Ashburn, VA

How Much Does It Cost To Tune A Piano?

$100 – $200

The average cost to tune a piano ranges from $100 to $200. Your tuner may also discover other issues with your piano that need addressing, though, and fixing them will add to the cost. Read more or get free estimates from piano tuners near you.

Ongoing maintenance and care, including tuning, are all essential parts of piano ownership to ensure the best performance from your piano.

This pricing guide covers:

  1. Piano Tuning Cost
  2. Piano Tuning Costs By Repair Services
  3. What is Piano Tuning?
  4. Piano Tuning Cost Factors
  5. Reasons you may need tuning
  6. Piano Voicing Costs
  7. Piano Regulation Costs
  8. Piano Restoration and Rebuilding Costs
  9. Hiring Your Piano Tuner
  10. Get free estimates

How much does it cost to tune a piano?

Depending on the quality, age, how long it has been since it was last tuned, the environmental conditions where the piano is kept, and the level of perfection required, your cost could be a flat fee of around $100 to $200. Your tuner may also discover other issues with your piano that need addressing, though, and fixing them will add to the cost.

How often do you need to tune a piano?

Most piano manufacturers will suggest that new pianos should be tuned up to four times during their first year, and every six months in the following years. If the piano gets daily use for extended periods of time, you might increase that schedule.

Piano Tuning Costs By Repair Services

Here are the average costs for piano tuning and repair services:

  • Piano tuning: $100 - $150
  • Pitch correction: $50
  • Tuning + Pitch correction: $120 - $160
  • Repairs: $60 per hour
  • Voicing: $380
  • Grand action reconditioning and regulation: $3,000
  • Vertical action reconditioning and regulation: $1,650
  • Minor regulation: $400
  • Soundboard cleaning: $100
  • Climate control installation: $500 - $700
  • Installation of under-covers: $200 - $300
  • String cover installation: $250-$350
  • Grand action rebuilding: $6,000 - $7,000
  • Vertical action rebuilding: $4,000
  • Evaluations and inspection: $100-$200

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What is Piano Tuning?

A Piano tuner makes minute adjustments to the tensions of the strings of a piano to properly align the intervals between their tones so that the instrument is in tune.

A finely tuned piano is a precision instrument, with the majority of modern pianos having 88 strings made up from 52 white keys and 36 black keys to deliver 7 octaves, plus a minor third. Some older pianos only have 85 strings delivering 7 octaves.

  1. Notes = intentionally controlled and carefully crafted vibrations which produce sounds
  2. Pitch = the fundamental frequency of a sound
  3. Hertz (Hz) = the number of frequency cycles per second

Humans can hear audible sounds that fall between 20 Hz–16,000 Hz. The middle A note on a piano should register at 440 Hz, which is where most tunings will start. This was established as a standard practice in the early 1900s and is still widely adhered to today.

Piano Tuner

With either a tuning fork, a handheld electronic tuner, or phone app, most tuners will set that middle A (which is above the middle C) to 440 Hz. Most tuners use a combination of tuning tools to find the best tone. Then the tuner will begin to tune the notes around it, first tuning the rest of the notes in that octave.

The Piano Technicians Guild defines piano tuning as the adjustment of the piano's tuning pins so that all the strings have the proper tension (pitch) to produce the correct-sounding musical intervals.

Piano tuning involves adjusting the strings in your piano by tightening or loosening them, and all the strings for each key must be tuned to the same frequency to prevent any interference (known as beating).

The three elements that contribute to the pitch of a string are its thickness, its length, and the amount of tension in the string. The tension on the piano string is the only variable of the three that can be adjusted, and that is what will be worked on during tuning.

If a piano is for stage performance or in a recording studio, those seeking perfection may choose to have the piano tuned before each use to obtain the level of perfection required for either a solo performance, concert, or recording session.

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Piano Tuning Cost Factors

For most pianos, their overall performance lifespan is something that can stretch into decades, but different individual components might have a shorter lifespan caused by the factors mentioned above.

For a piano that lives in a concert hall and experiences frequent use each week but has a regular maintenance schedule, it may see a life of 50 years or more for the soundboard but under five years for the hammers. With professional and frequent tuning and maintenance, it should extend its useful life indefinitely.

Location of piano

Where the piano “lives” will play a factor in the price you will pay because of certain cities charging higher labor costs.

Age of piano

The older the piano is, and the longer it’s been since a tuning, the more likely it is that the piano will require additional work to a tuning. The tuning cannot take place until some of the more significant adjustments or repairs have been taken care of, which can translate to a larger hourly cost and, possibly, some materials cost.

Experience of tuner

Some piano tuners have learned their craft from years of experience on the job, and others will also carry a certification, such as a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) cert from the Piano Technicians Guild.

