What is piano tuning?
Piano tuning is the process of increasing or decreasing the tension of the over 200 strings in the piano. Using A440 as a pitch source, the pitch of the other strings are altered so that they are in the correct relation to A440. Tuning is performed with a tuning ‘hammer’ or ‘lever’ placed on the tuning pins, which hold the tension of the piano strings.
Why does my piano need tuning, and how do I know my piano is out of tune?
The simple answer to why a piano goes out of tune is because of changes in humidity. The piano is a complex mix of wood, metal, felt, and mechanical components. A vital component of the piano is the soundboard, a piece of wood that acts as an amplifier, pushing the sound waves created by the strings out of the piano. The strings rest on bridges which are glued to the soundboard and as these components experience changes in humidity, the wood contracts and expands, slightly altering the tension of the strings.
A piano should be tuned at least once or twice a year, depending on the amount it is played, the changes in humidity, the stability of the piano, and the importance of pitch to the owner. When a piano is not tuned for many years, the strings fall drastically from pitch and require a pitch correction, which is essentially two full tunings, one to bring the strings to pitch, and a second to battle the strings tendency to return to their out-of-tune position. Another important reason to have your piano tuned regularly is that it is akin to an annual check-up. When a technician is tuning a piano, he touches every key, every tuning pin, listens to every string. During this process any number of issues can be addressed or come to light. In this way potential problems with your piano can be tracked and addressed before they become major issues.
My fee for a standard tuning is $180. If the piano is drastically out-of-tune I charge an additional $100 for a pitch correction.