You’d be hard pressed to find somebody who didn’t know that pianos need to be tuned, but taking proper care of your instrument is actually a bit more involved than that, and it isn’t something that any tuner can do. An acoustic piano, be it a grand or an upright, contains not hundreds but thousands of parts, most of which are in the action (the mechanism between the keyboard and the strings), and most of those are small, precise parts that need to be positioned within a very small tolerance to function properly.
The process of ensuring that all these parts are correctly aligned and moving smoothly is called regulation. It’s intended to minimise the loss of energy between the player’s fingers and, ultimately, the strings at the bridge, thus maximising the amount of control that the player has, and enhancing the piano’s musical potential. Where tuning affects the motion of the strings, regulation affects the motion of the hammers.
So how often should you have your piano regulated? It’s impossible to give very accurate figures in a generic post like this, and you should definitely seek out professional advice specific to your circumstances, but as a rule of thumb, we generally recommend that players have their piano tuned twice yearly, and regulated once. That will be different depending on how hard and how much you play, on the model and age of the piano, whereabouts in Australia you are and even whereabouts in the house the piano is, but it’s a fair starting point.
Regulation is something that you’ll need a piano technician – not necessarily your normal tuner – to do. It requires tools and skills that not all piano tuners will have, and as Aristotle would have it: all technicians are tuners, but not all tuners are technicians.
There’s one other thing to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining your piano: voicing, which involves making the hammer felts harder or softer to change the brightness of the sound. Voicing is more a matter of personal preference than either tuning or regulation, and many pianists will never need to have it done at all – and that’s not a problem. But again we stress the point: it’s a specialist skill, and you’ll need a technician to do it for you.
And we’re here to help. If you have any questions, or want some help finding a suitable technician for your own piano, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you keep your piano singing just right.