What Is A Pitch Raise On A Piano And Do You Need It?

When looking to get your piano tuned or serviced, many tuners may ask the question ‘does the instrument need a pitch raise?’, but generally speaking, most piano owners aren’t too sure what they actually are or what that might mean.

Today our expert tuners and technicians explain what a pitch raise is and will help you learn whether or not you need one for your piano.

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What is A Pitch Raise?

Generally speaking, acoustic pianos should be tuned every 6-12 months in order to stay in their optimum condition and tone and generally speaking a piano may begin to slip out of tune after this time. For new pianos or those who have their pianos placed in a room that changes temperatures often such as a conservatory or next to a radiator, this may be slightly lower (learn more about where to best keep your piano here)

If a piano is left for too long without a tuning, the tensions in the strings will gradually reduce overtime and cause the instrument to come out of tune. Thankfully however, this is a relatively straight forward process to fix and usually this is simply a basic tuning job by a technician. For pianos that have been left for a long time without tuning however or if the piano has undergone some kind of change or trauma, the de-tuning can be so severe that a pitch raise is required instead.

A pitch raise is essentially a tuning, however done on a much larger scale, that takes longer and often costs more. Where a regular tuning will use small incremental changes to the strings, a pitch raise requires a far larger level of tension to be added back into the string and is a far more complicated procedure.

If you are unsure of the last time your instrument was tuned, the best thing to do is check the tuning record and see when it was tuned last, if it’s 2 years or more then it may need a pitch raise.

Why Do Pitch Raises Matter?

All concert pianos are tuned to the same universal pitch of 440Hz (Learn more about standard piano tuning here). As such, this is the level that all piano tuners use to dictate if the instrument is in tune or not. Pianos can be tuned to themselves, meaning that the instrument may still sound in tune, however as a result when playing pieces may sound strange or not as intended, so a standard tuning is far better to both play and listen to.

A pitch raise can be a solution to stop your instrument from needing full servicing or repairing as once pianos get to a certain level of detuning, they’re almost unrepairable without putting the instrument in danger of collapsing in on itself.

To demonstrate this, did you know that each piano string holds around 75kg and 100kg of tension, so one string on a piano has more tension than a whole guitar. All of this combined means the total tension of all the strings in a piano is around 20 tonnes, which is why a cast iron frame is needed – That’s about the same weight as a fully loaded bus, or three African elephants, so when a piano is out of tune, that weight has to be added back on, which if done too quickly or sharply, can cause the instrument to collapse in on itself.

Why Does My Piano Come Out Of Tune After A Pitch Raise?

Due to the increased tension that is added to the strings and frame when a piano is tuned, after a pitch raise the instrument can “slip” quite quickly as the frame settles under the new tension and so often it can require tuning again before it has fully settled. This can be as soon as 2-3 months. We would recommend making a further booking with the technician and they can advise on this.

Want to learn more about piano tuning? Read our guide to the piano tuning process here and also the anatomy of an upright piano here!
Is your piano in need of a tuning or a pitch raise? Our experts would be happy to help! Book a piano tuning today!

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