kind of Rock !
Visit our Music Page
the photo, James P. Johnson, the Black musician
who transformed rag time into
SCHAAF-- 1912-- HERE IS BUTTERFLY VENEER AT ITS BEST
far as I know, there is no butterfly veneer work being done on anything on earth
today, especially not on pianos. This piano was restored by Jenifer Strickland,
Phone: 415-563-5615, Upholstery Arts and Home Improvement, San Francisco CA 94102.
The restoration is beautiful, but especially since the original veneer work
Butterfly veneer is all taken from
the same tree. The veneer is cut from the butt of the tree, and a blade is used
which is run through the tree butt at about a 30 degree angle. This makes for
a very active grain in the veneer. Piece after piece is cut, and it is all used
on one piano (or on a table and other furniture). The end blocks and key slip
are often solid wood from the same tree, as are the leg pedestals. This is why
you see in the picture that the piano has perfect due and patina throughout. This
is not possible if wood is used from several trees, even of the same kind of tree.
get the butterfly look, the cabinet maker takes a piece of veneer, cuts it to
perfection, and lays it on the base wood so that it will come half way to the
middle of the board being covered. Then the craftsman takes the next piece of
veneer from the same tree, and he has to make a perfect cut and fit, turn it end
for end, and fit it to meet the first piece. The result is the "butterfly"
look of the grain fanning out from the middle. I have seen this done so well that
you virtually cannot see any crack where the two pieces meet.
is done on the front board, the bottom board, the top, the fall board (front and
top), and often the ends are done vertically. The key cover is the most amazing
one, for the veneer also has to be curved around the cover.
is old world craftsmanship, and it is basically a lost art. The cost to do a butterfly
veneer today would be almost as much as the rest of the piano, what with the fanatical
cutting of the wood, labor costs, and the time it takes to do this kind of work.
There is something sad about losing some of these skills to modern ways. As far
as I know, even Steinway will not do a butterfly veneer.
Jenifer to your attention, for she clearly can bring them back.
STORY THAT BREAKS THE MOLD
encourage her young son's progress on the piano, a mother took the small boy to
a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the
audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore
the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his
way through a door marked "NO ADMITTANCE."
When the house lights dimmed
and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered
that her son was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused
on the impressive Steinway on stage.
In horror, the mother saw her
little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle Little
At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly
moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit." "Keep playing."
Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling
in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child
and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice
transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The
audience was mesmerized.
TECH SAVES OLD KIMBALL
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2001
Subject: Bridge separation
Thank you for your online
book, which helped me not only avoid getting ripped off by a dishonest tech, but
also helped me to know when I finally found a good one, and helped me to discuss
my piano problems with him intelligently.
My new tech is both a member
of the PTG AND Steinway trained, but don't hold that against him. He shaped the
all of the hammers, set/shimmed the pins in my poor old Kimball baby grand (1923
model), and re-tuned it 3-4 times to bring it back up to A=440, so that it now
holds pitch for the very first time -- and even though it took a LOT longer than
he thought it would (i.e. all day), he only charged me the $250 he quoted (parts
& labor). Plus, we discovered the following, which may or may not be new to you
and your readers:
Problem: Muddy, ugly dead sound in the bass, from
an octave below middle C to the C below that.
Previous techs suggested
that the bass bridge may have separated from the soundboard at the upper (hammer)
end, resulting in a loss of bearing angle, but it turns out that the bridge is
subject to two different forces (pay attention now).
It is subject
to *downbearing* which may cause it to separate from the soundboard at the upper
end, and also to the force of the strings pulling it toward the hammers, by means
of the tension on the bridge pins, which may cause it to separate at the tail
end -- depending upon which glue joint decides to give way first.
By experimentation (i.e., by pushing down on the bridge), we discovered that the
problem was not too little bearing angle, but too much, leading us to conclude
that the bridge had separated at the tail end. Pushing down on the bass bridge
resulted in a DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT IN TONE.
We then tightened the
mounting screws on the bass bridge (located under the soundboard -- too bad if
your piano doesn't have these). Although this did not give us the *dramatic* improvement
cited above, it did result in a noticeable improvement in bass tone.
BTW: Although I gave him plenty of opportunities, this tech did not try to sell
me a lot of expensive work as others did; instead, he patiently explained why
it would not be worth putting that much money into my old "beater." Nice guy,
huh? If you would like his name & number for inclusion in your list of nice-guy
techs, I would be happy to provide them.
