Piano Tuning

Are Some Pianos Untunable? (Tuning Explained)

Written By :

Fairfax County Piano Tuners

Published on July 13, 2023

Piano owners often find themselves asking, are some pianos untunable? One reason is that it might take more effort to tune an older piano. Two, tuning doesn’t address every issue you might have with your keyboard, such as damaged strings.

A technician can bring older pianos back into tune. However, there are times when this process is so difficult that it’s virtually impossible. For instance, a damaged piano body won’t support strings as needed so that they stay in tune.

If you’re concerned about your piano at home, keep reading for some important information about tuning. These details help explain why an older piano might need some extra attention.

Also, you can then decide when a piano is beyond tuning and might need repairs or disposal. Above all, don’t hesitate to contact a piano tuning professional near you when needed. They can help you determine if an older piano is a good buying decision for your needs!

are some pianos untunable

Are Some Pianos Untunable and How Can You Decide?

First, note that older pianos might need some added attention, but a technician can often bring them back into tune. Second, a piano repair contractor can also repair damaged piano bodies, replace strings, and the like. In turn, you can often salvage even a severely damaged piano.

On the other hand, there are times when a piano might be considered "untunable" or not salvageable. Note when tuning a piano may be challenging if not downright impossible:

Severe body damage and other structural issues

Extensive damage to a piano’s soundboard, strings, or other components makes it difficult if not impossible to tune. In these cases, the piano may require significant repairs and replacement parts before tuning. New construction ensures the piano body can support tuned strings properly, keeping it sounding its best.

Neglected pianos

Neglected pianos, or those that have gone without needed tuning or servicing, develop structural issues. For example, overly loose tuning pins or deteriorated strings make high-quality, stable tuning a challenge. Again, your technician might need to replace these parts to ensure proper tuning.

Poor climate or storage conditions

Pianos need a steady climate to remain in good condition. In turn, temperature and humidity fluctuations have a significant impact on its tuning stability. So, consider if you’ve exposed your piano to temperature extreme or other uncontrolled conditions. If so, a technician might find it a challenge to tune properly.

Age, use, and wear and tear

Older pianos, particularly those that have not been well-maintained, often have worn-out parts and severe structural issues. These probably often affect their tuning stability overall. First, the string tension often deteriorates. Second, the wood body might change shape as it expands and shrinks. These issues make it more difficult to tune the piano accurately.

However, this doesn’t mean that the piano is untunable. In these cases, it may simply require professional repairs, such as rebuilding or replacing certain components. Skilled piano technicians can address these issues, ensuring successful tuning and restoration of its sound quality.

are some pianos untunable

Does Not Tuning a Piano Ruin It?

Not tuning a piano regularly often affects its overall condition and sound quality and not in a good way. For one thing, it usually makes the next tuning more difficult! However, neglecting piano tuning doesn’t typically "ruin" the instrument. Instead, you might notice the following issues:

Pitch instability

When you don’t tune a piano regularly, string tension gradually changes. Also, humidity, temperature fluctuations, and string elasticity affect how well those wires hold a tune. In turn, you might notice the piano's pitch gradually drifting away from the standard tuning. As a result, the piano may sound out of tune, but it’s not necessarily ruined.

Increased tension

If a piano remains untuned for an extended period, the strings lose tension unevenly. This risks excessive stress on some strings and other parts of the piano's body. Consequently, you might notice damage that affects the instrument's playability. However, this also doesn’t mean that the piano is ruined but just needs repairs.

Damaged strings

Over time, the strings in a piano deteriorate. Moisture, dust, and oxidation wear down those wires as they do many other materials! Without regular tuning, some strings may break or lose their tonal quality. In turn, they lose their resonance and vibrant sound. However, a technician can usually replace those wires and ensure proper tuning.

Longer and costlier restoration process

Untuned pianos often mean pitch deviation. Restoring the piano to its optimal condition then requires more extensive work. This might include body or soundboard repairs, extensive tuning, and other adjustments. This process is time-consuming and more expensive than regular tuning and maintenance. In some cases, a piano might then feel that the piano is ruined and not worth salvaging.

To maintain your piano, experts recommend having it tuned at least once or twice a year. Regular tuning keeps any piano sounding its best. Also, tuning helps identify potential issues and needed repairs before they become significant.

are some pianos untunable

Should I Buy a Piano That Hasn’t Been Tuned in 10 Years?

Buying any piano requires some careful consideration! Pianos are a costly investment and take up quite a bit of space. In turn, it’s vital to note its overall condition especially if the piano is older and out of tune.

Before purchasing any piano, have it inspected by a qualified technician. They can assess its structural integrity, soundboard, string tension, and other components. Also, they can determine if it’s possible to restore the piano to a playable condition.

Additionally, if the piano hasn’t been tuned for a decade, it might require extensive repairs and regulation. In turn, consider those potential costs and weigh them against its purchase price.

Lastly, remember that the decision to purchase a piano depends on your personal preference, budget, and expectations. Consider your level of commitment to piano playing. Also, be honest about your tolerance for future issues. This includes your willingness to invest time and money into its restoration process.

Fairfax County Piano Tuners by PianoCraft is happy to help answer the question, are some pianos untunable? Hopefully we’ve helped clear up this issue for you! Also, if you need expert services, call our Fairfax VA piano tuning contractors. We offer affordable, reliable tuning, repairs, and restoration. For more information about your piano, contact our customer care team today.

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