Despite its big, bulky size, a piano is a finely crafted instrument with many delicate parts that shift and swell in response to performers and the climate.
With regular maintenance, pianos retain their sound and value for years. Regular piano tuning is a necessary service for anyone who wants to keep and use a piano for any length of time. It’s part of the cost of ownership.
The average price to tune a piano ranges from $65 to $225, and the cost can increase by several hundred dollars if the piano requires multiple tuning sessions or repairs.
To tune a piano, the technician adjusts the tension on each of the piano’s strings until they vibrate at the proper rate.
“A440” is standard tuning for a piano, and this means that the A note above middle C vibrates at 440 cycles per second.
Tuning the rest of the notes is a matter of simple math, as each note on the keyboard vibrates at a specific frequency. The A in the next octave vibrates at 880 cycles per second, and the A in the lower octave vibrates at 220 cycles per second.
Pianists use standard tuning so that when they perform with other instruments, everyone plays in harmony.
The importance of piano tuning
Tuning is an important part of regular piano maintenance. Regular tunings keep the tension in the strings from loosening too much and allow the technician to inspect the instrument for signs of damage to the soundboard or action.
Most piano manufacturers recommend tuning the instrument at least twice a year. However, there are times when pianos need additional tuning.
Brand-new pianos need as many as three or four tunings each year initially to give the strings a chance to stretch and settle. Additionally, instruments used regularly, such as those in piano studios, practice rooms and churches, require additional tunings because the excessive playing affects the strings.
Pianos used for performance or recording typically go through tuning before each use, and pianos moved from one location to another or that experience extreme humidity changes require additional tunings.
Piano-tuning cost factors
- Most piano tuners charge by the hour. When the piano is severely out of tune, the technician must first raise the pitch before fine-tuning the instrument. This means the technician adjusts the strings so that they vibrate faster than A440. The overstretched strings eventually settle at A440 so the technician can fine-tune them.
- Another common problem is an unevenly tuned piano. This happens when owners wait too long to tune the instrument and when the piano goes through humidity changes that cause the soundboard to expand and contract. The technician must then tune the piano to itself so that the notes at each octave match. After rough-tuning the piano, the technician can complete the fine-tuning.
- Sometimes pianos require repairs before the technician can tune them. This includes replacing old or worn strings, correcting loose tuning pins, or repairing a damaged soundboard. The technician must correct these problems before tuning the piano, and the additional work increases the cost.