Humidity and Your Piano
The biggest enemy of your acoustic piano is humidity, either too low or too high. A piano is made from organic materials, such as wood and leather. It will respond poorly to humidity. High humidity drenches the organic wood and leather parts with moisture, causing these parts to react sluggishly.
Low humidity drys organic parts and drains leather and wood of their elasticity. This ages them, warping wooden parts and making them break down much more quickly.
In addition, high humidity will affect the tuning, making more frequent, expensive tunings necessary. Low humidity, particularly that from high heat, especially wood heat, will dry out wood and make it crack. On a piano, there are two main areas that will be damaged. The flat wood surface just below the strings called the sound board will warp and separate from the frame. This will cause strange sounds and buzzing. The entire resonance of the piano can be lost from this.
Neglected Pianos Are Hard To Tune And Repair
Also, the pin block, the thick wooden block that holds the tuning pins, assuring proper tuning, can crack. This will make it impossible to keep even the finest instrument in tune. Many of the small parts damaged by extremes of humidity can be easily replaced, but replacing the sound board and pin block is the equivalent of a heart-lung transplant, and should be avoided at all costs. It costs $15,000.
There are devices to help you: Get a humidity meter and keep the humidity around 40%.
There are also add-on devices that use a tank of water to keep a piano in good shape in a dry, low-humidity environment. They are very inexpensive and work well. One brand is called Dampp-chaser, and works very well. If your humidity is too high, the only solution is a dehumidifier. If the humidity is too low, you’ll need a humidifier. A piano is designed to last perhaps fifty years, and then must be rebuilt, or junked. Rebuilding a fine grand piano can cost $15,000 to $35,000.
A Properly Maintained Piano Lasts Longer
Create a nurturing environment for you piano and you’ll be well repaid with an instrument that does not deteriorate as rapidly. All of this is not a concern if you have an electronic instrument, or if your piano is so old and decrepit that it is not worth maintaining in such a detailed fashion. But if your acoustic piano has any significant value, pay attention to the humidity.
Humidity, especially radical changes, will also make your piano go out of tune much more quickly. Since tuning costs anywhere from $60 to $200, you are well advised to keep track of the environment in which your piano lives.