It has finally started to rain a bit more in Vancouver after the very hot and dry summer. In our studio, we tune our piano at least twice a year because of the seasonal humidity changes. Humidity and temperature are key to keep your piano in good condition. When the humidity is balanced, all the wooden parts on the piano are nicely expanded; however, they shrink when it gets too dry and that pulls on the strings. The stretching and shrinking are what messes up the tuning on a piano. Also if the temperature changes and air-conditioners or heaters are used to retain a comfortable temperature inside your house, they also affect the humidity.
Having said that, neither pianos nor any acoustic instruments are designed to stay in tune forever. Instruments get out of tune quite easily, and with pianos, it depends on how you treat it and how much you practice. The important part is to maintain it regularly like would your car. If you don’t take your car in for oil changes or maintenance as the maker suggests or skip annual check-ups, your car will less likely stay in good condition for a long time.
As with any technical skill, there are many people who will learn a little of the basics and then try to pass themselves off as professionals. Piano tuning is not a skill you can pick up by just buying some tools and reading a tutorial online. Piano technicians go through a lot of training to learn all the different parts and materials of the piano and the craft of tuning. They also apprentice and go through rigorous exams before being certified. In North America, the Piano Technicians Guild regulates piano tuners and makes sure those certified or those training are knowledgeable and skilled. So piano technicians who are in the Guild or are in training should know what they are doing and can be trusted.
There was a time when Naoki thought it would be no problem to tune a piano, so he got tuning tools online and tried on a piano at a school which will remain unnamed. He almost destroyed it despite having so much knowledge about pianos. We have heard similar stories from colleagues and students when they have hired amateur piano technicians who ended up making the piano worse than before.
We know all of our students have quite excellent pianos and those pianos need a tuning at least once a year. So you will be hearing a lot from us asking you to tune your piano, since the season has been changing recently. You can find tuners from the Piano Technicians Guild website or from music stores like Tom Lee, but make sure to ask if the person has the certificate or what their experience is in tuning. If needed, we also can give you information about the technicians we use, so please ask.