On average, a piano tuning can cost anywhere between $50 and $290. This depends on the piano tuner and the condition of the piano.
|Piano Condition||Cost Range|
|Frequently tuned||$100 – $170|
|Infrequently tuned||$130 – $240|
|Neglected||$190 – $290|
There are a lot of factors that go into the cost of a piano tuning. Below, I will cover the most common factors, how to get more out of a piano tuning, and other available services.
Do piano tuners charge by the hour?
When looking for a technician to tune your piano, you’ll want to figure out whether they charge by the hour or a fixed rate per service.
The answer really depends on the technician or company. That said, fixed rates seem to be common for most piano tuners. Hourly rates are typically for jobs that will take longer than routine tuning.
Most of the time, the lower price fixed rates will only cover the tuning. On the other hand, higher price fixed costs sometimes also cover some small repairs that can be done at the same time. The choice you make depends on what you need from the technician.
How does the piano condition affect prices?
While piano technicians have an average price they charge for a service, a typical tuning can be a lot more expensive depending on the condition of the piano. The various conditions can generally be categorized into four levels.
The price of tuning your piano will go up the farther down the condition level it is. This will happen whether the technician charges by the hour or fixed rate. With the former, the tuning will take longer. With the latter, there is more work involved.
The exception to this price increase is the last condition for reasons I will detail below.
If your piano is tuned routinely—on average every four months or more, depending on the frequency of use—the tuning process shouldn’t take as long or cost as much. The average cost for tuning a well-maintained piano is between $100 and $170.
Some technicians will focus on the number of tunings completed over quality. If this is the case it can be cheaper. However, you will likely not receive any complementary minor repairs. The cheaper technicians are still worthwhile if you are on a budget or only need a quick tune-up.
Across the board, this is the cheapest tuning service. Since the piano is well maintained, the technician does not need to spend time on getting the piano to a point where it can be tuned. It will still take roughly an hour to an hour and a half for a full tuning.
If your piano is not tuned regularly there will be more aspects of the piano that need adjusting. Pianos in this condition haven’t been tuned for over a year if not longer. On average this will cost between $130 and $240.
This level of tuning will often take longer. On average it will take an hour and a half to two hours. This is usually because there are more out-of-tune strings and the strings are more out of tune. Often the technician will have to adjust every string to perform what is called a “pitch raise.”
It is also more likely that the piano will not remain stable after being tuned. This can mean that the technician will have to come back for another session. The tuner should know if this is necessary.
A neglected piano is typically one that hasn’t been tuned or maintained for more than a decade. These pianos are in a worse state than the above category but aren’t damaged irreparably. This tuning service can cost as low as $190 to as high as $290.
Sometimes that price is per session. Pianos in this category will need at least one, if not two, pitch raises. If these processes can’t be done in one session the tuner will need to come back. The average length for one session is two and a half hours.
This type of tuning job is colloquially referred to as a “sore arm” job since that’s how the tuner will likely feel after. Between the pitch raises and the fine-tuning anyone would have a sore arm.
First, it is important to note that this is not a tuning job. The price associated with pianos in this condition is the average price for a professional consultation.
The tuner can evaluate the damage to the piano to see what needs doing and if the piano can even be saved. This can cost between $50 and $100.
Pianos in this condition aren’t just out of tune. They will have some sort of damage to the piano whether that’s in the strings, keys, action, soundboard, or other parts. Whatever the damage is it makes the piano unable to be tuned.
Sometimes these things can be fixed. Other times it would be more effort than it’s worth. In the latter case, it is often better to get a new piano.
When is a piano beyond helping?
It may come as a surprise that a piano is rarely beyond helping. However, it is often a question of how much time, effort, and money the piano is worth.
That said, a piano is only beyond helping when there is extensive water damage, the metal plate is irreparable, or the frame is irreplaceable. Even in these cases, the piano can be rebuilt, but then the question of the ship of Theseus comes into play.
What can affect the tuning of a piano?
You may be wondering why pianos fall out of tune over time. While you could dive into the physics behind the phenomenon, it is much simpler to understand that the two main factors are the quality of the piano and changes in humidity.
Poor quality pianos will not hold a tune as well or for as long because of their construction. Between lower quality materials and inferior craftsmanship, the piano will not perform as well as a more expensive one.
On the other side is humidity. Large changes in humidity from the seasons or a change in location can cause important pieces of the piano to swell and contract. This can be made worse if there are imperfections in the piano.
How to reduce tuning costs
Frequent tuning costs can build up. Thankfully there are a few other ways to help your piano stay in tune if you don’t want to spend money on frequent tunings.
One method is to fight the humidity. This can be done using piano humidifiers. These devices can maintain a consistent humidity level within the piano. While expensive, they can reduce tuning costs.
If you don’t want to use a humidifier, try to place the piano in an area with consistent temperature and humidity. Avoid sources of heat or cold such as windows, heating vents, and other similar features.
Another method is to hire experienced piano tuners. The more experienced a tuner is, the less they will need to adjust the tuning pins. When the pins are moved as little as possible, they hold their tension better.
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