Pianos are designed to sound their best when they are tuned to the international pitch standard called A440. When piano strings are tuned to their proper tensions, tons of pressure is exerted onto the plate, frame, soundboard and pinblock of the piano. Regular tunings help maintain the proper stretch in the piano strings and a balance in the tremendous force applied. If a piano’s overall pitch is significantly different from the standard, a pitch adjustment is required in order to bring the piano back to the A440 pitch standard.
When a piano is not tuned for a long period of time, its strings will lose their tensions, get lazy and go flat by a considerable degree. When this happens, the piano is not just “out of tune” – the general pitch of the entire piano is less than the optimal standard. A piano whose general pitch is significantly lower than the A440 standard is in need of a Pitch Raise.
On the other hand, there are times when circumstances create a piano whose general pitch is significantly greater than the optimal standard. These cases are more rare, but they do exist. A piano in this condition would require a Pitch Lowering.
The general term to describe either of the above situations is a Pitch Adjustment. Performing a pitch adjustment demands special considerations. A Standard Tuning to A440 on a piano that requires a pitch adjustment would result in an unsatisfactory tuning. This is because changing the string tensions on a piano impacts the tremendous loads that are spread across the soundboard and frame. Big changes in these loads means that the tuning of one string is impacted by the tuning of all subsequently tuned strings. By the time the tuning process is completed, the notes tuned at the beginning of the procedure will have been effected dramatically.
A pitch adjustment can be avoided and a piano can be tuned to a lower or higher standard than A440. In this case, the piano will sound in tune with itself and be playable. However, there are disadvantages for maintaining a piano outside of the optimal standard.
The Pitch Adjustment process is more time-consuming and laborious than a Standard Tuning. There are several different approaches to performing a Pitch Adjustment, depending on the technician’s preference and other circumstances. A Pitch Adjustment will generally cost more than a Standard Tuning.