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10 Questions (& Answers) About Piano Strings (+ 1 action to avoid)

strings on grand piano
Grand piano strings: wound strings on the left layered over plain strings

Q1: How many strings does a piano have?

Pianos have between 230-260 strings, depending on the model.

Q2: Are there different types of strings on a piano?

There are two types of strings on a piano: plain and wound (sometimes called treble and bass). Plain strings are made of steel wire and come in various gauges and are found in the tenor to treble section. Wound strings are made from steel wire wound with copper wire and are found in the bass to tenor section.

Q3: Is there one string per note?

The keys in the lowest bass register play one string each. After the first octave (where exactly depends on the model of piano), each key plays two strings. Starting somewhere in the tenor section (depending on make and model), the keys play three strings. On some rare pianos, like the Blüthner brand, there are keys that play four strings in the highest octave.

Q4: Are strings dangerous!? (Is this a real question!?!)

Strings aren’t really dangerous, but it’s good to be aware that piano strings are under a tremendous amount of tension. While plain string breakages usually happen during a tuning, wound strings often break without warning and, on a grand piano, can become projectiles.

Q5: Can a broken string be repaired?

Depending on what part of the string the break occurred, it may be possible for a technician to splice it, which involves tying pieces of new string to the nonspeaking parts of the old.

Q6: Do new strings sound different than old strings?

New strings tend to sound brighter than old strings, which is why splicing is preferred to replacing when possible, to maintain a consistent sound across the piano.

upright piano strings
Piano strings on an upright piano. Wound strings run across plain strings from top left to bottom right

Q7: Can a technician repair or replace a broken string during a tuning?

Most technicians carry various gauges of plain strings with them and would be able to repair or replace a string, if needed. If you know you have a broken string, make sure to mention it when scheduling your next tuning appointment so some extra time can be built into your appointment for this service. Changing a string on a spinet is a bear of a task, and some technicians may not be willing to do service on those pianos.

Q8: What about wound strings?

Wound strings are specific to the piano, so they have to be custom-made or ordered from a manufacturer by a technician.

Q9: Why did my technician put on special gloves before they changed my strings?

Wound strings are made with copper and easily tarnished, so it’s best to avoid touching them with bare hands. They’re also very sharp and can cut and scratch through the process of handling.

Q10: What causes strings to wear out?

There are a number of things that can wear strings quickly. Loud, repetitious playing can cause them to break. Over time, dust and dirt may get in between the wound parts of the bass strings, causing them to sound dull. Inconsistent climate at the piano can cause strings to corrode or become brittle. In a climate controlled piano with normal playing, strings can last 20-30 years or more!
technician changing piano strings
David changing plain strings

+1 Bonus: My string just broke. Should I throw it out?

If you have a broken string, avoid throwing it out. It might be repairable with a splice, or the technician may need to mail it to a string manufacturer for duplication and replacement.


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