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Tips for Service,
Care and
Preventive Maintenance

Ralph Joseph Onesti Piano Restorations
1317 MacDade Boulevard, Woodlyn, PA 19094
Phone or Fax 610.833.1657    email: inquiry@onestipiano.com

New or used, in order for your piano to retain its value and to continue its usefulness as a playable, maintainable and enjoyable instrument, it requires certain actions on your part. The following suggested information (injected with a bit of Onesti humor) is of a general nature, but applicable to all, regardless of manufacturer or model. This page is well worth reading and has no returns.

Bringing home the babygrand or vertical!

First let's make sure it's yours. Infants have wristbands; pianos have serial numbers. When making a retail purchase, do not leave the showroom until you have copied the numbers of your particular ‘baby’. In the case where a piano is ‘drop shipped’, be sure arrangements are made for showroom setup. Make arrangements now to insure your warranty tuning is performed by a Registered Qualified member of the Piano Technicians Guild.

So, in it comes. Did we pick a spot for it, and what determines where it goes? In the case of a vertical, you'll need a free wall, most preferably one without a heater or air conditioning vent, either feed or return. Remember, pianos are ever moving musical instruments. Care needs to be taken. If it's a grand, some situations will effect the sound. The closer to a hard wall, the more sound will be reflected immediately. Also, the more feedback the pianist will get. Remember also, the technician will need to fit his or her body on the upper or treble side of the piano for tuning. So…depending on the shape of the tuner, leave a little space, otherwise the piano will get moved each time it is serviced. You'll also want to lift the lid for those evening parties, and you'll need a little room for that. Then there's the cleaning and polishing. In short—don't jam it up against a wall if you're placing the piano with the treble side in.

Note: The same piano model, from the same manufacturer, built side-by-side, will sound differently because of the nature of the instrument. Different acoustical room properties enhance those differences. Your piano will never sound exactly like another.

Will the piano sit on carpet or on bare wood? In either case you will want to protect them with either a set of castor cups or special castors having the proper material, hard or soft, for your needs. Either of these can be supplied and installed by your technician and he or she will advise which type is proper for you. You may also want to consider the use of a lyre pad that fits under the pedals, much like a car mat, protecting the floor or carpeting. These items can be viewed on the merchandise page at this site.

Pianos don't do well under water. Open windows in the direct vicinity of the instrument will let in the rain. How do I know…Murphy told me. Sunlight is pretty, but does nothing positive for the piano or the finish.

So, now that we've picked the perfect spot, what next? Everyone get in line and noodle around on the piano? Well, almost. Make sure it all works. Run up and down the keyboard, press the pedals, try to make it do what it's supposed to do. Check for dings and scratches that weren't there when you bought it. Keep a notebook and mark it down. Don't forget, you have a warranty...don't you?!...best to check before the deal is consumated!

Make your tuning appointment!

Next, get the baby tuned. It's like feeding the infant. Piano's like to be up to tension (A note #49 at 440HZ) and evenly so. Give the piano two weeks to adjust to its new environment. You probably have a ‘free’ warranty tuning coming. You can accept the tuning by the dealer's tuner or you can specify that your own technician perform the tuning. We strongly emphasize that you choose a Registered Qualified member of the Piano Technicians Guild. Anything less is a questions mark. If the dealer doesn't have a registered technician, they can pay for one. You have the right to expect the piano be brought to pitch (A note #49 at 440HZ) in your home. That means the piano was brought up to pitch in the showroom and then one tuning procedure in your home should do the job.

When pianos are new they should be tuned six times in the first year, and four times each successive year. What? Why so many? The dealer never mentioned that. Maybe they didn't know. In the first year the strings need ‘settling’. In successive years they will continually fight the changes of season. A humidity control system like the one described below will help keep the piano to pitch, and the tunings will help maintain evenness of tension, tame the movements of the soundboard, and train the kids to understand what a tuned piano should sound like.

Protecting your investment.

There is lots to do in the way of preventive maintenance that will save your piano, and your wallet in the future.

An important message about humidity. In almost four decades of piano service, I have yet to see the commercial or residential home with adequate climate controls for a healthy piano. No air conditioning system, air cleaning system, or heating system in the normal home can keep up with the needs of the king of musical instruments. Humidity (or the lack of) is the one key element that will age your piano faster than any other. The piano is an ever-moving musical instrument. You can't stop it. The piano, especially the soundboard, moves with changes in moisture content. What can be done is to reduce these changes to acceptable levels by the installation of a Custom Grand Piano String Cover and a Dampp-Chaser Humidity Control System, made for the piano and installed by a qualified piano technician, who may or may not be your technician. Those who do not believe that pianos require this inexpensive and effective protection just lack a little technical knowledge. We forgive them. They can always go to school, however you can't always to go out and buy another piano.

"The system maintains the same environment now provided the treasured period pianos on display in the Smithsonian Institute." (Dampp-Chaser).

A language all its own.

As the piano ages, and don't forget, it's constantly fighting 20 tons…that's right…tons of tension, it is not unusual for it to develop it's own language. Of course that language usually just sounds like a variety of ‘squeaks’ to the human ear. Humans don't generally like squeaks and we reach for the old oil can. STOP! The noise may go away temporarily if you are lucky enough to hit the right spot, BUT, the wrong lubricant will take its toll by way of returning squeaks with ever increasing frequency, and deterioration of parts. A small service fee now will avoid a big shop expense later. Remember, warranties do not cover owner abuse.

Caring for the finish.

Maintaining the finish in modern pianos is a far cry from the old days of varnish. Varnish was ‘photosensitive’. Simply put, with sunlight exposure, the piano would get darker and darker in color. Many older pianos appear ‘checkered’ and the wood grain is barely visible. Today's lacquers, and certainly the epoxy finishes have no photosensitivity at all. However, direct sunlight has a drying effect. For the most part they are non-porous so oil based polishes will just sit on top of the finish and become tacky…a great dust magnet. There are polishes and cleaners manufactured for each type of finish. Your technician can advise you and supply you with the proper care kit. An investment in the specific polish for your instrument is certainly worth the small cost.

Moving. Caution! Moving.

A word on piano moving. By the way, they are heavy. The word piano in the old English language means, ‘very heavy thing that ruins back, makes you lose work, spend time in the local hospital, and hurts the wallet.’ Grand pianos especially, must never be moved even a short distance, with less than three brawny types to support it. The small legs, attached to hold it in a stationery position, are holding an incredible amount of weight. In the case where a grand must be moved periodically, there are dollies available on which the piano is permanently placed for safety. Even if an instrument has to go from one part of the room to another, you can usually make arrangements with a PIANO mover, not a furniture mover, to stop in when they are in the neighborhood. Your back, your piano and your wallet will thank you for it. When the move is from one geographical location to another, your best and safest bet is to hire a professional piano mover. Professionally speaking, Ralph has been called upon on too many occasions as an expert witness when the piano suffered needlessly at the hands of someone other than a piano mover.

Go to Links and learn more about climate control and more.

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