Hoekstra Pianos Logo
tuning      book a tuning online


Piano Tuning

Wytze Hoekstra and David Salmon are both ARPT qualified concert piano tuners. We offer a full tuning and repair service.
We accept bookings from all over Canterbury and sometimes visit other South Island centres as well.

Please click the button above to make an online booking or call Wytze on (03) 3844248 or 021 373744.

Generally speaking, your piano should be tuned a minimum of once per year.



Information about tuning, regulating and maintenance

  • Tuning, Regulating and Voicing
  • Temperature and humidity control
  • Location
  • Cleaning

Tuning, Regulating and Voicing:


The frequency of tuning depends in part on the severity of the climate, the age and condition of the piano, and the extent to which it is used. In any case, pianos should be tuned once or twice a year to keep the pitch level from dropping below A=440. New instruments should be tuned three or four times a year during each of the first two years, because the new strings will continue to stretch during that period. For instruments in home use, one or two tunings a year are usually adequate to keep a piano at concert pitch.

An experienced piano tuner will thump the keys vigorously during tuning in order to encourage the strings to stretch and stabilize across their entire length. If piano tuning is neglected, the pitch of the piano will gradually go flat, often to the point where the tuner cannot raise it successfully in one tuning. Even after raising pitch, a neglected piano will not stay in tune as well as an instrument which is regularly maintained. Concert instruments are tuned before every concert, even if there are two on the same day, as the slightest inaccuracy in tuning cannot be tolerated in a concert.

Tuning a piano is not enough to ensure complete maintenance. Periodically the action and pedals should be regulated. The more an instrument is used, the more frequently it will require both tuning and regulation. Pianos which are in constant use, such as those in university practice rooms and the studios of teachers and professional musicians, require much more frequent maintenance than instruments which are only used occasionally. In time the hammer felt will become grooved and flattened by the steel strings, necessitating reshaping, voicing and eventual replacement of the hammers. Reshaping hammers by sanding is a possible, but imperfect, solution to hammer wear as it also reduces the weight of the hammers and changes the blow distance between the striking point of the hammer and the string.

Voicing, or tone regulating, piano hammers should only be attempted by an experienced specialist. Both our technicians are competent in this procedure and we are almost always able to bring out a fuller, more musical tone in a piano that has been neglected in this respect. To regulate tone quality, the voicer first makes certain that the action is in perfect regulation and that the hammers have a proper acoustical shape. The hammers are also checked to ensure that they are striking all the strings of the unison squarely and simultaneously. Finally the density of the hammer felt is regulated by needling the shoulders of the hammers so that they produce an even, homogenous tone quality throughout the scale. Voicing should only be entrusted to a seasoned professional, as it requires a thorough knowledge of the piano mechanism, a sensitive musical ear, and years of experience.
Most pianos are not regulated as often as they should be. A  piano technician must check action and pedal function after each tuning and make recommendations for regulation and repairs. The piano action will function after a fashion, even if it is very badly out of regulation, but the piano will be difficult to play, will not be able to express musical dynamics and may hinder the progress of an unsuspecting student.


Temperature and humidity control


are also critical elements in maintaining a valuable instrument. Central heating, without some kind of humidity control, poses a great danger for musical instruments made of wood. The worst possible environment for a piano is one with radical swings in humidity and temperature.
In regions like Canterbury, with its hot, dry summers, and wet, cold winters, special attention must be given to humidifying in the summer and monitoring the humidity in the winter. Wood is hygroscopic and it expands and contracts across the grain with changes in humidity. The pitch of the strings depends to a certain extent on the amount of humidity present in the soundboard, which expands and contracts with changes in heat and relative humidity. If the environment is too dry, the soundboard will shrink beyond the dryness level at which the instrument was manufactured, causing cracks in the wood and even failure of glue joints.
Extreme dryness can cause complete failure of the soundboard and pinblock. The loss of natural moisture in the soundboard also causes the pitch to go flat. With many types of winter heating , care must be taken to maintain a humidity of not less than 45% and a room temperature of not more than 24%.

Conversely, too much humidity causes the soundboard to swell and bow upward, often causing pressure ridges in the soft, crushed fibres of the wood, increasing the tension of the strings and causing the instrument to go sharp. Too much moisture can ruin a piano, as it causes the wood in the keys and soundboard to swell, resulting in sticking keys, loose ivory, and sluggish response in the mechanism. Excessive moisture may also cause the strings, tuning pins and other metal parts to rust.

The lid of the piano should be closed when the instrument is not in use, in order to prevent the accumulation of dust and foreign objects in the action and on the soundboard. For instruments with ivory keys, however, the keyboard cover or fallboard should be kept open periodically, as ivory will turn yellow if it is not exposed to natural light. Care should be taken not to drop pencils, paper clips and other foreign objects, which can cause noise and damage, into the piano. Foreign objects on the strings and soundboard will produce irritating vibrations. Never put objects on top of the piano as they also can cause noises and vibrations. Sometimes other objects in the room, even window panes, can cause sympathetic vibrations with the piano tone. Vases, flower pots, beverage glasses or any vessel containing liquid, should never be placed on the piano.
No attempt should be made by the owner, without special instructions, to remove the action from the piano. To avoid possible damage to the instrument, piano moving should only be entrusted to experienced piano movers. Moths were very destructive to the felt in pianos made before World War II, but most modern instruments are made with mothproof felt.

Location


Finding an ideal location for a piano is often difficult. In the order of importance, the location should help preserve the instrument, be acoustically satisfactory, and aesthetically pleasing. Ideally, a piano should be placed on an inside wall, away from the direct rays of the sun. Moreover, it should not be placed next to heaters, stoves, air conditioners, or near heat ducts or cold air returns. Drafty locations next to open windows or doors should also be avoided. Instruments which are placed directly beneath water pipes or emergency sprinkler systems, should be protected from possible water damage with a waterproof cover. Finding the best location for a piano also includes acoustical considerations; usually a piano sounds best in a room without thick wall-to-wall carpeting or heavy, sound-absorbing draperies - a mixture of reflective and absorbing surfaces generally gives best results.

Cleaning


Periodically, the piano technician should clean the action, keys, soundboard and keyframe.
Piano cases were finished with a variety of materials during different historical periods. "French polish" was used on most instruments until the middle of the 20th century. Both lacquer and polyester finishes are currently in use. No single cleaning technique can be used for all of them. To clean a piano case it is best to remove dust with a feather duster. A bit of moisture from the breath, used in conjunction with a soft leather chamois skin can be used to remove stubborn smudges, although it is usually best to consult the manufacturer's instructions for maintaining the finish.
adapted from Edward E. Swenson: Piano care & maintenance