by Charles Rempel, Dampp-Chaser
As a pianist, you are a member of an elite fraternity among musicians. You are among a very small group of instrumentalists who have essentially nothing to do with the maintenance and tuning of your own instrument. Mostly everyone else tunes and performs routine maintenance requirements on their own instrument. When a violinist realizes that her violin needs tuning, she tunes it. When a guitarist thinks his guitar needs new strings, he goes down to the local guitar shop, buys a set of strings, and installs them. When a trumpet player needs to lubricate the valves on their horn, they just do it. They certainly drain their own spit too!
But, when a pianist needs a tuning, or one note is sticking, or the pedal squeaks, they pick up the phone and call a professional. Certainly other musicians take advantage of professional care on their instruments, but they do as much on their own as possible. It's even expected of them.
Pianos are very complex instruments. Tuning four or six strings is not that hard. Tuning 220 or more strings is much more challenging. It does take someone with extensive training and experience. One of the side effects of this is that out of all the instrument-playing musicians out there, pianists know the least about their instruments. That's not being critical; it's understandable. Many pianists are intimidated by the thought of even touching anything on the inside. It can sometimes leave them with the feeling of being disconnected from their instrument.
There must be something I can do, right?
Yes, there is! In fact, you're the only one who can perform one of the most important parts of piano maintenance. You can provide your piano with the stable temperature and humidity levels it so badly needs. Pianos are made of wood, felt and metal. Two of the three respond significantly to humidity changes and the other is affected by temperature. The ideal solution would be an environment with no fluctuation in temperature or humidity. None. However, here on planet earth, where we live, that's a lot easier said than done. Temperature is comparatively easy to stabilize in most situations; just don't vary your thermostat too much. If you can keep it within 5° F, you're doing awesome. 10° F is livable too. More than that will start to show up as tuning instability. It's the humidity level that is the challenge for most of us. Most people find it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a constant level in their home or even just the room with the piano in it.
The Piano Life Saver System is a piano humidity control system designed to stabilize the moisture content of the wood in your piano. It does this by regulating the RH levels in and around your piano, not the whole room. This makes the task manageable. Keeping the Piano Life Saver System running properly is where you come in. Every week or two, a light will blink, signaling you to add water. You add the water and that's it. No daily (or more frequent) fillings, no noise, no hassle. It monitors the humidity levels constantly and adjusts them as necessary so you don't have to. Fully automatic. It's so easy to do that I have had customers tell me that their children will argue over who gets to water the piano.
It may not seem like much, but if you can help in this way, it will truly multiply the efforts of your technician. Every tuning adjustment he makes will last longer. The touch will be more consistent. Your piano will be happier and so will you.
Charles Rempel is a piano technician with over 30 years' experience. He has spent countless hours on the concert stage working with the world’s top artists as well as servicing thousands of pianos in private homes, churches, and educational institutions. He has worked not only as a technician, but also as a salesperson, manager, district sales manager, and owner of a piano retail store where he sold Steinway & Sons, Bosendorfer, Schimmel, Mason & Hamlin and various other brands of instruments.
Many members of ProPTN are certified humidity control system installers. Visit PianoLifeSaver.com for more information about how the system works.