Just as you need to change the oil in your car regularly, regular piano tunings are crucial to the performance of your piano. A piano will go out of tune whether it is played or not.
There are over 200 strings in a piano, which are stretched at high tension across the frame of the soundboard. Various factors, such as temperature, humidity and time will cause the strings and all of the wooden parts of the piano to expand and contract and in-turn cause the piano to go out of tune. In more hot and humid weather, these parts will expand, causing the piano to play sharper than standard pitch. In more cold and dry weather, these parts will contract, causing the piano to play flatter than standard pitch. Unfortunately, to parts of a piano do not all expand and contract at the same rate. This not only causes the piano to go sharp or flat, but it causes the piano to sound out of tune with itself.
Generally it is a good idea to tune your piano 2 times a year to help combat the effects of these temperature and humidity changes. The two most optimal times to have a piano tuning are in the fall, about 2-3 weeks after the heat has been turned on in your house, and in the spring, about 2-3 weeks after the heat has been turned off in your house.
Playing the piano will also cause it to go out of tune. As the piano hammers repeatedly hit the strings of the piano, they will begin to stretch and in-turn begin to play flat. Therefore, pianos that are played more often, such as pianos which are used for teaching, will need to be tuned more than 2 times per year to maintain their proper tune.
While not having your piano tuned regularly will not in itself damage the piano, playing on a piano that is not in proper tune can be very de-motivating for anyone trying to practice on that instrument. It is common to hear children commenting to their parents that their piano at home does not sound or feel as “good” as their teacher’s piano. This is usually more due to the fact that the piano has not been regularly serviced, rather than that the piano at home is an inferior piano. Not having your piano regularly also increases the risk that problems occurring in the piano due to environmental factors will go unnoticed, which could lead to more permanent and costly damage. It is also much more difficult to tune a piano that has not been regularly serviced. Read more about this.
Visit our Caring for Your Piano page for tips on how to maintain better tuning stability in your piano.