Understanding the Piano Pitch Raise

Strings on FrameIf you have an older piano that has not been tuned for many years it may require a pitch raise. This article will detail the conditions that lead to a pitch raise, and what to expect during the pitch raise process.

Piano technicians often get calls from new clients with pianos that have not been tuned for a very long time – sometimes more than 10 years! The lack of keeping a piano in tune often arises because the owner feels that if the piano is not being played it doesn’t need to be tuned. If your piano sits idle it still needs to be tuned regularly. Just like the muscles in our bodies, the strings in a piano need regular activity from being played and, more importantly, from the process of tuning.

As the strings in a piano sit dormant, they slowly loose their tension over time. Typically, the longer they go without being tuned the further they will drop in pitch (there are other factors that add to this involving humidity and temperature). When a piano is not tuned for a number of years, the pitch across all notes will drop enough to require the piano to undergo a pitch raise.

The pitch raise is a process where each string on the piano is brought up to the correct pitch (standard pitch is A440Hz). The biggest challenge with this compared to a regular tuning is that the more you move a string the more likely it will not stay where you want it to. Depending on how far out of pitch, each string may need to be revisited more than once – this gradually conditions the strings to the correct tension and pitch.

Applying a pitch raise will get your piano back up to the correct pitch, but there are some pianos that may not be good candidates for a pitch raise. If your piano has been exposed to extended dry conditions, the wood that holds the tuning pins (called the Pin Block) may have shrunk so much that it cannot keep enough tension on each tuning pin to maintain the correct pitch. In some cases, your piano technician may be able to repair or temporarily fix those pianos where only a small number of tuning pins have become loose. In the worst cases where the majority of tuning pins are loose, the only way to resolve the issue would mean replacing the entire pin block which is costly and does not apply to lower value pianos.

High humidity conditions can also interfere with a pitch raise. Older pianos that have had extended exposure to excess moisture may have string and tuning pin corrosion issues that will increase the chance of strings breaking during a pitch raise.

If you have a piano that has not been tuned for an extended period of many years, contact us and we will be happy to answer all your questions regarding getting your piano back to playing and sounding great again.

Lee Johnson – masterpianoservices.com


2 Replies to “Understanding the Piano Pitch Raise”

  1. With all the free time I have on my hands, I have finally decided on playing the piano again. I haven’t played the one I have for years and as expected, it needs to be tuned. Due to this, I started looking to hire piano tuning services and did some research online. That’s where I found your article and I must say, it is very well-written. My favorite part has to be where you explained that when a piano is not tuned for a number of years, the pitch across all notes will drop enough to require the piano to undergo a pitch raise. I’m sure anyone interested in hiring these services will be glad to hear of this point you made. Thanks for this!

  2. I didn’t know that even if your piano sits idly it still needs to be tuned. I used to play when I was little, but I gave it up during high school. Now that I have a bit more time I would love to start playing again. It’s so out of tune that I definitely need a professional to tune it first.

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