Usage...Tuning...Cleaning...Finish Care...Internal Problems...Temperature and Humidity|
Pianos NOT being Used.....Spilled Liquids.....Service Technicians.....Do It Yourself Repairs.....Moving
Use your player piano, nickelodeon, pump organ or reproducing instrument regularly (at least 15 minutes a month) to avoid sluggishness, lopping and leaking. Sluggishness--When left to sit for a month or so, the bellows cloth starts developing a memory. Then, when asked to move to a different location, i.e.., open/close, it is reluctant to do so. The best way to eliminate the problem is to "keep the bellows moving" so they don't become comfortable in any one place. Lopping--In players equipped with a vacuum powered air-motor (the device that turns the roll around) an irregular turning motion occurs when the five (or more) bellows get stiff in different positions. The result is an irregular tempo to the music. Here again, "keep the bellows moving". Leaking--The most permanent type if damage is done when significant amounts of household dust accumulate on the valve facings. In small quantities, this dust is sucked off the valve face by the force of the vacuum which powers the unit. In larger amounts, some of the dust gets trapped between the face and the seat which prevents the valve from closing all the way. This type of leak, while very minor in itself, can cause the player to "feel" harder to pump when you consider that the 88-note player has at least 100 valves. The best way to reduce the long-term effects of this problem is to--- you guessed it. Use the machine.
The player should be "tightened" about every five to ten years. Even the best kiln-dried wood has some amount of moisture. Over time, the wood continues to dry, developing cracks and shrinking minute amounts. As this happens, the joints start to cipher, or leak. Most of the joints have a gasket and screws. These are the screws that can be "tightened". Glued joints can be "sealed" with a variety of sealers.
The player should be "regulated" about every five to ten years. There are only 88 adjustments (on the 88-note player) that need to be attended to because the player gets played. This is the adjustment that "connects" the player action to the piano action. For optimum performance, the clearance should never exceed 1/16" (0.0625 in.). At the factory they are set to zero. When out of tolerance, a slapping sound can be heard every time a note is struck. Furthermore, the "lost motion" reduces the force of the strike and causes harder pumping for the same loudness. Said the other way around, you won't have to pump so hard to achieve the same volume level.
The player should be "serviced" every year just to keep an eye on all of the 12,000 to 15,000 parts inside the piano. Some of them need to be cleaned. Some lubricated. Some just checked to make sure they are working "up-to-speed".
Keep your piano in tune. It was specifically designed to be tuned to the international pitch standard of A440 cycles per second. Your piano will sound its best and give you and your family the most pleasure when it is tuned regularly and kept in proper playing condition. The best time of the year to have the piano tuned is in the Spring or in the Fall if you plan to only tune it once a year. All piano tuners/technicians agree that tuning a piano twice a year is far superior. It is the major environmental changes that cause the piano to go out of tune.
Keep your piano clean. Keep the keyboard covered when not in use to prevent dust from accumulating (although ivory keys do need some exposure to indirect sunlight to prevent yellowing). Although it may not be most pleasing to the eye, keep the top of the grand piano closed when not in use. Dust that settles on the strings and soundboard deteriorate the tonal quality and shorten the usable life of the strings. Besides a dirty soundboard looks....dirty. Clean keys by occasionally wiping them with a damp cloth and drying them immediately. If accumulated debris can't be removed with a damp cloth, try wiping the cloth on a bar of mild soap or moisten with dishwasher detergent before wiping. Do not use chemicals or solvents to clean piano keys. Call a qualified tuner-technician to remove anything from the keys you can't wipe away. As the finish wears off the pedals and they begin to tarnish, they can be polished with any good metal cleaner
To maintain the piano's finish, you may wipe the case with a lightly dampened cotton cloth to remove fingerprints, or polish with a reliable emulsion-type, water-based solution following the manufacturer's instructions. Avoid aerosol spray polishes that contain silicone and/or petroleum distillates. Ask your tuner/technician to suggest a specific brand. If he can't help you, call a piano store.
The maintenance of the inner workings of the piano should be left to a qualified tuner/technician. Dusting the inside of your piano must be done with extreme care. Although it can be messy, it is better to reverse your vacuum cleaner and blow the dust out of the instrument. Don't ever oil the moving parts and resist using moth or insect repellents. Your tuner-technician will take care of all internal problems.
Try to maintain a fairly consistent temperature and humidity in the room where your piano is placed. It's important to keep your piano away from heating registers in the winter, an air conditioning vents in the summer. Placement near a fireplace, a frequently opened window or outside door, and exposure direct sunlight should always be avoided.
Play your piano regularly. You'll get the most enjoyment from it and also reach your potential much faster. A disadvantage to idle pianos, assuming they also suffer a service lapse, is that a detrimental condition or environment can't be identified, and an escalating problem can result in damage that might not have occurred with regular service. Felt mites and moths are especially damaging to the internal felt pieces. Regular use produces an uncomfortable environment for such creatures by crushing down the felt where they like to live. Regular use will also keep out mice and chipmunks who make their homes underneath the keys.
Keep all drinks, plants and standing liquid containers off the piano. Should spilled liquid reach the action, notify your tuner/technician immediately. In most cases, once liquids are spilled, the damage is irreversible. That is why prevention is the safest rule to follow.
Select a piano tuner/technician with care. It's not only important that the service person be competent at performing tuning, regulation and repairs, but also that the person be someone you feel comfortable calling with questions concerning the performance of your piano. Hiring a tuner/technician who is committed to comprehensive service on your piano, and not just an occasional tuning, is your best assurance.
Do not perform repairs yourself. The old rule of thumb, "If you don't know what you're doing, leave it alone", is your safest bet. Although a problem may appear easy to solve (such as replacing a loose key ivory), a qualified technician will have the proper tools, parts and supplies to make the repairs quickly and correctly. It's important to remember, unsuccessful amateur repairs are usually much more expensive to fix than the initial problem and may decrease the value of your instrument significantly.
Use only an insured professional piano mover to move your piano. You will avoid unnecessary injury to yourself, your instrument and your home. For possible claims purposes, have the instrument "evaluated" before moving. Ask for "fair-market value" and "replacement value" to be stated on the receipt. If you insist on moving the instrument yourself, call a local tuner/technician for advice. Remember, if you hire a professional and something happens, you're covered. If, on the other hand, you decide to move the piano yourself, be sure to use chocks. That way the weight of the piano is distributed over more than 100 square inches instead of the four inches provided by the casters. Click Here to see a graphic.
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This page was last edited on March 26, 2010 by John A. Tuttle.
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