Piano Maintenence - Guide and tips to protecting your piano

June 12, 2017 0 Comments

Internal components of a grand piano

Caring for your piano

In this article, we simplify and consolidate the most relevant tips and steps taken to ensure your piano is well-taken care of. Before we dive into the solutions, please take a few minutes of your time to familiarize with the factors that could damage your piano and understand how it happens. 

We explain logically [with a little science] behind these facts. Even though some of these tips may seem obvious, they are frequently forgotten.

By knowing the cause, it allows us to improvise different solutions. If you have a good idea, please feel free to drop us a message

We suggest Bookmarking or sharing the article for future references.

 

#1 Sunlight exposure

Sunlight shining through a building

A little vitamin D for your beloved instrument isn't always the best idea to keep them well nourished. Not only are the UV rays from the sun detrimental to the wooden components, the heat conducted is also another factor to consider. 

This is because the UV ray breaks down and destroys lignin, a vital part of the wood structure, causing it to weaken. In turn, the broken down components are a food source for fungi which causes stain and accelerates decomposition. 

As if the effects of UV rays aren't enough, heat also causes dryness, which adds to cracking and splitting of the wood structure over time. No amount of protection will stop heat from transmitting to the interior of your piano.

While all pianos come with a shiny or matte finish, these painted armors aren't necessarily strong enough to protect her delicate interior. In fact, sunlight also causes these finishes to fade over time.

Never keep a piano exposed to sunlight. If you absolutely have no choice, the best you can do to mitigate its effect is to get yourself a piano protective cover and shield your window with blinds or a UV film.

 

 

#2 Dust

dust piano closeup without keyboard lid

As small as they seem (or not), these are your greatest man-hour killers. Think of the time taken to thoroughly clean a piano, once a week, for the next 20 years. On top of that, your piano cleaning specialist pays you a visit every year and you wonder where all the dust comes from.

Dust could be abrasive and can easily scratch your piano finish if wiped off with a dry cloth. Even with the piano lid closed 95% of the time, these dust bunnies still somehow manage to squeeze in and settle down on the soundboard, building a whole colony of dust babies.

An acoustic piano produces it's tone when the hammer comes into contact with the string. If your parts are covered with dust, your tone gets more muffled over time. Although this may not even be audible to some of us, for hygiene purposes at least, we'd want our piano to be as dust-free as possible.

If the area you live in has higher dust content levels, consider investing in an air purifier to be placed in the same room as your piano. Otherwise, a piano dust cover should be sufficient and effective in most cases.

We recommend dusting the piano lightly with a feather duster. A soft damp cloth could also be used with gentle wiping movement and immediately drying it with a soft dry cloth. Microfiber cloths are recommended to avoid scratching.

For piano interior cleaning, we recommend getting a professional piano technician for the job.

 

 

#3 Water

Liquid spill

Ever had a guest come over, pour him a glass of coke which he conveniently left it on your piano lid and the next thing you know you're frantically wiping your piano dry with your new maxi-dress which you've just put on 5 minutes earlier?

Water can be absorbed by wood, and if left unattended, results in swelling which could also lead to bumps and uneven surfaces, not forgetting that water is also a key ingredient for the growth of micro-organisms. 

Never place plants or drinks on a piano, because spillage and condensation can cause major damage.

While most piano covers are not waterproof, they will stop direct impact from liquid spills, saving you from much agony. Look out for water-resistant piano covers available in the market.

If you have spilled liquid on your piano, get a soft dry cloth and dry up your piano IMMEDIATELY. 

 

 

#4 Temperature and humidity

Dried and cracked wood

Previously explained, heat causes dryness which results in cracking and splitting of wood due to shrinkage. Excess moisture causes wood to swell up and it will crack and split as well due to the pressure and stress in the structure.

Never place your piano near ventilation outlets. The temperature variance in front of an outlet, be it heating or air-conditioning, is simply too much to bear. The extreme temperature movements will also cause the piano to be out of shape as different parts of the piano, could expand and contract at different rates.

Do not place your piano near an exterior wall, windows and drafts. In certain houses, the temperature of the exterior walls may fluctuate throughout the day and these daily variations could damage the piano in the long run.

The glue used to keep your piano components intact will also be affected by humidity and heat changes. Piano strings and felt materials are not resistant to humidity either. 

Generally, a humidity level of 40% - 50% and a temperature of 18-24 degrees is recommended. 

A Climate control unit is a definitely recommended if you live in places where these extreme conditions occur. A piano cover will provide slight temperature and humidity control but not be sufficient to maintain the ideal condition for extended periods of time.

A piano dehumidifier could also be installed by your piano technician to keep humidity in check. It is usually placed inside the lower cabinet of an upright piano or underneath the grand piano. We've also noted that some dehumidifiers [heating rods] reduce humidity by gently heating up to 40-50 degree Celsius. There are many different opinions on this and many had had no issues due to the gentle nature of the heat, while others advise against it due to the same reasons why we don't place pianos near a heating system. Please speak with your technician for clarifications before installing the heating rods.

