How Long Does It Take To Tune A Piano?

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Are you someone looking to get their piano tuned? 

I owned several pianos over the years, but one thing I always seem to forget to do is keep it tuned. I’ll still tune in at least once per year, but I probably should get my school piano done more often. 

When it starts to lose its pitch, I know my students (and myself) start to hear things wrong. This would cause incorrect learning over time. 

But when you do get around to getting your piano tuned, you may wonder:

How long does it take to tune a piano?

Tuning a piano is tough work. You have to get all 88 keys (on standard-sized pianos) in tune. Good piano tuners do this with special tools and take their time. Expect to have the tuning take 1-2 hours or more depending on how out of tune the piano is. 

Read ahead for more details. 

How Long To Tune A Piano: Why Does It Take So Long?

Most piano tuners will tell you (and I’m friends with a few) anyone who gets piano tuned in under an hour is ripping you off. Even with weekly upkeep, it still takes an hour for a good piano tuner to get the instrument in tune. 

For those who get their pianos tuned once or twice per year (as recommended by piano manufacturers), it should only take 1-2 hours. 

If you stretch this time limit out, it may take upwards of 3-4. 

Why does it take so long?

First off, the piano usually has 88 keys. Each key matches an extremely tight string which needs to be adjusted into tune. 

For most people, tuning a ukulele takes about 2 minutes. Pretty easy, right? 

But ukes only have 4 strings. If we do some math, we can figure out how long it could take to tune a piano. 

88 piano keys / 4 ukulele strings = 22. 

22 × 2 minutes = 44 minutes. 

But wait! You said anyone less than an hour is doing a poor job.

Yup. This number works only if the piano tuner has to aim for each key to be a specific pitch and keep it in tune with itself. 

The piano has 88 different pitches! The sounds in tune with each other and all sorts of different keys and registers means the piano tuner needs to get all 88 in tune with each other as well as on its own. 

If this sounds complex, it’s because it is. 

Since the invention of the piano, we have struggled to come up with a good tuning system. It’s not as simple as putting on a tuner app and twisting the rod until the light turns green. 

In modern days, we’ve settled on a system called equal temperament. 

For more information on this system, check out the video below. 

Suffice to say, this adds some time. 

Now, don’t forget the way the strings interact with others is also based on the build of the piano and the material used in its construction. 

Honestly, 3-4 hours sounds pretty good to me now. 

And if a piano is extremely out of tune, it will require multiple tunings in a short period as the strings will pull themselves back out of tune quicker. 

How Much Does It Cost To Get A Piano Tuned?

Some piano tuners will use a flat rate. “I’ll tune your piano for x dollars.” 

Most will charge by the hour. This prevents them from losing money if they need to spend extra time on a piano way out of tune. 

In general, expect to spend $65-225 on tuning a piano. 

Here’s a tip though, look for a piano tuner certified by the Piano Technicians Guild. They may cost more, but at least you’ll know it’s done right. 

This will actually save you more in the long run.

Can A Piano Be Tuned After 20 Years?

Of course it can! However, keep in mind what we’ve said about severely out of tune pianos. 

The strings are adjusted to the tension they’re currently at. It will take several long-running sessions to train them back into shape. 

Don’t let this discourage you however. It may cost a little more at first, but once it’s done, upkeep is this same as any other piano. 

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Tips For Keeping A Piano In Tune

Tuning pianos isn’t easy, and it may cost a pretty penny. There are a few ways to keep your piano in tune longer. 

Keep it somewhere with a stable temperature – Temperature is the enemy with all instruments and tuning. As the heat goes up and down, materials expand and contract changing the pitch. 

In a short time, it won’t be in tune. 

Don’t bump it! – Putting it somewhere where it’s bumped all the time is bad too. These jars will adjust the tension of the string a little at a time. 

Keep it in one place – By the same token, anytime you move the piano it loses its tune just a little. Put it somewhere and keep it there for longer. 

Don’t bang on it! – Professional piano players will play their keys hard. It almost looks as though they bang on it. 

You may think it’s OK for you to do the same. 

What you don’t see is how these pianos are tuned at least weekly or more in some cases. You also don’t see how they’ll also break strings (which costs even more). 

Unless you want to play like this, keep a little more gentle. Firm playing is fine, but if your hands come up more than an inch to hit the keys, you’re doing it too hard. 

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed learning about how long it takes to tune a piano. 1-2 hours may seem like a long time, but remember this is a complicated process. 

The best way to keep your piano in tune and save time is to tune your piano regularly. The more out of tune the pitches get, the longer and more costly it is to get them back in place.

If you’re looking for fun and helpful to get back into playing piano, check out Flowkey. This online playing program is helpful for all ages. 

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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