When your piano starts to sound bad it probably just needs to be tuned. During a tuning a technician adjusts tuning pins so that all 200+ piano strings sound at a desired pitch.
So how much does it cost to tune a piano? On average it costs $100-$200 to tune a piano. There are factors that will increase the cost; you can ask your piano tuner for an estimate before moving forward with the service.
In this article we will discuss:
- Piano tuning cost factors
- Finding a qualified piano technician
- Basic piano care (to prevent expensive tunings)
- Tuning a piano by yourself
- Other maintenance and repair options
Cost Factors in Tuning Your Piano
Factor 1: Your Piano’s Condition
Here is one diagnostic system to determine your pianos condition. The better the condition the cheaper the tuning:
Well maintained – A well maintained piano is tuned once to twice a year. Because none of the strings are horribly out of tune it will take just 1- 1.5 hours to tweak the them back into place.
Moderately maintained – If your piano is tuned once every two years chances are that each string needs to be tuned up to pressurize the sound board and then fine tuned afterwards. This may take 2 hours of work.
Poorly maintained – If your piano has been neglected for a long time more significant issues may have developed in the piano, and it may be way out of tune. Generally a piano can be retuned, even in this situation, but it may take 2-3 hours of work. This may require multiple pitch raisings to pressurize the soundboard and raise the strings to their ideal pitches.
Unrepairable – A piano is rarely unrepairable, however, at times repairing a piano is so expensive that it is not worth the money. In this case, invest in a new, or good condition used piano.
Factor 2: The Amount of Extra Maintenance Required
Sometimes a technician will replace old strings, fix a sticky key, or discover other easy to fix issues during a tuning session. Discuss with your technician how they approach such fixes. Will they automatically charge you for them?
In addition, old strings can break during tuning sessions, and need to be replaced.
In rare situations the piano plate can break if the cast iron has weaknesses in it. A broken piano plate is extremely rare. I heard of one technician who worked on pianos for 40 years and only once had a piano plate break during a tuning.
Factor 3: Location
Consider your area’s cost of living. If its higher, you can expect tuners to charge more.
Additionally consider how far the tuner is from your house. Since they have to travel to your house, they may charge for mileage.
Factor 4: Tuner Experience
The more experienced a piano tuner, the more they may charge you. This can be a trade off as more experienced technicians may do a better job, tuning your piano to a more stable point.
Piano technicians can get an RPT certificate (registered piano tuner) from Piano Technicians Guild which indicates that they have passed a written exam on tuning a piano. You can find RPT certified technicians here.
Factor 5: Precision Required
With expensive grand pianos especially in concert venues, technicians may charge something more like $200+ an hour. People expect high precision in these environments; precision requires more time and therefore cost.
How to Hire a Piano Tuner
Tuning a piano is complicated so it’s important you find a tuner you trust. Here are steps to find a qualified quality piano tuner near you:Ask around. Ask your neighbor, piano teacher/friend, place of worship, or school who tunes their pianos.
Check online. You can find technicians online by google searching “Piano tuners near me”, by using an site like thumbtack.com, or by searching for RPT certified technicians. Be sure to read reviews, or check out the tuners website. Look for how many years of experience the tuner has, and customer satisfaction.
Ask for an estimate. See if they will give you one over the phone. Sometimes they prefer to make an estimate in person.
Check if they charge a flat rate or an hourly rate.
Check for special deals. Would the technician tune and voice (more on that later) your piano at a reduced rate? Would they service several pianos in your neighborhood at a discount?
Preventing Expensive Maintenance
Once you have tuned your piano, you want to be sure to place it in the right spot and follow maintenance best practices to keep it in tune. This improves your pianos life, and saves money in the long run.
- Keep the piano in low, stable humidity. Pianos are best kept in 30% – 50% humidity with small, not large, fluctuations. Consider getting a dehumidifier/humidifier for your piano room, or a piano humidifier system.
- Keep the piano at an ideal temperature. I’ve seen recommendations to keep the piano in a 65-75°F range. That said, I play on pianos that dip outside of those ranges, but still keep their tuning well. An air conditioned room is the best place for a piano because it controls the temperature and reduces humidity.
- Don’t place the piano by windows, doors, fireplaces, large vents, in direct sunlight, in the basement, or on an exterior wall. All these locations experience higher heat, humidity, or temperature fluctuations.
- Wait to tune you piano several months after moving it. It takes a while for a piano to readjust to new environments. Tuning it before then is ineffective – although not damaging.
Can You Tune Your Own Piano?
Yes, you can tune your own piano; there are youtube videos that will show you how.
To tune a piano you will need:
- a tuning wrench
- felt strips
- high end piano tuning hardware/software
Be aware that it is a challenging process that could cause damage to your instrument if you are inexperienced. It will take you a long time to do so and you may run into issues that only a trained technician can handle, such as strings breaking. Furthermore, you need to apply methods to ensure that the strings not only tune to the correct pitch, but also hold that pitch. You can read more about how to tune your piano here.
Other Piano Maintenance
While a piano technician tunes, they often fix small issues. They will also tell you if they come across more major issues such as a need for piano voicing, regulation, or restringing. Let’s look into each and explore how much they would cost you.
How Much Does Piano Voicing Cost?
When the felt on hammers compress and start to form grooves, they produce a harsher sound as they strike the keys. A technician can use voicing needles or steam to loosen the felt.
After multiple voicings, a hammer will no longer provide the desired sound and need to be replaced.
How Much Does Piano Regulation Cost?
Piano regulation costs in the ballpark of $500.
What is piano regulation? When you press a key down the piano’s action causes the hammer to move towards the string. Over time the action on some keys is different than on others. It takes adjusting many of the piano’s moving parts to even it out.
When do I need to regulate my piano? You can regulate your piano when:
- your hear squeaks as you play.
- some keys are higher than others.
- it is difficult to play quick repetitions on a single key.
- some notes are easier to play than others.
How Much Does It Cost to Restring a Piano?
What does it mean to restring a piano? Restringing a piano is an elaborate process. If it is an upright the piano is laid flat on its back. The entire front of the piano is removed, and each string is replaced individually. According to David Mann from lapianotuning.com, it can take 20 hours for an experienced technician to complete the process!
When should you restring your piano? Rarely or never. Piano’s only need to be restrung after decades of playing. Unless your piano is expensive and well built to begin with, or has sentimental value, you’d be better investing in a new, or good condition used piano.
Tuning a piano costs around $100-$200. There are many factors that contribute to higher costs such as the condition of the instrument, your location and the technician’s experience. You should now be ready to find a trustworthy technician, and navigate a conversation with them about any piano repairs they may do.