OK, here is my reply:
Thanks for your note. I understand your frustration.
You will not find clear statements that not tuning a piano will damage
it, because the damage that is caused is not easily quantifiable. What
happens when a piano is neglected are as follows:
1. The tension on the strings gradually loosens, and the pitch of the
piano goes flat. 2. The locations of all of the string bends moves from
the in-tune locations, and as a result re-tuning the piano later will
usually be unstable 3. The structure and soundboard of the instrument
become settled in at the lower tension, and they take time to readjust
to the new tension when the piano is re-tuned.
This does not even touch on the other parts of the piano which are
affected by neglect - the action and the tonal response will also
decline badly if a piano is not serviced.
The primary result of infrequent tunings is that the piano is very
difficult to re-stabilize at the proper pitch when it is re-tuned. This
means that the piano cannot simply be tuned once and then be expected to
sound good for an event - it will need to be tuned twice right away, and
will most likely drift noticeably out of tune during the event because
of the string and structural instability.
Hotels are notorious for neglecting piano maintenance. Instead of
musical instruments, pianos are treated like any old piece of equipment
or furniture, and as a result the pianos rarely perform as they should.
In addition to tuning, pianos need service to the action and hammers to
keep the piano sounding and playing like it should, and an occasional
cleaning is very helpful to prevent problems when the piano is being
used - it's amazing what spilled drinks, coffee stir sticks, and other
debris can do to the piano!
The following would be Kawai's recommended schedule of maintenance for a
quality hotel which wants their pianos to reflect a high quality level:
1. Depending on the climate, amount of use, and storage location of the
piano, the instrument should be tuned 2 to 4 times per year on a regular
schedule. 2. Depending on the amount of use (and abuse!), the piano
should also receive internal maintenance on a regular basis. This can
be contracted for as an annual 1 day service appointment, or a more
major servicing of the piano every 5 years. This service would include:
- Clean the piano interior and action
- Shape the hammers to compensate for wear
- Regulate the action
- Replace any damaged strings (from spills, etc)
- Voice the piano (work with hammers and strings for best tone)
- Tune the piano
3. For special events where the piano will play a key role, the piano
should be tuned again just before the event. These extra tunings are in
addition to the regularly scheduled tunings, and are intended to make
sure that the piano will sound its best for the hotel's clients.
I hope this helps a little! I have serviced pianos for hotels in the
past, and I can sympathize with the frustration of having to play on
poorly maintained instruments. Be proactive and non-confrontational,
and hopefully the hotel will come around and work with you to get the
instruments up to a quality level where you can do your job of making
Don Mannino RPT, Manager
Kawai Piano Technical Support, US and Canada www.kawaius.com