Humidity and My Piano

Here in Ohio, the winter snow is finally upon us!  We were spoiled with an extraordinarily mild December, and only recently have have had a few inches of snow actually staying on the ground for more than a few days without melting.

The snowy weather outside means, of course, that the air gets very dry indoors.  The old radiators in our home are running almost constantly!  As a recent first-time piano owner, last week I decided I should buy a hygrometer to see just how low the humidity is getting in our home, for the sake of my piano.  I ordered this hygrometer from Amazon and it arrived just a couple of days later (love that).  I was shocked, however, to find that the humidity in my studio was under 20%!  Not good. 

My parents’ piano had a Dampp-Chaser “Piano Life Saver” system installed on it to help with the extreme humidity changes that Michiganders typically experience as part of the Midwest’s highly distinctive four seasons.  Having one of these systems installed on my Kawai isn’t an option financially at this point, so I’m doing my best to figure out how I can keep the humidity more stable by other means even if they aren’t as convenient.

So, I started doing more research about humidity levels and pianos.  I found a multitude of information available online.  Here’s just a few articles:

Basically, I learned that I need to keep the humidity between 30-45% if possible.  So I got out my humidifier from the attic.  The last few days, I’ve been successful in keeping the humidity level right around 30%.  I do think that my piano’s tuning is a little bit better now that the humidity is closer to where it should be.

This is all new territory for me.  If you have tips or suggestions for maintaining a constant humidity level, leave a message in the comments below!

(By the way, I would highly recommend the hygrometer mentioned above to anyone looking for one.  It not only shows the current humidity level and temperature in the room, but it also records the highest and lowest humidity and temperature levels taken throughout the day.  There’s a magnet on the back, or it can also sit quite nicely on any flat surface.)

PG
Joy Morin is a piano teacher in northwest Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. ColorInMyPiano.com serves as a journal of her adventures in piano teaching as well as a place to exchange ideas and resources.

Joy has blogged 1129 posts here.

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10 Comments

  1. Posted 23 January 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I fought this and stressed about it for years. Calgary, Alberta is one of the few places in the world that experiences chinooks, which are extremely dry, warm winds blowing down from the Rockies; then, we get tons of rain in May and June to make up for all the moisture we didn’t get in winter. So when I bought my new piano 4 years ago I coughed up the money for the Dampp-Chaser. Best thing I did for my piano! Find one more student and put that student’s tuition money away every month for as long as you need to fund the thing. Good luck!

    • Posted 31 January 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      Thanks, LaDona! The Dampp-Chaser is definitely on my wishlist. :)

  2. Posted 25 January 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting about the hygrometer, Joy. We’ve been saving up for the Piano Life Saver system, but aren’t quite there yet. I have a humidifier in the piano room but am unsure about how much is too much. (I don’t want it going too far in the other direction now!) I think I’m going to order the hygrometer right now….

  3. Posted 28 January 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    My piano technician recommended to me that I put a small dish or two of water in the bottom of my 52″ upright. I currently put 2 small Philly cream-cheese containers filled with water & every month I check & they’re both empty. I’m pretty convinced that my piano’s tuning is better for it, though I don’t have a hygrometer to monitor anything. We have a dual Dampp-Chaser in the grand at church & I love it too.

  4. Posted 30 January 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Thanks Joy …I never knew that the humidity could affect piano conditions. This may explain some of the pianos sound quality at the college I attended . I’ll keep this post in mind when I get a new piano.

    KLW

    • Posted 7 February 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      Yes, extreme humidity changes can make a piano go out of tune more quickly, because of the expanding and contracting of the wooden pin block. Humidity changes can also affect the soundboard too.

  5. Posted 31 January 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Just an update: We ordered the same hygrometer and have been using it for the past week. What an eye opener!! Even keeping the humidifier at the same level all day, we’ve noticed a large range of humidity: from 30%-60%!! So, we adjust the humidifier level as needed. So glad you blogged about it….

    We also bought a tuning hammer last week, figuring that we can do some small tuning adjustments when needed. Over the past year, I’ve had the piano tuner here 6 times!! Sometimes just for small (but incredibly bothersome) changes, but it’s just been so expensive. So, we experimented with the tuning hammer over the weekend and made some small adjustments to a few of the problem notes and now we can’t believe that we didn’t order one earlier!!! Does anyone else adjust the tuning on their own piano?

    • Posted 7 February 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the update, Stacey! I’ve been really happy with my hygrometer too. It’s definitely worth the $12 to be able to have a better idea of what’s going on in the room. Keep me updated on how it goes using your own tuning hammer. I never considered that would be an option for small adjustments between tunings!

  6. carol halloran
    Posted 1 February 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    here is how I deal with a 4 story Victorian money pit..circa 1905…
    we have radiators in every room and hall and also a heat pump system for forced air furnace and summer air conditioning..$$$$$$
    find a pretty/interesting bowl,pottery etc and keep it filled with water, on top of every radiator……
    check it every few days…your nose will thank you…no more dry nose bleeds.

    love your blog …even a seasoned teacher like myself can pick up great ideas from all the younger,enthusiastic teachers…’

    Carol Halloran
    Ferguson, Missouri

    • Posted 7 February 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      I’ve considered water bowls on the radiators, but our radiators have a curved top and wouldn’t hold a bowl. Plus, I’m not sure our two kitties would leave bowls of water alone…. :) I wish we could do this though! I love your idea of finding pretty and interesting bowls for each room!

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