Over the years, I’ve managed to remain oblivious to the finer details of piano maintenance; I instead relied on my parents or my school to keep my practice pianos healthy. Knowing practically nothing about piano regulation I did a deep dive on the topic to understand what it is, when to do it and particularly how much it costs.
So, what is the cost of piano regulation? Piano regulation costs in the rough ball park of $500. It could cost half as much or twice as much depending on several factors including the condition of the piano, and the technician’s rates.
In this article we will cover:
- What is piano regulation?
- How much does it cost?
- Why do I need to regulate my piano?
- How often do I need to regulate my piano?
- Other common piano maintenance
What Does Regulating a Piano Mean?
When a technician regulates a piano, they primarily adjust the piano’s action so that it produces an even tone across all keys. What is a piano’s action? It is a complex mechanical system that translates the depression of a key into a hammer strike on the strings.
When a technician regulates a piano, they have to adjust up to 20 moving parts per key! It is a tedious task that includes adjusting:
- key heights
- and more (I defer to a technician for a more comprehensive list).
Papers as thin as 1/1000th of an inch may even be slipped beneath keys to fine tune the height. This means that it can take a day or more to regulate a single piano.
How Much Does It Cost To Regulate a Piano?
As mentioned before it costs roughly $500, but this is highly variable. In my research I saw one piano technician offered grand piano regulation services for $1300-$1800.
Cost factors include:
- Piano’s condition. If the piano hasn’t been regulated in years, it will take longer to make adjustments
- Technician rates. If the technician is more experienced they may charge more (and do a better job).
- Location. If you live in an area with a higher cost of living, or if the technician lives farther away you may need to pay more.
- Desired level of service. Servicing a standard upright piano that only sees average usage will cost less than an expensive concert piano which needs high level of accuracy.
Ask for an estimate, either over the phone or in person, before hiring so that you aren’t surprised by a large bill.
Why Should I Regulate My Piano?
There are several reasons why you would want to regulate your piano:
- You sense unevenness while playing. You can check this by moving your head down to the level of the keys. If the keys are different heights, that likely causes the unevenness.
- There are miscellaneous squeaks while playing notes.
- You can’t rapidly play a single note. It is possible that the double escapement feature that allows you to play notes in rapid succession needs readjusting.
Regulating your piano won’t fix everything though. If some notes sound particularly harsh or tinny that might mean the felt on the hammers have over compressed. Check this by opening the piano lid and examining the hammers. Hammers that have grooves in the felt have over compressed which can be fixed through a process called “voicing” – more on that later.
How Often Should a Piano Be Regulated
According to David Mann from lapianotuning.com, pianos should be regulated once every ten years to prevent it from aging early. This gives you an excuse to do something I bet you’ve never done before – set a calendar reminder for 10 years from now :).
That said, my short to mid term goals don’t involve playing for concert venues, so I don’t think I need the precision gained by a piano regulation. Additionally, I am content with my technical development, so I don’t think uneven keys adversely affect me. So, with a piano that’s in good shape, I can imagine going well past the 10 year recommendation that David recommended.
If you are concerned about the long term health of your piano, though, consult your piano technician.
Other Piano Maintenance
Occasionally you should also voice your piano. In this process a technician uses specially designed needles or steam to soften the hammer felt. If some notes on your piano creates a harsh, metallic sound and the hammers have grooves in them, it is time to have your piano voiced.
After decades of use, if you have a high quality piano with many bad strings, you can also invest in the costly endeavor of restringing your piano.
You can read this article for more piano care tips.
If you are annoyed with unevenness in your piano’s keys, or hear other undesirable sounds, you may need to regulate your piano. How much does it cost to regulate your piano? It will cost you around $500, more if your piano is in poor condition.
If you were unaware, like me, hopefully you now understand the ins and outs of piano regulation, and can hire (or not hire) a technician with confidence.