Pianos in a sunburnt country

Here in the Kawai office, we often say that a piano is a living, breathing animal. What we mean is that with all the timber, felts, wool and other organic components, with all the hand crafting and manufacturing techniques that still rely on real human hands and eyes and minds, no two acoustic pianos are ever quite the same. A piano is as unique as the home in which it sits.

It’s an important consideration, because the environment in which your piano lives will be one of the main factors that determine how well the instrument ages. Best, then, to get it right first time.

The two main things to keep in mind are temperature and humidity – and, moreover, the way that these change throughout the day. Your piano wants stability: putting it in front of a window where it will get direct sunlight for four hours a day, condensation on the glass overnight, and radical fluctuations in temperature and humidity will cause tuning instability and possibly sticky, insensitive keys in the short term, and potentially serious structural problems in the long term.

For the same reason, you’re going to want to keep your piano away from breezeways, heaters, air conditioners, and de/humidifying equipment. You want a room with a flat floor and a consistent climate as your starting point, and then worry about shaping the acoustics of the room – not the other way around. It’s counter-intuitive, but you’ll thank yourself when your piano still sings and plays like an angel, 30 years from now.

Of course, there are any number of ways to mitigate environmental effects – carbon fibre mechanical parts make the action much, much more reliable than timber alone, and a good regulation and voicing will smooth out all but the most stubborn issues you might have with your piano’s tone and touch – but there really is no substitute for tuning the environmental conditions even before the piano is delivered and set up. It’s all about getting the most out of your instrument and your investment, and ensuring that it is at home in your home is the first step.

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