I Have a Buzz in the piano. What do I do?


This can be easily remedied, but is often hard to find.  There are many things that can cause a buzz or vibration in a piano.  Buzzes which are obvious usually result from something that is sitting on the soundboard, mostly in grand pianos.  Grand pianos have a heavy frame, known as the plate, which holds back the tension of the strings.  It’s the gold colored frame with holes in it inside the piano.  Often, toys, coins, pencils and other items find their way through the openings and rest on the soundboard.  When you play a note, the soundboard vibrates the item and you hear a buzz.  The sound usually lasts about a second or so.  On upright pianos, over time, extension cords, toys, pictures and other things fall behind the piano and rest against the soundboard.  Then you get buzzing sounds similar to grand pianos.

These are the easy buzzes to find, since you can almost always find them by looking.  Using a flashlight and a small mirror, you can see items on a grand piano soundboard, and upright pianos simply have to be pulled away from the wall to see what has fallen behind.

The more difficult buzzes and vibrations are usually structural.  Old pianos often have loose glue joints, cracks in the soundboard, loose screws and other age-related problems develop buzzes that are harder to find, since they are mostly invisible.  Cracks in a soundboard are not necessarily serious, but can cause problems because it can mean that the ribs are coming unglued.  At this point, a technician must determine where the failure is, and determine how to fix it.  Over time, the animal glues used in construction of the piano are getting dried out.  Piano soundboards especially are under stress from the moment they are made.  This helps transmit sound effectively.  But when the glue begins to fail, there can be serious problems in the tone and sustain of the piano.  Buzzes are often the indicator of failure of glue joints to remain tight.

A third problem could be the path of the strings.  Where they go under, over, around, etc., occasionally the sound gets “edgy”, indicating that the string itself is making a buzzing sound.  On a grand piano, the dampers can rub against the strings if the alignment has changed.  A good technician is needed to determine what the problem is and to do a proper repair.

Lastly, items around the piano can vibrate in sympathy with the sound.  Knick-knacks on a shelf, picture frames, even wall sockets and switch plates can cause buzzes if something is loose.  These are very hard to find, because the sound bounces around.  If you have buzzes, start by removing items from around the piano.  See if taking them away makes the buzz go away.  If so, you just found the culprit!

In addition, loose screws in the action, case, lid or other piano parts sometimes get loose and cause buzzes.  Tightening screws is the first step in searching for a buzz, and is sometimes overlooked as a cause.  Ask me how I know!

So, next time you’re hearing the ‘buzz’, you’ll know at least something about where to find it.

If not, give me a call.