Tom DeFerrari Piano Tuning and Servicing


.Piano Placement and Humidity Control


Where a piano is placed is very important for both its tuning stability and its longevity.

The best place for a piano is where humidity remains fairly constant, ideally in the 40% to 50% range. The temperature of the room isn't as important, except as far as it affects the humidity. However, keeping a piano away form direct heat, especially forced air, is very important.

Why stable humidity is important

There are 3 reasons why it is important to keep the humidity constant, and in the 40-50% range, and why it is important to keep a piano away from direct heat.


.How to determine if the humidity in a room is ideal for a piano.

The best way to determine if the humidity in a room is ideal for a piano is to monitor it with a digital thermometer/hygrometer, which is just an electronic thermometer that also displays relative humidity. They are available online, at departments stores, and at Radio Shack, like the one shown below (chosen only because the picture was so clear).



The digital thermometer/hygrometer shown above is from Radio Shack and costs $20. The 23% displayed at the bottom of the unit is the humidity measurement, and this is what should be monitored.


.Methods of keeping the humidity stable

Control room humidity The best way to keep a piano's humidity stable is to keep the humidity in the room it is in stable. This can be done with a humidifier during the winter, and with a dehumidifier during the summer, using a digital hygrometer to determine when either is needed. When the hygrometer shows that the humidity is below 40%, the humidifier should be turned on, if it shows above 50%, the dehumidifier should be turned on (newer models of both humidifiers and dehumidifier can often be set at a given humidity level, making this much easier, but I recommend monitoring the humidity with a digital hygrometer to make sure). This may require a bit more effort than the system mentioned next, but is really the best method, in my opinion. In addition, if the room is too dry for a piano, it is probably too dry for people.

Piano humidity control system This is a system that is installed inside a piano by a piano technician. I carry and install these systems, and I have more information about them here. These systems can be effective, and are easier to operate than room humidifiers/dehumidifiers. but they are a more expensive solution, they don't humidify the rest of the room, and, especially in a grand piano, are not as effective as keeping the humidity inside the piano constant.

Partial solutions I hesitate to say this, but frankly, for some people, their piano isn't the only concern in their life, and dealing with either solution above may seem to be too much of an expense or bother. If keeping the room humidity level constant seems too difficult, and a piano humidity system is not in the budget, it is very important to at least try to keep the piano from getting too dry. Excess dryness is much worse for the longevity of a piano than excess humidity. Fortunately, humidifying is much easier than dehumidifying, and humidifiers are fairly inexpensive, so I would strongly recommend at least humidifying the room if it is getting too dry. In addition, the next section on mitigating bad placement is also important.


.Mitigating bad placement

The worst thing for a piano is for it to be directly on top of or beside a hot air register. Almost as bad is to place a vertical piano (a full upright, console, or spinet) against a wall that has a baseboard heater at the bottom.

However, sometimes, a house is set up so that there is no choice but to put a piano near a heat source. There are some things can be done to mitigate this, keeping in mind that it is much better, if at all possible, to find a better place for the piano


.Placing the piano in direct sunlight.

I mention this separately, because it is important more for the cabinet of a piano than the internal parts. About the only way that direct sunlight will hurt a piano internally would be if the sun were shining right onto the soundboard of a grand piano whose lid is always kept open. This can cause it to dry it out and create the longevity and tuning stability problems mentioned above.

Direct sunlight can, however, damage the appearance of a piano. It can cause the finish to crackle prematurely, or even bleach the cabinet, so that the piano has a lighter shade where the sunlight hits than in other areas. The solution is to place the piano away from direct sunlight and keep the shades drawn at the appropriate times of the day.


.Placing the piano against an outside wall.

Piano tuners and technicians sometimes warn against this, but it was probably a more appropriate warning years ago when houses were poorly insulated and sealed. If there isn't a noticeable draft against an outside wall, and it doesn't get noticeably cold, placement against an outside wall is usually not a problem.


Copyright © 2009 Thomas DeFerrari