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#2223633 - 01/31/14 12:45 PM DamppChaser effect on tuning stability in a vertical piano?
LindaD Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/07/12
Posts: 6
Loc: Houston, TX
I got a new Pearl River upright piano (UP TS130) in June of 2013 and have since had a lot of tuning stability problems. (The piano had had a modified action installed, after which it spent about a month in transit to Houston, so it came to me somewhat fresh from the factory -- it did not spend a year in a dealer's showroom). Altogether, it's been tuned 5 times between July and January. Each time, the Piano Tech would tell me that the tuning should hold 3-4 months, but each time it was out within a few days. The temperature in the room varied from 69 to 76, and the humidity in the room varied from 55 to 66%. After the 4th tuning (about 2 months ago), the tech put in a DamppChaser, which has maintained the humidity inside the cabinet at 42-45%. It's hard to say if this has helped the stability. Today, only 3 weeks from the 5th and most recent tuning, it is out again: not "terrible" according to my RPT, but not good either. He says, "It is not as clean as it should be." By the way, he had to overpull the tenor and treble registers and tune them twice to get them up to pitch.

I know that all new pianos are not so stable for several months, but when the RPT tuned it 3 weeks ago (after the DamppChaser had been in almost 2 months), he said it should be good for 3-6 months because of the DC and all the tunings it's had. But it's not. I think the problem is with the piano, but the folks who sold me the piano say the DamppChaser is the problem! They say the DamppChaser hurts the tuning stability of a vertical piano because it is next to the strings. They say that the only solution is to remove the DamppChaser and dehumidify my house down to 45%.

It is not possible to dehumidify just the piano room, as this room is quite open to the rest of the house. My house is old and on piers. I have blown insulation into the walls behind the asbestos shingles(but there's no Tyvek moisture barrier), and the house is mostly carpeted, so the floors are well sealed even if the walls aren't. I live in Houston, where the humidity varies a lot, but I have central HVAC -- in the summer and much of the winter, the indoor humidity usually ranges from 55-65%, as I said, and in the few really cold days of winter, it goes down to 35-45%. The DamppChaser keeps the humidity inside the cabinet in the range of 42-45%; the temperature inside the cabinet rises to 80 degrees when the room humidity is high. I do not have the moisturizing version of the DamppChaser because there is rarely a need to make the humidity higher than it is, and the DC does have humidistat control. The RPT who has tuned the piano (he's worked for me for a few years with an old piano I had) does not sell the moisture-adding variant in Houston, and he did not recommend the DC until after the first 4 tunings had failed to hold. He has 30 years experience as an RPT.

I think that in telling me the only solution is to dehumidify the house, the piano dealer may be setting an unreasonable requirement for owning their piano. I have lots of piano-owning friends here who do not dehumidify anything. A certified Steinway rebuilder here in Houston says a piano should be fine in any house with central heat and air.

So, to boil it down:
1. Does the DamppChaser significantly and negatively affect tuning stability in a vertical piano?
2. What is your experience with the value of DamppChaser in a vertical piano?
3. Am I justified in wanting to return this piano? In the 6-7 months I've had it, I don't think it's been in tune more than a week or two...

Thanks VERY much!

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#2223708 - 01/31/14 03:31 PM Re: DamppChaser effect on tuning stability in a vertical piano? [Re: LindaD]
BenP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 166
Loc: South Jersey
Your best source of information for your concern is the technician that is already servicing your piano. It sounds like he is excellent and you have a good working relationship with him.

Originally Posted By: LindaD
1. Does the DamppChaser significantly and negatively affect tuning stability in a vertical piano?
2. What is your experience with the value of DamppChaser in a vertical piano?


I have only been in this field for a few years, but I've never heard of a dealer blaming a DamppChaser system for much of anything, much less tuning stability - the very thing it is engineered to improve. I live in a different climate than you, but I have had excellent success with DC systems in upright pianos.

Originally Posted By: LindaD
3. Am I justified in wanting to return this piano? In the 6-7 months I've had it, I don't think it's been in tune more than a week or two...


IMHO, absolutely. There is no reason for that level of instability. I have a relatively low quality Chinese-made upright, about 12 years old, with no humidity control whatsoever, that still holds its tune just fine for several months.

