Index of Services

Appraisal: $70
Standard tuning: $125
Pitch-raise: $20 - $70
Complete action regulation: $300 - $700 uprights, $500 - $900 grands
Partial action regulation: Price varies depending on needs
Hammer voicing: Price varies depending on needs
Dampp-Chaser Humidity Control System: $650 - $800
Key top replacement & repair: $15 - $30 per key, $510 all white keys
Key rebushing: $580
Hammer replacement: $25 per hammer, $900 complete set
Vertical piano butt & backcheck restoration: $900
String repair: $25 - $70 per string, $1,200 - $1,700 entire piano
Pinblock restoration: $125
Pedal extensions: $85
Misc services: $80 / hr

Appraisal: $70 (only $35 when combined with a tuning)

"Needs new key tops."
In an appraisal, I thoroughly check everything on the piano to make sure it is working properly and in good condition.  I will also evaluate the manufacturer's original quality of workmanship and give an estimated "as-is" value for the piano.  If repairs are necessary, I will point out the main areas that need work and give an estimated repair cost.  If it is the buyer who is hiring me to inspect their potential purchase, I will have a private consultation with the buyer to talk over the findings.

Note that some Internet sites advertise a "Piano Appraisal Service", where they will tell you the age of your piano for a fee of $5 or so.  This service is not a real appraisal, because nobody actually looks at the piano to determine its current condition (a very important factor in piano value).  If you would like me to look up your piano and tell you its year of manufacture, I will be glad to do this free of charge; just send me the manufacturer's name and the piano's serial number, and I will look it up in my reference material.  The serial number is usually stamped on the harp or the pinblock.  If you need help finding the serial number, give me a call.

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Stripped upright showing strings, plate, and soundboard.  The tuning pins are at the top.

Standard tuning: $125

Most pianos should be tuned twice a year.  Keeping your piano in tune reduces the amount of wear on the pinblock, the strings, and other structural parts of the piano.  The tension on each of the 210+ strings must be very close to perfect in order for the piano to sound "in tune".  "Piano tuning" refers to the process of turning the tuning pins to adjust the tension and pitch of the strings.  The whole tuning process takes about 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

Because of the seasonal humidity change, pianos should be tuned every six months.  There are a few other factors that also can cause the piano to go out of tune.  These, along with some suggestions, are on the piano tuning page.

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Pitch-raise: $20 - $70

A pitch-raise is a rough tuning that is done before a standard tuning when the piano too far out of tune for a standard tuning to work.  It is required whenever the pitch is too far below or above concert pitch (a common occurrence in pianos that have not been tuned for a long time).  The farther the piano is off-pitch, the more work will be required to bring the piano to its correct pitch, hence the $20 - $70 price range.  A piano that is tuned at recommended intervals will never require a pitch-raise tuning.

To understand the need for a pitch-raise tuning, think about a guitar or violin.  When a string is pulled taut over the frame, it compresses the frame slightly, making any other strings previously tuned lose some of their tension and go out of tune again.  The same principle is true on a larger scale with a piano.  Before doing the standard tuning on a piano that is too far off-pitch, I will raise (or lower) the pitch in the middle of the keyboard to slightly above (or below) the correct level (A-440), then taper-off the pitch to the correct level as I reach the edges of the keyboard.  By the time the pitch-raise is finished, the whole piano will have settled to approximately the correct pitch.  I will then tune the piano normally on the second pass.

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A single-note model of a vertical piano action.  The hammer is at the top-center.

Action regulation: $300 - $900

    Complete vertical regulation: $300 - $700.
    Complete grand regulation: $500 - $900.
    Includes action cleaning and lubrication.
    Plan on the job taking two full days.
    Partial regulation is also possible and in some cases may offer a 75%
        improvement in touch for a fraction of the cost.

The piano action is the name given to the entire mechanism that transfers the motion of the keys into motion of the hammers striking the strings.  Actions are designed to respond quickly and precisely to the keys.  The best actions are "transparent", seeming to be more an extension of the pianist's fingers than a mechanical device.  "Regulation" refers to the process of adjusting the action to compensate for normal wear.  A properly regulated piano feels firm and smooth and is a pleasure to play, allowing subtle changes in expression to be heard.  A piano that is in need of regulation feels uncertain and gives less dynamic control to the pianist.

Regulating a grand piano action.
An action is made out of an astounding array of small wood parts, springs, pins, spoons, screws, felt, and buckskin.  Counting all of the parts would give a total of over 3,000, not including felt and leather cushions.  Eventually, when screws loosen, parts become misaligned, hammers pick up grooves from striking the strings, and felt and buckskin cushions compress with use, a need for regulation develops.

Keeping your piano regulated is the best thing you can do to prevent excessive wear of its working parts; it is probably even more critical to preserving the life of your instrument than keeping it tuned.  When an action is out of regulation, the parts "punch" rather than push on each other.  This greatly accelerates wear.

So, how often should a piano be regulated?  It depends on how much it is used.  A brand-new piano should be regulated after six to twelve months in order to help it break in correctly.  After that, vertical pianos that see average use (say an hour a day) should be regulated every 5-10 years, and grand pianos every 3-5 years.  Before I regulate a piano, I will first assess the condition of the action and notify the owner of anything that could use repair, such as worn-out hammers, moth-eaten felt, broken parts, or sluggish flanges.  Once these items are addressed, I will regulate the piano.  The complete regulation appointment can be put off until a later date by attending to small adjustments at regular tuning appointments.  If you prefer to do it this way, I will go ahead and regulate any parts that can be easily adjusted when I am tuning the piano.

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• Hammer voicing: Price varies depending on needs

Piano hammers.

