Hoffman Academy Blog

How To Tell If My Piano Is Out Of Tune


Playing on an out-of-tune piano isn’t just an unpleasant experience. It can actually hinder your growth as a musician. You can’t develop a good sense of pitch if you constantly hear notes that are out of tune, and that’s what happens when you practice regularly on an out-of-tune piano. This is why it is so important to make sure you tune your piano when it needs it.

Here’s how to tell if your acoustic piano is in tune and ready for maximum playing enjoyment:

How Does Your Piano Sound?

Is there a key on your piano that twangs when you hit it? For most notes on the piano, a hammer strikes two or three strings tuned to the same pitch. If one of those strings is off the note will sound wrong. The notes on a piano should sound sweet and clear, not buzzy or twangy. If your ear is telling you that something’s wrong, it’s time to tune the piano.

When Was Your Piano Last Tuned?

If your piano has gone for more than a year without being tuned, guess what? It’s probably out of tune. It might not be obvious to your ears, but chances are the tuning could use some improvement. Pianos go out of tune gradually, so gradually that you might not notice. Even if you think your piano sounds okay after a year with no tuning, you’ll probably hear a big difference once you have it tuned.

Most pianos need to be tuned at least once a year. You might need to tune more often if there’s a change in temperature, humidity, or location for your piano. For example, if you live in a dry area, but run an evaporative cooler in the summer, you might want to tune your piano a few weeks after you start using the cooler in the spring, and then again a few weeks after you shut it down in the fall. In any environment, keep your piano in tune longer by putting it near an interior wall of your home away from heating or cooling ducts. This helps protect your piano from temperature and humidity changes.

You can also purchase equipment to keep the humidity regulated inside your piano. In a humid area a dehumidifier rod, a metal bar that gives off a low amount of heat, can be installed inside the piano to keep it dry. These cost about $40 and not only help keep the piano in tune, but can prevent the pins and strings from rusting. If, on the other hand, you live in a very dry area you might want to use a humidifier in the room where you keep your piano. If you do, be sure not to put the humidifier too close to the piano or the moisture could damage the finish. Talk to a piano dealer in your area to find out what they recommend.

Has Your Piano Been Tuned Regularly In The Past?

An acoustic piano needs regular care if it is going to work well. If a piano has gone five or ten years without being tuned, then tuning it once won’t be enough. Pianos get set in their ways as they age. A piano that hasn’t been tuned in a long time will go out of tune again very quickly. You should consult with your piano tuner, but expect that you’ll need to get your piano tuned again every few months until it starts to hold the correct tuning.

Getting Your Piano Tuned

When it is time to tune your piano be sure to contact a qualified piano tuner or technician. Tuning a piano is a project best left to an expert. Because your piano tuner travels to your home, spends at least an hour with your piano, and offers a highly skilled service, you can expect to pay them $100 or more to tune your piano. To find a good piano tuner or technician, try contacting your local piano store, piano school, piano teacher, college with a music program, or ask a friend or neighbor who owns a piano.

A well-cared for piano can last for many decades. If you’ve been given a piano by a friend or relative, or you’ve purchased a used one, maybe you don’t know how old it is or how often it has been tuned. Have a piano technician come and evaluate it for you. The piano technician can tell you what needs to be done to get the piano in good working order.

Remember, keeping your piano tuned makes learning the piano a better experience for everyone. It makes playing more enjoyable, and helps develop a true sense of pitch. Invest the time and money to take good care of your piano, and it will sound great for many years to come.

Learn more about taking good care of your piano:

Piano Care

How To Find a Piano Tuner

Facebook Live Chat on Piano Care

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