Having a piano at home, whether it is a brand new piano or an old one, a baby grand or a simple one, it gives a home a homey and elegant feel to it. But owning a piano can be cumbersome because of the maintenance it requires. Being a stringed instrument, it needs to be tuned regularly, just like you do any stringed instrument like a guitar.
Experts advise to have a piano tuned at least thrice a year. More so if you live in a humid place because the humidity affects the wood that holds the strings. So if you just moved to a new place, let your piano get used to the climate for at least 2 weeks before calling someone for an assessment.
Before any tuning takes place, the piano technician assesses the piano, i.e. how often it is used and tuned, the quality of the piano, and the environment. A piano that is used often and/or is in a place where the temperature swings to both extremes require more work. New pianos, newly rebuilt pianos, lower quality pianos, and pianos used in performances or recordings require more tuning and adjustment than high quality pianos.
When tuning a piano, the technician adjusts the tension of each string so they vibrate at the proper rate. There are 230 strings in a piano that needs to be adjusted and checked, making sure each string has 150 to 200 pounds of pressure. He will also make adjustments based on the thickness and length of the strings.
In the US, expect piano tuning to cost an average of USD 100 an hour, with a starting rate of USD 75. On average, piano tuning lasts about 1 to 1 ½ hours. The more experienced the piano technician is, the higher the rate. Paying more than USD 150 would be too much though, unless they are servicing a grand piano with special equipment.
Piano tuning should not be confused with pitch raise. After prolonged non-use, not only is a piano de-tuned but the pitch also changes so this has to be corrected first before actual tuning can be done. Since this is a different service, it therefore requires separate payment. Ditto for repairs. If strings need to be replaced or destroyed soundboards should be replaced or loose tuning pins need to be corrected, these require additional payment and should be done before piano tuning can be performed.
So think twice before buying that piano or accepting that heirloom of a piano. It may look good in your home but if you are not able to take care of it and maintain it, it will be better to pass or let it go.