PIANO TUNING AND POTENTIAL HEARING LOSS
I asked this gentleman to look into the noise factor of piano tuning since I am
concerned if we can do harm to ourselves in this trade. I really appreciate this
very good work on the topic.
From: "Wayne Edwards"
To: "Steve's Piano Service" email@example.com
Subject: Hearing loss
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001
I broached the subject of possible hearing loss among piano tuner in
a previous e-mail, and have since made some measurements. Also have some suggestions
for anyone concerned about hearing loss.
I measured the sound pressure
level near where my head would be when tuning. I measured tones in the 78 - 84
dB range, with peaks around 90 dB. Now, my meter doesen't respond perfectly to
the peak sound of the hammer hitting the string, so I'd guess it's in the 94 to
100 dB range. Someday when I have more time, I'll measure the peak more accurately.
Now, pianos, tuners, and rooms vary, so realize this is a sample of one. Your
mileage may vary.
What does this mean? Well, OSHA starts their daily
noise exposure limits at 90dB for up to 8 hours per day. This drops to 4 hours
at 95 dB, and 2 hours at 100 dB. Many people think the OSHA limits are too lenient
- that is, even observing the "official" limits, one could experience hearing
loss after a few years. Personally, I start with hearing protection at about 80
dB, even for short periods of time.
One resource for information is
a good audiologist, or "House Ear Institute" at www.hei.org.
protection, anyone who deals with sounds, music, or noise on an ongoing basis
owes it to themselves to get some ear molds made. These molds fit the ear much
better than one-size earplugs, making them more comfortable to wear. They also
maybe fitted with "hi-fi" attenuators that "turn down" the sound while keeping
the frequencies in balance. I finally got a pair, and it makes live sound mixing
(and family reunions) so much easier. Of course, I now need to use a meter, to
protect everyone else's hearng, but that's another story. At least in my first
tuning attempt, they did not seem to hinder my fledgling abilities to hear the
beats and unisons.
I hope this is useful, and I that have not spoken
out of turn. Some people get a wee bit touchy about the subject. But anymore,
I consider good hearing protection just another professional tool.
Soli Deo Gloria,
David Lechner Checks In
David has restored his own piano, and he purchased materials and parts from us.
We occasionally share with you how this went.
David's piano will speak
for itself and for David's zeal and skill.
also wrote a poem for us. Poetry is a dying art in modern society, so I was startled
at this poem. I have visited a number of piano shops where the following scene
is very real.
Dave Lechner, 1999
In silent rows
now, side by side, the old pianos stand.
Waiting quietly to see, their future
dim, or grand.
Do, Do-Do-Do, Re-Do- Up front the tuner works.
Once a living room they had, filled with warmth and cheer
practicing, scales and notes, Christmas carols sung each year
Mi, Re-Mi, Do-Re-Mi,
all shining new, preparing for delivery-
Mi, Mi-Fa, Mi-Fa, Fa-Mi.
for a slight discount, they sit now in the back-
Gathering dust now, dirty
keys, silent whites and blacks.
Sol, Fa-Sol-Sol-Sol-Sol, Do-Mi-Sol.
forward to a home, admiring friends and neighbors.
La, Sol-La, Sol-La, La-La-La.
Wondering if those happy days will ever come once more-
Waiting for a random
glance, to move past front of store.
Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Each string
is tuned with care.
Sol-La-Ti, La-Ti, Sol-La-Ti.
Perhaps a pardon yet
will come, a staying grant from scrap.
The days slip by, the dust grows thick,
in silence in the back.
Do! do, Do, do-Me-Sol-Do!
Ready for a brand new
life! A new piano! Harmony!
Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do!
rows, still side by side, some tall, all aged, a grand,
For thoughtful buyers,
waiting still, the old pianos stand.
"Birdcage Action" Challenge
have told you about how tuners will intimidate you folks. Well, the UK is just
as bad for this as the USA. Here is how it works in the UK, and thanks to these
folks for the letter.
From: "Shane ________"
To: Steve Van Nattan
Subject: Thank you for your site.
Date: Thu, 20
My wife and I love your Piano website.
It has been a great comfort to us. Let me explain. We have been looking for a
new piano for a few months. (We had one up until 5 years ago, but we moved house
and had to sell it - we bought a Yamaha keyboard, but they are not the same are
In our local paper a few weeks ago we found an advert for a
piano which 'needs some attention' it was only £100 (about $160 ish). We went
and had a quick look at it. It is 'straight strung' and 'over dampered' We have
since learned that this is about the worst kind there is. It sounded awful but,
foolishly, I thought that because all the notes made a sound it must be repairable.
