Are Piano Strings Dangerous? (Risks Explained)

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

Though it is unlikely that piano strings could cause injury, there are some potential risks. As a result it is best to be careful when dealing with piano strings.

This article outlines the risks and provides some tips to maximize your safety.

What Are Piano Strings Made Out Of?

Piano strings are made from quality materials. Iron was widely preferred many years ago. But now, the most commonly used are high carbon steel and copper mainly because of the benefits they bring, thereby completely replacing iron.

Both high carbon steel and copper are well-known for their durability and capability to withstand the tension brought by the piano,  which means they are unlikely to snap easily. They also excellently maintain a ringing frequency when struck by the piano’s hammers.

A piano utilizes three carbon steel per note in its middle and treble, while the bass consists of a carbon steel core with copper winding. It has a solid core with an outer winding around the string. 

The only evident difference is that piano strings are longer and thicker compared to guitar strings, and are much capable of resisting higher tension. These strings are typically 0.2mm to 1.5mm, which varies depending on the pitch of the note.

Notably, a thinner wire is used to produce high-pitched notes while low-pitched notes require a thicker wire. This is done to ensure that an acoustic piano has that signature bass level and fullness of sound in different octaves. 

Strings must also be thick in order to vibrate at a lower and more forceful frequency when struck by the hammer. The thickness of piano strings varies between 50 various thickness sizes to ensure that their tension is evenly distributed throughout the frame and soundboard.

Each piano string is tensioned to a weight of 75 to 100 kilos, approximately, resulting in roughly 20 tons of tension stress generated throughout the piano, which is why a cast-iron frame is used.

Is It Possible To Injure Yourself On A Piano String?

It is possible to harm yourself with a piano string, though this is quite unlikely. However, any injuries you may sustain are likely to be minor and not life-threatening, unless it hits your eyes.

As previously stated, these strings are made of high carbon steel and copper and are under a great deal of tension, making them extremely sharp. They can cause great damage which is why extreme caution is advised when handling piano strings.

Cutting yourself with these strings is the most common type of injury. If you apply friction to piano strings carelessly, such as rubbing them with your fingertips, you also risk cutting yourself. 

Nevertheless, piano strings are not capable of afflicting danger and injury on their own. These strings aren’t like rubber and elastic materials that may snap and hit you when tension is applied. They only become dangerous when mishandled carelessly.

Can You Cut Piano Strings?

Piano strings are possible to cut, but it’s not as easy as you think it is. The process of cutting them will certainly require you to have specific cutting equipment and protective gear. 

These strings are made from high-quality metals that are durable and heavy-duty. They don’t snap easily and some of them are wound strings similar to guitar strings – only a lot thicker.

So, if you’re thinking that a pair of scissors can effortlessly cut piano strings, you are definitely mistaken. 

The most appropriate tools used in cutting piano strings are diagonal cutting pliers. But even with this equipment, it may still require you to exert more strength and effort to cut through them – that’s how thick piano strings are.

An angle grinder, on the other hand, is a more effortless and convenient method in cutting wound piano strings. You just simply let the machine do the work for you.

If you’re planning on handling piano strings for whatever reason, make sure to wear protective gear, protective eye goggles, and gloves to prevent you from obtaining injuries.

Finally, it is essential to loosen the piano strings before performing any cutting procedures and to do this in a spacious working area away from people. This ensures not just your safety but others as well.

Do Piano Strings Ever Snap Or Break?

There are a variety of reasons why your piano strings may snap or break. Here are a few factors that could predispose your piano strings to breakage.

  1. Your Piano’s Age – As time passes, your piano will show signs of aging. Its strings may break, fail, and rust. However, depending on the quality of your piano, this could take up to 50 years.
  1. Aggressive And Forceful Use – Another reason why strings break could be because of aggressive playing, which can cause wear and tear. Even though each of these strings can withstand about 150 pounds of tension, constant and long-term aggressive playing may cause your piano strings to snap.
  1. Poor String Installation From Repairs – If you’ve had your piano repaired before, poor installations could lead to string breakage. Improper string mounting and bearing pressure are only some of the factors that might cause your piano to snap. To guarantee that your piano is correctly handled when it is repaired, make sure you go to verified and trusted service centers that are professionals in the field.
  1. Temperature Regulation – Because piano strings are sensitive to temperature variations, temperature control might cause them to break. Maintaining a constant humidity level is critical not just for preventing string breakage, but also for preserving your pianos’ performance and functionality. The ideal relative humidity percentage should be between 40 and 50.
  1. Frequent Contact With Strings – Touching your strings is another action that can cause them to break. It has been proved that our hands contain oils that can damage the delicate and fragile components of pianos, particularly those made of metal. Piano strings may develop rust and corrosion when contaminated with these oils, thus resulting in weaker strings and predisposing them to breakage.
  1. Defective Strings – The most uncommon and unlucky reason why piano strings snap or break is due to defective strings, typically in mass-produced piano models. Investing in a high-quality piano is always a wise decision

How Can I Stay Safe When Dealing With Piano Strings? 

People deal with piano strings for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is maintenance and repairs. After learning about the dangers and injuries you can face when dealing with them, it is important to remember these essential precautions that you can take to avoid any unwanted incidents

When your piano requires repair or maintenance, it is strongly advised that you contact a piano technician. If piano technicians aren’t available, look for experienced people who know how to work with piano strings safely.

You might benefit from watching them how to do it and learn through observation. This will be highly useful for you in the future, especially if you plan to fix the problem yourself if it recurs.

Although, knowledge and experience may not always be enough. When dealing with piano strings, it is vital to wear the necessary protective gear as well as be equipped with the appropriate tools.

Here are some of the necessary gear you need to wear to stay safe when handling piano strings.

  1. Protective masks – Protective masks may help prevent you from inhaling dust and rust you remove from your piano strings.
  1. Gloves – Protective gloves help keep your whole hand safe from any cuts brought by rusty sharp strings. 
  1. Goggles – Protective goggles serve as protection for your eyes from dust, rust, and any sharp objects that may hit them.

Certain tools and equipment, such as diagonal pliers or angle grinders, are necessary for repairing or removing piano strings. Both tools aid in ensuring a clean and safe cut on these piano strings with less effort exerted. 

Final Remarks

Pianos should not be dismantled without loosening the strings first, because these wires are under a lot of tension and can do a lot of damage if they fly around. Even if they’re loosened, they’re still dangerous because you never know which way they’ll jump.

Piano strings range in thickness from 0.2 mm to 1.5 mm, which is about 30 times the diameter of the thickest guitar string. They can be very sharp and can lead to injuries.

Remember to remain cautious when dealing with piano strings and always consider them as a potential hazard.