Marc Lanthier, PIANO TUNER - TECHNICIAN
I tune, service and repair upright and grand acoustic pianos.
More than 30 years experience.
Montreal area including West Island, Laval, North and South Shores and Eastern Ontario.
Appointments can be made by email, phone or text
Certified installer of Dampp Chaser systems (humidity control).
Recommended Tuning Frequency....
- Private Home: anually - around the same time each year
- Advanced Pianists: 2-3 each year
- Larger Rooms, Concert Halls, Churches: 1-2 times per year (or before a performance)
* Note that some pianos are very sensitive to humidity and may require more frequent tunings.
Measured from the very front of the keyboard to the tail end of the piano.
- 4' 5" to 5' 0" (Small Grand)
Measured from the floor to the top of the piano.
- 36" to 40" (Spinet)
Info about piano tuning and maintenance....
Pianos that are tuned regularly experience less stress during the tuning process. This results in a more stable and longer lasting tuning.
The key to a stable tuning is to (1) equalize the tension between the 4+ segments of a piano string and (2) properly set the tuning pin.
This can usually be achieved during a normal tuning when the piano is already close to pitch (+/- 10 cents). However pianos that are not tuned regularly often require more work, ie. additional tuning(s) in order to reach acceptable stability - this is commonly known as a pitch raise.
If a piano has not been tuned it many years, expect that it will take 2+ tunings / pitch raises and possibly 2+ visits in order to stabilize the instrument.
Pianos that are not humidity controlled will usually go out of tune during the spring and fall. Especially true in southern Quebec with our high humidity summers and very cold and dry winters. Humidity control can be achieved by installing a Dampp Chaser system or by making sure that the piano environment is maintained at a stable temperature and humidity (ideally around 20°C and 45% humidity).
Pianos require periodic mechanical adjustments to ensure proper operation (regulation). They will also require occasional part replacement due to wear or age.
- Do not place pianos in direct sunlight, stabilty and sun bleaching may occur.
It is OK to place the piano on an outside wall (modern home).
New pianos are not always better musical instruments. Many new pianos are built in Asia. Some of these are great instruments, however many are inferior, cheap instruments - also known as PSO (piano shaped objects). Many older local pianos are still great choices such as (Heintzman, Willis, Lindsay, Pratte, Mason & Risch, Archambault, Baldwin, Layton Bros., Steinway, Ivers & Pond, Chickering, Vose & Sons, etc...) and are available at a much lower cost.
Before the tuning....
Remove all objects placed on the piano.
New pianos require a different tuning schedule. The settling of the wood structures such as the soundboard, bridges, pinblock etc... will cause the pitch to drop considerably between tunings. Most manufacturers recommend 1-2 tunings during the first year in order to reach a stable equilibrium state between all components (mainly between the strings and the soundboard). Two tunings per year afterwards.
Why upgrade from a digital keyboard to an acoustic piano....
The teacher has said “It’s time you start looking for a real piano and move up from a keyboard. You’ve outgrown this one”. Really? How does that happen? Just 2 years ago you bought this brand new 88 key weighted digital piano and now you’re being told that it will not suffice. They both have the same amount of keys and it has the same touch as a piano. Why do we need to upgrade? In order to answer that question, we need to look at the differences between acoustic piano (traditional piano with strings and hammers) and digital piano (electronic keyboard that you plug into the wall). The two main areas that substantially divide these two types of pianos are dynamic touch and dynamic tone.
Longer keys of acoustic pianos mean better balance from front to back. Also, most pianos are weight balanced using lead in each key stick. The rotational inertia introduces dynamic touch changing the feel as you play soft to loud. Tthe spring assisted mecanism aids note and hammer reset. All of these work collectively to define the touch of a piano. When you compare that to a digital piano where the touch weight is simply raising or lowering a weight on a see-saw, the difference is significant. In addition to these touch elements, traditional pianos also have adjustable actions to refine the touch components as well and are often adjusted to the pianist's requirements.
Final considerations regarding touch: dexterity. I could tell as soon as I hear a student who had been practicing on a digital piano. They have not developed anywhere near the right amount of finger dexterity. You can “hear” that their technique is weak. Dynamic touch brings about correct dexterity. You can especially hear it on quick staccato passages. A usual giveaway for someone using a digital piano is they play either too hard or two soft when they use an acoustic piano.
Tone: You simply cannot beat the tone of a good acoustic piano. Yes, the new digital pianos have sampled sounds obtained from top of the line acoustic pianos, but their tonal qualities are missing that little someting which I call "soul".
Pianos are delicate instruments that require periodic professional attention...
Although there are only 88 keys, a piano has over 200 strings--one per note in the low bass, two per note in the upper bass, and three per note in the tenor / treble.
Tension averages approximately 160 lbs. per string.
All together, the strings are stretched to a tension of 18 to 20 tons (close to 30 tons in a concert grand).
The strings gradually increase in thickness and length from treble to bass, and bass strings are wrapped with copper (older pianos may have steel wrapped bass strings) to produce a lower frequency by increasing the mass of the string.
Pianos range in weight from about 300 lbs for a small spinet to more than 1000 lbs. for a concert grand.
There are 3000 or more parts in a piano.