It's possible that you got a lemon, or that there are deeper factors at play. Other more experienced techs might be able to offer more insight. But as I said earlier, the RPT who has been working on your piano is by far the best judge.
_________________________
Ben Patterson
Part-time Piano Tech
Rural South Jersey

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#2223723 - 01/31/14 04:06 PM Re: DamppChaser effect on tuning stability in a vertical piano? [Re: LindaD]
SMHaley Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/13
Posts: 556
Loc: Seattle
Its certainly possible that it did not get the prep it needed. If the pinblock seems appropriately tight to the technician then, with some proper prep, there isn't any foreseeable reason it shouldn't stabilize at some point. Unlike cars, pianos don't always come off the line "ready to play."

Its important that the piano placed in a stable location (away from vents or windows with direct sun). Swings in humidity certainly aren't ideal... and when the DC unit was installed it should have the humidistat also installed. I feel its important for a full system to be installed (including the humidifier) and not just the heater. Some older techs would put in only the heat bar without the control unit - running it constantly can have negative effects.
_________________________
AA Music Arts 2001, BM 2005
Pipe Organ Builder
Practitioner of piano technology
Church Music Professional
Curator of instruments - Chancel Arts
Baldwin F 1960 (146256)
Zuckermann Flemish Single

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#2224252 - 02/01/14 03:45 PM Re: DamppChaser effect on tuning stability in a vertical piano? [Re: LindaD]
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1187
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
My vote is to return the piano before you are out of the warranty period, if they will take it back, and find a reputable rebuilder that your tech respects, and get a good quality rebuilt piano.

IME, damp chasers can cause problems if they are not maintained. But you have no humidification bar, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Some pianos are more sensitive to humidity changes.

If it goes sharp in the summer, it is a humidity problem.

New strings go flat for quite a while before they stabilize.

There is also a possibility that there is an issue with the pinblock/plate fitting, if it has one.

But as has already been said, consult your tech.

One caveat though. I've been dropped twice by a local dealer for advising customers to exchange pianos. Is your tech recommended by the dealer, and does he get some customers from them?
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2224268 - 02/01/14 04:04 PM Re: DamppChaser effect on tuning stability in a vertical piano? [Re: LindaD]
jim ialeggio Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 621
Loc: shirley, MA
How tight are the tuning pins on this thing, and what is the rendering like? Ask the techs who tuned it, they will know.

The instability may be caused because the piano's strings do not render well. Add poor rendering to tight pins, and to still stabilizing strings and, you have a recipe for failed tunings. I'd look here, rather than at the DC performance.

I service numbers of these blasted Chinese pianos which are simply impossible to tune in a stable fashion. I have, on all of the aforementioned pianos, followed up other tuners who could not achieve stability on these things, and had been boon-swaggled by the complete lack of rendering feedback.

The MO is similar to your MO, ie, 3 weeks later, they sound as if they haven't been tuned in 3 yrs. I'm getting better at tuning them, but it takes me 3 hrs and the client pays for the extra time.

Jim Ialeggio
_________________________
Jim Ialeggio
www.grandpianosolutions.com
advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
Shirley Center, MA

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#2224438 - 02/02/14 12:08 AM Re: DamppChaser effect on tuning stability in a vertical piano? [Re: LindaD]
Monaco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/28/11
Posts: 387
Loc: GA
I am convinced that installing a Damppchaser system in my upright has increased stability.
_________________________
Ben Ereddia
Piano Teacher
Beginning Tech

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#2225240 - 02/03/14 02:23 PM Re: DamppChaser effect on tuning stability in a vertical piano? [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
LindaD Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/07/12
Posts: 6
Loc: Houston, TX
Originally Posted By: Mark Cerisano, RPT
My vote is to return the piano before you are out of the warranty period, if they will take it back, and find a reputable rebuilder that your tech respects, and get a good quality rebuilt piano.


Turns out that the dealer considers my piano (received in June 2013) as a used piano that they will not take back. However, (and this is the good news), they are going to run an experiment to uncover what, if anything, is wrong: They will pay my RPT to install 3 laboratory temperature and humidity recording devices inside and adjacent to the piano. The RPT will tune the piano, and I will measure pitch of selected strings daily. After 2-3 months, the recorders will be sent back and the data analyzed, after which they will make the decision about whether or not to repurchase the piano. My RPT I think really made this happen by his statement that the piano was not behaving as it should. So we'll see, and I'll post results.

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