We bought it home in a van and then I telephoned a local tuner. He
advised me that we had 'bought a pile of junk' and the guy who sold it to us should
have offered us money to take it off his hands! In short the tuner guy wasn't
interested in even attempting to tune it.
My wife wanted a second
opinion so we called in another tuner. He said the same thing. He suggested that
we drag it into the garden and set fire to it! Not what we wanted to hear at all.
I asked him if it was possible to repair and he said it was - but it was not worth
the effort. I asked him I would be able to have a go at tuning it myself. - He
laughed at me!! Then he showed me some of his tools and told me that all the kit
I would need would cost me a fortune.
We spent a few days being upset
and then we discovered your website. You have obviously put a lot of time and
effort into your book and catalog. Well done, and thank you.
like to order the 'Touch up tool kit' ( I don't want risk too much cash). Which
I will order by phone with my credit card. How much is the handling and carriage
to England? Are there any other taxes to pay?
Thanks again for the
Shane and June
Note: The tool kit
Shane is buying from us costs $ 43 (With a Sabine meter, $114). Someone is just
a bit off, right. We will keep an eye on Shane's venture and let you know how
it works out.
People Encourage Customers to tune their own Pianos
a GREAT service to the public is done by your site! I've been a tuner/tech for
years now, in Michigan (since 1976)...(!) I ran Grand Traverse Piano Service for
10 yrs, and Action Piano Service for the past 12 years here in Kalamazoo area.
We do rebuilding and player piano work, and of course service work in the field.
Your website (and excerpts) is really a great
idea. For years I have been trying to convince my customers to be "lighter" in
their attitude regarding tuning their own instruments, and have even convinced
a few to buy tools to keep ahead of the problem. The professional musicians/teachers
are the most likely to go this route. Now I have a great website (yours!) to refer
people to, and also a lay-person available source of parts and tools. Thanks!
Obviously, I am not the least threatened by
your approach, although I can well imagine you receive some criticism from the
old guard. Overall, your site and approach is really very refreshing, truthful,
and enlightened. Very nice indeed.
I are full time musicians/piano techs. Jane does player restoration on the bench,
I do the field work and also bench work on players. Again, thanks for the great
Check out this site and visit the store if you are in
in a hidden hinge fixed with drinking straw
for your advice on fixing nagging squeaks. My wife is very pleased that I was
able to eliminate a nagging squeak that was produced when she used her sustain
pedal. I located the squeak on the hinge of the bar that was operated when the
sustain pedal was pressed. However, I couldn't reach the area at first. That is,
until I took a soda straw and placed one end on the end of the hinge and then
sprayed my silicone in through he other end. A short spray and the squeak was
gone. It had been a real aggravating pest. My wife plays the piano for our church
and practices at home. She was getting very aggravated with a lazy hammer and
the squeak. Thanks to your sight I was able to remedy both. Thank you very much
for your web page and, most of all, for your helpful advice. My wife and I appreciate
it very much.
James M. Block
IS NEW TO ME--
And, it sounds like a great trick-- Plan to try it myself.
this is an interesting site. I am a tuner and don't have any real problems with
I did look at your method for repairing
hammer shanks. I use the Bill Spurlock method of removing shanks with glue remover
and a drywall screw when the break is at the butt.. I have about 90% luck with
this. It's in his PACE book.
Instructions for removing
a hammer shank broken off flush with the hammer butt:
drill a small hole in shank left in butt.
Fill hole with glue remover...do
Then, install drywall screw into hole.
the screw with a lighter...you will feel the hammer butt heat up. This process
loosens the glue.
Next, remove the screw with your hammer shank
In most cases, the entire shank will come out of the hammer
Piano Technicians Guild
dtywall screw is one of those sharp pointy things, usually black. Ask for them
at Ace or True Value hardware store. Don't get one that is too long so the heat
will transfer. I can't wait to try this-- save the customer some labor cash.
The trick here is
how to get the new felt piece to slide under the strings easily. A customer said
he glued the end of the new felt piece to the end of the old one, and then he
dragged the old one out. He had to help it along, but he said it took a lot less
time than forcing the new one through with a tool of some sort.
