Piano Tuning

Nigel Hirst is a Piano Tuner in Queenstown, Central Otago, New Zealand. For 40 years, after training at the University of Washington in Seattle, he has been tuning instruments in  the Lakes District, Arrowtown, Wanaka, Queenstown and Cromwell area.

Clients include Norah Jones, Festival of Colour in Wanaka, Michael Hill, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Secondary & Primary Schools, Churches, Music Teachers, Winter Festival, Queenstown International Jazz Festival, Major Hotels, Venues and private clients.

Nigel is also an installer of Dampp Chaser Systems designed to regulate humidity levels and maintain tuning in those top of the line pianos. 


Contact Nigel direct:   021-118-7355




Tuning, Regulating and Voicing:


The frequency of tuning depends in part on the severity of the climate, the age and condition of the piano, and the extent to which it is used. In any case, pianos should be tuned once or twice a year to keep the pitch level from dropping below A=440. New instruments should be tuned three or four times a year during each of the first two years, because the new strings will continue to stretch during that period. For instruments in home use, one or two tunings a year are usually adequate to keep a piano at concert pitch.

Temperature and humidity control are also critical elements in maintaining a valuable instrument. Central heating, without some kind of humidity control, poses a great danger for musical instruments made of wood. The worst possible environment for a piano is one with radical swings in humidity and temperature. 

In regions like Central Otago, with its hot, dry summers, and  cold winters, special attention must be given to humidifying in the summer and monitoring the humidity in the winter. Wood is hygroscopic and it expands and contracts across the grain with changes in humidity. The pitch of the strings depends to a certain extent on the amount of humidity present in the soundboard, which expands and contracts with changes in heat and relative humidity. If the environment is too dry, the soundboard will shrink beyond the dryness level at which the instrument was manufactured, causing cracks in the wood and even failure of glue joints. Extreme dryness can cause complete failure of the soundboard and pinblock. The loss of natural moisture in the soundboard also causes the pitch to go flat. 



Finding an ideal location for a piano is often difficult. In the order of importance, the location should help preserve the instrument, be acoustically satisfactory, and aesthetically pleasing. Ideally, a piano should be placed on an inside wall, away from the direct rays of the sun. Moreover, it should not be placed next to heaters, stoves, air conditioners, or near heat ducts or cold air returns. Drafty locations next to open windows or doors should also be avoided.


adapted from Edward E. Swenson: Piano care & maintenance

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