Cleaning the soundboard and plate of a grand piano can make a huge cosmetic difference! It won’t make the piano look new again (at least, don’t count on it), but if you have a grand piano and like to leave the lid open, make sure you stay on top of cleaning. General purpose, non-abrasive cleaners are fine for the metal plate. The soundboard is a little trickier to clean if you don’t have special equipment to get under the strings, so you may want to talk to your technician about that at your annual appointment. This piano was nearly a century old, and it might have been that long since it was cleaned. There was about an eighth of an inch of dust on the soundboard!
Grand piano soundboards tend to collect dust, and unfortunately they are pretty difficult to clean with any standard household equipment. However, there are some specialized tools, both commercial and handmade, that can do the trick! Pictured here is a soundboard cleaning set that I carry everywhere with me (3 pieces). They’re not too expensive, if you hate dust and want to do it yourself on a regular basis. Alternatively, most piano technicians will do it for a nominal fee. For annual customers who keep up with their tunings, I often do this service free of charge!
This metal frame inside the piano is known as the “plate.” Many people erroneously refer to it as the soundboard. The soundboard is in fact just that – a thin board behind the plate that resonates with the strings and amplifies the sound. The plate is purely structural. And sorry, even though it’s often a nice shiny gold color, the plate is not made of gold! Or even brass, bronze or copper. Other than a few rare, experimental exceptions, all piano plates are made out of cast iron. And that’s why pianos are so heavy.