Tips on Buying a Piano "you generally get what you pay for". John Ruskin is quoted as saying "there is hardly anything someone cannot make a little cheaper, and sell for a little less money - and the person who considers price only is this man's lawful prey".
So, how DO you care for your piano? What kinds of things CAN you do, and what kinds of things should you leave for your technician to do?
Well, here are some quick pointers from my years of experience.
1) Keep your piano in good repair. Parts wear and can break over time. They also can go out of adjustment as the felts compact and wear. Have your technician inspect your piano for stray pencils, coins, etc. which can jam up the works and cause broken parts. If you have notes that don't work well, don't keep playing it, get it repaired. As with most repairs, the longer you wait, the more costly those repairs can become. Have your technicianregulate your action every 10-15 yrs. or so to keep your action working like it should.
2) Keep your piano regularly tuned. It is recommended to have your piano techniciantune your pianoabout 1-2 times/yr. Humidity swings cause the dimension of the wood and felt parts in the piano to change shape (expanding and contracting with seasonal changes) which cause the piano to go sharp or flat of standard pitch (A=440). Again, the longer you wait, the more the piano will go out of tune, and the more expensive and time consuming it is to bring the piano back to standard pitch.
3) Keep your piano in as stable of an environment as possible. Humidity changes not only affect the tuning of the instrument from day to day, but it can also affect how many repairs you have to make on your instrument throughout its life. High humidity can cause sticky keys as wood swells. Low humidity can cause wood to crack (pinblock, bridges, keys, flanges, etc.) as well as glue joints to dry out and fail. If you don't have a stable environment, consider having a Dampp-Chaser system installed on your piano.
4) Keep your piano out of direct sunlight. While it is not as important now days as it used to be to keep your piano on an inside wall due to better insulated walls than in the past, it is still a good idea to keep your piano out of direct sunlight. Sunlight will fade the finish of your piano, as well as cause excess heat on the piano which should be avoided if at all possible.
5) Keep food and drinks OFF the piano. Cold drinks will sweat and create rings on your piano's finish, not to mention the mess and damage that can occur if it is spilled. If you wouldn't place a drink on your computer....well.....enough said.
6) Keep your piano clean, inside and out. The inside of your piano can be cleaned out by your technician if you ask them. Every 10 yrs. or so it is a good idea to have piano thoroughly cleaned inside and out, including the keys being removed and vacuumed under them as they collect a multitude of dust, lint, coins, paper clips, and other small items.
a) Pedal trap area - If you care to,you may remove the bottom board
on uprights (above the pedals) and vacuum the bottom of the piano
out. There are usually not much you can hurt there. Just be careful.
b) Vacuum action area/above keys - If you feel adventurous, you may lift the lid, remove the music rack portion and key cover, and
vacuum the tops of the keys and the front of the action (parts you
can easily reach).Use EXTREME CAUTION if you decide to
vacuum around the action. The wrong move could cause broken
parts pretty quickly that would lead to expensive repairs.
c) Back of piano - You may also safely vacuum the back of an upright
GRANDS: On a grand, there are a couple things you can safely do
a) Tuning pin area - you mayvacuum around the tuning pin area.
Using a very slightly damp (not wet) toothbrush may help loosen the
dirt around the tuning pins and strings. Do not use cleaning
products, solvents, or lubricants of any kind around the tuning pins
unless you plan to throw your piano away! b) Damper Heads - You can wipe the wood damper heads with a
soft, slightly damp cloth (if necessary) using VERY CAREFUL front to back strokes and very little downward pressure.Use no
side to side motion on them at all. One word of caution here...if the
dampers are bumped, even slightly, there is a possibility that that
note may not dampen correctly, so if you choose to clean dusty
damper heads, do so with extreme caution.
c) Soundboard - If you would like to dust the soundboard on a grand,
your technician may have a tool to do that, or you can purchase a soundboard cleaner and do that yourself.
UPRIGHTS and GRANDS:
a ) Keytops - You may use a soft damp cloth to clean your keytop
(whites and blacks). A little warm water with a very small amount of
mild dish soap can be used if water alone won't clean them. Be
careful not to use too much water as to drip down between the
keys. Also, be careful not to scrub too hard on some types of black
sharps as you may rub the black finish off and it will look uneven.
This is not an issue with plastic sharps. You might also consider
purchasing KeyBrite. It is a Cory product that has been specifically
designed for cleaning piano keytops. You will be able to do an
adequate job with the keys left in the piano if they aren't too
grundgy, however, if they are pretty dirty your technician can
remove the keys to allow the keys to be more easily and
b) Action - I would never recommend that a customer remove a piano
action unless they have been properly trained to do so. It can be
done, and you may get lucky, but the chances to break something
in the process is pretty high. Even a technician who has been
removing and replacing actions for many years still has to be
super careful and winds up snagging a damper or breaking a
hammer shank off on a grand once in a great while. Your
technician can, however, remove the action for a thorough
cleaning. This usually involves carefully blowing the action out with
compressed air (outdoors, of course). Your technician can inspect
the action, make any necessary repairs, or take it to the shop for
action reconditioning if needed.
7) Keep the case cleaned and/or polished. There is much debate about the proper way to care for the various finishes on pianos. There are many products on the market and things to consider, so I will not attempt to describe in detail here how to maintain your finish, for there are those who know much more than I do in this area. The PTG website has put together some good, detailed information on how to care for your piano's finish.
A couple basic things to keep in mind is that dust scratches...so be careful what type of cloth you use to remove the dust...microfiber cloths are best. Also, feather dusters, although good, can easily scratch high gloss finishes, so be cautious with their use. Most pianos rarely need to be polished, so use them sparingly to avoid build up and avoid spray polishes altogether as they can contain oils that get airborne and can find their way into the pinblock of the piano.
According to the PTG website, "new piano finishes generally require only occasional cleaning with either a dry or damp cotton cloth. Older piano finishes may benefit from an occasional polishing with a good quality polish, but frequent polishing is not recommended. The PTG technical bulletin on piano finish care discusses this subject in detail".