Will a piano’s tone change over time?
One of the most common concerns people express in our store is “Will (brand x) piano sound the same in my home over time?” The answer is yes and no. Intrinsic tone and consequential tone are two very different concepts that I have created to describe the phenomena of a piano “loosing” or “changing” its tonal color.
Intrinsic sound is not bound by variables or conditions, such as hammer quality or climate. As pianos receive continuous use over time, the hammer felts actually begin to compress. This compression makes the hammers harder, which affects the tone by producing a brighter sound. This type of hammer fatigue is the most common type of consequential tone. Conversely, the tone of a brighter new piano, such as a Yamaha, can be voiced by a trained piano technician to produce a mellower sound. This is also a popular way piano owners alter their piano’s intrinsic tone.
Sudden humidity can make a piano’s woods swell, which literally opens pores in the woods and disrupts the surface microscopically, which mellows or dulls the sound of the piano. When a piano. The opposite effect of sudden dryness in a humid region causes the wood the shrink and bulge, which can permanently damage the piano, through the introduction of cracks in the bridge, soundboard, or rim of the piano. These are all examples of environmental impact on a piano’s intrinsic tone.
It is especially important to remember a piano does not necessarily have to always sound the way it does in the store. A skilled technician can use a special tool with tiny needles to break up the many fibers in the piano’s hammers to make the tone softer, or use lacquer and reshaping of the hammer to make a brighter tone. A higher quality instrument, such as a new Hailun or restored vintage American piano (RVAP) is always a better choice over an inferior instrument that cannot handle extensive regulation or voicing.