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Piano Care

Purchasing a used piano after Hurricane Irma

Simple English Explanations to help you talk with your Piano Tuner.

Most people are aware that pianos and humidity are not the best of friends. Even if you did not have direct hurricane damage there is a good possibility that your piano is suffering due to the storm.

In South Florida most of us were without power for an extended time. Even those of us with generators went without air conditioning. So we opened up all the windows and sliders in the house in attempt to keep cool, and in came excessive humidity.

A short list of problems caused by Humidity:

Tuning – In all likelihood the piano will need several tunings. The heat and humidity have caused the piano case and soundboard to to swell and change the tension on the strings.

Sticking Keys – The keys themselves may have swollen causing them to bind on the pins that hold them in place. Parts in the action (the levers that sit on top of the keys) may have swollen and can not return to their resting place ready to be played again.

Change in Tone – The Hammers may have absorbed humidity and have changed density. In extreme cases they become unglued form the wooden hammer shanks.

Ringing Sound – The dampers may have absorbed humidity and no longer sit evenly on top of the strings muting their sound when you let go of the key.

Glue problems – Humidity can cause some glues to liquefy. Key tops can come off, Case parts come unglued, Ribs can separate for the sounding boar. Glue can re-solidify in the wrong place or with the parts out of alignment. The older the piano the more likely you will have glue problems.

Some keys play louder than others – or -

Some keys will not repeat notes quickly – or -

The piano sounds bubbly, or thumpy – or -

The piano feels different when I play it – Then -

You most likely need a REGULATION. The piano action is made up of thousands of small parts. These parts are made of wood, felt, leather, cloth, as well as small metal springs, pins, and screws. These parts convert an up and down motion of the key to a throwing motion of the hammer. Each key must feel exactly the same. The tolerances required are less than 1/1,000 of an inch. Excessive humidity has changed the size of the parts and therefore the tolerances.

If I dry out the piano, will every thing be OK?

Drying out the piano is a first step. We can only guess what permanent damage has been done until the piano is stabilized at normal humidity levels. Also, no work should be done until the piano is stabilized, as it most likely will need to be redone as the piano continues to dry out. Parts do not always return to their original size and shape. For example, it is very easy to bend a clothes hanger, and almost impossible to bend it back to the same shape. Some problems will not be noticeable until after the piano drys out.

Steps to dry out your piano:

  1. Get any water off, or out of the piano NOW!
  2. Let the piano sit in Air Conditioning for a week with the key cover open.
  3. Open the lid, remove the Music Rest (top section) and the Bottom Board, let sit for a week.
  4. Call your tuner and make an appointment for two weeks from now.

DO NOT TRY AND RUSH THE DRYING OUT PROCESS WITH EXTERNAL HEAT SUCH AS A HAIR DRYER. This can cause even more problems. You may see your tuner use a heat source, but he knows what he is doing !