How does temperature affect the piano? Many misinterpret the reason why we need to keep a piano away from heating and cooling vents. It is true that these greatly affect the piano, however, the main reason is not the temperature itself but the amount of water the air is carrying. Science reveals warm air holds more moisture than cold air. The real question is then...
How does humidity affect the piano?
Being comprised of wood, piano parts are able to absorb water resulting in expanding or losing water resulting in, you guessed it, shrinking. One of the most noticeable effects this has on the piano can actually be heard. That's right, the tuning on your piano will actually be affected by the wooden soundboard shrinking and expanding.
Different problems may occur if piano action parts are allowed to shrink. The screws holding these parts will not move and the action parts become loose causing clicking and noises when a key is played.
With dramatic climate changes, often amplified by a heat source near the piano, the wood can dry to the point of cracking and glue failure. Soundboards that are cracked are very expensive to repair or replace.
In order to prevent all of these issues, we must find a way to regulate the amount of water the wood is absorbing or releasing.
Finding an Equilibrium
Manufacturers tell us the piano was designed to perform best at forty-two percent relative humidity. The main point, however, is to keep the humidity level controlled and consistent.
One way to achieve this is to install complete humidity control for your house or piano room. This is an expensive venture and in my opinion not worth the trouble when other options are just as effective.
The Dampp-Chaser Company makes a humidity control system that actually creates a micro-climate inside your piano. The Piano Life Saver system works to create a stable environment by regulating humidity levels right at the soundboard.
Pianos require a controlled climate to help keep the parts in good working condition. Tuning will be more stable and less affected by seasonal changes if you have a Piano Life Saver System or full humidity control in your house or music room. Remember, damage can occur to the piano if it is allowed to shrink and expand with severe humidity changes.
JOSEPH RAVILLE, RPT
Dallas Piano Tuner
Up to Pitch LLC