Q: I’ve been searching for a piano tuner in Leeds, is there a chance you could tune my piano at short notice?
A: Please check my availability page. My quickest response was twenty minutes when the Sheffield Lyceum theatre rang me! They needed a piano tuning for that nights performance of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I always try my best to fit my appointments around the schedule of my valued clients, which is why I offer both evening and weekend appointments.
Q: Do you repair digital or electric pianos?
A: At present I do not as fixing digital pianos requires a different set of skills that I, as a piano tuner, am trained to do. I’ve received three phone calls in the last week from people in Leeds asking this very question! I would not discount the idea of learning these skills at some point in the future, but at present I only work with acoustic pianos as that’s what I feel most comfortable with. If you contact the piano shop or seller you bought your electric piano from, they will be able to point you in the direction of a digital piano and keyboard repair specialist.
Q: Someone has offered me a free piano and I’m unsure whether it would be tuneable?
A: Don’t go to a lot of expense having a piano shifted until you can be sure that it can be tuned. I can make a house call to assess a second hand piano for just £25. Unless you know what you’re looking for it’s always better to consult a professional piano tuner & technician. Just be aware that a certain percentage of pianos in circulation are not worth the money and that it’s always better to buy a piano from a known source – recognisable brands such as Yamaha, Kawai, Kemble, Chappell, Danemann, Knight, Welmar, Steinway (of course) and Bechstein are generally – though not always – more reliable and worth considering when searching for a used piano. That said, in the vast majority of cases a piano can be made to sound and play a lot better and I would estimate that only 1 % are untuneable.
Q: I have owned a piano for many years, but recently I have noticed it has started to sound dull and metallic in tone? Is this something that be fixed during the piano tuning?
A: While tuning does noticeably improve the piano’s tone, it is likely that your piano will require what is known as voicing. This is the process of re-shaping each hammer to brighten its tone and increase its dynamic range. For this I use a file to shape the hammers back to their original form, reducing the indentations from the strings, and then soften the felt with a needle (every piano tuner and piano technician must be careful not to disturb the denser layer of felt beneath the surface). Many of my Leeds and Bradford clients are greatly surprised at how much this improves the overall sound of the piano, so I typically offer this service after an evaluation. I can often perform some basic voicing at the end of the piano tuning for no extra charge (if I have thirty minutes to spare). If I have to make a second visit, my repair fee of £25 per hour applies.
Q: My piano has some damaged keys; are they replaceable?
A: While sometimes finding the right colour match can be difficult, individual key coverings can always be replaced. Costs vary depending on the material (plastic, celluloid or imitation-ivory) – call me for a discussion and a quote.
Q: One of the keys on my piano is sticking – is there a way I can fix this myself?
A: This is a very common problem witnessed by every piano tuner/technician on an almost weekly basis, however it is unwise to tackle this yourself. You probably won’t have the tools or the expertise and could cause further damage. The most likely cause is that both the action bushings and/or key bushings have swollen during a particularly humid spell of weather – to fix this I will either compress them with a special tool and apply teflon powder or replace each action bushing by hand.
Q: My piano is in a very hot and damp room. Will this affect the tuning?
A: If the environment is too humid, action bushings can cease up causing sticking notes. This can be cured if it is not too advanced, and I would do this as part of a standard piano tuning. If it is more pronounced, I will replace action and key bushings manually which can. Humid conditions also often cause the piano to go sharp tuning wise, due to the swelling of the plank – I commonly observe pianos have gone considerably sharp during the summer and flat during the winter season. As a general rule of thumb, a constant room temperature of 20 degrees celsius and a relative humidity of between 40 and 50% will keep your piano in the best possible condition all year round.
Q: My piano is in a very dry room. Will this affect the tuning?
A: A problem we have in the UK is during the Winter we rely heavily on central heating. This creates a very dry environment causing the plank to ‘relax’ and loosen it’s grip on the wrest pins that hold the strings. The result is that your piano may go out of tune, sometimes quite drastically if it’s a piano beyond a certain age. Of course, tuning can help here, but prevention is better than cure in this instance. I sell devices which control the humidity – these range in price but the most advanced will ‘sense’ when the air inside the piano is too damp or too dry and control humidity levels automatically – by sucking in moisture and dampening the air as the need may be.
Q: I’m about to move house, will I need the piano tuned afterwards?
A: Some piano dealers will advise you to let the piano ‘settle’ for a few months. Pianos will inevitably go out of tune as they adjust to the changes in humidity in different homes. In my experience, two weeks is more than enough time to let the piano acclimatise – any difference in tuning after that is the result of seasonal humidity changes. Moreover, the length of ‘settling’ time after the move depends on how regularly it was tuned in its previous home. If I’m tuning a piano that hasn’t been tuned in ten years then the first tuning will not been as stable as the second or third anyway, so it is needless to wait in this instance.
Q: I’ve heard that piano strings can break during tuning – would this be expensive to remedy?
A: Annoyingly, this does happen in approximately one in every hundred piano tuning jobs through no fault of the piano tuner – even with the utmost care, a rusty or well-worn string may not take the increased tension. Strings in the middle and treble sections of the piano can be replaced on the day and will cost an extra £10 to fit. Bass strings are a little more difficult as they have to be custom made and specially ordered – I can give you a quote before fitting.
Q: Do you use an electronic tuner or do you tune the piano by ear?
A: I currently use an expensive app on my phone called Tunelab which calculates a Railsback curve in accordance with the amount of inharmonicity present in each piano. It is the industry standard and has a good reputation amongst piano tuners and technicians. However, I have found the calculation of the bass strings in Tunelab to be weak and relying solely on this app will only get you in the right ballpark – aural checks are a must when using piano tuning software. I’ve found that using both an electronic tuner and my ears gives me the right balance between speed and accuracy.
– Richard Lidster, Piano Tuner Leeds.