You must tune a piano from time to time to ensure they’re giving out their best sound. These instruments may fall out of tune over time due to temperature, humidity, and age. The process of tuning a piano is complex and should always be done by professional piano tuners.
Due to this factor, first-time buyers often ask themselves how much does it cost to tune a piano and how to find good piano tuning companies. We will get into detail on how you can use the services provided by the Piano Technicians Guild website to find a qualified piano tuner near you for a fair price.
In this article, you will also learn all the costs related to this service, as well as what are the different types of piano tuning and tips for maintaining your instrument in tune for longer. So let’s learn more.
Related: Do you want to learn the piano but don’t know where to start? Make sure to take a look at our How to Play Piano article.
What is Tuning?
The basic way a piano works is that a set of strings are hitten by a hammer every time you press a key. These strings go out of tune over time, so they need to be adjusted to ensure all the correct sounding musical intervals.
The process is usually done by piano tuners who will use a chromatic tuner to check the piano’s pitch. Then, he/she will tighten or loose tuning pins to move the pitch up or down. It is common for each key to have at least 3 strings, so piano tuning may be a very time-consuming process.
The right kind of piano tunings will depend on the demands of the player. The standard is to base it on the middle C, but performers playing with a band may need concert pitch – when the instrument is tuned to match the other instruments of the group.
All of this requires a well-trained ear. The professional needs to hear all the harmonics within a note for proper fine-tuning. Harmonics are frequencies above the fundamental pitch that lets us differentiate a sound from the other, creating the piano timbre we all love.
Why Should I Tune my Piano?
Piano tuning is important so that the instrument can sound its best and you can play it properly. Be a beginner or an expert, playing in a recording studio or concert hall, we can never neglect this process.
Also, these instruments cost a lot of money. Keeping a piano tuned will help it to stay in good condition and maintain its commercial value. This will make a huge difference in the long run or if you plan on selling it later.
How Often Should I Tune my Piano?
This will depend on some factors. Most piano manufacturers and professionals suggest that new owners should tune a piano at least four times in its first year. In the second year, the instrument may be tuned twice, with an interval of six months. From there on, the piece must get this job done at least yearly.
These are the instructions for instruments that are brand new. If you decide to go for a used one, it is worth knowing exactly the manufacturing date and how often the piano was tuned. This is so you know exactly what services to hire.
Piano Tuning Cost Factors
The costs will depend a lot on location, piano tuning companies in your area, and the number of sessions required for the job. According to Thumbtack, piano tuning estimates in the USA are priced from $120 to $140.
It is important to take into account that prices will differ depending on if the job is at a flat or an hourly rate. The piano tuner will decide this according to the state and the needs of each instrument.
Another important factor for determining the cost of the job is the type of piano tuning. An instrument could need different amounts of tuning and caring efforts based on its state. A neglected piano (also known as sore arm) may need more work time than a well-maintained piano.
To determine piano tuning costs, some of the most important factors are:
- Maintenance habits of the owner
- Age of the piano
- Structural damage that may affect the sound such as wood affected by excess humidity
- If the piano has any broken or worn strings that need replacement
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t only one type of tuning. Piano tuning companies often consider four levels: basic tuning service (standard tuning), operative maintenance service, sore arm tuning, and dead on arrival (DOA). Below, we will break down each type of tuning and its cases, as well as estimated prices based on the national average for the USA.
Level 1: Basic Tuning Service
The standard piano tuning. For regularly maintained pianos that are tuned frequently and haven’t been moved recently. Piano tuners will only need to adjust the pins and check for worn strings or structure.
Standard tuning is usually done at a flat rate. Piano tuning companies mostly have a good estimation of how long it is going to take. According to piano technician Russell Gallman, from Prime Piano Services, the cost of a basic tuning service is $110. It takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes of work in one session.
Level 2: Operative Maintenance Service
The kind of service for when the instrumental has recently been moved, arrival pianos bought as new or hasn’t had any tuning for at least 2 years. The piano technician will have to do a few more adjustments than its basic counterpart.