IS HOW OUR INSTRUCTION BOOK ONLINE WORKS FOR YOU
Thanks to the instructions in your manual I just finished fixing the double blows
on my piano. About ten keys were bouncing and were very annoying. The tuner told
us she would have to remove the action to fix it and it was going to cost us $200
(including a cleaning). But I looked at your instructions, made a litte tool using
a wire coat hanger, turned those little eye-screws and fixed it myself. It took
me ten minutes to understand the instructions and ten minutes to do it. Thanks
for saving me $200. -- Tom F__________, Billerica, Massachusetts
Van Nattan: For the record, we got nothing out of this writer. He owes us nothing
STUFF GLUE RESCUES PIANO WITH PLASTIC PARTS
"Mike Persenaire" firstname.lastname@example.org
Hot Stuff Glue and plastic parts
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 19:07:27 -0500
Ran across a Lester spinet from late 40's/early50's. Many dampers not operating
properly. All flanges plastic, and any one of them would break if I looked at
it crosseyed. Did some replacing with wooden ones, but the groove for the rail
was too thin, and I had to knife it out wider. What a pain. Furthermore, almost
every time I put a damper back in, I would manage to touch the next damper over.
Result? "Snick!" Another broken flange.
Owner wants me to just try
to get it back into bare minimum shape. In desperation tonight I tried Hot Stuff
Red on broken flanges. Amazing! When you use the accelerant, the stuff cures in
3-5 seconds, and it is STRONG! I had tried using some quick set epoxy, but no
luck. Too small a surface area and the flange came apart with little pressure.
Tonight I took that same flange, didn't clean it up any and applied the Hot Stuff.
I can't break it.
Of course if the flange broke right at the flange
spring cord, I was out of luck. Still, I managed to save about a dozen flanges
so far, each taking about 10 seconds. I'm tempted to put a layer of the stuff
on all the unbroken flanges.
OUR MIDI HYMNS AND MUSIC
WITH AN ELECTRONIC DIGITAL
I had a very nice chat with your wife while ordering the Piano
CD today. I want to tell you that your piano midi files of hymns minister to my
family frequently as I play them through my "Pianomation" system (a modern player
piano with expression and sustain). My PC is connected to the piano via midi cable
and I simply load the whole directory of hymns in the jukebox and send them to
the midi out port and there you have it! Pianomation likes all midi data to be
on channel one, so I've edited the midis to accommodate that. These hymns are
ones we sing every Lord's Day. Thank you. I hope to download some more when available.
Work in Browns Station, Texas
made a piano in the late 1930s or early 40s which had a oil cloth top and ends.
I have never seen one in good condition-- until now. Ken Mcfarlin acquired the
piano in the photo, and it had keys that were a mess and all uneven. He used our
site and opened the piano and found that the front rail and center rail bushings
were eaten away by moths. He found a number of hammers and action parts loose,
and he reports in that his repairs were nearly done. I had not remembered that
he did the cabinet also, but here it is. This just proves that it IS worth it
to restore a small upright. This should encouage some of you readers who wonder
if you can do it. Ken lives in Browns Station, Texas, and he is a machinist, NOT
a musician or cabinet maker. Now, you better get to work on YOUR piano :-)
LIKE TO HEAR THE STORIES OF SUCCESS--
Let me share one:
I received the Sabine
Tuner this week and finally went at it to see what I could do on my Yamaha piano.
Well, it was a great time distortion experience. I spent about 2 hours a night,
3 nights in a row with the tuning lever and the electronic tuner. 2 hours went
by like 15 minutes...every night. This might be addictive. I have achieved results
that I am quite pleased with. So thank you very much for providing the tools over
the internet. I guess you may have heard the same story over and over, but I did
try to find a place locally, piano tuners, local music stores,etc. in search of
piano tuning tools. No luck, of course until I found your webpage. I have two
sisters who give piano lessons. They are anxious to see if I did a good job on
my own piano. M y investment in the tools might pay itself back in a few months
on my piano and on theirs. Thanks for making available the information and the
While we don't judge you for your convictions, we do not celebrate
Christmas. This is not because we are Jehovah's Witness or some odd cult.
We simply don't believe Jesus Christ was born in the dead of winter. There
are about four ways to prove that. So, why should we trouble ourselves with
all the frenzy of the alleged "Joyous Season?" The chaos and financial pain
of Christmas is terrible to watch.
Thus; we don't offer Christmas gift
specials. We don't care to tempt you to over spend. There ARE a number
of items in the catalog which make exceptional gifts.
Do look us up
later though. We try to reward the prudent with a sale early in the new
Rick McAree of Hopkinton,
Mass. told me he wanted to clean darkened ivories. He decided the job looked
similar to cleaning his wife's glass topped electric kitchen range (cooker in
the UK). The results were very good, so we want you to know that this could
well be the best way to do the job. Still, be careful not to damper the
ivory excessively. It could warp.
