The Piano Space

Piano Placement

The importance of piano placement is an oft-overlooked issue, but it can mean the difference between an instrument that remains healthy for decades and one that degrades quickly within a few years. Determining where to put a piano is typically a difficult one given the limited places available and the desire to maintain an attractively decorated home. For this reason guidance on piano placement can't be given definitively - only you can determine where a piano would look and sound best. However, when making that decision be sure to take note of the places that one should NOT put a piano.

  • The general rule in all cases is to place a piano in a room or place that does not undergo humidity and temperature extremes, but rather enjoys regular and consistent levels. Seek out a space which has a relatively constant humidity level of 40-45%.  This might be naturally acheived, but it is more likely that you will need to artificially control the humidity level, either with a humidifier or by conscientous use of your heating/air system. 
  • Never put a piano next to a radiator, fireplace or, wood burning stove. The radiant heat from these can do a lot of damage to the finish. The wood will also continually swell when the heat is applied and then contract when the heat is gone - remember extreme fluctuations of this kind are the bane of pianos.
  • Pianos should never be stored in an excessively damp place such as basements. The humidity will ruin the piano very quickly. It will also very likely acquire a great deal of mold and mildew, which is difficult to remove.
  • Don't put a piano in front of, over, or under air vents. The temperature changes can alter humidity levels around the piano while the airflow across the piano can cause the wood surfaces to dry out.
  • Do not place a piano in direct sunlight. The radiant heat from the sun can damage the finish and if it shines directly on the soundboard will alter the tuning on a daily basis. Furthermore, these drastic changes will alter rapidly as the sun rises and sets - another example of extreme changes that should be avoided. If it must go in front of a window then be sure to use the blinds and curtains to block the sun's rays. Be careful though, this would become a daily task that is easily forgotten.
  • Try not to keep a piano against an exterior wall. Naturally, there is a great deal of temperature and humidity variation between the inside and outside of a building. The exterior walls provide the barrier to the outside world and thus are more susceptible to these fluctuations than interior walls. If you must use an outside wall then leave a space of a few inches between the wall and the piano.
  • Pianos weigh between 500-1200 lbs., so be sure to check the integrity of the flooring. This is more important in older houses and shouldn't be a concern in newer buildings.
  • Be aware that the size and contents of a room will affect the piano's tonal quality, as will the flooring material (carpet, tile, bare wood). Carpeting will give a muffled and mellow tone while tile or wood often render a bright or even echoing sound. All of the things in an acoustic space either absorb or reflect the sound, which can either add or detract from the piano's acoustic qualities.  Don't place a sizeable piano in a small room, the sound will be dissapointing.  For a starting reference, a 6 foot grand should not be placed in a space less than about 300 sq. ft. 
  • One must also consider the ergonomic space needed around a piano. Apart from the physical dimensions of the instrument be sure to account for the playing space needed, which will be about 2-3 feet out from the keyboard. It is also good to leave a buffer of space of a few feet around the circumference of a grand so as not to inhibit the transmission of it's sound.

After reading these points you may be wondering whether there is any suitable place left in your home to put your piano. This is often the case when contemplating piano placement - the available options disappear rapidly once aesthetics, functional requirments, and all of the above considerations are taken into hand. The simple fact, as with all interior decorating, is that compromises will have to be made. However, the above points have been listed in order of importance to your piano's health, with the first being the most and the last being the least important. So, when compromises must be made be sure to do so with those near the bottom of this list.

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