I have mentioned the complexity and issues that can occur in substandard pianos in the previous chapter ‘The importance of a good working piano’. Hopefully you are about to make the wise choice of purchasing a fully guaranteed new or pre-owned instrument from a reputable piano dealer (preferably beginning with M) and should therefore need only to concern yourself with a few initial maintenance considerations on its arrival and thereafter. For ease of understanding, I will describe these below in a chronological timeline. Obviously most of these are only relevant to acoustic instruments and there can some variance due to transportation and environmental factors.
Providing that you keep your acoustic piano at least three feet from a working radiator (and never in front of), the only other important consideration is either a rug or piece of carpet if you have a wooden floor. This is essential if you have under-floor heating but will also obviously protect your flooring from the brass wheels of many larger upright and grand pianos. It can also improve the sound and help with unwanted resonances or excessive tonal ‘brightness’ if you have minimal furnishing. Despite what you see in old photos and movies, I would avoid loading your instrument with frames and other ornaments as these can rattle, buzz and produce false resonances as well as scratch the surface of the lid.
Unless you plan to give a concert on your new piano the very evening of delivery, it is advisable to let it settle and acclimatise for at least a few weeks. After that, we recommend your instrument is tuned twice a year and offer the first visit free of charge if you have purchased it from us. The piano may need additional tunings per year if is it being played for hours a day, or in an environment such as an open plan kitchen.
To regulate a piano means to align and even out all aspects of the moving action so every note on the keyboard plays consistently. If your piano is new, this is normally done in the factory and checked over by a technician prior to delivery. Older pianos (particularly ones that have not to be refurbished or bought from a reputable dealer) may need considerable adjustment as well as far more costly and time-consuming repairs. However, over a few years of consistent use, you may feel that you need your piano regulated as you will obviously be playing certain notes more than others and constant repetition will over time alter the consistency of the entire piano keyboard.
This is a subtle procedure that requires a very experienced piano technician. Whereas regulation is a means of evening out the action and depth of touch, voicing is keeping the tonal consistency of every one of the 88 notes. Whether your piano is characteristically ‘warm’ or ‘bright’ sounding, over time and again, by playing certain notes more than others over several years, you may feel that the piano develops an inconsistency in the overall tone. In the beginning, you may feel that your new piano, as nice as it is, is a little too aggressive sounding for space and would like the overall tone to be a bit warmer. Some piano dealers offer this as a ‘bespoke’ service extra prior to delivery but I would be careful of having any additional voicing done to your new or pre-owned piano until it is in situ. Although not necessarily an irreversible procedure, it is an invasive one and can significantly change the character of the instrument. Most new pianos are voiced in the factory and generally require only fine adjustment by the dealer whereas pre-owned pianos may need far more complex and time-consuming work. Once delivered and depending on your home surroundings and furnishing, your piano may sound slightly different to how it did in the showroom and this is when best to adjust the toning to your liking.
Pianos don’t like liquids and it is very important to be careful when attempting to clean your instrument. My general advice is that, other than dusting and gently wiping the casework and key surfaces with a soft non-abrasive cloth or duster, it is best to leave any cleaning of the interior of an instrument to a professional technician. Particularly avoid touching the strings as the oil on your fingers will corrode them. There are various dedicated cleaning products available to polish and preserve the finish of the casework and we can advise you on these.