Editor: I asked Sarah,
a piano teacher, why she preferred a Petrof. Here was here answer.
I really debated between a Yamaha and a Petrof.
If I remember right, the Yamaha U-1 is only a 48" piano, so first off, I liked
the size of the Petrof, which was 50". The Petrof store was right next to the
Yamaha dealership, so it was easy to compare the two. The Petrof seemed to have
a much richer bass tone, very noticible on a piece such as "Moonlight Sonata".
I was also impressed with the way it was built on the inside with the agraffs
and all of that. The touch is about the same as the Yamaha, maybe a little stiffer,
but I think that's good for my students..makes their fingers stronger.
Last of all, the price difference was significant, and I felf that the Petrof
would suit my needs for my studio just fine. I've heard that the Petrofs usually
have a few bugs to work out in the beginning (mine had to have a low C string
replaced right off the bat), but other than that, I've been happy. I would really
like to have the 52" Petrof with the ---------- action....it's fantastic! Have
you ever worked on a Petrof before? I never would have tried one if I hadn't read
so many positives about them in Larry Fine's book.
Editor: The action maker above
forbids the use of their name on the Web. Their loss.
Nice Bedtime Story on the Use of Silicone on Actions:
This kind to thing really does bless me. We DO want to be more than a
01:32 PM 8/24/99 EDT,
you wrote: Steve, Heeeelllpppp !!!
The piano tuner guy just left my house. I don't know where
to begin. He said he really didn't want to tune it, so he didn't he just raised
it an octave or so. He said there were to many things that needed to be done before
it could be tuned properly.
First of all, this is an indication
that there is a lot of stuff to replace, he said that the hammers needed to be
replaced (we already knew that one). The shanks and flanges needed to be replaced
because they are too sluggish and to many of them needed to be worked over so
it would be easiest and cheapest just to replace them. Also the same story with
the whippens. They too are sluggish. He said that the piano probably sat somewhere
humid for a long time and all the wood parts have become warped.
He gave me a price quote, $1600 to replace all the above and to regulate it.
Ouch, that is more that I can afford right now. Got any
advice or helpful tips, would appreciate it greatly.
Did you try the spray silicone trick?
Spray the moving
parts of the action with spray silicone. Then moderately pound on the keys as
the silicone dries.
I don't recall if this is a grand or
upright. If an upright, remove the action, and spray the action from the back
also-- all moving parts. If a grand, just remove the action and spray all moving
parts from above.
As for the key levers, which may be the
problem, read about shaving the felts in the key levers in the online repair area.
Also, check the pins under the front of the keys to see if any are twisted out
If this is a grand, you need to check to
see if the backchecks are catching on the hammers and stopping them from working
normally. Tommy tuner may know how to do this job in a couple of hours, but he
will never tell you that. Try to describe the sluggish thing to me in more detail.
1. Don't get any silicone
on the tuning pins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2. Beware of overspray
onto the floor or carpet-- deadly!!
Do this, and let me
know what happens.
If it works, you own me a cup of coffee
Next time, tell me what kind of piano this is. By the
way, did you rule out buffing the hammers as the book instructs? This may buy
you some time.
Todd's Last Letter:
The spray silicone works wonders. I can't believe the difference it has made.
I have only gone through the upper set of keys, but already it is amazing. I have
taken each hammer and flange out so that I won't get the silicone anywhere else.
Most of the hammers (when removed and held upright) won't pivot on the hinge,
it's an effort for them to move from a horizontal position down do a vertical
one. After the silicone is sprayed on they swing back an forth freely, at least
six or eight times. WOW. I do owe you a cup of coffee.
Thanks a bunch.
I will be in contact.
In Christ love,
Version of the Hammered Dulcimer:
asked on your web page about other stringed instruments. We had the opportunity
this summer to be in Slovakia at a conference. Entertainment one evening
was by a gypsy combo. They had a stringed instrument called a cymbalum, apparently
a typical gypsy component. It is about the size of a small harpsichord and is
played with mallets much like a vibraphone. Strings run from both sides alternating.
I'd never heard one before, but it was quite fascinating to hear as well as to
watch the musician playing it.
From a customer who is not
an Amway distributor :-)
These folks report they did
not know how to clean tarnished pedals. They tried several things with poor
results. The gentleman remembered they had some Amway metal cleaner. They
tried it, and they report that it really did the job. After shining the pedals,
they used Amway Shoe Glo to spray them and retain the shine. I realize this
sounds like an Amway commercial, but, hey, if it works, it could save you a lot
stripping and Re-finishing:
GREAT book out called "Understanding Wood Finishing" by Bob Flexnor. In it, he
explains why you should not "brush in" your varnish stripper. It's because most
strippers contain wax which rises to the top. If you "paint" back over the spot,
it messes that up. The solvent cleansing is, of course, partly to remove all the
wax residue contained in the stripper.
