instrument is a good way to inspire your beginner pianists. Isn’t it a great payoff from a well-decided investment?

Which type of piano is best for you?

There are several types of pianos. Finding out which type of piano is best needs you to consider some factors, such as the size and style, price, quality of the sound, action, pedaling levels and other details.

The size

One of the most important factors to consider is the size. Good tone in a piano is directly related to the length and size of the soundboard. In terms of size, the grand piano is much larger than the upright or vertical piano. The bulk of the grand piano can take too much space because it is placed out across the floor while the upright will take space along the wall because the frame and strings are vertically positioned. Grand pianos can run anywhere from 4 feet 6 inches to more than 9 feet long. Today, you can find professional quality uprights with tone quality that equals to smaller grands. But still the general rule applies, the larger the piano the better the tone.

The style

Determining the style comes after you’ve made up your mind on the size. Vertical pianos have impressive cabinets, while grand pianos generally offer impressive sound quality. Grand pianos can be space consuming but are known for impeccable tone quality and durability. In most cases, the selection of the piano style is either based on the compatibility of the style of home furnishings and availability of space in your home. While the budget often factors in determining the style of the instrument, what should come to mind is the quality of the sound and the instrument. But if you are on a budget, buying a used but well-maintained upright piano can be equally satisfying.

 

More Types Of Pianos

The modern piano has 2 types. Learning about the other types of pianos can give you insights on how this instrument has evolved from the early years to the present.

 

Toy Piano

Toy pianos come in different shapes with scale models of upright or grand pianos as well as toy pianos which simply possess keys. Toy pianos have widths that are usually not more than 50 cm made out of wood or plastic. Though these types of pianos were originally made as a child’s toy, they were also used in serious classical and contemporary musical performances.  The “Suite for Toy Piano” (1948) by John Cage was the most prominent example.

 

Player Piano

Another modern type of piano under this category is the player piano which is a self-playing piano. It uses an electro-mechanical mechanism to perform the piano action using pre-programmed music perforated paper or rolls.

 

The player piano grew in popularity as the demand for mass-produced piano for the home grew in the late 19th and early 20th century. In fact, sales of such these models soared in 1924, but then declined due to the rise of phonograph recordings in the mid-1920s.

 

Silent piano

Silent pianos are acoustic pianos that are ideal for private silent practice. These models feature an option to silence the strings by means of an interposing hammer bar.

 

The prepared piano

This type of piano has objects placed inside it to alter its sound, or has had its mechanism changed in some other way to mute the strings or alter the sound quality. The prepared piano is usually used in some contemporary art music.

 

Electric pianos

These are electro-mechanical music instruments that produce sounds mechanically and the sounds are turned into electrical signals by pickups. The electromagnetic pickups amplify the sound of the strings. The early electric pianos were invented in the later part of 1920. The popularity of electric pianos started to grow in the late 1950s.

 

Soon musicians adopted a number of types of domestic electric pianos which significantly inspired manufacturers to develop models for stage use.

 

Digital electronic pianos

Digital electronic pianos are pianos that do not have strings and hammers. Instead electronics are involved to produce a sound. The rise of these types of pianos led to the decline of the original electro-mechanical instruments for modern uses due to their size, weight and versatility.

 

This inspired Rhodes Music Corporation, in 2009, to produce a new line of electro-mechanical pianos, known as the Rhodes Mark 7 followed by an offering from Vintage Vibe.

How Pianos Are Made

Pianos are made from different materials. The materials should be high quality not only for aesthetic appeal but the excellent sound quality.

 

The modern piano is composed of several different parts and most of them are made of different materials. A large part of the weight of the piano comes from the inclusion of the solid steel frame. Pianos are played continuously which makes hardwood a vital material in terms of strength and durability. The manufacturing process basically involves the following steps.

