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Some of the common myths about piano

Myth #1: Older pianos are better than new ones

Older is not better. In fact, pianos are at their peak performance during their first 10 years. The only people who would make such a claim are people who sell older pianos and those who aren't well informed. Older pianos do not come near to new pianos in two important areas: 1) tone - does not have great dynamic range and 2) touch - action does not feel as responsive. Pianos are made mostly of wood and time ultimately takes its toll on the structure of every piano. Along with the main mechanical part of the piano, the action, wears over time just like any other machine.

While it is possible for older pianos to be acceptable by some players, the fact is the piano will never sound or feel as good as it did when it was new. If older pianos were better, why would major concert halls & music institutions not save money and buy a used piano instead? This is because it isn't good as new. (refer to buying recond piano)

Myth #2: Key sticky is a worthless piano

Do you say your house is worthless if a door sticks when the humidity is up a little? Would you tear down the house because a door was sticking? Definitely not! Sticking keys is a common problem with pianos, and can happen to any brands. It is a maintenance issue and easily solved. A few simple adjustments and you're back to playing.

Why does key/action/damper sticks?

Felt hammer flange bushings are typically made in a humidity-controlled environment. It is known that when they are exposed to a drier or more humid environment, the resistance changes. In a more humid environment the felt bushings will expand, and the resistance will increase, as a result the action centers get tight and become sticky. Conversely, in a drier environment, the bushings will contract and the resistance will decrease, as a result the action centers get loose and become wobbly and noisy.

Myth #3: The wood used in older pianos are better than today

This is completely false. The wood being used today is no different that in the past. Of course, there are some manufacturers have switched to using less-expensive wood in order to stay competitive as top quality wood is getting more scarce and expensive all the time. The fact remains that top piano manufacturers in Europe continue to seek and use the same type of wood as in the past.

Also, every piano building technology has improved greatly over the last few decades, especially wood curing and metallurgy. All things being equal, new pianos today will perform better and last longer than an older pianos.

Just like how a house is built have changed or how a car performs in the past and present.

Myth #4: The bigger the piano the better the sound is

True but more important are the three main objective areas: the scale design, the quality of materials and the workmanship than its size (meaning the height of a vertical piano or the length of a piano). A small piano that is build with all these objectives will have better sound than a big piano that is not.

Myth #5: Asia piano is suitable for our climate. European have a different climate than in Asia and therefore, those pianos will not be suitable here

I don’t find any logic to it, do you? There are total of seven continents in this Earth. Asia is the largest of all continents, Europe is a continent, and Africa is a continent and so on. In Asia you have more than 20 countries with different climates and with different temperature and humidity annually. A piano is made out of wood. Being a hygroscopic material, it will absorb and release moisture depending to the climate condition.

Piano manufacturers have suggested that an ideal relative humidity is between 42% and 65%. If the humidity is below 42% or above 65%, it will affects the moisture content of the wooden parts, causing them to shrink and swell in the long run. It is not healthy for any piano. This may cause the finish to crack or chip, the string tension to change, the critical tolerance of action parts to be distorted, or the soundboard to crack. If your area is too dry, get a humidifier or if you area is too wet, get a dehumidifier. (refer to piano care)

Myth #6: Do I need a heater in my piano? My friends/neighbours’ pianos all have a heater in the piano

Piano manufacturers have suggested that an ideal relative humidity is between 42% and 65%. If your piano is sitting in a room that is within the margin, why do you need a heater? Improper use of this device may cause damage to the piano in the long run. The heat inside will eventually dries up the wooden parts and organic materials such as felt, cloth and leather. Thus, wooden parts become brittle and crack and action parts become loose.

In countries like Canada, they don’t need a heater because the RH is too low. For them they need a humidifier so to bring the moisture up. Some countries have dry and wet session in a year. In this case, both dehumidifier and humidifier are needed. The best way to know if your room is good for a piano to live in is to buy a hygrometer (also known as moisture meter).

Myth #7: Light touch is always better to play

There is no easy way to become successful without learning from the hard way. Touch is a subjective issue. Some pianists prefer light and some pianists prefer heavy. But don't think that a lighter touch is always better. In fact, most advanced musicians like to feel a touch that is anywhere from 52 to 58 grams. If a piano is too light, there's no feedback from the piano back to the player. And if the touch is too heavy, arms and fingers get tired easily and sensitive control is gone.

Myth #8: Moving the piano puts it out of tune

Moving a piano shouldn’t affect tuning, especially if the moving is just from one room to another. The reason you have the piano tuned a few weeks after moving into a new house is that the new environment will have different temperature and humidity, air flow patterns, etc., and this will affect the tuning.

Myth #9: My piano only need tuning

When a piano is used regularly it always needs additional work, regulation. Tuning a piano merely correcting the pitch of your piano. Regulation attends to the touch and uniform responsiveness of your action, an essential for a pianist to create an outstanding performance. Let us use the car analogy. Does a car only needs petrol and nothing else? Of course not, a car needs its annual engine maintenance, air in the tires, wheel balancing and so on to maintain an excellent driving pleasure, comfort and resale value.

Myth #10: I don’t need to tune my piano since nobody is playing

Seasonal changes in relative humidity make your piano out of tune whether it’s being played regularly or not. Neglected pianos gradually go flatter and flatter until a point where the tone starts to really suffer. If you need to bring back to pitch and stable, you will need to do more than 2 tunings and will cost more money.

Myth #11: The action consists of composite material and therefore, the piano is less susceptible to humidity.

The piano action is not the only parts inside a piano that's made of wood. Other structural parts like soundboard, pinblock, bridge and so on, are also made of wood. And, some are more hygroscopic than the others. Since wooden parts are susceptible to humidity variation, just the action being non-wood is not going to affect the effect of humidity on the piano as a whole.

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