How to Put the Piano in Tune With the Room
Edited by Liz Seymour
Article by Megan Voelkel
Piano lessons may teach you how to play Chopin’s etudes, but techniques of a different sort are needed when figuring out where to put a piano in your home.
A badly chosen location can spoil the piano’s tune, crack the sounding board and bleach out the finish, costing $10,000 to $20,000 in repairs, says Rick Schaeffer, owner of Schaeffer’s Piano Co, in Rockville, a 105-year-old firm started by his grandfather. He offers the following advice for piano owners to consider when picking the perfect spot for their verticals or grands.
”Humidity, humidity, humidity,” Schaeffer says, is the most important concern when placing a piano. “Just like when you learn to play, they say, ‘Practice, practice, practice.’” Put your piano in a room that maintains a humidity level around 42 percent. Use a humidifier or dehumidifier in the room, or consider installing a humidity-control device, such as a Dampchaser. These devices automatically monitor and adjust humidity inside the piano, which can prolong a regular tuneup for two to three months.
Insulation: Place the piano against a well-insulated wall. If you are unsure about the insulation, touch the wall in the middle of winter or summer. If the wall feels cool in the winter or damp in the summer, the piano should be moved.
Air: Make sure the piano is at least three feet from any vents blowing air toward it. Though a fireplace in the room won’t cause any damage to a piano positioned several feet away, the instrument should never be near a wood-burning stove or wood-burning inserts.
Light: Keep the piano away from direct sunlight. Sun from the east during the winter months is the most damaging to a piano’s finish. Close the curtains or blinds if the piano is near a window. Keep the fall board open if the piano has ivory keys and closed over plastic keys to keep them from turning yellow.
Space: A six-foot grand piano will need at least a 14-by-20-foot room to sound its best. Reduce surrounding clutter and distance furniture for a clear tone. To avoid scratches, position the instrument out of walkways and away from double doors. *Cushioning: Put a rug beneath the piano if it’s on a wood floor to minimize unnecessary vibrations.
Weight: Though a piano can weigh between 500 and 1,200 pounds, Schaeffer says most houses can support even the large grands. If you have any doubts, check the footings and beams beneath your floor.