*IMPORTANT* - The recommendations only serve as a guideline, please check with your piano dealer or technician for accurate information as different piano models may have varying ideal conditions.

 

 

#4.5 Protect the piano from underfloor heating

Temperature changes could strike you from places where you least expect it and one of it is from your underflooring heating system. Since many of us are unaware about this, it deserves its own section.

Piano mats should do the trick. The mat acts as an insulation between the piano and heated flooring. To some extent, the castor cups will help but it will not be as effective as the mat itself.

 

 

#5 Human Interaction 

Painted hand

Humans, born with an inclination to touch whatever sparks their interest. As much as we try to protect our beloved instrument and keep them out of harm's way, unforeseen events are bound to happen and they are sometimes due human error or simply put, carelessness. Of course, as the proud owners, we have a vested interest in protecting our valuable asset, but it may not be the case for the occasional visitor and children who are too young to comprehend the importance yet.

Keep your instrument out of traffic's way, especially in places where accidents could happen [ Eg. Staircase landings]. To reduce its visibility, you may want to keep it hidden and out of sight of the curious persons. 

 

 

#6 Physical external damage

Old and damaged piano without key cover

Highly correlated with point number 5 would be physical external damages, either caused by mother nature or humans alike. More often than not, light scratches and blemishes are usually skin deep and the damage affects the piano finish.

For resale purposes, how good the exterior looks is also a huge indicator of how much effort and care one has put into protecting the instrument. If the exteriors can't be protected, what makes the potential buyer think that the perseverance of the piano interior, which is obviously more tedious and complicated, are done properly. This definitely plays a great part in the resale value.

Do not place objects on your piano without a soft cloth or felt pad. Not all pianos are the same. This means that your piano could be a traditional lacquered or modern polyester finish. It is important to know what you are dealing with before trying to fix it 

Invest in a piano protector and keep your instrument out of traffic's way, especially in places where accidents could happen [ Eg. Staircase landings]. Although a piano cover cannot save a piano from huge direct impacts, it could significantly reduce scratches, especially from the cats who love napping on top of a piano.

For touch ups, we always recommend seeking professional help. Simply ask for a recommendation from your technician or dealer and most of them would have contacts available. If you really have no choice but to do it yourself, the following might help.

*Before applying any products, please find out more about your piano finish or call your technician.

For lacquered finishes, a polish might do the trick: Click here

Another Popular choice would be "Fender piano polish by Meguiar's"

 

 

#7 Moving your piano

Moving your grand piano

We strongly recommend consulting a piano moving professional. Not every home mover has the experience of moving a piano and it could result in big unnecessary damages. Some movers do not move pianos as these instruments are highly sensitive. Be sure to ring up your movers for a confirmation if they provide piano moving services.

Sure, it could cost you money, but it sure beats unwinding the efforts over the years put into keeping your instrument safe.

 

 

#8 Tuning your piano

Closeup piano action hammer

This applies to all stringed instruments. If the strings are left un-tuned for long durations, when they are brought back into tune, they tend to stretch and slip back which require multiple tunings before they will hold their pitch again. Pianos have around 230 strings and are far more complicated to tune than nearly every other stringed instrument. A well-experienced tuner moving quickly would still take about an hour for a single tuning.

If your piano is in a bad shape, it will almost certainly take multiple tunings before it holds its pitch correctly. A newly built piano is generally tuned multiple times before it even gets put on display.

Tuning and maintenance by skilled technicians are recommended. This is generally done at least 2 times a year, costing roughly 500 to 600 USD* annually for a grand piano and higher if additional repairs need to be done due to negligence and damage. 

*Values provided are an estimation, costs will change and differ through time and providers.

 

 

Additional details & resources

 

Piano Technicians

Every piano owner should have their pianos serviced at least 2 times a year. Should you be left without a technician, the piano technician's guild would be a great place to start.

For digital pianos and electronic technician's: MITA International

 

Piano covers

Easily the most effective and all rounded tool to keep your piano protected. The investment for a piano cover simply pales in comparison to the cost and maintenance required of the instrument. In the long run, since it saves us potential headaches and also mitigates some of the maintenance cost incurred, the piano cover is an obvious easy decision for any piano owner.

 

Piano mats & carpets

Underfloor heating could potentially cause problems for your piano. Although modern underfloor heating systems are pretty gentle, the piano [especially for uprights due to its larger base surface] will suffer if it faces temperature fluctuations frequently.

Piano carpets and mats act as an insulator to the heat generated by the heating system. 

 

Climate control units and dehumidifier

These machines are indispensable when it comes to keeping your conditions right. A piano dehumidifier could also be installed by your piano technician to keep humidity in check. It is usually placed inside the lower cabinet of an upright piano or underneath the grand piano.

