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View Full Version : What does tuning a piano cost these days?


phouka
01-13-2009, 05:59 PM
The piano in question is an upright, probably more than 50 years old. It hasn't been tuned in about 25 years. It's been in the same spot for 10 years. All the keys work, but there's definitely some out of tune keys in the very upper and very lower registers.

I'd like to see it tuned so I can use it to practice for choir. How much should I expect to pay?

gotpasswords
01-13-2009, 06:50 PM
Regular tunings go for about $100. As your piano's been neglected for so long, it will almost certainly need what's called a "pitch raise" which means extra work and time, and probably a second tuning a couple of weeks later.

It's certainly possible to tune a long-neglected piano so it's in tune with itself, but you'll be "tuning" the choir to A=430 or some such flatness. Pitch raising brings the whole piano back to A=440

If nothing needs to be repaired, I'd expect it all to cost between $150-250. If that seems like a lot, keep in mind that someone's saved about $2500 over the years. :D

Cat Whisperer
01-13-2009, 09:57 PM
I'm curious about this myself - we got an ancient player piano for free a couple of years ago, and it desperately needs a tuning (and one key).

Sanders
01-14-2009, 12:09 AM
The fellow I use here in PA charges a flat $79 for a tuning, or $40/hr for tuning, pitch raises, and repair. Getting my player piano all fixed up, with a few cords replaced and a couple tweaks to the player system, cost me a about $200. The player pianos take a bit more time, because you have to remove the player assembly to get at much.

Rick
01-14-2009, 12:19 AM
I have heard that Opperknockty does a great job, but he will only do it once.

Carson O'Genic
01-14-2009, 07:31 AM
I have heard that Opperknockty does a great job, but he will only do it once.


Almost.
"Opportunity knocks but once".
Oppraknockity tunes but once.

Heard that from an entrepreneur doing cryogenic treatments to music wire, ostensibly with the business name Oppraknockity. (sp)

fachverwirrt
01-14-2009, 08:03 AM
I lucked out and found the guy who tunes for the local opera company, who raised my piano's pitch, tuned it, and offered a free courtesy tuning, all for $50.

Ask around.

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
01-14-2009, 08:25 AM
Around here, (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) somewhere between $75 and $125.

minlokwat
01-14-2009, 08:30 AM
Though $100 (give or take) doesn’t sound like that much, does anyone know how hard it is to tune the piano / perform routine maintenance oneself?

I know you would need a special tool and something to dampen the strings (and of course an electronic tuner) but it doesn’t look that hard. Tedious maybe, since you have 88 keys times two or three strings per key but it looks like it could be done easily enough. You’d also be able to make future adjustments as necessary without calling in the professionals.

Carson O'Genic
01-14-2009, 10:26 AM
Though $100 (give or take) doesn’t sound like that much, does anyone know how hard it is to tune the piano / perform routine maintenance oneself?

I know you would need a special tool and something to dampen the strings (and of course an electronic tuner) but it doesn’t look that hard. Tedious maybe, since you have 88 keys times two or three strings per key but it looks like it could be done easily enough. You’d also be able to make future adjustments as necessary without calling in the professionals.

Former piano technician here. I learned to tune by beats, before there were electronic tuners. There's a learning curve to that, lessened if one is also a musician (somewhat). Musicians normally don't concern themselves with temperament.
Tuning an instrument that has been kept to pitch in good ambient conditions is fairly easy work. Bringing pitch up is another story.
Tools are pretty simple, pin wrench, fork and dampers/mutes, so you're probably right, fairly inexpensive and easy given a good electronic tuner.

phouka
01-14-2009, 11:42 AM
Okay, I'll bite. What's a pitch raise? ("About $2, more if you let 'em throw the ball at someone.")

My problem is that I don't know anyone who knows anyone to get a good deal. Although I suppose I could ask my choir director. He probably would. Hmmm.

fachverwirrt
01-14-2009, 12:02 PM
Okay, I'll bite. What's a pitch raise? ("About $2, more if you let 'em throw the ball at someone.")

My problem is that I don't know anyone who knows anyone to get a good deal. Although I suppose I could ask my choir director. He probably would. Hmmm.

