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For the past three months, I have been doing extensive search prior to buying my acoustic piano about how to keep the piano in good shape.

Most of the information I found online was about the things I should avoid doing to not damage it. But there are very little information about the things I am supposed to do to actually maintain it.

The followings are some of the few things I was able to find, though it's quite fuzzy:

  • A piano should be tuned at least once a year, otherwise it can go too much out of tune (which can damage the piano). Some suggest the minimum is twice per year to accomodate to the new weather (cold and hot, winter and summer). You can go higher, but it isn't mandatory.
  • When the piano technician comes to tune the piano, it can also be the occasion for them to clean the inside of the piano, because accumulating dust can add moisture, which can rust the strings faster. Which is why the lead is kept closed if the piano is not used.
  • One website suggested that once a year, the "piano harmony" (approximate translation) should be checked. I think it's about whether or not the keys weights are still even across the keyboard.
  • One other website suggested that, every two years, the piano requires a overhaul of the mechanics and the strings.

I also have some vague memories about some more thorough overhaul or something after a longer time (5, 10 years or something), or even restoring the piano after 20 years. But I am finding little information beside the basics of tuning, and keeping it within a stable humidity and temperature environment.

I'm thinking some of these might not be forcefully mandatory though. So, until I can return to the piano shop and ask them directly, is there anything mandatory, beside tuning, that you need to do to care for your piano?

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Tuning is the main issue, and the advice you've read is good. Once each year is a minimum; twice is better. More often for a piano receiving particularly heavy use. My pianos are used a few hours each day, and twice a year is fine.

The "overhaul" you're reading about is likely "regulation." That's a process by which a technician goes through the entire action and adjusts weights, angles, padding, hammers, ... anything that might affect the evenness of sound or touch. It is not something that needs to be done regularly for a personal-use instrument (as opposed to, say, one in a concert hall) as regular tuning will allow most adjustments to be made as they become needed.

There are other routine, but not "regular" kinds of maintainance, like voicing or needling the hammers, that are done as needed, typically as part of tuning unless a substantial amount of work is needed. "Voicing" is the process of shaping the hammers to adjust tone quality; needling is a process of "fluffing up" hammers that become compacted over time.

In twenty years of piano ownership, I've had regulation done once -- by choice, because I wanted to understand the process, rather than by necessity -- voicing done once, because I was naive about what the piano needed, and needling done once for reasons I no longer recall. On a second piano, 10 years old, I've needed nothing but regular tuning.

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  • So basically I can assume that the piano technician will do what needs to be done along with tuning if needs be? Or does it mean I should also ask for "checking" and cleaning?
    – Clockwork
    Jan 4 at 23:19
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    @Clockwork In general you can trust your technician to let you know if there's a problem. If it's small enough they might just fix it for you, but more typically they'll let you know and give you an estimate on any cost. You can and should also ask if there's a particular concern. For example, you might notice a sticky key or a note that doesn't sound quite right to your ear. You can always ask the tuner to take a look. As far as cleaning, my technician will sometimes do a quick cleaning as part of the tuning (basically, using an air hose to blow the dust out of the piano), but not always.
    – Aaron
    Jan 4 at 23:39
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    When I used to have three studio pianos on the go, they were tuned (in UK) every few years. They stayed at concert pitch between tunings (important factor), and everything sounded and played well, so I felt there was no point in doing more. Having moved, my remaining upright is now 5 yrs on from its last tuning session - played every day, in a non-centrally heated studio, and still at concert pitch. Don't see any reason to have it tuned any time soon! Wonder if not playing a piano is more detrimental?
    – Tim
    Jan 5 at 10:27
  • @Tim I do remember reading something about if it's played on very much, it might need to be tuned more. And if it doesn't get played at all, some things could happen too, can't remember what.
    – Clockwork
    Jan 5 at 11:09
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    @Clockwork - each to his own. Being a cheapskate, I'm reticent to spend money unneccesarily. If it ain't broke... But, if I had a problem, or felt it was out of tune, it would be time to send in the experts.
    – Tim
    Jan 5 at 11:19

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