Why does a piano go out of tune?
There are three main factors:
Playing the piano! Which of course is what it exists for! When a piano is played, the felt hammers strike the strings, setting them to vibration, and over time they will go out of tune.
Environment. Pianos are essentially wooden instruments, and wood is a hygroscopic material, which means it retains or releases water as the relative humidity around it changes. Pianos dry out during long winters of dry indoor heating, and they go flat. Then a humid summer comes along, and they swell up and go sharp. If left untuned, these cycles will move the piano further and further away from its best sound.
Structural failure. As pianos age, deterioration of materials takes place. The metal strings may corrode and buzz, snap, or lose their vibrancy. The wooden pinblock which holds the tuning pins may weaken and no longer keep them in position. Bridges may crack, and the case itself may experience cracks and glue joint failure. A piano needs to be structurally sound to stay in good tune.
Regular visits from a Piano Technician to tune and inspect your piano are the best way to assure consistent good tune and prevention of damaging environmental or structural hazards
What basic care does my piano need?
There are three important considerations:
Location. Although pianos look sturdy and rigid, they are actually very sensitive to extremes of light, heat, dryness, or moisture. Direct sunlight can damage the finish and overheat the piano, causing it to go out of tune. Excess heat and dryness, especially from wood stoves, radiators or ventilation ducts, will also spoil the tune and cause glue joints to become brittle and break. Too much moisture leads to corrosion of metal parts and sluggish keys and action (the internal mechanism). The absolute best thing you can do for your piano is place it somewhere with reasonable protection from these elements!
Cleaning. Pianos can be beautiful pieces of furniture as well as instruments, but they should never be cleaned with regular polishes or dusting sprays, which can do damage to the pinblock and action, as well as leave sticky residues. There are many different kinds of piano finishes, and most will look fine with just a simple dusting. Keys can be cleaned with a slightly damp, soft cloth, and a small drop of dishwashing soap. There are also some fine cleaning products specific to pianos, that you can buy online or from your Technician: www.corycare.com
Maintenance. I know - this is the ad part! But most of us don't know how to fix our own cars or tune up our own oil burners, so we hire someone to tend to these things for us. Your piano has over 12,000 parts, and they all need to work well, alone and in sync with each other, to create a beautiful, responsive instrument. Your piano should be seen at least once or twice a year by a Piano Technician.