Can a piano be too old to tune?

Posted by Sarah Czarnecki on

Short answer? No, a piano can't be too old to tune.


It's incomplete

Okay, so here's the thing. As long as a piano has enough necessary parts to make it playable -- or you are able to purchase the necessary parts -- odds are it can be tuned.

In fact, we have an almost 200-year-old square grand that we've been rebuilding for awhile. Square grands have a long history of being destroyed when they could've been disassebled, so we are grateful that someone chose the latter.

Steinway antique square grand piano

If and when it's rebuilt, our square grand would look like this.

When we found it, the important parts were mostly there, but there was a lot to replace. This rebuild project is far from finished, but we have total confidence that if we really set our minds to it, we could bring this beautiful antique back to its former glory.

Now, it's important to emphasize that this is a hobby restoration project. It's been in a not-yet-tunable state for 20-some years.

But that's not because of its age -- it's because it's in pieces. Protect your heirloom piano with Dampp-Chaser piano life saver products

It's been neglected

Just like everthing from your home, your skin, and your childhood friendships, your piano will become difficult to salvage if it's been neglected.

Difficult, but not necessarily impossible.

A piano that hasn't been maintained in over 20 years can be tuned. It'll take more than one go, but it can be done.

A piano that has significant water damage, a broken soundboard, a rotted pinblock, or other unmentionable damage might not be.

We have a (different) piano that was kept in a barn for 25 years. It was well-protected from the elements, so everything was still there and working as well as could be expected. It doesn't hold a tune very well, but it works just fine. A couple more tunings than usual keeps it a great family instrument for casual play.

But again, the tune-ability of this instrument relies entirely on its condition.

Your needs exceed the piano's capabilities

This one's for the serious pianists out there. If you have very strict musical needs, then no, a damaged or very old instrument may never be "good enough" for you.

No shade -- we know that playing concert-quality music requires a concert-quality instrument in flawless condition.

But if you just want a piano for casual practice, go ahead and take that used instrument. Just be prepared to become very close friends with your local piano technician.


Bottom line, it takes a loooong time before a piano simply becomes un-tune-able. If you have access to the necessary parts and the finances to restore your piano, then yes, even the oldest piano can be tuned enough to be playable.

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