Johnson's Piano Service

We schedule tuning appointments Monday through Friday between 9 AM to 5 PM.

Jim is a traditional aural (by ear tuner) using the equal temperament method that has been used for centuries. When he arrives he will use an electronic tuning fork set at A-440 to get the starting note and determine what the pitch of the piano is. Since the tuning process from this point on involves listening to and matching various harmonics, it is important that the tuning environment be very quiet. Playing the TV, running the vacuum, birds or barking dogs or even moderate conversation levels can make it impossible for the tuner to hear what he needs to hear. Children are often very curious about the inside of their piano and what the tuner is doing. Jim welcomes their questions and curiosity. Anyone is welcome to watch quietly as Jim tunes. 

Each half step on the piano (e.g. going from C to C-sharp) is a semi-tone and is divided into 100  divisions called "cents", just like the dollar. So when the pitch is off by 10% or more (e.g.10 cents or more), the tuner will recommend doing a pitch raise.

  • Square grands – these are pianos that are square with horizontal strings, mostly from the last half of the 19th century.
  • Birdcage verticals – these pianos were built in England or Germany during the latter part of the 19th century and are a favorite of antique dealers because of their beautiful woodwork. However, the mechanics of these pianos were so poorly designed that it is almost impossible to tune them or keep them in tune.  They are called birdcage because of the long damper wires in the action.

When Jim arrives to tune a piano for the first time, he will evaluate the piano and make sure it is structurally sound enough to handle being tuned. If he determines that the piano is in a grossly deteriorating condition, he may decline to tune it. This happens rarely.

What is the cost of asking questions?

What kinds of pianos do you tune?

Do you work weekends and holidays?

  • The basic tuning fee is $110.00 for any piano that is at pitch or  less than 10 cents flat (this term is explained below). Piano more than 10 cents flat require a pitch raise (a double tuning) which adds $75 to the base price. In addition, cleaning out the inside of the piano and most minor repairs (sticky keys, etc.) are included in the base tuning price.
  • A service call to repair something that has gone wrong since the tuning is $75.00 plus any additional parts or labor that might be required.
  •  The appraisal fee is also $75.00.
  • The fees for reconditioning are dependent on each piano's condition and typically range from $500 to $1000 or more.

It depends. If it is a new piano, it should be tuned every 6 months for the first 4-5 years. If it is holding a tune well, then it can go on a yearly schedule. 


If you are a teacher or musician, you will want to tune your piano every 6 months so that it always sounds good. This is also true for churches. At a minimum, the piano should be tuned in December so that it sounds good for the Christmas season. 

December is the month with the highest demand for tunings. Do not wait until the last minute to schedule your tuning. It is best to call right after Thanksgiving.

If your child is taking lessons, you will want to make sure your piano stays in tune so that your child’s ear is properly trained so tune your piano every 6 months.

Schools should have their pianos tuned every August just before the start of school and again in the Spring before any spring concerts are held.

If you have a premium brand of piano such as Steinway, Baldwin, Yamaha, Kawai, Mason Hamlin, Schimmel, etc, you will want to protect your investment and tune every 6 months.

What if your piano is one of the less expensive models?  It is still a good idea to tune it on a 
regular basis because an inexpensive piano, if broken in properly, can settle down and become a good instrument. But this can only happen with regular tunings.

We have a customer who bought a nice Baldwin Spinet. She was never told why she should have regular tunings during the period of time she first bought it. During the first 
22 years she had the piano, it was only tuned 3 times. It has taken several years of tunings every 6 months to get the piano to finally settle down. 

A piano that is 
never tuned from the time it is new can be permanently damaged to the point that it will never hold a good tuning.

 There is a common misperception that you tune a piano when it starts to sound bad. Some people wait so long that the piano can be as much as a whole step flat. They think this is economical but in fact what happens is that the piano never gets conditioned to stay in tune. The reality is that the piano starts to go out of tune as soon as the tuner is done tuning. This is because so many factors can affect the tuning. If your piano is really out of tune, put it on a 6 month
schedule for 18 months to 2 years. A reputable tuner will tell when it is OK to reduce the frequency. But after a year, just because the piano sounds “OK”, don’t postpone the tuning. Keep it on a regular schedule of at least  1 tuning every year.

What do you charge?

Jim tunes all pianos except:

We do not schedule tunings on weekends or holidays unless it is an emergency for an existing customer.  However, you are welcome to call with your questions any day from 8 AM to 9 PM.

When do you have appointments?

Do you know any good piano teachers?

There are many excellent teachers in the greater Sacramento area and if you click on the tab on the left of this page, it will take you to our list.

What method do you use to tune?

You are welcome to call or email your questions. There is no charge for conversation and imparting knowledge. While in your home, please ask Jim all your questions – we want our customers to be as well educated about their pianos as possible. 

When you are buying a piano, we want to make sure that you get the best piano possible for your money.  To help you, please send us an email and ask for our free report “How to Buy a Used Piano”.

How often should a piano be tuned?

Piano Tuning FAQs

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions

  • What kinds of pianos do you tune?
  • How often should a piano be tuned?
  • What do you charge?
  • When do you have appointments?
  • Do you work weekends and holidays?
  • What method do you use to tune?
  • What is the cost of asking questions?
  • Do you know any good piano teachers?