"Voicing" generally refers to the process of hardening or softening the hammer felt to further optimize the smoothness and brightness of a piano's tone.  A softer hammer produces a mellower tone (with predominant low frequencies) when it strikes the strings, while a harder hammer gives a brighter tone (louder high frequencies).  Tone is also affected by many other factors, some of which are inherent in the particular piano and may not be adjustable.

Many times, simply tuning the piano will correct any apparent voicing problems.  If tuning doesn't appear to help, regulation should be tried next.  Room accoustics also have a significant effect on tone.  For example, a smooth concrete floor reflects both high and low frequencies, a hardwood floor tends to reflect only high frequencies, and carpet and drapes absorb higher frequencies.  If certain notes stand out as being too harsh, I can voice the offending hammers by needling and/or filing the felt, which softens the tone.

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Typical vertical piano installation.
Click here for a more detailed price list.

Dampp-Chaser Humidity Control System: $650 - $800

Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Environmental humidity fluctuation is one of the biggest problems for a piano.  Dampp-Chaser® has solved this problem with their "Piano Life Saver" systems, which greatly increase a piano's lifespan.  Each system comes with a 5-year warranty that covers parts and non-routine service.

Installation service includes all parts and labor and costs $650 - $800 for most common complete systems or $300 - $400 for dehumidifier-only systems.  This cost is trivial compared to the short and long term maintenance savings the system will provide.  I provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all complete Dampp-Chaser system installations.

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Two sets of keys ready to be planed with a table saw.
Keys with new key tops, ready to be installed in piano.

Key top replacement & repair: $15 - $30 per key,
   $510 all 52 white keys

    Includes parts and labor.

There is nothing that catches the eye like a white, straight, fresh-looking keyboard smiling up at you.  New key tops probably provide more return in the form of increased piano value than any other service.

Plastic white key top replacement:
          $20 per key, $510 complete set

Ivory key top replacement:
          $30 per key (complete sets not available)

Plastic sharp replacement:
          $15 per key, $280 complete set

Ebony sharp replacement:
          $25 per key, $460 complete set

Wood sharp relacquering:
          $100 complete set

"Acrilikey" chip filling:
          $30 per repair (nearly invisible repair on chipped ivories!)

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A bushing hole with the key bushing felts removed.A bushing showing need of replacement.

Key rebushing: $580

There are two key bushings per key.  When they begin to wear out, the keys rattle from side to side when played.  This service replaces all the key bushing felts, restoring the firm, smooth feel to the piano keys.

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Old hammers showing need of replacement.

Hammer replacement: $25 per hammer, $900
   complete set

    Includes parts and labor.

Hammers are covered with hard, dense wool felt in order to give the piano a warmer, fuller sound.  After thousands and thousands of forceful collisions with unforgiving steel piano wire, the wool will start to wear out, and grooves will appear.  The grooves can be filed smooth until there is too little felt left on the hammers.  At that point, a new set of hammers would be in order.  Usually, when the hammers have worn out, the rest of the action will be pretty worn out, too, so it is a good idea to have other things like damper felts, backchecks, hammer butts or knuckles, and key bushings checked at the same time.  After replacing the hammers, action regulation is recommended, particularly on grand pianos.

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The entire force of the key pushes up on the buckskin shown on the left.

Vertical piano butt & backcheck restoration: $900

The critical buckskin and felt is replaced on all hammer butts and backchecks, significantly increasing repetition ability on older vertical pianos.  Like a new set of key tops, this service greatly increases the value of the piano and does wonders for making an old piano work like new again.  After this service, action regulation is recommended for optimal performance.

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String repair: $25 - $70 per string, $1,200 - $1,700 entire piano

The extent of string repair can vary from splicing a single string to re-stringing the entire piano.  New strings may require subsequent tweaking over the next few months as they stretch and settle.
A spliced string.

Treble string replacement: $25 per string
Bass string replacement: $70 per string
Bass string splicing: $25 per splice*
Re-string entire piano with new tuning pins: $1,200 - $1,700

* If the string has broken in the right spot, a new leader can be tied onto the old string.  This is often better than replacing the entire string on older pianos.  For one reason, it is more economical.  Also, since bass strings can lose their brilliance of tone over the years, a note with a brand-new bass string might not blend well with the surrounding notes.

(Piano tuner's disclaimer: On rare occasions, a string or two will break during the tuning process, especially on older pianos.  Of course, this looks like it is entirely the fault of the piano tuner, but actually there is not much he can do to avoid it.  The steel is brittle and ready to break as soon as the tuning pin is turned.  I charge for repairing all strings that I break.  Thank you for your understanding.)

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It really does work!

Pinblock restoration: $125

    Includes 3-year service warranty.

When a piano has seen many seasonal humidity changes, its pinblock will begin to lose its grip on the tuning pins, allowing them to slip whenever the piano is played.  There are three remedies for this: (A) Re-string the piano with larger tuning pins, (B) Replace the pinblock, or (C) Inject CA glue.  The latter option is by far the most economical.  The piano will be tipped over on its back (or, in the case of a grand piano, the action will be removed), and the pinblock will be injected at each tuning pin with CA glue.  (Yes, this is actually super glue.)  The glue will wick down into the pinblock, fill any cracks, and grip the tuning pins tightly enough to enable the piano to hold a tuning again.

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The extensions are adjustable to accommodate
growth spurts.

Pedal extensions: $85 (soft and sustain pedals)

    Sustain pedal only: $45

The design of these extensions enables small children to use the pedals while still permitting use of the regular pedals.  See the Piano Accessories Catalog for more useful piano-related items.

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The piano: an elegant, musical monolith.

All other services: $80 / hr

- Interior & soundboard cleaning
- Sticky, sluggish, clicking, or broken note repair
- Player piano repair
- Pedal polishing
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Minimum service visit is $70, with the exception of repeated same-job visits.

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