Humidity and Your Piano

How do temperature and humidity impact my piano?

Poor tuning stability 

Sound boards, the large wooden panel located under the strings, rise and fall with the seasons. If a piano is subject to a deep cycle, which I define as a change of 15-20% RH, its pitch may unevenly rise in the summer and drop in the winter. Depending on the size and scale of the piano, this change can be very dramatic from season to season.

Changing tone

Dry hammers can cause bright, even shrill tone. Conversely, saturated hammers can sound soft or cottony. 

Poor mechanical function or mechanical failures

The relationship of the mechanical parts of the piano change as well. A change in the moisture content of wood or felt causes action components move out of their precise relationship to one another, a relationship often measured by thousandths of an inch! Symptoms can include knocking keyframes, chattering keys, and inconsistencies of touch from one key to the next.

Pianos are comprised of thousands of parts, nearly all of which are organic materials–wood, felt, and cloth. You might think that your piano is just sitting in the corner of your living room, but in actuality the components of your piano are constantly reacting to changes in the ambient relative humidity and temperature.

Get to know your piano’s environment

Monitor the ambient temperature and humidity near your piano! Purchase a digital hygrometer and set it near the piano (make sure to take into account the range and accuracy of the hygrometer you purchase). Your target is to maintain 45% relative humidity and 70 F, as recommended by major piano manufacturers. In my experience, a deviation of 10-15% annually from this target is acceptable for the average piano in the average home (keep in mind the accuracy of your hygrometer). Of course, this range is dependent on your situation and expectations,

Address the basics first

Environmental challenges can exacerbate humidity related problems. Consider the location of your piano in the room first. Eliminate drafty windows. If your piano is located near heating or cooling ducts, or if it’s located along an exterior wall, consider relocating the piano within the room. 

Implement a humidity control solution

If the ambient humidity falls outside of your acceptable range, consider one of the following solutions. Your exact solution will depend your environment.  Whenever possible, I recommend working from large to small. 

  1. Full Home Humidity Control
    When able, install air conditioning, basement dehumidifiers, or a home humidification system on your furnace. Your piano, furniture, even your health will benefit from proper humidity levels.
  2. Room humidification
    When full home humidity control is not an option, consider addressing the room where the piano is located. Use a window air conditioning unit, a room dehumidifier, or a room humidifier to maintain your target range.
  3. In-piano humidification
    In situations where it is not possible to address the humidity by the methods above, I do recommend the installation of a Dampp-Chaser unit. A Dampp-Chaser successfully creates a micro climate either within or underneath an upright or grand piano respectively. As a certified Dampp-Chaser installer, I can provide quality installation and service for any style of Dampp-Chaser unit. Please contact me for a detailed estimate.