Robert Estrin - piano expert

Does a New Piano Need to be Broken In?

How can this concept be applied to a piano?

In this video, Robert answers an interesting question from a viewer which will give you some insights on how a piano changes during its lifetime, and how you can cope with these changes.

Released on December 23, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, this is Robert Estrin at and, with a question from a viewer. Do new pianos have to be broken in? Wow, this is a really interesting idea. And you might wonder, do they? Well, yes and no. There is some truth to this. There are some technicians I've spoken to in fact who say they don't even want to do any fine voicing on a piano until after the piano is broken in because otherwise it's going to change anyway. Well, there's some truth to this. However, in the hands of a great piano technician a brand new piano can be brought to an extraordinarily high level. Now there are other aspects of whether a piano needs to be broken in. Pianos need to be tuned quite a number of times early on to really become stable. So in that sense, they need to be not just broken in. But they have to be adjusted so that they become stable and rewarding for you.

And here's the thing. As you play a piano the hammers impact the strings. And you'll see little grooves where the strings hit the hammer or the hammer hits the strings, I should say. And those grooves are compacted felt and that harder felt gives a brighter tone. So you may notice your piano opening up over time and getting brighter. But a skilled technician can voice the piano to get that brighter sound by treating the hammers in innumerable ways to get that brightness without having to wait months or years to get the brightness if you want a brighter sound out of your piano right from the get go. So yes, your piano does break-in and settle in. And in a perfect world, you work closely with your technician right from the beginning. And yes indeed, as it breaks in it will become more stable and the voicing will last longer for you.

Now the flip side of this is as your piano gets older, particularly certain Asian pianos that have the harder Japanese felt, it might be a thankless task, a losing battle trying to tame down those hard hammers. Because they get so hard hitting the strings so much that needling and treating the hammers, they just go back to that brighter state. And you may have a tough time ever getting that sweet, mellow sound out of older Japanese hammers, in particular, but even American felt if the hammers are really too far gone. So there's a sweet spot. After a couple of years, you should be at optimal performance on most pianos if the environment has been stable and kind and you've had a great technician working on your piano. And you should be able to keep the piano in the high level for many years to come provided the piano isn't abused. Or if the piano is played a tremendous amount, like 14-16 hours a day in a practice room. All bets are off. It's going to be very difficult to get much mellow sound out of a piano that's beaten to death like that. So yes, you must break in your piano and play it, and work closely with a technician getting optimal performance throughout the years. Thanks so much for the great questions. And once again, this is Robert Estrin at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Bill Erwin * VSM MEMBER * on December 23, 2015 @4:54 am PST
Excellent information. Thanks, Robert.
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