I've lived in The North State for 8 years now, and one thing I've noticed was how dry it can get. Sure, there are summer days when after a rain shower the suns appears, drying up the grass in 105F heat, resulting in an hour or so of east coast humidity. But by and large, it's dry here year round. Until the winter of 2016 that is.
It seems that every piano I've seen, heard, tuned, and struggled with these past two months (February and March, 2016) has been sharp. Of course this doesn't count pianos which have sat idle for 20+ years, but rather "regularly" maintained pianos. What gives? Well the soundboard, naturally. The convex shaped piece of wood - really an assembly of multiple carefully chosen spruce planks, tends to round up and arch its back like a black cat when moisture is introduced into the board. This is contrary to what typically happens in most homes in areas with true "winters," however. If you live in Lake Tahoe, Buffalo New York, or Quebec for instance, the moisture outside is likely to be snow, not simply rain. Also, it's so darn cold you'll be running your heater a lot. This will dry out a soundboard, and cause the pitch to go flat. But here in the Backwards North State - Chico, Redding, Red Bluff, even the entire Sacramento Valley - it's warm enough when it's raining that some heat is applied, but not so much as to counteract the moisture from outside. I've seen condensation on windows near pianos, and when the heater flips on for a bit drying all that moisture up, humidity rises in the home. In short, I've seen humidity rise up and settle on numbers as high as 70% relative humidity - R.H. - and have seen pianos routinely go from at pitch to 10-25 cents sharp in some parts of the piano. Crazy, right?
What to do: A Dampp Chaser system will keep the R.H. of your piano constant, and therefore it will stay in tune longer. I truly believe pianos which are maintained in tune and played regularly, are able to take full advantage of any and all design elements, i.e. they just sound better. Dampp Chasers maintain the proper amount of humidity in your piano, and make my job easier, and your piano sound better, and last longer. OK, so maybe making my job easier should be item three, but you get the point: Fluctuations in humidity stresses out and kills pianos.
If you'd like more information about how you can maintain your piano's R.H. using what you already have in the house, or with the addition of a Dampp Chaser system, give us a call, or shoot us an email. I'm always happy to discuss pianos and their specific needs with you, especially if it makes my job just a little it easier.
Until next time,
Owner - Apollo Piano
The Flying Tenor