The fluctuations of temperature could significantly have greater effects on your piano, it is ideal to at least keep them at a recommended level.

Recommended humidity level: 40% - 50%

Recommended temperature: 18 to 24 Degree Celsius

*IMPORTANT* - The recommendationsonly serve as a guideline, please check with your piano dealer for accurate information as different piano models may have varying ideal conditions.

 

Window films and blinds

They are not 100% proof but better than not having it installed if your piano is located near an area where sunlight shines. 

 

Piano movers

Professional piano movers are important as they have the experience. People tend to underestimate the complexity of moving a piano and they could potentially incur permanent damage if not done correctly.

 

Air purifier

For dusty environments, the air purifier definitely helps not only in keeping the air clean yourself but also for your piano.

 

Conclusion

Protecting and caring for your piano goes a long way and could keep you from headaches and extra maintenance cost in the long run. Everyone faces different problems depending on their environment. There is no one solution to all problems and we highly recommend to always seek professional advice regarding different situations that may arise.

By the end of this article, you should be able to easily identify common problems that piano owners face, understand how it happens and apply possible solutions to solve them.

This article is crafted with the help of piano owners and professionals in our the piano communities.

Special thanks to: 

Ed McMorrow, John Sprung, Rick, pianoloverus, Mario Bruneau, sososomifafafare, arcticwolf26, theunclescar, klavierbaukuenstler.

 



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Sizing Guide for Piano Covers

How to measure pianos and keyboards

 

Grand Piano & Baby Grand

The biggest physical differentiator between Grand pianos or baby grands is their length. They range from 5" all the way to 8.5". There are also several concert grand models that are even longer in length.

Traditionally, Piano makers have found that longer strings tend to increase instrument power, reverberation and produces the desired tonal characteristics, which gave rise to the popularity of grand pianos. 

Before measuring your piano, please make sure to close the lids and keep the music rest down for a more accurate measurement.

 

How to measure a grand piano insturctions

Top down view of a grand piano

 Place measuring tape over red line [Measuring line guide]

 

Length: From the front of keyboard to the center of the tail at the back [ Longest points with the lids closed]

Width: From right to left over the music shelf where the music rest is located [ Longest points with the lids closed ]

Height: From the floor to the tallest point of the piano [Music rest folded down or kept under lid]

*Please note that the lids usually give slight extensions to the piano, it isimportant to account for the full length and width of the grand piano.

 

 

Vertical and Upright Piano

Upright pianos, also known as vertical pianos, features a compact frame and vertical strings. They are popular models purchased for home use due to their size and affordable pricing. 

The sizes of these pianos also vary among different manufacturers even though their shape stays relatively similar. Most standard sized upright pianos are around 150-154cm [ 4 feet and 11.055 inches ] in width while junior sized uprights are approximately 148-149cm [ 4 feet and 10.26772 inches ]

Our upright piano covers are designed such that it is able to fit almost all the different models from individual manufacturers. This is due to the overhang design, which also allows easy access to the keyboards. The overhang design has a natural and minimalist approach which provides greater ease and efficiency for the piano user.

 

How to measure an upright piano photo instructions

Top down view of the upright piano

  Place measuring tape over red line [Measuring line guide]

 

Width: Measure from left to right over the top of the piano [ Longest points with the lids closed ]

Depth: Measure from front of keyboard to back of piano [ Longest points with lids closed ]

HeightFrom the floor to the tallest point of the piano, usually on the piano lid [ Tallest point with lids closed ]

*Please note that Piano width is often mistaken with the term "piano length" for upright or vertical pianos. Certain electric or digital pianos, such as the Yamaha Clavinova Series, are shaped to look similar to an upright piano. In these cases, they are measured the same way as an Upright piano.

 

 

Digital Piano & Keyboards [ 76 - 88 keys ]

The Digital pianos are the smallest in size as they do not require strings to be installed. Portable and full of features, these pianos are highly popular with beginners and experts alike. 

The main difference between a digital piano and a keyboard is their action and size of the keys. Digital pianos are made to resemble the feel of an acoustic piano and they usually come with 88 keys, which is the usual number of keys found on an upright or grand piano.

How to measure a digital or electric piano instructionsTop down view of a Digital Piano / Keyboard

 

WidthMeasure from left to right over the entire span of the keyboard [ Include the body of keyboard, longest points]

Depth: Measure from front of keyboard to the back

Height: Measure from base of the body to the highest point [ Do not include the music rest ]

Please note that the height of the Digital piano or keyboard does not include the keyboard or piano support stand. Do not measure from the floor up unless specified to do so.  

 

Piano cover sizes are included in their own description pages. Please don't hesitate to contact us at [email protected] if unsure of the size suitability of the piano covers.