Piano Tuning 101

by Cassie Winterhalter on October 25, 2012

As a piano teacher I often get asked about piano tuning.For someone not familiar with tuning basics, knowing when, why, and how often to call the piano tuner can be daunting. Here are my answers to commonly asked piano tuning questions:

Why does my piano need to be tuned?

First of all, keyboards or electric pianos do not require tuning. Only upright and grand pianos need to be tuned regularly.Pianos are made primarily of wood. Wood expands and contracts with seasonal temperature and humidity changes. The piano strings stretch across a large piece of wood inside the piano called the soundboard. When the air becomes more humid, the soundboard swells and the piano strings stretch raising the pitch of the notes. On the contrary, in drier times, the soundboard flattens, there is less tension on the strings, and the pitch drops. Unfortunately, pitch fluctuations occur even in temperate climates.

How often should my piano be tuned and how will I know if my piano is “out of tune”?

Most experts recommend tuning your piano 2-4 times per year. The exact number of tunings depends on humidity changes and the frequency the piano is played. At minimum, a piano, even if it is never played, should be tuned once a year. I tune my own piano 1-2 times a year.Your teacher can tell you if your piano is out of tune. Also, you can play octaves (the same note 8 keys away). On a tuned piano, the higher and lower octave notes should sound the same. If the piano is out of tune, the notes will sound like they don’t match each other.

When should my piano be tuned?

It should be tuned when it sounds noticeably out of tune or one year since its last tuning. Tuning when the temperature and humidity is fairly stable will be more successful. I prefer to tune my piano in the Fall and Spring as the temperature and humidity is less mercurial than during Winter or Summer months.

How do I find a great piano tuner?

Your teacher can recommend a tuner. I personally use Piano Craft.

How much does it cost to tune a piano?

It varies based on the tuner and your geographic area, but expect to pay a minimum of $100/ tuning. In the DC area, it’s usually closer to $150 and can go up depending on if any other adjustments need to be made.

How can I maximize time between tunings, so my piano stays in tune longer?

Keep your piano away from places that are subject to dramatic temperature and humidity changes (windows, heaters, AC units, and direct sunlight). Some piano tuners recommend installing a Humidity Control system inside your piano. This system regulates the humidity within the piano acting as a humidifier and dehumidifier depending on how wet or dry the air is.

Ideal conditions for pianos are: 68 degrees fahrenheit and 42% relative humidity.

If you move your piano, wait at least a month after moving before tuning to let your piano adjust to its new environment.

With regular tuning and proper care, a piano can stay in great condition for 100+ years and can be enjoyed by multiple generations.

Please share your tuner or tuning recommendations in the comments section below.

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Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mario Bruneau October 27, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Hi Cassie,

Nice article about piano care.

Another option for spending $500 on a humidity control system is placing a 40Watts light bulb 12 inches below the sound board in a grand piano and inside the lower part of an upright piano. You leave this on 7/7 and 24h/24h from June to end of October. This will “drink” the excess humidity that occurs during the summer.

For winter, get a good humidifier so that not only the piano will be comfortable but people living in the house too.

Mario Bruneau from pianotuninghowto


Cassie Winterhalter October 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Thanks Mario for commenting! I did not know that about 40 watt light bulbs. Thank you!


piano tuner Pittsburgh January 7, 2013 at 7:53 pm

As a piano tuner in the Pittsburgh area I recommend keeping the humidity level around 30-50 percent for pianos. I am sure this can be applied to your area as well.

Keep up the good site and piano care information!


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