DO I FIGURE THE FREQUENCY OF
ANY NOTE ON THE PIANO KEYBOARD?
I need to know the CPS for all of the notes on the Piano
Keyboard. I know that the A above middle C is 440 CPS. What formula would I use
to compute the rest (up and down the scale) of the notes, or is there a comprehensive
list of these frequencies? Thank You!!!
Answer: In brief there are
twelve basic pitches and say starting with (A220, for example), and multiplying
it by a constant number twelve times in a row the result is double the frequency
of the starting pitch (or A440). The number is 1.0594631, the twelfth root of
two. Starting with (A220) and multiplying it by 1.0594631 twelve times in a row
give the frequencies for the twelve pitches near the middle of the keyboard, and
ends up on A440. Given theses twelve pitches , it is a simple matter to find the
frequencies of the remaining keys on the piano, by halving each basic pitch over
and over to get the lower octaves, and by doubling them over and over to get the
higher octaves. Hope this helps, mathematics of scale charts are avaliable.
the good work of one of our customers.
They did exceptional
work, and I hope this encourages those who wonder if it can be done. http://members.tripod.com/schanzg/pics/Piano.htm
on Pin Treatment and Harpsicords et al:
I just bumped
into your Internet site today; I've been tuning, repairing and manufacturing since
1966, and am surprised (and pleased) to learn that my sandpaper-bushings trick
for loose harpsichord pins also works on piano pins. My own sequence (where it's
not a case of cracked pinblock) has usually been: first tap; if that doesn't work
and you've got to do it cheap, apply dope; if you want to do it right, fit an
When I do a repin/restring, I always dip the pin-threads
in rosin dissolved 1:10 in acetone. Dries quick, makes for a nice smooth tuning
action, and seems to retard rust somewhat.
I'll try your emery-cloth
bushings next time I'm about to fit an oversize pin. Sounds promising.
Oh, by the way-- for threaded harpsichord pins, try 500 or 600 wet-or-dry.
I've had quite good luck with this. I'm not sure exactly how I'd approach a loose
plain-shank harpsichord pin with a tapered bottom; loose pins in the few such
instruments I take care of have, thus far, needed nothing but tapping.
I like your approach. I, too, like to demystify my work for the customer, give
value for money, and keep the piano on its legs if it has any redeeming qualities
at all. And (alas!) I, too, have seen some very strange things when working on
pianos that have enjoyed the ministrations of certain Guild technicians.
A Tuner Tells of his Improvising, and I know it works
From: Tom Thievin <email@example.com
Subject: re: loose piano pins
In regard to the loose
While I'm sure someone has covered it elsewhere, here is my solution
to the problem. I use emery cloth, the kind that has a cloth backing. You can
get it in rolls or in sheets, no matter. I use stuff that is spent, that is, it
is used already and has little active grit left on it. It matters not that it
be spent or which grade of grit it is, but I find like the finer grits that are
worn because they seem less agressive.
I release the tension on the
string, unhook the wire and remove the pin. Only do one string at a time. Do not
unduly work the wire. It is often quite brittle and along with a little rust,
it can easily break. Sometimes, if the pin is loose enough, I have left the wire
on the pin and slowly worked the pin, turning back and forth while pulling up.
I tear, cut it if you would rather, a chunk that long enough would go to
the bottom of the pin length in the hole and wide enough that it circles half
the pin. Insert the chunk so the gritty side is toward the wood.
have oriented the emery cloth such that, let us say the string pull is from the
north, I have put the emery cloth on the north, south and east and west side of
the pin and not noticed much difference. Normally I put the emery cloth on the
south side of the pin because I feel that the pin should be pulled into wood,
but logically, if one considers the physics involved, only the top half of the
pin would, the bottom half of the pin would go in the opposite direction.
I have found that by varying the width of the paper, making it wider to
circle more of the pin if the pin is looser works well.
