I just recently bought an acoustic piano. Sounded really good when we tested it out at seller's place. Now after playing a bit the keys sound off by one note (middle c would sound like d, d sounds like e and so on). Does this happen in pianos after moving? Can this be fixed?

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    Sorry to ask, but a C sounds like an D, or the other way around? And are you sure it wasn't already like that in the shop? There's no way a piano is going to tune itself up all by itself. Moving and carrying it around would woul probably stretch the strings and cause some detuning, always down and somewhat irregularly, not by a precise note difference (a piano should always be tuned after a significant move). Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 9:16
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    Is it a really old / quite cheap piano? It is quite common for an old piano to be tuned down a half step, a step, or sometimes more - to put less pressure on fragile old parts. Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 10:20
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    Contact the previous owner and discuss the tuning problem. If the new home is very different in humidity/temperature etc., then it may need a couple of months to settle in.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 11:01
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    What are you using as your pitch reference? Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 12:08
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    "it comes and goes" - that makes me go hmmm.... it really doesn't sound like the kind of thing a piano does. Unless it's a en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposing_piano Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 12:44

4 Answers 4


I'd honestly expect it to be flat rather than sharp! If the piano has a wooden frame holding the strings, it would be unwise to try to move the tuning much. When you tried it, and it was in tune, maybe it wasn't at concert pitch anyhow. If the frame is cast iron, it shouldn't have gone out by that much - unless it's not been tuned for years, and maybe has suffered a move or three, it's possible to bring it to concert pitch, but probably it would take two or three tunungs over some months.

Check that the hammers are hitting the right strings. I had a piano that the mechanism had been placed wrongly, and the hammers were all too far to one side. Strange, but true!


I've never seen a piano a tone sharp. You probably mean D sounds like C. It is not unusual to find an old piano that is tuned under pitch.

Often it is done to avoid breaking strings.

Sometimes it is the result of the owner not wanting to pay the extra money to tune the piano at concert pitch.

Some really old pianos were designed to be tuned at 435hz. Concert pitch is 440hz.

If you are not going to play with other instruments or recordings, you do not need to have it tuned at concert pitch, although it is highly recommended.

If the strings are not too old, it can be tuned to concert pitch, but expect to pay double or more for a whole tone pitch raise; the piano will keep wanting to return to that lower pitch and the tuner will have to keep retuning sections and may have to come back.

Do not hire the tuner if they say they have to come back multiple times and tune the piano up a small amount each time. They are trying to get extra money from you or are afraid of breaking strings. A good tuner should be able to do a decent pitch raise in one or two visits at most, and will know how how to replace or repair broken strings and will have the parts on hand. They may have to custom order broken bass strings.

Check the strings to see if a pitch raise is possible without breaking strings. If you find any of the following, the chances drop: - broken, missing strings. - a few clean shiny strings indicate failure and replacement in the past. - a knot in the top part just below the tuning pin indicates failure and repair. - count the coils around each pin. There should be three. If some pins and a neighbour have 1 1/2 each, a tuner has repaired a broken string by undwinding the three coils of one pin, shifting the string around the hitch pin at the bottom, and sharing the three coils with the neighbouring pin. (Strings start at one pin, travel down the piano, wrap around the hitch pin, come back up and finish at the neighbouring tuning pin. Strings also usually break right at the tuning pin, making this repair possible.)

Good luck.

  • 435Hz is nowhere near G4 (a whole step down from A4)!
    – user45266
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 6:13

Not only can it be fixed there is actually a whole profession built around fixing it. Piano tuner is a musical profession rich is stature and history.

It is a profession that is often promoted among people with visual impairments as their heightened sense of hearing makes them well suited to a profession where you have to listen attentively to the pitches of instruments.

I know that in my own country there is a small city in the Western Cape that had a piano tuning school program that provided training for visually impaired people.

People who are well versed in piano tuning are craftsmen and women of the highest order. If you can get a good one pay his fee no matter what the amount. The care they provide for your instrument and the advice they give is worth every penny they ask.

There are many things in life where you can barter a better price but piano tuner is not one of them. Get the best one in your area and pay them their fee.

  • True enough, but if it has a wooden frame, (not talking about the case), it's not worth doing, as stability isn't there. It would take several tunings, and still not get to a stable concert pitch.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 11:47
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    This doesn't address the main question, i.e. wtf happened t the piano? Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 12:08
  • It adresses the question Can this be fixed?
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 13:09
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    Not really. It just relates what we already knew, that there are people out there willing to give it a go for a price. Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 17:53
  • Previous owner placed it in air cobdiuoned room with heater in place. Maybe that's why it sounded good during testing. We checked the hammers and looked ok. Butbyes, even pevious owner had moved it 2x so maybe alll the mov8ng affected the piano.
    – User671
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 20:37

This would be extremely rare for a new-ish piano just from moving (unless maybe if it got pulled out of the lake and left in the rain and/or dropped down the stairs during the move). Yes, it can probably be fixed and is probably worth fixing. You would need to have a pro look at it and do an assessment.

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