The cert does not actually guarantee much beyond the fact that they took a written exam and passed a field test, and you could just as well find someone with 30 or more years’ experience who does not hold the certification. From that experience, they could even be more skilled than some certified tuners who are newer to this field.

Generally, you can expect to pay more for a certified RPT to come out to work on your piano.

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What level of tuning will my piano need?

The longer it has been since the piano was last tuned, the more difficult it can be to tune properly. Piano tuners have four categories that pianos fall into regarding the amount of effort involved:

  1. Frequently maintained pianos. Pianos are tuned every six to twelve months. This category makes up about 33 % of all pianos. A tuning will usually take between 60 to 90 minutes.
  2. Less frequently maintained pianos. Pianos haven’t been tuned in up to two years, or they have been moved from one location to another in recent months. This category counts for about half of all service work for piano tuners. Before doing the tuning, the tuner will likely have to adjust all the tuning pins upfront to pressurize the soundboard. A tuning can take 2 to 2.5 hours to complete.
  3. Forgotten or neglected pianos. This category is more commonly known as the "sore arm" tuning job because of the amount of work it will take to bring back the piano to perfect working condition and render it in tune. A tuning of this type is essentially 3 fine tunings at the same time, which usually take between 2.5 to 3 hours of work for the tuner. This type of tuning accounts for one sixth of all the work tuners do, and it’s often done on pianos that are 60 years old or more.
  4. DOA pianos. Either because of damage from a fire, water, excessive humidity changes, old age, or simply neglect, these pianos are often considered to be well beyond anything a tuner can help with, and they only make up a small percentage of what tuners get called out to look at. Most of the time they do not charge for work they can't do, and they’ll likely counsel you to buy a newer piano.

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Reasons you may need piano tuning

Changes can occur in the sound produced by the strings over time. A piano going out of tune is a normal occurrence in the life of a piano, and it’s not an indicator of a problematic or low-quality instrument unless it is out of tune within a few weeks of being tuned.

Piano Tuning

The following list of factors are all possible contributors to the need to have your piano tuned:

  • Instrument quality - It is fair to say that the more expensive a piano is, the longer it will stay in tune, because, generally, all the internal components are of a higher quality. Other than the strings, screws, bolts, brackets, etc., nearly all of a piano is made from wood.

    While it is rare for the metal components to become deformed, it is more likely that your piano will experience issues related to the wooden components. With age and environment changes, splitting can occur, and if this is the case in the pinblock, or if shrinking occurs around the tuning pins, or repeated tuning causes them to become loose, then your piano will lose its ability to hold its tuning for long.
  • Heavy handed playing - If the style of playing taking place could be described as heavy handed, then your piano will go out of tune faster. Each time a key is pressed, the hammer for that note strikes the strings—which results in the note being played. If this is continually done in a more aggressive fashion, you could cause minor stretching in the strings, which would result in a shift from its perfect tuning.
  • Physical movement - Any movement of the piano has the potential to affect the structural integrity of the piano and, as a result, cause a shift in the tuning. Movement that could cause this might be something as little as moving it across a room and the wheels get caught on carpet or a bump.

    If someone pushes it extra hard, it could result in its frame being tilted, causing changes to the tuning. At the furthest end of the spectrum for potential impact, moving the piano from one location to another and loading it on and off a truck would cause it to need another tuning once it has been delivered.
  • Temperature fluctuations - Temperature changes can cause your piano’s wooden body, frame, and metal strings to expand and contract, which will adjust string tension and pitch. Summer vs. winter climates, AC vs. heat, building only used at the weekend—these changes will affect the piano strings.

    The humidity of a room increases when people begin to fill it, and stage lighting can affect that too. If the shift is toward warmer conditions, they will expand and loosen slightly and the notes will become flat. When the shift is to colder temperatures, the strings will contract and tighten, which results in sharper notes.
  • Humidity - Wood has a natural capacity to absorb moisture. For the legs, lid, and main body structure of the piano, this is typically not going to affect the sound, but for parts like the bridge, soundboard, and pinblock, the wood can swell. As a result, the piano will produce sharper notes—because the strings are being pulled tighter when the wood expands.

The biggest part of the piano that is made from wood is the soundboard, the component that makes the sound of the strings louder as it vibrates. When this swells, the bridges between the strings and the soundboard rise, creating more tension on some of the strings. This results in a higher pitch in the lower mid-range and extreme treble strings.

If extreme moisture or temperature changes occur repeatedly over time, it will likely damage and possibly cause visible cracks in the soundboard. The other area that moisture can cause issues in is the pinblock—where the strings are held in place with pins.

Through expansion and contraction of the wood caused by moisture, and its absence, the holes the pins sit in will loosen their grip on the pins, resulting in less tension in the strings. Over the course of years, moisture can also cause strings to rust, increasing their risk of snapping during tuning.