You will need
to drive the pin back in. Never hit a tuning pin directly. Tuning pins are
hard enough that they can easily splinter and a steel shard sharp enough to take
out an eyeball is very possible. Besides, if you do get away with driving the
pin in, you will have a pin that looks like _____. Technicians use a pin driver
punch that has a concave head, or even drilled out head. You could do the same
with a soft iron bolt. Drill it out in the centre to provide a seat for
the pin. Always wear safety glasses for this type of operation.
like to use the shims that are sold by many suppliers. I find that while they
seem tight at first and seem really tight when you first drive the pin back in,
but after a couple of tunings they get quite loose. An old time tuner told me
that the reason is that even though they look to be made of a light steel, they
are actually brass and brass can be slippery. Whatever. I've not had good luck
I have done the emery cloth treatment extensively here on
the prairies and I am always amazed as to how well it works and how well the pins
hold over many years.
If the loose pins are in line in a row of pins,
up, down, sideways or more usually, diagonally, I'd suggest some caution. It might
be that the pin block has or is developing a crack. I have done the emery cloth
treatment here, making sure that I not causing forces that would further split
the pin block. To do that I place the emery cloth so that the pin is forced into
the crack, rather than at 90 deg to the crack. This has worked, but not great,
but really, cracked pin blocks are a losing battle no matter what. You might help
the situation a bit, but it might be short term.
The way I see it,
especially if it is an upright, you are faced with tossing the piano in the garbage,
and if tightening the pins will get a few more years out of it all the better.
By the way, I'm a Registered Piano Technician with the Canadian Association
of Piano Tuners.
Lots of luck
NEW PIANO COMPANY--
Reputed to Have Steinway on the Run !!
From: Anthony Maydwell <firstname.lastname@example.org
Organization: Western Australian Conservatorium of Music
Subject: Another Piano Site
You may be interested
to know of another piano company out there producing pianos that would make Hamburg
Steinway and Bosendorfer weep. Made in Sacile, North Italy, these pianos
knock the socks off the opposition. The only thing saving the big boys is this
company is not intending to make any more than 60 pianos a year.
guess what, I just bought one!
Having played Steinways, Steinwegs,
Bosendorfers, Yamahas, Kawais, Bechsteins, Mornington and Weston etc, I can say
unreservedly that you need to know these instruments.
Home Page http://www.telenia.it/fazioli/index.html
Western Australian Conservatorium of Music
Director, SUMMA MUSICA
Steve Van Nattan-- Check this out. It sounds impressive,
and the piano at the Web Site DOES look exceptional.
THE WAY FROM THAILAND:
Subj: oh, another
Date: 97-10-12 15:19:10 EDT
From: ____________________ (Gregory
One more thing,
I like your site and your concept. Living in Thailand,
it is difficult to care for my piano and to get good technical assistance.
I have started to tune it myself. With time and patience, I have developed an
ability to identify a good fifth. It's great to be able to have the piano
in tune all the time.
I have one or two rather loose pins
in my piano. I was reading what you said. The pins hold, but sometimes they slip
easily. My technician wants to replace the whole set. But there are only a few
that are loose. Is this a defect that I can ask the manufacturer to remedy?
It is still under warranty.
One more thing. I wonder if
you can suggest a remedy to this problem: One or two notes refuse to tune properly.
I cannot set the pin by pulling the hammer forward. I can only set this
pin by releasing tension on the string. That is, by overtuning it and releasing
tension. (b above middle c. Several octaves below, I release tension to tune
with good effect. But the middle octave demands increasing tension.) This doesn't
give a clean sound. It is in tune. But there are too many distorting resonances.
What might be the cause of this problem?
I KEEP MY OLD PIANO?
Opinion, with which I agree :-)
Subj: That little
Date: 97-08-17 20:16:59 EDT
From: email@example.com (wwetc)
My little old piano is a wreck.
It was kicked around the family before it ended up at my house over 20 years ago.
Its keys are chipped & the finish looks shabby. But the tuner comes (almost
every year), even though we don't play it much (shame on us). Both of my now grown
boys used it for lessons - wonderful sound background for percussion. I'm really
sentimental about that piano. Sometimes I tell myself that if I had a lot of money
(that's what it takes nowadays), I'd replace it.
I sit down and play it. I know it's not my overgrown love for it - it really is
wonderful. It holds its pitch so well (except for a key here & there after
the "desert monsoon season"), but oh my, the sound it makes. And its touch is
just right. I could never find better or even equal for less than thousands of
dollars (in a new one, anyway).
Repairs are hanging over
my head - I'm afraid to have anyone do much. You see, I was raised on another
piano that also had the most beautiful sound and perfect touch. My brother &
sister in law got it because they were the only ones with a room big enough for
a baby grand. My sis in law plays beautifully. She decided to have the piano refinished,
inside and out. Now when I go over & play there, I want to cry. My piano playing
husband agrees - someone ruined that piano. Bad touch and tinny lifeless sound.
