1. Humidity & Temperture
Humidity plays an important part in the life of a piano. Extremes of humidity can damage all parts of the piano and age the woods involved. As the piano is made of wood, it will move to keep a constant state with the RH (relative humidity. of the room it is in. A piano's soundboard is very sensitive to humidity changes and this affects the tuning as the strings will go sharp or flat with the movement of the bridge which is attached to the soundboard. Humidity is the main problem when a piano goes out of tune; the only way to tell what range of RH your piano is subjected to is to purchase a hygrometer gauge. A digital gauge is better as it will give you the minimum and maximum that the RH has been since it was last reset. Central heating mostly affects older pianos which were built way before central heating became popular. This is because the wood moisture % in older pianos is higher than in modern pianos where the woods have been kiln dried to as low as 2-3% moisture content. Try to keep the piano's environment as constant as possible and never below 40% or above 60% or worse, with rapid fluctuations.
Where the piano is positioned is very important. It should not be placed near radiators or other heat sources. Direct sunlight will bleach the casework; this makes some areas lighter than others. Bleaching is more common on modern pianos due to the modern stains. Using a piano cover will help. Placing the piano away from doors which can hit & damage casework is always a good idea too. The piano needs to be in a place which is stable in temp/humidity but where the pianist feels comfortable. Wooden and stone floors can be damaged by pianos so it’s best to get castor cups. A small room will make a large piano too loud, especially if there are not many soft furnishings to absorb the sound.
Tuning is vital in order to keep your piano in perfect order. The piano should be tuned at least once a year. It is recommended to have the piano tuned every 6 months in order for the piano to maintain its pitch. A regularly tuned piano will stay in tune longer as the strings are not moved a lot, only small adjustments are needed. If a piano is left too long then it will loose pitch and more than one visit, or a longer tuning session will be needed. Pianos which are not tuned for a very long time will sometimes loose tension unevenly which puts a strain on the frame. A piano should be a concert pitch, for the UK, standard pitch is A=440 Hz. This is important as the piano will sound the same as another piano tuned to concert pitch as well as a CD which might be played with the pianist. Other instruments like the flute are fixed and cannot change pitch so if a duet arises with another instrument then they will sound in tune with each other.
The piano has many felts, baizes, leathers etc contained in the action & keys. These are the workings of the piano which transmits the pianist’s wishes with touching the key, to the note sounding when the hammer hits the string. There are many measurements which technicians use to regulate a piano. Once regulated, the piano will perform evenly, responsively and repetitively to how it was designed to do. During a service the technician will re-shape the hammers to remove string grooves, check for moth and checking the centre pins on the action parts. Regulation should be routine depending on how much the piano is used.
5. Case Work- French Polish
This is the traditional method used to finish pianos before modern spraying techniques became common use. Mostly found on pianos before 1950's. It is hand applied and takes a long time to achieve a good finish. Some cowboy polishers will try and spray this but in time it will craze and flake off as it has to be applied with pressure, building up the sheen level. This finish is delicate and needs to be looked after. It offers the best finish for older pianos and allows the repairer to revive the finish, apply more polish, and is more repairable than modern finishes. Avoid water, solvent and alcohol contact at all costs. This finish should be cleaned and revived on a regularly basis but seldom is. It is best to ask the advice of a professional French Polisher about the case work but the owner can clean the case using liquid paraffin and water (70/30. on a rag. You can then dry off with another rag and then polish up using a micro fibre cloth. This will remove the impurities of the case and give you a nice shine to your piano. If the finish goes dull, you can use a reviver like burnishing cream or make your own using 1 part raw linseed oil, 1 part white malt vinegar & 1 part mentholated spirits. Shake well during as they will separate. Apply sparingly and buff with a dry micro fibre cloth. This will not remove scratches nor will it add polish, you can only work with what’s present. Consult a professional if the case is too bad or for advice. This is the most difficult finishes to apply and the most time consuming. Crazing (Chinese writing in the trade. is mostly caused by the finish drying too much, very low humidity or direct sun. You will have to strip the finish and start again.
A modern spray finish is found on pianos from the 1950's. They can be matt, satin or high gloss. There are many types, pre-cat, bar top, cellulose, 2pack and much more. They can have many levels of sheen from Matt to high gloss. They can be clear or solid for colours. A cheaper alternative to polyester but does not have the high build like polyester. Bleaching of the case is most common with these finishes as fast stains are sometimes used and these are affected by UV light more than water stains. Some colour stains are in with the finish and bleach easily. These finishes are hard to repair as spraying it required. They are waterproof, hard wearing and resistant to most liquids. Depending on the type of finish, if a modern finish needs colour or more build, the only answer is to strip and start again. Going over the top is never satisfactory and will not last (in our opinion. . To clean these finishes, a damp cloth followed by dry one is mostly adequate but you can purchase cleaners, but we have found warm water with soda crystals the best method.
This came about in the early 70's. It’s a high build resin which is used today. All high shine pianos sold today are polyester. This finish gives the best high gloss finish for modern pianos (we don't like old pianos polyestered. . It is hard wearing, water proof etc but again, hard to repair. Not many repairers like polyester repairs so good ones will charge more. Black is the easiest to repair. Sun bleaching is common with wood finishes due to the stains used. This is expensive to have applied to a piano so sometimes it is cheaper to buy a new piano than have it re-polyestered! The finish can be cleaned with a damp cloth followed by a dry micro fibre cloth. There are sprays and polishes available to help clean, remove scratches and buff up the finish. As with all polyester pianos, they do attract dust and because of the high shine, they do show up scratches.