Over time, the strings of the piano will stretch, lowering the pitch. Generally, a piano is tuned based upon a middle A (the one above middle C) of 440Hz. If the pitch of that string drops, you either need to raise it, or tune the entire piano to the out-of-tune A, which gives you an in-tune piano, but it won't be in tune with anything else (and it'll teach your choir to sing flat). Tuning the piano is relatively easy, while raising the pitch is quite a bit harder, and needs to be done very delicately to avoid damaging the piano or breaking a string. Often, tuners will raise the pitch a little bit, give it a few weeks to settle, then come back and raise it a bit more.

phouka
01-14-2009, 01:39 PM
Aha! Good to know. Thank you.

commasense
01-14-2009, 11:03 PM
A piano that hasn't been tuned in 25 years may need more than a simple tuning before it's really playable. It might need re-voicing (in which the hammers are reshaped), the dampers may need to be serviced, and random parts of the action may need work. Depending on the temperature and humidity changes it's been through, the tuning board or the sound board may have developed cracks. If the former, it may never be able to hold a tuning.

I'm frankly surprised that Carson O'Genic wasn't more discouraging to the suggestion of amateur tuning. As an idiot teenager, I thought it would be easy and fun to tune a piano, so I bought a tuning hammer and the rubber wedges, and had a go. Fortunately, I had the number of a real piano technician, and he didn't charge any extra for undoing the mess I made.

It's not easy. It takes a lot of patience and a good ear. Yes, modern electronics (or computer programs) make it easier, but there's so much more to tuning than just getting the pitches right. When I watch my current technician work, he makes it look easy, but now, as a 53-year-old, I wouldn't dream of trying to do it myself, even if I had the same equipment and software he uses. (Of course, the fact that I own a $30,000 grand piano now, and not the POS upright I had as a teenager, may have something to do with it.)

Cider Depot
01-15-2009, 03:59 AM
I just paid $120, but that's in Australian dollars, which is currently cheaper than toilet paper. I usually get it tuned once a year.

Carson O'Genic
01-15-2009, 07:28 AM
I'm frankly surprised that Carson O'Genic wasn't more discouraging to the suggestion of amateur tuning.

I'm making great effort to be less discouraging as general life policy these days.

Strictly tuning, with electronic assistance, would be pretty easy once you have a strategy down. If one was on the same piano all the time, easier yet.
Action and voicing adjustments are essential items of address but excluded from my remark. A good technician, like a good luthier, can make the instrument suit the owner/player's desires. Within reason.
" Depending on the temperature and humidity changes it's been through, the tuning board or the sound board may have developed cracks. If the former, it may never be able to hold a tuning. " You probably meant "frame" instead of "tuning board"- the cast iron that withstands all that string tension. Not affected by weather, barring some bizarre mistreatment, but yes, a fatal flaw when cracked.
Congratulations on your current keys! I don't badmouth uprights though spinets are bileworthy.

fachverwirrt
01-15-2009, 08:59 AM
Congratulations on your current keys! I don't badmouth uprights though spinets are bileworthy.

Spinets do, however, have the virtue of being cheap and reasonably portable. I also prefer them to full uprights for voice lessons (if I don't have access to a grand), as I can see the student over a spinet.

Solfy
01-15-2009, 09:26 AM
I pay $100 for my piano's annual tuning. My tuner suggests I have it done twice a year, but money is tight and I'm only a hobbyist.
There can be all sorts of things wrong with an old piano, or very little. It's hard to predict what kind of shape the instrument is in on the inside, which is why I suggest a thorough one-over by a professional tuner.
My first piano was roughly 90 years old and had been sitting outside for a while. (hey - what do you expect for free?) We had to check it for squirrels when we brought it home. It was playable after much attention by the tuner, but it couldn't be brought up to A440. It just couldn't handle it.

commasense
01-15-2009, 09:30 AM
I'm making great effort to be less discouraging as general life policy these days.A good policy, especially since others, like me, will jump right in and take up the slack! :D

You probably meant "frame" instead of "tuning board"- the cast iron that withstands all that string tension. Not affected by weather, barring some bizarre mistreatment, but yes, a fatal flaw when cracked.No, I meant to say the pin block :smack:, in which the tuning pins are driven. As you know, if it's cracked, it can make it impossible for the piano to hold a tuning.

Carson O'Genic
01-15-2009, 09:41 AM
Spinets do, however, have the virtue of being cheap and reasonably portable. I also prefer them to full uprights for voice lessons (if I don't have access to a grand), as I can see the student over a spinet.

