How much does piano tuning cost? The cost ranges from $50 to $175. The cost will also depend on whether it’s a flat fee or if there’s an hourly rate.
Just imagine an intimate setting—a softly lit living room with your beautiful acoustic piano at its center. There’s a small group of people gathering around and asking you to play for them.
You’d be delighted. In fact, you thought they’d never ask! You lift your hands and begin to play a soft and lovely song.
Your friends are impressed as you expertly pump the pedals, softening a note here and sustaining a note there. Then you work yourself up into the higher notes, where it sounds like angels singing until….CLANG!
Playing an out of tune piano not only sounds terrible to any listeners, it’s also discouraging for the player, not to mention a little embarrassing.
The best fix for that is to get the piano tuned, and though it can be pricey, the sound and satisfaction are well worth the cost.
First a Bit of History
Somewhere around the year 1700, an Italian instrument maker named Bartolemo Cristofori introduced a modified version of the harpsichord.
Bartolemo (let’s call him Bart. He probably won’t mind!) was frustrated with the inability to control the volume of the harpsichord. To Bart’s ears, the harpsichord sounded more like yelling than singing.
The plucking mechanism inside the instrument made for a one-dimensional sound, leaving no space for dynamics and expression.
Bart knew he could do better, so he hunkered down in his shop and started tinkering. He began by replacing the harpsicord’s pluckers with weighted, felt-covered hammers.
This softened the instrument’s sound considerably. When he added pedals that connected to muting devices, the result was glorious! The player now had control over the loudness, softness, and sustain of the instrument.
This innovation eventually became what we now know as the acoustic piano.
Play On, Player
Creating melodies and movements with wood and strings has been a celebrated skill among us humans for a long, long time. There is nothing in the world like playing music on an acoustic piano.
Electric keyboards are cool enough. They’re certainly more portable than the big heavy uprights and grands and they don’t require the maintenance that their predecessors do—namely tuning!
But there are many keyboard purists out there who wouldn’t dream of replacing the acoustic, warm sound that only a wood and string piano can give, with the synthesized efforts of their electronic counterparts.
If this is you, you also know just how terrible an out of tune piano can sound!
Now if you were a guitar player, the fix would be easy. You just whip out your tuner, turn some pegs, and your back in business in no time. Easy peasey!
Not so much with the piano. You may be a master at tickling those ivories, but tuning a piano is a whole other skill set.
It’s not impossible to learn how to tune your piano. YouTube offers lots of DYI videos on the subject. But when you see the time and tedious process it takes to do it right, you may very well decide to hire a professional.
Check under the Hood
When you open the lid of your eighty-eight-key piano, you might expect to see eighty-eight strings. But you’ll find that there are many more than that. More specifically, there are two hundred and thirty strings!
The lower register keys (the notes below middle C) are all connected to one string a piece. The middle register keys have two strings per note, and the upper register keys use three strings for each note. All of the keys should be in tune relative to the standard of middle C.
That is a whole lot of strings to tune!
Who You Gonna Call?
A quick search will find a piano technician near you. You’ll definitely want to look for someone with good reviews and strong credentials. Don’t make the mistake of hiring someone who can potentially make a bad tuning situation worse.
It’s recommended to have your piano serviced twice a year, so it’s best to find a quality technician with whom you can build a trusting relationship with.
Much like mechanics, there are honest piano techs and there are less-than-honest piano techs.
How Much Can You Expect to Pay?
Our research has determined that you can expect to pay anywhere between $50 and $175.
Some techs charge a flat fee no matter the type of piano, while may others charge by the hour.
Pianos, like cars, require maintenance. Your tech may find other things in your piano that need attention, driving up the cost. With so many moving parts, there is bound to be wear and tear, particularly with older instruments.
This is where your discernment in choosing a tech comes in. You want to be able to trust them not to invent problems that don’t exist in order to jack up the service cost.
What Exactly Are You Paying For?
With the weight of upright models starting at 300 pounds and grands topping off at 1,400 pounds, it would be impractical to transport your piano to the shop. So it’s already a given that the tech must travel to you; to make a house call, so to speak.
The basic tools that the tech uses are simple enough: two wedge-shaped mutes, a tuning lever (sort of like a large allen wrench), and a chromatic tuning device. This latter may be absent if the person servicing your instrument has perfect pitch and can tune by ear.
The process of tuning begins with bringing the middle C to pitch. This is accomplished by muting one of the two strings attached to the key so that the other string can be tuned using the tuning lever. When the string is where it should be, the mute is applied so that the sister string can then be isolated for tuning.
When you multiply that process by two hundred and twenty-nine, you can really begin to appreciate the value of hiring a professional to tune your piano.
The average time for a professional to tune a piano is around one and a half hours. That is not a lot of time considering the amount of work to be done. It takes skill and experience to get to that level of efficiency and expertise.
Is It Worth It?
Whether it is worth perhaps a couple of hundred dollars for a professional to come tune your piano depends entirely on what you use your piano for.
If you use it like a piece of furniture—one that holds plants or family photographs, there’s probably not a whole lot of sense in spending the money to have it tuned.
But if anyone in your home plays or even aspires to play, then it is absolutely worth it to have it tuned. Nothing can be more off-putting and discouraging than an untuned piano.
A well-tuned piano does just the opposite. Those with even the slightest interest in your house will sit down on occasion and try to make a melody. Even visitors you didn’t know could even play will be happy to entertain if the piano is tuned.
And for those actively engaged in learning to play, a tuned piano makes life more pleasant for everyone!
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Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.