Owning a piano is a big responsibility. Pianos are expensive, take up a lot of space, and require a great deal of maintenance to preserve the quality of sound the instrument produces as well as the overall appearance. All of this means that, in addition to the cost of purchasing the piano, you’ll have to spend a lot to keep it properly maintained. While it’s advisable to get any and all major repairs handled by an experienced repair technician, there are some DIY quick fixes you can learn, as well as strategies for mitigating the piano’s expensive and consistent maintenance. In this article, we’ll discuss some of those DIY fixes and some other ways to reduce the overall cost of owning a piano.
Proper Maintenance of a Piano
Pianos must be tuned regularly, usually once every six months. The longer you go without tuning a piano, the more work is required to restore it to the proper pitch. Pianos tend to go out of tune due to changes in humidity. If you want to tune the piano less often, you can install special equipment to regulate humidity inside and around the instrument. This special equipment is an especially good investment if you live in an area that experiences dramatic changes in temperature and humidity. Regulating the humidity will prevent the soundboard from cracking and the wood from warping. These are problems you most likely won’t be able to repair on your own if they do happen. If, for some reason, you don’t want to install special equipment, you can place your piano near a wall away from windows or doors that are opened frequently. You’ll also want to avoid heating and air conditioning vents, fireplaces, and areas that are in direct sunlight throughout the day.
Protecting Your Piano’s Appearance
If you want to protect the appearance of your piano, you should avoid placing anything on top of or near it. You should also be cleaning your piano regularly. You can clean the outside of your piano with a damp cloth, but never use a wet one. If your piano has a lacquer finish, you’ll want to find an appropriate furniture polish to use for removing very fine scratches. You should only use polish when necessary, because polish can actually damage the finish and, if it gets inside, can damage the action components. Make sure to dust the keys of your piano at least every few days. This will prevent dust from making its way into the soundboard and the action mechanism.
Cleaning the Soundboard
To clean the soundboard, simply blow away any accumulated dust and dirt. You can use a vacuum or a can of compressed air. Take extra care when doing so, as it’s very easy to damage the strings and dampers. Use vertical strokes in the direction of the strings to blow out the dust making sure never to touch the strings and dampers with the vacuum nozzle, can of air, or fingers. Blow all the dust and dirt to a corner of the piano that you can access, then use the vacuum to suck it all out. Be extremely careful throughout this process, since the whole purpose is to avoid costly repairs. If you damage anything by being too careless, you’ll have to contact a professional cleaner or repair technician anyway.
Some other simple ways of protecting your piano and reducing the number of professional cleanings and repairs include washing your hands before you play and closing the lid when you’re not playing.
DIY Quick Fixes for You Piano
In some cases, if something goes wrong, there are some quick DIY fixes to be aware of. Before doing so, though, you should contact a professional to do a valuation. If you’ve inherited a piano, or purchased one secondhand, it’s not a good idea to mess with it too much, as it could be an antique that’s worth a lot of money. Another way to be safe about learning DIY quick fixes is to sit in with a repair technician the first few times they repair your piano. Observe what they do, ask questions, learn all you can about how to carefully deal with all the important parts of a piano. If ever you need to disassemble your piano, don’t forget to label each and every piece, so you’ll be able to put it back together again. With all that in mind, here are a few quick fixes for you to be aware of:
There are a few things which can cause a piano’s keys to stick. In some cases, they key slip could be causing the keys to stick. This is an easy thing to diagnose and fix. Simply take the key slip off, place a piece of cardboard where the key is sticking, and replace the key slip. The piece of cardboard should hold the key slip away from the keys far enough to avoid future sticking. If the hammers are touching, you can file down the sides of them very slightly. Only file them enough to make them not stick. If you can determine that the hammers are not touching, but they key still sticks, you may have a tight key bushing which is often caused by humidity changes. If a key is sticking when it’s humid, but works normally when it’s dry, you can be sure that humidity is causing your sticking keys.
Fixing Piano Hammers
How to address problems with a piano’s hammer depends entirely on whether you have an upright piano or a grand piano. In some cases, you can adjust piano hammers with a screwdriver relatively simply. If you have a hammer break off, there are some situations where you can actually super glue it back on.
When to Consult with an Experienced Repair Technician
Consult with an experienced repair technician is if you have no idea what’s causing a problem with your piano or if you have no idea how to fix it. You can do a lot more damage opening it up, disassembling it, and making “repairs” if you don’t have a proper understanding of what you’re doing or why. If you believe you know what’s wrong and what you should do, you should still call a technician and explain your thinking to them. It doesn’t cost anything, and they may be able to tell if you if you’re on the right track. If your piano has experienced catastrophic damage, anything that’s outside your ability to repair, then you should definitely consult with a repair technician.
Looking for even more tips? Check out our Tips for Keeping a Piano in Great Shape.