Pianos are low-maintenance instruments.
Once you get them into your space, you don’t have to do much to keep them in working order. A humidifier and the occasional tuning is about all that's needed.
Pianos have strings that run behind the piano (either vertically or horizontally depending on the piano) and like any string, the string tension within a pino changes with time.
Time itself will put a piano out of tune as the strings age, but frequent playing, changes in weather and humidity can also cause a piano to go out of tune.
Unfortunately, tuning a piano is not as simple as tuning a guitar – and it's more expensive too!
In this guide, we’ll cover the cost of tuning a piano, how it’s done, why it’s necessary, and give you a few practical tips for keeping you piano in tune.
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How Much Does It Cost To Tune A Piano?
Prices vary depending on where you live. Here are a few examples in their local currencies.
United States: $65 – $200
United Kingdom: £55 – £85
Canada: $65 – $225
Australia: approximately $185
Generally speaking, a piano tuning will cost over $100, usually around the $150 mark.
The piano tuner will tune each string that needs tuning, and do some minor work on the action if some of the keys are feeling too squishy or stiff.
When piano tuners do work on the action of the piano, it is called “regulation”.
When researching rates for your local piano tuners, try to find those who offer minor regulation of the instrument for no extra cost.
The tuner may also do some touch ups on the hammer voicings (the felt or the way the hammer hits the string) to get the entire instrument to sound even.
Old Pianos May Need A “Pitch Raising”
Old pianos that have not been tuned in a long time can get flat across the entire instrument.
In this case, a piano tuner will perform a pitch raise before tuning it to pitch.
The piano will be tuned slightly sharp all the way across the board to allow the strings to settle in. After a few weeks, the piano tuner will come back and fine tune the entire instrument.
This process is similar to pulling the tension on guitar strings when they are fresh – it breaks in the strings and allows them to settle at their final pitch.
Tuning an older piano or a piano that hasn’t been tuned in a long time may cost more than the price of a regular tuning, especially if the piano has to be tuned several times for it to stay in tune.
Why Do Pianos Need To Be Tuned?
Pianos need to be tuned to play well and sound good. That’s the bottom line.
But it’s also wise to tune your piano to avoid more work down the road.
As the instrument sits, it can go more and more out of tune. Some pianos go so far out that they can't be fixed.
Most pianos can be tuned to themselves, so they’ll still sound good, but it will make it hard to record the piano or to play with others because all the notes are flat!
How Often Does A Piano Need To Be Tuned?
A piano left to its own devices can stay in tune for several years.
But there are many factors to consider: where the piano is situated in the room, the humidity of the room, major temperature changes, whether you move the piano, how well the piano was tuned last time – all of these things can cause a piano to go out of tune.
A good tuning should last at least six months.
For most musicians, a tuning will last a year. You won't notice if a few keys go slightly flat, but it the changes will become noticeable after a while.
Concert pianos that are kept at major halls, recording studios and symphony venues are often tuned before every performance. A tuner may only need to make small adjustments, but it's an important process, as you can't have an out of tune piano for a live performance or recording project.
Finding A Piano Tuner Near You
Finding a good piano tuner near you is critical.
While researching, peruse websites and ask yourself – do they have any credentials? How long have they been in business? Where do they tune pianos?
Getting a referral from a trusted friend or colleague is always a good idea.
If you bought your piano from a showroom, call the showroom and see if can recommend a tuner that is familiar with the brand of piano you purchased.
Once you've pinpointed a few options, compare their prices and quality guarantees.
If the price is any lower than the prices I mentioned above, be wary.
Sometimes, you can find a piano tuner who is new to the profession charging $80 to get more clients – this can be a great deal!
Other times, you’ll get a company who comes in, doesn’t do good work, and you end up wasting your money on a tune that won’t last long.
Note that most piano tuners use a combination of their ear and technology to tune the instrument.
If the piano tuner uses a pitchfork, that’s fine, as they are trained and have excellent ears for this sort of work.
Sometime, technology isn't employed but a piano tuner who tunes by ear may be able to bring out the best in your piano!
Could You Tune A Piano Yourself?
Yes, you can tune a piano yourself, but you shouldn’t.
Unless you’re experimenting, practicing or learning how to tune a piano you shouldn’t attempt.
Tuning a piano is more than just grabbing a wrench and a tuning fork. It requires training and know-how.
Tightening the strings too far could result in injury or damage to the piano. Plus, you won’t be able to perform the same kind of maintenance a professional would.
Tips For Keeping Your Piano In Tune
Tuning a piano is not outrageously expensive, but it can run you a few hundred dollars per year.
If you want to keep your maintenance costs down and your instrument in peak playing condition, here are a few tips to help.
Keep Your Piano By An Inside Wall
A piano on an inside wall will maintain even temperature and humidity level.
Frequent temperature and humidity changes are usually responsible for the instrument going out of tune.
Buy A Piano Humidifier Or Put A Humidifier In The Room
Have you ever noticed an acoustic piano with an electrical power cord hanging out of it? That’s probably the humidifier.
Keeping the piano at the proper level of humidity will keep it in tune longer and increase the overall lifespan of the instrument.
Look into getting a piano-specific humidifier or a humidifier for the room.
Keep The Piano In One Place
Beyond humidity, moving the piano could result in tension shifts for various parts. This can throw the piano out of tune.
Once you find the right spot for your piano, get it tuned there and leave it there.
Have Your Piano Professionally Tuned Yearly
Having your piano tuned every year only costs around $150, and it is worth it.
Your piano will stay in prime playing condition, and you won't have to tune it as often.
Piano Tuning Cost, Final Thoughts
So there you go, the cost of tuning a piano in the USA.
Other countries may vary in price, I always recommend you go to specific local companies to get an exact quote.
When you tune your piano, I'd love it if you'd come back here and leave a comment letting us know the country you live in, the date you got your piano tuned, and the cost.
It'd really help the community get a more accurate view of current prices around the world.