Tuning/best times of year - Best times of year for tuning a piano?

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Postby Stretto » Sat Dec 17, 2005 11:26 am

Where I live there are 4 defined seasons and a lot of humidity. I always get in a catch 22 trying to work tunings around the times when the weather is changing (between seasons). When I start noticing my piano sounding horrible, it's always when the seasons have started changing (go figure!). Then I think well, I might as well wait now until the season is more stable to get it tuned rather than have it tuned right in the middle of the weather changing. Then I have to live with the sound during that time. If one is wanting to have their piano tuned twice a year, what are the best two times of year to "work around" season changes? Is this all a myth if indoor temperatures are kept stable year round? Or is there still some truth to not tuning a piano right in the middle of changing weather? (Of course the quirky weather can never make up it's mind what season it's suppose to be which adds to the factor of when to tune it even further). :O
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sat Dec 17, 2005 5:57 pm

Stretto:

Get your piano tuned on a regular schedule every year, four times if possible, two at the least. There is absolutely no way we can second guess the weather all the time, and you'll go crazy if you try it. (I've even given recitals where the piano was tuned the morning of the concert and then an afternoon weather change knocked it for as loop for the evening recital.)

The important thing is this: if you keep getting your piano tuned and serviced regularly over the years, it will become more and more stable and less affected by the weather, especially if the temperature and humidity inside the house don't change drastically during each season. Schedule tunings a couple of weeks after an inside-the-house change (especially if you switch from heat to air conditioning), try to keep some humidity in the air when the furnace is on, and don't worry about what happens outside.

Dr. Bill.
Technique is 90 per cent from the neck up.
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Postby Beckywy » Sat Dec 17, 2005 9:16 pm

invest in a Dampp-chaser. They are great. I have a tuner come in twice a year, and the other times, I do it myself.
"The real purpose of studying music-to unite ourselves with our special gifts in such a way that one would add strength to the other" Seymour Bernstein
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sun Dec 18, 2005 11:12 am

DamppChasers are excellent--I've used them and installed a number for other people myself. BUT:

There's a real risk here that materializes far too often: a LARGE percentage of people forget to keep the water reservoir refilled, even though a red light comes on to warn them that it's low; so the heating element that's supposed to evaporate the water and spread humidity comes on and simply bakes the soundboard, drying it out worse than if the unit had never been installed at all (the sensor is waiting for the humidity level to reach a certain percentage and it never does, so the heater stays on).

Teachers are usually much better about this than students' households; but, please folks, if you get one, have some kind of foolproof reminder built into your daily schedule so that you don't end up with a cracked soundboard! I have seen it happen more than once!

Dr. Bill.
Technique is 90 per cent from the neck up.
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Postby Stretto » Sun Dec 18, 2005 12:17 pm

How about a whole house humidifier. I've heard these keep levels more even throughout the whole house. Of course, some times of the year we need a dehumidifier.

Does a damper chaser, "chase" dampness? Is that the concept? I've heard some bad reports about them also part of it was something about if one spilled water or something.




Edited By Stretto on 1134929948
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Mon Dec 19, 2005 8:04 am

Oh, sure, treating the whole house would be even better! That's what we do, because we have a 7'4" grand at each end of it.

A DamppChaser has three elements: a long, tubular heating element that hangs under the soundboard (grand) or inside the lower panel (upright); a smaller heating tube covered with an evaporative pad that absorbs moisture from a reservoir of water; and a sensing element that switches the current from one to the other, When it's dry, the moisturizer comes on and humidifies the air, and when it's too damp the heating element comes on instead to dry things out. There's also a filler tube that extends out to a convenient place so you don't have to open--or crawl under--the piano, and a red warning light that comes on when the water level is low. When properly installed and maintained they can do a very good job of stabilizing the wooden heart of the piano.

B.L.
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Postby minorkey » Mon Dec 19, 2005 7:02 pm

I've had one for about 8 months, and it was the best ~$400.00 or so that I have spent in a long time. My tank humidifiers were extremely high-maintenance (needed filling once/day, de-scaling once per week) and the humidity was still fluctuating. Got the Damp Chaser installed, and now when the blinking yellow light catches my eye (once/2 weeks in winter, once/month in summer), I just fill the little container with water plus a capful of the purifier/descaler.... and that's it! Piano is happy, technician is happy, and I am happy. My piano has been right on the money for the last 2 tunings.
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Tue Dec 20, 2005 3:31 pm

If you have a filter on your kitchen sink, use filtered water in the reservoir--that will cut down a lot on the scale. I've even used distilled or bottled water, but that gets expensive in a dry climate like New Mexico.

B. L.
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Postby minorkey » Wed Dec 21, 2005 7:25 am

Yes, I forgot to mention- I use "Brita" pitcher-filtered water. If I didn't, no water treatment would suffice to keep a huge amount of scale from building up rapidly in the reservoir. (Our water is very hard.)
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Postby Cy Shuster » Mon Feb 06, 2006 4:08 pm

Dr. Bill Leland wrote:DamppChasers are excellent--I've used them and installed a number for other people myself. BUT:

There's a real risk here that materializes far too often: a LARGE percentage of people forget to keep the water reservoir refilled, even though a red light comes on to warn them that it's low; so the heating element that's supposed to evaporate the water and spread humidity comes on and simply bakes the soundboard, drying it out worse than if the unit had never been installed at all (the sensor is waiting for the humidity level to reach a certain percentage and it never does, so the heater stays on).

Teachers are usually much better about this than students' households; but, please folks, if you get one, have some kind of foolproof reminder built into your daily schedule so that you don't end up with a cracked soundboard! I have seen it happen more than once!

Dr. Bill.

Hello, Dr. Leland,

I'm a piano technician who just joined this forum, and I'm a Dampp-Chaser installer. I'm glad to see you recommend them.

Dampp-Chaser has been in business 50 years, and has made many improvements over that time. The problem you mention with the humidifier has been solved in the last few years with the "Smart Heater Bar". It has additional circuitry so that if the water tank goes dry, all heat is shut off.

So with the current system, your piano can't be harmed if, say, it runs out of water while you're on vacation. The Smart Heater Bar can be retrofitted to existing pianos.

More details here:
http://www.dampp-chaser.com

--Cy--
New grandpa -- it's a girl!
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Postby Cy Shuster » Mon Feb 06, 2006 4:13 pm

Stretto wrote:How about a whole house humidifier. I've heard these keep levels more even throughout the whole house. Of course, some times of the year we need a dehumidifier.

It's difficult to bring your whole house up to the 42% relative humidity that your piano needs: you might have condensation running down the inside of your windows! It also uses a lot more electricity than a Dampp-Chaser "Piano Life Saver" system.

If you add a humidity system to your house's air conditioning or furnace, it only adds humidity when the A/C or furnace is running. If the thermostat turns off the central unit, humidity is not controlled.

The biggest danger is swings in humidity from dry to moist, especially in churches where the environment changes greatly every Wednesday and Sunday. In the Land of Enchantment, we don't have that much variation, unless you have a swamp cooler.

For more info:
http://www.dampp-chaser.com

(I'm a Dampp-Chaser installer.)

--Cy--
New grandpa -- it's a girl!
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