To start, the piano tuner will pressurize the soundboard of the instrument. It is a plate of wood made to amplify the instrument’s vibrations and must be fine-tuned to give the best sound. Additional costs may apply if the piece is cracked or broken.
The professional will then check the overall structure of the piano and adjust all the tuning pins. The price for this service will usually start at $160, and take up to two tuning sessions of 2 hours each.
Level 3: Sore Arm Tuning
Professionals do this job on older pianos that haven’t been tuned for a long time. These pianos were usually neglected for years and their notes are extremely out of tune. Additional services may apply, such as replacement of broken strings and cleaning.
In these cases, it will need pitch raise tuning before the main tuning job. This process changes the tension of the instrument and prepares it to receive fine-tuning. If it’s not done properly, there can be damages to the structure and components such as the piano’s tuning pins.
According to Russell Gallman’s website, it will cost $210 and takes up to three sessions of 2 hours and 30 minutes. That, of course, excluding any additional costs such as cleaning.
Level 4: Dead On Arrival
Last but not least, are the pianos labeled dead on arrival (DOA pianos). These are instruments that suffered too much damage to their structure. These pianos have already exceeded their time span and are no longer tunable.
Serious piano tuners will be honest and make it very clear to the customer that it’s better to buy a new piano. The price for this diagnostic will depend on the company that you choose. It usually won’t cost anything, but some piano tuners charge a small fee to cover the visit.
Advanced Tuning Services
Musicians and artists will usually have different requirements depending on their artistic approach. Some want to have their piano tuned differently to achieve a certain timbre. Some may want the keys of the instrument to feel tighter or looser. These all fall under this type of service.
This category also applies to one-off additional services and most piano repairs. For example: to fix sticky keys, fix an uneven piano key height, and if the soundboard is dirty or the interior of the piano needs cleaning.
The rates for these types of services vary and piano technicians will define it on a qualified visit. So we can have an estimate, the company Prime Piano Services base their rate on a half-day or full-day block: the first costing $320 to $375, the latter $640 to $900.
Bonus: Piano Strings
How Much Do Piano Strings Cost?
A piano string usually starts at $2 per piece. Having 88 keys, the instrument features about 230 strings, which puts the average at $240 for a complete set. These are costs that are not included in the piano tuner service. It is important to use high-quality strings on your piano. Go for well-known brands such as Steinway & Sons and Roslau.
What are the Different Types of Piano Stringings?
There are two main types of stringings: overstrung and vertical strung. Overstrung upright pianos have their bass strings crossing over the middle and treble piano’s strings. This is also true for most modern grand pianos. Vertical strung instruments have all the strings running parallel to each other.
Different stringing types can have an impact on the sound of the piano. It is usually said by professionals that the more modern overstrung type has a richer and fuller sound than their straight-strung counterparts.
Maintaining Piano Tuning
Maintenance is important so that the tuning job lasts longer and your piano stays in prime condition. Important factors are proper temperature, humidity, and cleaning the instrument frequently. As well as avoiding eating and drinking near the instrument.
Temperature and Humidity
This is the most crucial factor. The strings are on constant tension and tend to soften or stiffen depending on the temperature and humidity of the place.
It’s difficult to control these factors: effects will vary greatly based on location, but the milder the climate the better. Pianos tend to suffer in places that are too warm, too cold, or have too many temperature extremes.
It helps to keep the piano in a room that has a mild and steady temperature and far from windows. Also, if the instrument is an upright piano, it is important to check if the wall behind it doesn’t have any infiltration or mold problems that could damage it and make it go out of tune.
Age of Piano & Tuning History
How old a piano is will of course impact how long the tuning may last, as well as its tuning history. It’s much harder for older instruments to stand the pressure on their structure caused by the strings.
But, if tuning has been done properly over the years, these effects can be drastically reduced. If that’s the case, the wood and the components inside the piano will get used to the right amount of pressure caused by properly tuned strings, therefore prolonging its tuning.
Most pianos will come with both the manufacturer warranty and the dealer warranty. But, they need a certain amount of care from the customer to be valid. Some piano brands state that if the instrument is not tuned at least yearly, the warrant can be voided.
