Why your piano needs to be tuned
An out-of-tune piano makes musical expression difficult. It is harder to play, and can lead to more frequent or unnecessary mistakes. It is important for any music student to have a well-tuned instrument for daily practice. Linda Anderson, an Ann Arbor music teacher who specializes in piano pedagogy, says, “My students practice more often and more effectively when their piano is in tune.”
Every time a child listens to a piano, it helps develop their musicality. An out-of-tune instrument can be harmful to the development of a proper sense of pitch. These factors are particularly important for young students, and even for babies or toddlers who are simply observing the sound.
The sound of harmony
The human brain enjoys sounds that occur in harmony, and the piano is an instrument with unique harmonic qualities. When you press a single piano key, it produces not only the fundamental sound wave of that note, but also multiple, quieter sound waves at higher pitches. These sound waves are called overtones. When multiple notes on a piano are played simultaneously, some of the fundamental tones and the overtones produced by different notes overlap. When a piano is precisely fine-tuned, the pitches of these overlapping tones are aligned to create a series of subtle harmonies with each note you play. Once the relationships among all notes on the piano are accurately adjusted, a piano generates a wonderfully rich, harmonious sound.
Ease of playing
As we practice piano, we are constantly listening to confirm that each note is correct. When a piano is out of tune, the overtones clash and produce dissonant sounds that are confusing to our sense of pitch. Adapting to these differences as we perceive each note causes strain that detracts from our ability to play accurately and enjoy the music.
After a piano tuning, some piano players report that the keys have a lighter, more responsive feel—even though no mechanical work has been performed. This could be simply because the musician’s mind is freed from the extra strain of perceiving dissonant notes. If your kids make many mistakes while practicing piano, or even hate practicing, it may help to make sure your piano is in tune.
A piano that is in tune has a broader dynamic range: It is easier to control how soft or loud you play, because the fundamental tones and overtones produced by each strings work together to enhance the sound. When a piano is out of tune, these tones create interference with each string and attenuate each other. Also, a piano is designed to perform its best when it is tuned to the standard pitch (A4, the A just above the middle C, is set to 440Hz). An accurately tuned piano allows you to play any sound level more effectively, from pianissimo to fortissimo, leading to better musical expression.
When a piano is tuned properly, there are optimal harmonic relationships between the notes. Most of the Western music we play is tonal, composed based on harmonics theory. A well-tuned piano enables us to experience the music as the composer intended.