Piano Tuners Don’t Break Strings. . .

. . . most of the time.

The truth is that a conscientious  piano technician  seldom breaks a string,  even when a string breaks while he is tuning it.  Generally, when a piano string breathes its last while someone is tuning or playing it,  it is because that string’s time has come.   It is old or faulty in some way, and it is going to break no matter how delicately the tuner handles it.

I bring this topic up because I have had one or two customers through the years ask me why I charge to replace a string that breaks while I am tuning it.  The reason is simple: The string breaks while I am tuning it but not because of anything am or am not doing. I don’t know what every other tuner does, but when I tune an older piano that I have never tuned before, I do everything in my power to prevent breaking strings.  I lubricate the places where the string comes into contact with other metal.  Corrosion can built up at these points, binding the string to the other metal.  When the tuner begins to tighten the string to bring it into tune, the section of string closest to the tuning pin moves, but the section of the string on the other side of the corrosion doesn’t, and, presto!, you have a broken string!  I also lower the pitch on a potentially corroded string before I tighten it.  I do this hoping that loosening the string before I tighten it will cause the corrosion to break up so that when I do tighten the string to pitch, it will move freely enough not to break.  Unfortunately, even after these precautions, a string may break anyway.  It’s time has come.  The tuner is not guilty, but just an innocent bystander.  In this case, I charge to replace the string.

On a few occasions in my  career I have carelessly put my tuning hammer on a tuning pin that is attached to a string other that the one I am supposed to be tuning. There I am, vigorously yanking that tuning pin for all I am worth and wondering why the pitch is not changing. “It’s because I’ve got the hammer on the wrong pin,  lazy brain!” Then, just about the time it dawns on me why the pitch  isn’t changing, with a dreaded “SNAP” and a “TWANG” that everyone in the house can hear . . . the string breaks!  And it is nobody’s fault but my own.  So, feeling a bit discouraged and upset at my stupidity, I replace the string without charge, because it was my fault.

There are some things you can do to help prevent strings breaking.  First, do what you can to keep the humidity in around and inside your piano between 42 and 45%.  Corrosion seems to thrive high humidity environments.  If you have a whole house humidity control system use it, and purchase a good quality humidistat.  Place it inside or on your piano and check it each day.  You might want to look into having a piano tech install a piano humidity control system into your instrument.  Visit http://www.pianolifesaver.com/english.

Second, it has been said, “The basic piano maintenance is tuning.”  The broken string is a case in point.  The piano that seldom gets tuned is at much greater risk of broken strings then a piano that is tuned regularly every six months.  So be kind to your piano and your piano tech.  Stay in tune.

Have a blessed day.



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