The dealer warranty will cover damages while moving the instrument and guarantee to trade-in or to give your money back if you don’t like your new piano. Keep in mind that warranty on neglected pianos and bad tunings are usually not covered by any of these two.
Moving Your Piano
The piano is a delicate instrument so moving it will almost certainly make it go out of tune. The strings, that are already in constant tension, struggle to keep up with this kind of stress. You should make sure to find a good piano moving company and a certified technician to avoid any damages to your instrument.
Maintenance Tips for Keeping your Piano in Tune
Follow these basic tips to keep your piano in tune and well-playable for longer.
- Do basic tuning check frequently. You can do this with a chromatic tuner app on your phone.
- Keep the piano in a mild temperature room. Avoid places with heaters and air conditioners that may affect the temperature and humidity around it.
- Keep the instrument away from windows.
- Use your ears to check if the strings are still sounding good. Older strings are not so great at holding tunings.
- Don’t eat or drink near your piano.
- Clean your instrument regularly.
Finding the Right Piano Technician
Finding trustable piano technicians can be a challenge. Piano Technicians Guild is an international organization based in the USA that will help you find certified professionals in your area. Registered piano technicians will guarantee to do a good job and give you more peace of mind.
Hiring unregistered piano tuners, on the other hand, could give you a headache in the future. Dishonest professionals could damage your instrument and cause unnecessary problems, such as break strings. You could also end up with a poorly regulated piano, having to pay for the job all over again.
Bonus: How do I Become a Piano Technician?
A great piano tuner should start a professional journey by learning in-depth how the instrument works and its musical functionalities. Learning to play the instrument at least on an intermediate level is also a must. Make sure to check our How Long does it Take to Learn Piano guide to plan it.
After learning the basics, you will need formal education. Piano Technicians Guild offers a lot of free resources for aspiring piano tuners. They will also help you find online and in-person schools in your area. As well to get all the certifications you will need in the future.
What the Manufacturers Say
Piano manufacturers all have their recommendations for keeping your instrument in tune and in prime condition. We researched the famous company Steinway & Sons to see what their guidelines are.
Most of these suggestions can be applied to any company’s pianos, but any further instructions that will depend on factors such as the instrument’s material should be checked directly with the manufacturer.
The Cleaning Factor
The company advises the owners to regularly clean their pianos and to not put any objects on top of the instrument, as this could lead to a negative impact on the sound and tuning of it.
Owners however need to be cautious. Some cleaning products may damage the finish of the piano. It is advised to test any products on hidden areas before applying it. Interior cleaning is more complex and should always be done by a professional.
Tuning and Service
According to Steinway & Sons, how often you should tune your piano will vary according to the user. Regular users can afford to tune their instruments twice a year. Professional musicians should tune their pianos four times a year.
The company also states that new pianos should receive preventive service one year after purchase. From there, the recommendation is to have your piano checked for action, keys, and structural integrity at least every three to four years. Concert pianos that get a lot of use need yearly service.
Bonus: Can you Tune a Piano on your Own?
You should never try to tune a piano on your own if you’re not a professional. All manufacturers highly advise against it since someone without any knowledge or experience could damage the instrument.
Related: Are you a producer or artist looking for piano samples? Please check our The 8 Best Piano Samples & Sample Packs to find the best sounds.
In this article, we covered how much does it cost to tune a piano and the four types of tuning. As well as the proper guidelines to follow when getting pianos tuned. As we could see, the price will vary depending on the condition of each instrument.
From tuning to moving services, owners should choose quality companies and certified technicians. Remember to keep the instrument clean and in a dry, mild temperature place, away from the sunlight. If it needs interior cleaning, a professional should also be hired.
The best place to find piano technicians, as specified, is the Piano Technicians Guild website. You will find extensive information about qualified piano tuning companies in your area. If you live outside of the USA, you can find other foundations from around the world in the Professional Organizations section of the website.We hope that this guide helped you learn all the costs of tuning a piano. Do you have any more tips or questions about piano tuning cost and maintenance? Please share with us in the comments below!