 

Bending the rim of the case

This step uses layers of long-fiber hardwood glued together and bent in a metal press to form a continuous rim (both inner and outer piece). The rims are then stored under controlled temperatures until the wood meets a specific moisture content to prevent them from changing shape. The case or the outer rim is usually made from the finest hardwood materials including maple and beech. An ideal piano case should be made from hardwood because it does not absorb sound. After this process the bent inner rim is them glued with other wood components. The cabinet is then finished via sanding, staining, bleaching, wood filling and final coating.

 

Assembling the structural components

The structural components are made of wood components which include the pinblock, the cast iron plate and the braces.

 

Making the soundboard

The thin panel of spruce that underlies the strings and the cast iron plate and settles on the rim braces is known as the soundboard.  It is an important piece of the piano. The finest pieces of spruce are critical materials for the soundboard to produce fine sound and tone quality.

 

Stringing and tuning

Piano strings are made of carbon steel wire. The strings should be made from solid, strong steel as they are always put under high degree of pressure. The bass strings are often wrapped in copper wiring for additional diameter. Tuning pins consist of steel wire.

 

Installing the keyboard and action

Most of the actions are produced from hardwood either from beech, maple or hornbeam. The piano keyboard, key and action frame are specially made by highly respected manufacturers. The keys are generally made of spruce or basswood and are typically coated in ivory, but new models use typical plastics or mock ivory (ivorite or ivorine) since animals with ivory are getting endangered. Hammers are installed and adjusted by a specially trained tuner called a voicer.

 

The final process involves adding all other parts including the hinges and top lid, the topstick that supports the raised lid, pedals and their trapwork, the music rack,  the fall-board or key cover and many other supporting parts. All details are carefully made and fitted because they affect the sound quality of the instrument.

 

Types Of Pianos

Modern pianos are among the world’s most popular musical instruments.  It will be helpful to learn about the different types of pianos if you love to play or listen to the tone of these wonderful instruments.

 

Types of Pianos

There are different types of pianos for different players. There are also pianos that are designed to meet the preferences of a particular performer. Each type has a different style, design, size, shape and finishes.

 

Grand Pianos

Grand Pianos are also called Horizontal Pianos primarily because the frame and the strings are placed horizontally. These pianos are typically large in size and they come in several sizes.

 

These piano models are mainly used for solos and concerts because they create   a powerful tone and responsive key action. This is one of the reasons why professional pianists prefer to play the most demanding pieces on well-cared grand pianos.

 

There are basically six types of grand pianos:

Concert grand

The size of concert grand usually measures 7 feet and 6 inches to 9 feet 6 inches.

Professional / Semi concert grand / Ballroom

The size measurement usually ranges from 6 feet and 5 inches to around 7 feet and 5 inches.

Parlor Grand/ Living room Grand piano/ Classic

Parlor grand can be from 5 feet and 9 inches to 6 feet and 1inch.

Medium Grand

Medium Grand’s length is usually 5 feet and 7 inches long.

Baby Grand piano usually measures 5 feet to 5 feet and 6 inches long, about 1/2 the size of a concert grand.

Petite Grand is usually 4 feet and 5 inches to 4 feet and 11 inches in length. It’s probably the smallest in terms of size but the tone is very powerful.

 

Vertical Pianos

As the name suggest, vertical pianos or upright pianos have a frame and strings placed vertically. These types of pianos are more compact and don’t take up too much space. Vertical pianos are often positioned in dens, living rooms, churches and schools.

 

Vertical or upright pianos also have six types:

Honkey Tonk

Honkey Tonk is known as the tallest among all upright pianos.

Professional 

The professional upright is a type of piano that can last for a long time. It can weigh from 590 to 800 pounds.

Studio

Studio pianos are known for good tone quality. It is commonly visible in music studios and music schools.

Console

Console pianos are available in a variety of styles and finishes. No wonder it belongs to the most popular types of pianos.

Consolette

The Consolette usually stands 38 to 39 inches tall from the base.

Spinet

The spinner usually stands 35 to 37 inches and actually the smallest type of piano. It can be placed even in places with very limited space.