The piano is an iconic instrument. It is unique in its design and the sounds that it produces. The instrument's sound is generated by several strings held in tension within the body of the piano. Like another string instrument, piano strings must be replaced from time to time.
How often should piano strings be replaced? Piano strings should be replaced when they break, become tarnished or corroded, or when they sound dull and thin. The lifespan of piano strings depends on the environment the piano is kept in and how well the strings are maintained. Most pianos require new strings every 30 years.
Replacing piano strings is necessary, but changing strings can be quite an ordeal, and completing restringing the instrument is a serious challenge. How often pianos strings should be replaced is based on various factors. Let's discuss when piano strings should be replaced and how long they typically last.
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When Should Piano Strings Be Replaced?
Every acoustic piano in the world generates sound with the use of piano strings. Pianos strings are hardened steel and copper wires held under tremendous tension to play their respective notes as the hammers strike them when a key is played.
As an aside, the lower keys strike one string, the middle keys strike 2 strings and the higher keys of an acoustic piano strike 3 strings.
Like all string instruments, pianos strings must be replaced. Pianos strings do not last forever, but they can last for a very long time without requiring any replacements, depending on how well the piano and its strings are cared for and maintained.
However, piano strings will nevertheless have to be replaced eventually, so how often should this be done to maintain the best possible sound from the instrument?
Some piano strings last for several decades without requiring replacements. With that being said, piano strings should be replaced when they:
- No longer stay in tune
- Lose their tone
Piano strings can be replaced individually, or the instrument can be restrung entirely. Replacing single strings is far more common and much more practical than replacing an entire set of piano strings at once.
Restringing an entire string set is incredibly expensive, typically costing thousands of dollars. Replacing one string at a time is easier and much more affordable. Thankfully, pianos rarely require complete restringing.
If you live in a harsh environment for piano strings, such as high humidity areas, then strings will need to be replaced more often. That being said, unless they break, even the worst-kept pianos strings should last at least ten years before demanding replacement.
How To Know When Piano Strings Should Be Replaced?
Replacing pianos strings is a challenge and requires time and skill to complete. I recommended hiring a local professional to do the job for you unless you're fully comfortable with the process. Many piano tuners will be able to restring a piano as well.
Whether a few single strings need to be replaced or the piano requires an entirely new set of strings, there are always clear indications of when the strings must be replaced.
The most obvious signs that piano strings need to be replaced are if they break or exhibit any signs of corrosion or rust. A broken string or multiple broken strings will need to be replaced for the piano to function correctly.
Rusted or corroded strings or even strings that have begun to unravel or become discoloured are likely to break. Furthermore, they do not sound very good when played. These strings should be replaced proactively before they break.
When a piano string breaks, it's liable to whip and may scratch or otherwise damage the inside of the piano. Additionally, the sudden change in tension within the piano can cause adjacent stings to fall slightly out of tune.
Some less obvious signs that indicate when strings need to be replaced include dull tones when the strings are played rather than crisp and clear notes, a lack of sustain when the strings are played, and/or a lack of tuning stability.
Strings that do not stay in tune have become tension-hardened, or they have become damaged in some way, preventing them from staying in tune. Dull-sounding strings are caused by the same issues, as is a lack of sustain, as these strings will not resonate well. These issues indicate that the strings should be replaced for restored performance.
How Often Should A Piano Be Restrung?
A general rule of thumb is that all of the strings in a piano should be replaced every thirty years. This is recommended by many piano builders and professional piano tuners. This loose recommendation applies to single-string changes and complete replacements.
Replacing single strings on a piano is a relatively common occurrence, even if the strings take many years to deteriorate to the point that requires them to be replaced. A far less common occurrence is an entire piano string set replacement.
Replacing the entire set of piano strings is not common, but it does happen. If piano strings are not well maintained or cared for, and if the piano is kept in an environment that causes the strings to deteriorate, the entire set of strings will need to be replaced in less time than usual.
There are many instances where piano strings last much longer than thirty years and even sound as good as they did when the piano was built.
This is usually due to environmental factors and how often the piano is played and tuned. A well-tuned piano, kept in a dry environment with a stable temperature, with its strings kept out of sunlight and dust-free (by keeping the piano lid closed), will have strings that last many decades before requiring replacing.
Suppose a piano is kept near an open window in a beach town close to the sea and experiences very hot and humid temperatures. In that case, the strings will only last as little as ten years before degrading to the point where restringing becomes necessary.
Piano strings only need to be replaced when the strings sound dull or thin or when they are degraded or broken. The time required for this degradation is different for every piano and depends on the piano's environment and how well-maintained and cared for the piano is.
Caring for a piano and maintaining it well will prolong the life of the strings, as will keeping the piano protected from harsh environments. A well-kept piano will keep its strings for well over thirty years before requiring replacements.