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Myths, Misconceptions, and Truths

Some common Myths, Misconceptions and Truths about pianos:

M: A piano will retain its value even if I don't have it tuned and serviced for years.
T:  There are basically two types of pianos:  Those that were designed to become heirlooms and those that were made to last until the purchaser has enough money to buy something better. Heirloom pianos are of a higher quality and, not unlike your family car, must be kept maintained and tuned to ensure their prolonged value.  Regular tuning and maintenance by a qualified technician will guarantee your heirloom will be worth passing on to the next generation:  (at least once a year, and optimally should be tuned every six months.)  Some retailers will say a piano is so good it only needs to be tuned every 3 to 4 years!  This is absolutely false, even for the very best pianos.  The wooden soundboard was specifically designed to be under a constant 700 lbs of pressure by proper tuning.  By not having regular tunings, coupled with our drastic humidity changes, the soundboard becomes warped and creates a dull, non-resonating sound.

M: I've been told my piano can't be tuned to pitch or it will break the soundboard, so old pianos can't ever be tuned to the proper (A440) pitch.
This is probably the most common mis-conception of all.  A properly trained tuner/ technician with today's knowledge and training can re-pitch a piano (aka pitch-raise) without cracking the soundboard.  The process is very difficult and time consuming and includes retraining the warped soundboard to return and stay in its original shape.  Because of the difficulties involved, many tuners refuse to do pitch-raises.  This leaves the piano with a dull, non-resonating sound. 

M:  Once the soundboard is cracked a piano is impossible to tune and is of no value.
  Due to the drastic changes in the humidity in our area this is a common problem.  A cracked soundboard will sometimes make an annoying humming sound when certain notes are played.  While prevention is the best and easiest cure, (no, putting a can or jar of water inside the piano will not work.) 
IT IS POSSIBLE TO REPAIR or minimize the effects of a CRACKED SOUNDBOARD!  When a piano cannot be tuned, it is usually the "pin-block" that needs attention.  As well, proper humidity control with a "Dampp-chaser" system will help maintain your piano's tuning.

M:   The high notes are muddy and sound unclean... this is either because the piano was made that way or is too old to hold it's tune that high.
   It is true that some pianos sound muddy and unclean naturally, however, many times the problem lies not in the piano itself but in the way the piano is tuned.  It is often impossible for the human ear to properly discern the difference in the extreme high pitches.  By using today's knowledge of tuning methods this problem can be remedied very easily. 

M:  My piano sounds "tinny".  I was told it is impossible to fix and is just a cheap piano.
  Often, a "tinny" sounding string is because of improper placement of the string or the "hammer blow" is off.  A properly trained technician can assess the problem and usually fix the "sardine can" syndrome in a few minutes.

M:  Even though our piano isn't in tune, it's good enough for my child taking lessons.
By practicing long hours on a mis-tuned piano you are training your child's auditory skills to hearing mis-tuned sounds and intervals as being normal.  At every level of learning you want to give your child the best advantage possible.  Not only will a poorly tuned piano be discouraging to practice on, but, if during the first few years of lessons they learn wrong, it will be harder for them to re-learn it correctly should they choose to continue on with lessons.   

M:  My piano won't hold it's tune.  I was told the pins are loose and I should just junk the instrument.
T:  Unfortunately, if the piano has been neglected for many years and subjected to poor conditions, the tuning pins can become loose and make tuning virtually impossible.  As long as the pin-block is not cracked or damaged there is hope:  A technician can  apply a special chemical to the pins to tighten them, or replace the pins with larger pins.
If the pin-block is cracked it is often cost prohibitive to replace unless the piano has incredible sentimental value -  eg: it belonged to your grandmother and you just can't part with it.

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