This week i’m refinishing an old upright. One that was made in 1917. When this piano was built, houses were not the same as we know them today. Today we have insulation, modern heating capabilities of gas furnaces, baseboards and even oil heaters. Interesting because nearly 90 years after this piano was built, i can just hear the salesman of this piano when it was new out of the factory “And be sure you don’t put the piano on an outside wall”. I came from the prairies… in the prairies, the ice on those old farmhouses in 1917 would have been about as thick on the inside wall as the outside. Without insulation, the wood stoves and fireplaces put out incredibly dry heat. If you put a piano on an outside wall back then, you ran the risk of exposing the piano to fluctuation in temperature and humidity. The cold would come right through those thin uninsulated walls and by day the room would heat up with the old stoves. Back and forth the contraction and expansion would happen on the soundboard. The safer bet would be to put the piano on an inside wall where there was less fluctuation. It wouldn’t cool down like the outside walls.
OK fast forward to the 2012… construction of buildings now have insulation minimums. The walls have are thicker and more resiliant to temperature. So when people ask today if they should house the piano on the outside wall, my litmus test is “If you can touch your wall and it feels close to room temperature, you’re fine”. That dispells many of the myths of why pianos should or shouldn’t be on an outside wall.