It’s About the Wood
Pianos are generally made of wood and no wood is impervious to heat, damp, dryness, or temperature fluctuations. If you have any experience with caring for wood products at all, then you already know some of the work involved. Fortunately there’s a tool that makes caring for a wooden piano a little easier. It’s called a piano humidifier and it could save your piano if you play in a dry environment.
In a drying environment, wood has a tendency to crack, splinter, and even warp. Indoor heating is a big culprit of drying wood but it isn’t the only thing that can damage a piano. Fluctuating temperatures can damage wood as well. The extreme heat of the summer months or the chilling cold of the winter season prompts us to turn on indoor heat or air conditioning. While our bodies may adjust to sudden temperature changes just fine, pianos don’t, and they respond with damage.
A piano humidifier won’t help with fluctuating temperatures so you’ll need to exercise some of your own precaution here. For example, don’t store the piano near or under any air vents, fireplaces, kitchens, windows, or walls that connect to the outside environment. And keep the piano out of direct sunlight as well. Sunlight, i.e. radiation will not only ruin a piano’s finish, it can distort the piano’s sound. To understand why, you only need to think back to high school physics and remember sound waves and light waves. As a form of energy, light waves will alter sound waves.
Placed inside the piano, a humidifier attempts to circumvent the effects of a dry atmosphere and maintain proper moisture. It isn’t quite necessary in a room that’s already moisturized with a humidifier, but in an environment lacking one, it’s a necessity. The constant swelling and shrinking of a piano’s wood does nothing but contribute to its deterioration.
A humidity level 40 – 45 percent is all that’s needed to prevent damaging effects and a piano humidifier works by monitoring the moisture and temperature around the piano. You should be able to find one that can stand by itself or hang from one of a piano’s inside walls. They’re relatively small in size weighing little over 70 grams, and all of them run from a battery.
We’re usually pretty aware of how wood is affected by the weather and inside atmosphere, but when you think of how much is spent each year on wood products for furniture, it shouldn’t be too surprising to acknowledge the care we extend to wooden pianos. Proper care opens opportunities for flawless tunes and the ability to focus on the music – not the maintenance.