To be able to play the piano masterfully, you must have learned the art, but not only that you must also take good care of your instrument.
We all want to be able to enjoy our pianos for many years to come. If you want the piano to sound like the beautiful musical instrument that it is, it will need to be cared for. Regular and dedicated piano care is crucial to your piano standing the test of time.
Although cleaning and maintaining your piano may take some time, it’s far from a complex task, and might be enjoyable for some. Here we’ve outlined seven important tips to help piano owners and piano lovers everywhere keep their instruments looking beautiful and in tip-top shape.
1. Clean Your Keys
Dust, dirt, and oil from your hands can begin to accumulate on your keys faster than you think. But don’t worry because there’s no need to hire a professional for this. Any piano owner can clean their keys themselves!
The most important thing to note is whether you’re dealing with ivory or plastic keys because they are cleaned differently. For plastic keys, it’s best to use a solution of filtered water with white vinegar. Ivory keys can be cleaned more safely with a mixture of warm water and a little bit of dish soap.
Whether the keys are ivory or plastic, there are a few big no-no’s that every piano owner needs to avoid when cleaning. Always avoid heavy chemical compounds. Instead, go for mild soaps. Don’t use paper towels while wiping down.
Always use lint-free cloths to avoid residue. Wipe down your keys vertically, thereby avoiding any moisture getting between your keys. Spray disinfectants should never be used in the cold/flu season either, as it can destroy the surface and seep into the piano.
2. Keep It Tuned
It is generally recommended to get your piano tuned once every six months or so. But is it necessary for the proper maintenance of your instrument? The answer is a resounding YES. Regular tuning can help you avoid unnecessary piano damage.
The proper and consistent tension in the strings of the different parts of the piano is important for the health of the overall instrument. These different delicate parts interact with one another and when they are working together smoothly, it lessens the risk of damage. They also happen to be very expensive to fix, so regularly tuning your piano not only keeps your instrument in good shape but also your wallet too.
3. Regulate Your Instrument
Even if you’re diligent and consistent in getting your piano tuned, you may still notice some deterioration or a small drop-off in your piano’s performance. While tuning takes care of the strings and the pins, it doesn’t do anything for the rest of the instrument which is where regulation comes in.
Regulation covers the servicing of the more mechanical parts of the piano that allow the strings to make their lovely sounds when you press the keys. It’s also the compacting of cloth, felt, and buckskin while also adjusting the dimensions to account for changes to the wood and wool parts due to humidity. Depending on how often you use it and what kind of temperature it’s in, you and your technician can decide on how often your piano should get serviced.
4. Voice Your Piano Regularly
Voicing your piano is the process of changing the quality of the tone that your piano is producing. Essentially, it’s similar to adjusting the treble and bass on a stereo system. While tuning is much more cut and dry, voicing your piano can be a little bit more complex.
Whereas tuning focuses on the pitch of the note, voicing refers to the actual tone. For example, if you had Barry White and Beyonce sing the same note, you would be able to tell them apart even though the pitch is the same: it’s their unique vocal tones that separate them. This is the intangible quality that voicing a piano attempts to deal with.
Technicians can achieve different tonal qualities for your piano by fiddling with the rigidity of the hammers that hit the strings. Depending on what kind of tone you’d like, a technician can either soften or firm up the hammers to create different sounds.
5. Maintain A Consistent Temperature
Temperature and humidity levels are crucial for the maintenance of a piano. This means that where you decide to place your piano is very important. Most of the materials used to make a piano, such as felt, cloth, leather, and wood, are all very sensitive to humidity.
You want to keep a consistent 40 - 50% humidity around your piano so then it doesn’t suffer from any damage. Many crucial parts of the piano can be affected by humidity such as the soundboard. The soundboard is a big part of the piano, essentially serving as the speaker. When it’s too dry, it will shrink and when it gets too humid, it will swell, both of which will negatively affect the sound. If your piano is very valuable, you may want to consider installing a damp chaser, which is a humidifier specifically for regulating humidity inside the piano.
6. Give It Space To Breathe
Ventilation is necessary to keep your piano healthy but the wrong kind of ventilation will cause damage. You must be careful about where you place your piano. Decent and consistent ventilation from all sides of the piano is ideal.
Placing the piano in the center of the room or against a wall separating two rooms are both good options. Try to avoid placing the piano next to an exterior wall or window because natural ventilation is too unpredictable.
7. Don’t Turn It Into A Shelf
A nice vase of flowers can look lovely on top of a piano but the risks far outweigh the rewards. If the vase were to tip and water were to enter the piano, it would cause extremely expensive damage.
Heavier objects placed on top of the piano can also have an unwanted effect on the tone of your music, producing out-of-place vibrations. The only things that should be on a piano are sheet music and a metronome.
If you want your piano to sound pristine, taking good care, and maintaining the instrument properly is the best way to achieve that. Even a maestro on the keys can’t do much with an untuned, unregulated, unvoiced, and overall dirty piano.
Pianos are a very large investment more often than not so to avoid additional costly repairs, it's important to get technicians to come in regularly to check the instrument. Not to mention the importance of where you place the piano and how you clean your keys.
So, take the time to maintain your piano, so you can enjoy it for many years to come!
Linda Ritter is a piano lover who is currently a content contributor at PianoNadu blog. She also collaborates with several musicians and brands.