Piano Maker’s Corner: Ability and Pin Blocks
Did you know that pianos have ability? Pianos are usually tuned to A440 (normal pressure). If they can’t be tuned to that, they are tuned to the best of their ability – to whatever pressure they can hold. If the piano is not holding a tune, this means that the pins do not have enough pressure to hold A440. In that case, the piano is tuned to itself – meaning to the best of its ability (this could be something like A330.)
The pin block is the heart of the piano. Its job is to grip the tuning pins tightly so that the piano does not go out of tune. Think about the last time your piano was tuned. Was it a few months ago? A few years? Pianos need to be tuned at least twice a year.
Low budget pianos can be more difficult to tune because of inferior pins, pin blocks, materials, and workmanship. Technicians, not wanting to upset their clients, can feel very apprehensive talking about inferior pins for two reasons:
- The piano is very old and/or has sentimental value. Technicians understand how much some people value their pianos. To hear that the piano is falling apart internally, after being passed down from beloved family members can be very upsetting. Especially learning that the cost would greatly outweigh the price of the piano, and that the repairs won’t fully restore the piano.
- Passionate musicians who have spent a large sum on a piano that is terribly made. It can be very upsetting to hear that one’s hard earned money went into something that does not work properly. Technicians do not want to risk losing the client because they have ‘insulted’ their beloved musical instrument.
If the pin block is not set correctly when manufactured, it will rock. If the pin block is not set tightly, it will lift. The end result of poor material quality and poor craftsmanship is a piano that is difficult to tune. The best (most straight forward) question to ask a tech or tuner is: Does my pin block feel like it’s holding? They should be able to give you an honest answer.
That being said, if you have tuned your piano more that three times within a short period of time and it’s still having issues holding it’s tune, it’s time to consult another tuner or technician.