Issues in Piano Selection and Care:
Although the damage to the piano in the picture at the right was caused by a severe accident or vandalism, a piano may have unseen damage from a variety of causes.
Your piano tuner/technician can note any items of concern during regular tuning visits. Below are some potential issues and guidelines related to purchasing and maintaining your instrument.
You don't necessarily avoid a used piano that needs some repairs. But a piano tuner/technician can provide an estimate of what it will take to restore it to good playable condition.
There are many items to be checked prior to purchase that you will not be able to detect yourself. These would include condition of: pitch (and related implications), pinblock, bridge, strings, pins, action, hammers, felt, pedals, regulation, sound board, humidity-
There are some pianos that are no longer tunable due to age and conditions caused by temperature and humidity damage. A technician can tell you if the piano will be able to be tuned. Two of the most common issues are dryness (affecting tuning stability) and corrosion (as shown in the photo below).
Is the piano close to concert pitch (A=440). If not, that doesn't necessarily mean much other than it hasn't been tuned for a long time and will need a pitch-
If the seller states that "it has been a few years since it was tuned", experience has revealed that this usually does NOT mean a literal duration of several years. It often indicates that it has been many years since the last tuning.
Generally speaking, the condition of a used piano will be discussed privately with the prospective purchaser once the instrument has been evaluated. There may be things to discuss that are between the technician and the prospective buyer that could contradict or offend the seller if discussed in their presence. The purchaser who is paying for the evaluation wants to make an informed decision. The owner / seller is not entitled to a free evaluation. However, if the prospective buyer wants to share the information with the seller, that is their choice.
Example of corrosion on strings and pins
Keep the following in mind:
Dusting spray on the piano, or even its use on furniture in the same room, will likely get into the tuning pins. This can cause pins to become loose and eventually the piano will not hold a tuning. Sprays such as Pledge or Liquid Gold may contain chemicals that will damage pianos or interact with an older piano finish. Do not use this type of product on the piano including the keys.
In addition to the impact on tuning pins, older pianos may have a finish that can become sticky from use of modern cleaning chemicals. (One of my customers had an older piano bench that became very sticky as a result of cleaning chemicals.)
For dusting and cleaning, a very small amount of white vinegar (e.g. a teaspoon of white vinegar in a spray bottle of water) is suggested by piano experts as a cleaning solution. Mixing in some Windex should be ok for cleaning keys. Windex contains some ammonia that should be fine. However, other brands of glass cleaner could have some other additives. Therefore we cannot speak confidently about the other brands.
Wash a new rag before use to remove any dyes or oils that may be in the cloth.
Do NOT use any cleaning spray or cleaning chemicals anywhere on or near the piano. These chemicals can find their way into the tuning pins and make the tuning unstable.
For dusting and cleaning, a very small amount of white vinegar (e.g. a teaspoon of white vinegar in a spray bottle of water) can be used as dusting spray. Spray onto the rag, then use to dust and remove fingerprints. (Fingerprints are especially visual distraction on the high-
For old keys that have some dirt stuck on them, the vinegar solution tends to work. Mixing in some Windex should be OK for cleaning keys. Windex contains some ammonia that should be fine. However, other brands of glass cleaner could have some other additives. Therefore we cannot speak confidently about the other brands. There is also a special piano key cleaner (called "Key Brite") available specifically for cleaning piano keys.
Do NOT try to lubricate anything in or on your piano. There are a few parts where lubrication is necessary. But many lubricant types should NOT be used. Your technician knows what type of lubricant is appropriate and for which parts.
If the piano is close to the kitchen, note that when cooking bacon or anything greasy, the grease is easily carried through the air. If you smell the bacon, the grease is probably in the air and could be lubricating the tuning pins, especially in a grand piano. Use the fan/filter in your cooking hood to reduce this possibility.
Grease / lubricant should not be used near a piano. I had one customer, many years ago, try to remedy rusty looking strings and tuning pins by spraying WD-
Your piano technician uses some special lubricants that are NOT petroleum-
Relative humidity should be maintained between 40 and 50 percent.
The best approach is to manage the building/room humidity. If you are not sure what your humidity level is, you can get a humidistat for roughly $10 that will help you keep an eye on it. Some of the newer communicating thermostats also have a built-
A second approach is a room humidifier. You can obtain these for well under $100. Although some of these contain humidity sensors and automatic operation, you will probably want to keep an eye on the room humidity to see if you need to adjust the settings and fan speed.
A third approach is to have your piano technician install a "Dampp-