14 Myths About Pianos

Posted: January 8, 2013 in Piano

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Cover of Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Misinformation is a burden.  Here are a few of the myths I most often encounter about pianos.

1. Pianos should be placed on an inside wall of the home.

This was true before the outside walls of a home were insulated.  Old Victorian style homes were poorly insulated against outside humidity.  It is no longer necessary to place a piano on an inside wall in a home. It is still recommended to not place the piano by a window that receives direct sunlight for long periods of time.

Learn more about the history of insulation here.

2. We have not tuned the piano because no one plays it.

A piano should be tuned annually even if it is not played.  The changes in humidity cause slight variations in the soundboard which changes the tension on the bridge. This causes changing tension on the strings which causes movement.

Read more about the effects of humidity on pianos here.

3. We need to get the piano tuned because we had it moved recently.

If the piano is moved properly, the strong framework of the piano will keep the piano from going out of tune. Humidity is the enemy; it works against the piano over a period of time. If the piano is moved from a dry climate area to one with higher humidity, then the piano should be tuned after it adjusts to the new climate. Once again, the factor here is the humidity, not the actual move. The second factor is the quality of the piano. You should consult with your piano technician before moving a piano.

4. We need five or six men to move a piano.

A piano move requires 1-3 people. The worst move I encountered occurred when a husband got four or five buddies to help him move a grand piano. They lifted it with the legs still attached and placed it on the truck. At the destination, they stored it in the garage, on the floor, UPSIDE DOWN, with the legs sticking upwards.  Hire a professional.

Watch a remarkable video on how a grand piano can be moved and setup by only one person.

5. Children should not be allowed to bang on the piano.

A child cannot hurt a piano by playing it forcefully. There are good reasons why children should be encouraged not to bang on a piano, but none of them are related to the safety of the piano.

6. We will buy a better piano if our child “sticks with” piano lessons.

Industry marketing data reveals that few parents trade up to a better quality piano.  Buying a cheap piano actually decreases the likelihood that a child will remain interested in piano.

7. A piano should be tuned once a year.

Manufacturers recommend tuning a piano up to four times a year. Most pianos that I encounter have not been tuned in over five years.  It does little good to preach on this subject: piano owners remain resilient in ignoring the recommendations of professionals. I can only suggest that you have your piano tuned when you think it needs to be tuned.

8. Our piano was restored years ago.

Restoration is an extensive subject. Most often, pianos are not restored.  New hammers may have been installed, or some major repairs might have been done. Someone in the family may have stripped the old varnish and refinished the piano. None of these items qualify as a restoration.  Few customers who say they have a restored piano can recall what was done, who did it and when it was done.  An inspection of the piano most often reveals that no restoration was done.

9. We got a good deal on a piano because we bought it from a university sale.

Every industry suffers from scam artists. University sales can be a source of scandal for the piano industry.  If you think you got a good deal on your piano, then that is fine with me. If you are shopping for a piano, I encourage you to review any number of guides that are easily accessible on the web.

11. Older pianos are better than the ones that are made today.

False. The age of a piano does not determine its quality.

12. Chinese pianos are always low quality.

False. The location of a manufacturing plant is not a fair determination of a piano’s quality.

13. You have to be talented to learn how to play piano.

The great teacher Ignacy Jan Paderewski put it this way, “Any child can learn to play piano, but only a talented child can become a great piano player.”

14. Our piano teacher told us which piano to buy.

I would rely on teachers to inform me about subjects related to teaching.  It seems that everyone has an opinion about which piano is best for other people. Some people are more qualified to make recommendations. In my experience, the most qualified recommendations come from piano sales people. True, there is an apparent conflict of interest: the salesman wants to sell you the piano he sells. But the piano salesman goes to trade shows, visit competitors, keeps apprised of changes in the industry, plays a variety of pianos, new and used; and works in a very competitive industry which makes it absolutely necessary to be accurate and truthful during every presentation.

You will of course visit more than one piano store.  Compare notes. Exceptions apply, but I do not assign much credibility to any piano teacher who recommends one brand over another. Piano teachers should defer to those in our industry who are more knowledgeable about such things.

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  1. Reblogged this on Sketchbook: Notes About Music and the Arts and commented:
    I’ve followed Kent Moore’s blog for some time now, and I always enjoy his posts. There’s gravity to his writing, a sense that he has thought carefully about whatever he’s writing about, and a certainty that it’s the best way to say it.
    His “14 Myths About Pianos” is no exception, and the advice is right on the money. I can tell you from experience that a grand piano sounds robust when it gets tuned every quarter. I can also tell you that my parents actually did trade up from an old $200 used upright to a new Kimball spinet. But they did it because I told them I couldn’t stand the sound of the old one.