The mechanical part
Interior, keys, pedals and case
What is the best possible place in the house for your upright or grand piano?
To keep an upright or grand piano stable and to prevent technical irregularities, it is very important to think very carefully about the place and environment of your instrument. It is best to try to keep the humidity and temperature levels as constant as possible. Tempatures below 15 or above 26 degrees Celsius are inadvisable. The best level of humidity is between 50 and 60 per cent. It is especially important to avoid large and frequent fluctuations of the humidity level. Instead of adapting the environment to the piano, it is of course better to choose a good place for the instrument from the start. Then it will usually not be necessary to take additional measures to control the environment. Private houses can have multiple, rather different climates that are not always favourable for your upright or grand piano. It is advisable not to place the instrument too close to an outside door, where it is exposed to high levels of dampness. Do not place the upright or grand piano too close to a radiator or heater, and protect it from the bright sun to prevent large temperature fluctuations. Of course, the instrument should also be protected against other damaging influences such as water and other liquids.
What can I do to adjust the environment of my instrument?
The temperature is usually not very difficult to control, aside from any possible heatwaves. Airconditioning can be very pleasant, but the unit must not be placed too close to the upright or grand piano. However, be careful: the humidity drops substantially when using an airconditioner, and should be monitored closely!
The humidity usually poses a bigger problem. In winter the air in a heated house is considerably dryer than it is in summer. Turning the heating on and off can cause a change in climatic circumstances that can influence the touch and tone of your instrument. A hygrometer is a device that can measure humidity. Digital hygrometers are precise and easy to use. If you use a hair tension hygrometer, you will need to calibrate this regularly. This is fairly easy to do: First, wrap a moist cloth around the hair tension hygrometer, take it out after an hour and set the pointer (using the little setscrew) to a value between 95 and 98 per cent. Then wrap the moist cloth around the hygrometer again and check if the pointer still indicates between 95 and 100 per cent. If you need to increase the humidity level of an entire room, it is best to use a humidifier. In extremely damp spaces, the humidity level inside the piano can be brought down by installing special heating elements inside the piano. Even better are piano humidity control systems, such as the Dampp Chaser system. We do not recommend that you place cups or trays of water in the bottom of the piano! These cause too much damp in one place in the piano.
What maintenance do the action mechanism, the keys and the pedals need?
When it comes to the tone, touch and character of an upright or grand piano, the action mechanism is essential. Little felted hammers, hinging in nifty little bearings, have to find their way to the strings flawlessly, thousands of times. Between hammers and keyboard (keys) exists a complex, purely mechanical transfer system for every key, which, depending on the frequency with which the key is used, is subject to a certain amount of wear. In the case of less serious defects it is advisable to consult your piano tuner, who can usually remedy the fault. Feel free to approach your piano tuner, even if you are unsure! Moreover, the piano tuner is supported by the companys technical department.
Apart from the regular tunings of your instrument, it is also necessary to carry out maintenance on the action mechanism every 5 to 10 years. As you can read on this website, there are over 6000 parts involved in the action of a piano, which are subject to wear in multiple places. Through maintenance, we can limit the wear as much as possible. Also, the tone of a piano becomes irregular after a number of years, because the shape of the hammer head gradually changes: the strings form grooves in the hammer felt, and when they become too deep, the hammer heads need to be restored (filed) to bring back the optimum tone of the instrument. Further, during maintenance, all parts of the action mechanism and keyboard are cleaned and fine-tuned. Finally, the hammer heads are voiced, to equalize and optimize the tone as much as possible. These repairs can sometimes take place at your home, but we prefer to take the instrument to our workshop, where the facilities are optimal.
What can I do myself to maintain my upright or grand piano?When it comes to the mechanical parts, the only maintenance that you can do yourself, is on the keyboard and pedals. The keyboard can be cleaned by wiping it down with a damp cloth and then rubbing it dry with a soft cloth. Dont use CIF, abrasive cleansers or other aggressive cleaning products! The pedals can be treated with copper polish in the manner prescribed in the instructions. Do make sure, however, that the polish does not touch the case around the pedals, because this can cause white stains.
The case of an upright or grand piano can have different kinds of finish: polymer (high gloss) or lacquer. Upright or grand pianos with a polymer or satin gloss finish should be cleaned with a slightly damp, soft cloth or shammy. You can use soft soap or glass cleaner to remove stains, but do not use aggressive cleaning products with corrosive or abrasive properties. For dusting, always use a clean, soft cloth or an old-fashioned feather duster, and do not rub the surface too hard, to prevent scratches. Instruments with a lacquer finish are best cleaned with a dry cloth. Keep in mind that wooden cases with a transparent finish do fade with time. Noticeable colour differences and shadow discolouring can be prevented by closing the fallboard or, in the case of a grand piano, regularly closing the front lid.
The interior of an upright piano usually does not require much care, because it generally stays closed. Grand pianos are usually propped open for playing. It is best to keep the lid closed when you are not playing, to prevent too much dust from falling into the instrument. Removing dust from the soundboard and cleaning it, is not an everyday job. If this needs to be done, do contact one of the Piano Specialists.