  • Dry air - When the air is drier (because of temperature control or the use of a dehumidifier), the soundboard will flatten or shrink. In that case, the tension of the strings will be reduced and the pitch will now measure as flat.
“To remove dust from the outside of your piano, use a soft cloth or lambswool duster. To clean your piano keys, you can use warm water and a small amount of dishwashing detergent on a damp rag. Be sure to wipe and not wash your piano keys – DO NOT LET ANY WATER OR LIQUID EVER GET DOWN IN BETWEEN THE KEYS OR INSIDE THE PIANO!

Most piano cabinets can be cleaned in the same manner. However, you should stay away from sprays or polishes that are not specifically designed for piano cleaning.”

- says Richard Bazemore, RPT of Pianos in Tune in Athens, GA.

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Piano Voicing Costs

There are also other areas that affect the sound your piano produces, and this is something your tuner can bring to your attention when he/she has had some time to assess your piano in person.

Piano voicing on average costs $380 - When a piano key is pressed, a hammer (which has the business end of it covered in felt fabric) strikes the strings to produce the note associated with that key.

Over time, because of use and age, the felt can become compressed. This compression will result in both grooves forming and the felt becoming harder, causing a harsher and somewhat brighter tone when compared to that of a new piano.

Your piano tuner can use voicing needles or steam to soften the felt on the end of the hammer.

Across the entire range of possible notes one can play on a piano, not all notes will be played the same amount, and because of this, it will only be a subset of all hammer felt that needs attention.

If the hammer felt has been voiced repeatedly, at some point voicing can no longer restore the desired tone to that note. If so, the tuner can file down the hammer head to restore its shape; but that can only be done a few times, since each filing will make the head just that little bit smaller and lighter.

Once this has become something that filing cannot fix, the last resort would be to replace the hammer entirely.

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Piano Regulation Costs

  • Complete vertical action regulation and action conditioning - $1,650
  • Grand action regulation and action conditioning - $3,000
  • Minor regulation - $400

The goal of regulation is to make both the sound produced by the piano and the experience of playing the piano map to the greatest degree of consistency for all notes.

The need for regulation is not just something that affects older pianos. Some new pianos are not regulated perfectly before shipping from the manufacturer, or they lose their regulation after being delivered to the customer’s home.

The other purpose of regulation is to best position the piano to easily obtain dynamics with the widest possible range and ensure the keys are responsive to any style of playing—from being played gently with subtle movements to something much faster in a more aggressive style.

What type of piano tuning adjustments are there?

The adjustments made include anything from sanding down a wood component to tightening or loosening one or more screws. According to Wikipedia, adjustments your tuner might focus on if needed are:

  1. Let-off - the point when the hammer disengages from the jack and flies freely. If the let-off is too large, it can be very difficult to achieve a pianissimo, to execute rapid trills, and to play powerful fortes; if too small, notes can acquire a "pinched" sound, or even block.
  2. Drop - how far the hammers fall back after let-off. This affects the responsiveness of the action.
  3. Repetition springs in a grand piano allow a hammer to repeatedly strike with minimal lifting of a key. If a spring is too springy, it can cause double-strikes; if not springy enough, it becomes difficult to repeat a note.
  4. Key weights (and, in some actions, weight-regulating springs) control the inertia of the keys. A technician can add, remove, or change lead weights in the keys to change how light or heavy the keys feel to the player.

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Piano Restoration and Rebuilding Costs

  • Rebuilding vertical action - $4,000
  • Rebuilding grand action - $6,500
  • Evaluation and inspection - $150-$200

Over the life of a piano, or for technicians working on a project to rebuild or restore a piano, it is not uncommon to have components replaced—including the soundboard, pinblock, bridges, ribs, action, hammers, and strings.

Starting with the least effort and expense, you have maintenance, then repair, followed by restoration and, finally, rebuilding. As the degree of expense increases in line with the level of effort required by the technician, rebuilding work is typically only done on pianos of extreme sentimental or financial value.

Hiring a Piano Tuner

When possible, look for a piano tuner who has experience with your brand and, if possible, model of piano. Also, look for a tuner who has good reviews and liability insurance—which is all the more important if your piano is valuable.

A tuner with a good rating with the Better Business Bureau, or many great reviews on HomeGuide can add peace to your decision.

Because some tuners charge a flat fee for tuning while others charge by the hour, make sure you are fully aware which fee structure the tuners you are looking at operate under.

Many tuners offer special deals or packages if you have more than one piano (of if your neighbor does), or if you're getting more than one service performed such as a pitch raise or inspection.

The Piano Lifesaver: Controlling the humidity levels inside your piano protects your instrument and your investment. Climate control installation costs range from $500 - $700 but will drastically extend the life of your piano.

With enough research of the different piano tuners on HomeGuide, we are sure you’ll find the service technician your piano needs at a good price.

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Author: Daniel W.
Millions of people ask HomeGuide for cost estimates every year. We track the estimates they get from local companies, then we share those prices with you.

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