Worthy notes. My comparisons are from an elitist viewpoint...wouldn't want to disparage the making and promotion of any non-electric keyboard, despite owning two Mellotron 400s, which you can see people over when not peering into their guts wondering WTF? is the problem now.

commasense
01-15-2009, 09:44 AM
I'd also add, just so as to be not so generally discouraging, that anyone who wanted to try tuning his/her own piano would be wise to read up on pianos and how to tune them, talk to a piano technician about technique, watch him/her tune a piano, etc. Realize that it is a delicate and subtle task that takes care and patience to do properly. Get good tools, primarily a nice, weighted tuning hammer.

Please don't do what I saw a contestant on The Amazing Race do a few years ago: one of the challenge tasks they had was to go into a piano showroom and bring one note on a piano into tune. Most of them did fairly well, but one of the guys started out by grabbing the tuning hammer and yanking it like he was tightening a lug nut on a car wheel. I was horrified! He broke the string, of course.

For anyone interested in pianos, especially if you're thinking of buying one, used or new, I highly recommend The Piano Book (http://pianobook.com/). I don't think it goes into much detail about how to tune a piano, but it is a wealth of information for anyone who is curious about the workings of the instrument.

phouka
01-15-2009, 10:57 AM
I learn much in this thread. Now I have more questions.

What's a spinet, and why is it so reviled?

commasense
01-15-2009, 11:09 AM
The smallest form of piano. They are upright and about waist high, as opposed to full uprights, which can be as much as five or six feet tall. The small size of a spinet means its strings are short, its sound board is small, and its action is not responsive. As a result, most spinets have a weak sound and a sloppy touch.

Studios fall between full uprights and spinets. Most uprights are less desirable than most grand pianos because on a grand, the hammers are underneath the strings, and after striking fall away because of gravity. On any vertical piano, the action must do that job. This makes most vertical actions less responsive and sensitive.

racer72
01-15-2009, 12:19 PM
How much to tune a fish?

Elenfair
01-15-2009, 12:28 PM
My 6'1" grand gets tuned 4 times a year (ish) -- it's a workhorse and gets used for teaching and composing. It also has a dampp-chaser system in it. Regular upkeep tuning, with an outstanding tuner runs me about $95. If for some reason my baby needs a pitch raise/lowering with that, it'd be about $120ish or so. That's with my frequent-flyer deal. :)

Carson O'Genic
01-15-2009, 01:18 PM
It also has a dampp-chaser system in it.

One of the singlemost things to prolong the life and tuning of a good piano.

ZipperJJ
01-15-2009, 01:27 PM
How much to tune a fish?

Excellent! I've been thinking about fish ever since I saw the title of this thread. I waited to read the whole thread and was nearly disappointed at the lack of mention of fish. You saved the day! :D

ouryL
01-15-2009, 03:05 PM
Someone i once knew repaired organs. The only trouble was, even though he could play the organ, he was kinda tone deaf.:dubious:

commasense
01-15-2009, 03:16 PM
Organs don't typically need tuning anywhere near as often as pianos, and it is, obviously, a very different kind of procedure. (You slide little extensions at the ends of the pipes up or down to lengthen or shorten them slightly.) I don't know for sure, but I would guess that most organs go many years between tunings.

So an organ technician doesn't need to have as good an ear as a piano tuner, because it's not really the main focus of his work, as it is with a piano tech.

Musicat
01-15-2009, 03:48 PM
While we're on the subject, anyone ever use a thin blanket of felt to cover the strings of a grand? I have a friend who has such loosely laid, and claims that's to keep the strings from dusting and/or rusting. It sure screws up the sound, and it's too hard to remove, then put back just for a short practice, so the felt just stays there.

Carson O'Genic
01-15-2009, 04:21 PM
So an organ technician doesn't need to have as good an ear as a piano tuner, because it's not really the main focus of his work, as it is with a piano tech.

Well, I'm not sure about that; tuning a pneumatic organ with pipes in lofts and the cellar of churches is a whole different adventure.
The tuner needs to work the ranks and yell instructions to swampers scurrying about in the dusty climes (climbs?), all the stops need the same unison/interval relationship, tempered, and the organ has to agree with the piano if the church has one. Metal tone producers don't suffer humidity related pitch swings, but wood and leather parts do, another complication.
Which is to say, lacking the intimate and immediate feedback of tuning a piano.
Bear in mind, these comments are from days of yore. Modern keyboards and methods have likely simplified all this.

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