Why pianos require frequent tuning can be explained
in a seemingly unrelated example. During the summer my backdoor was so tight that I had to nudge it with my shoulder to open it. In the winter, when a tight seal would be desirable, I saw daylight through the door jam. The reason is humidity. Wood is like a sponge. It soaks up the moisture and swells during the summer, dries out and shrinks in the winter.
Some technicians sell humidity control devices that mount inside the piano. These allow moisture to wick
up from a tray of water in the winter. In the summer, it chases it away with a heating element, hence the brand name "Damp Chaser".
The problem with these systems is :
- There is an upfront expense of several hundred dollars
- They require a periodic service by a qualified technician (Change wick and clean tray)
- The owner has to perform regular maintenance
by checking and adding water - something most
people are not willing to do "Religiously"
By the time you factor in these expenses, you might be better off just purchasing a room
humidifier at your local hardware store for winter and an air conditioner for summer. Your
sinuses will love you for it. Either way, frequent tuning or controlling its environment,
ownership incurs a continuing maintenance expense.
Another concern for tuning stability is the piano's harp. The
treble strings are steel; bass strings are copper. Both are
stretched over a cast iron plate. These different metals have
different temperature expansion coefficients. As the temperature changes, these materials expand or contract at different amounts
from each other. Since the harp is responsible for a third of the
piano's weight, the volume of this material is significant.
Movement due to variants in temperature are continuously pulling
and twisting the piano's frame.
All things considered, it's a minor miracle that pianos stay in tune
as well as they do. To solve the backdoor dilemma I opted for fiberglass. Synthetic materials are impervious to climatic hazards.
You too can go synthetic with an electric piano. They're easy to
move, never need tuning and if you tire of it, slip it under your
bed for storage. Of course, I advise against it ---
I need the work!