The point of my tale of 2 pianos? Keep yours if it's even
ok, and if you have one that pleases you to play, KEEP IT FOR SURE. I know almost
nothing about all this. Because I have and play a piano, and to me it is a very
special thing to have, I wandered into this section. Your advice about whether
to keep one's piano prompted this letter.
I have learned over the years is to be sure and get a really good tuner. Wish
you were in the El Paso area.
This section is great. In
fact I haven't found a section I don't like.
FIRST FORUM TOPIC:
the Theory of Teaching Keyboard and music reading.
We offer this discussion by Marian Drake, EdM-- firstname.lastname@example.org
Subj: ear playing, self-teaching, and music reading
97-08-04 12:22:38 EDT
From: email@example.com (Marian)
Dear Seve Van Nattan,
You have a wonderful web page. Wow!
I notice that you provide
a link to a music education page.
I would like to offer
my experience with so-called "traditional" music teachers -- that is, the ones
who follow some sort of tradition that started after about 1820. In 1820, the
first "fully realized organ arrangement" was published, and the organists made
a huge outcry that it would cause them to "lose their talent" (from the *Oxford
Compamion to Music" - which, of course, is exactly what happened. Before that
time, music was taught very differently, especially keyboard music.
All keyboardists were expected to be able to improvise, play by ear, compose,
arrange, and also read music. That is the way the Mozart children were taught,
and also the way Bach was taught to sing in church. Bach himself was mostly self-taught,
as was Leopold Mozart.
It is really a shame that today
so many children and their parents are prevented from allowing the children's
talent to develop because reading music is introduced much too early. Also, technique
is taught in arigid way so that people hurt themselves.
In addition, the myths persist that adults cannot learn to play by ear, that playing
by ear with "ruin a person's ability to read music", and that improvising on "the
classics" is some sort of crime or sin. There is an ignorance of the fact that
those classical composers themselves got their tunes from folk music or from other
composers! Most of the tunes are not original with the composers.
Another thing that is sadly overlooked or not known is that learning the keyboard
is learning language. Not A LANGUAGE, but many languages,unless a person decides
to specialize and limit themself to one musical language such as Blues, Ragtime,
Baroque, or one of many particular styles of Jazz. Within each of those "styles"
or musical languages lies variants of that language,too.
Yet another sad thing in modern "traditional" teaching of keyboard is the lack
of knowledge by modern "traditional" teachers of solfege and the number method
of teaching both melody, counterpoint, and chords. I know the number method for
melody and chords, but, I am very sorry to say, I do now know the number method
for learning counterpoint. I do read figured bass, however, and can improvise
on that fairly well. (No one taught me this, although I tried and tried for years
to find a teacher,including in the colleges and universities. I learned all this
on my own doing research in various books.)
I know all
this (1) from my own experience as a child trained in the modern "traditional
method" who lost much of her talent, then taught herself all over again starting
at age 30; (2) from other pianists and organists I know who demonstrate the falsity
of these myths; (3) from my own students who thrive under the precepts of developmental
educational techniques and freedom at the keyboard; and (4) from my Master's degree
in adult education, specializing in the teaching of language, reading, and difficult
I would be very grateful if you could
incorporate this letter somehow into your web page. This information is extremely
hard to come by, and it has taken me 25 years to compile it all.
Marian Drake, EdM
Balaam's Ass Speaks-- I want to leave this open as a forum
to any who wish to respond to this article. I do Appreciate Marion Drake's
desire to promote good music. What do you the reader think about Marion's
Otto Von Opperknockity
A strange thing happened in
Rio Rico, Arizona. This very rich lady decided she wanted to buy the most
expensive piano in the world. She thought that if she had such a piano,
she would really impress her musical friends.
She called a piano store
in Tucson and asked what the most expensive piano was. They told her a Bösendorfer--
the one with the 97 keys. Well, this lady called the Bösendorfer factory
in Europe and ordered a Bösendorfer. It was air freighted to her in Rio Rico,
and a factory tuner came along and tuned it.
After a few months, she
decided that she needed to tune it again, so she called the Piano Tuner's
Guild and asked who was the best tuner in the world. They did some research,
and called her back. They told her that Tom Walker in Ohio was exceptional, but
the best tuner in the world was a fellow named Otto Von Opperknockity.
So the lady called Mr. Opperknockity in Vienna, Austria, and she told him she
wanted him to tune her piano. He said he would if she paid his very stiff
fee and all expenses. She agreed at once saying that she would pay anything
for the best.
Otto Von Opperknockity then flew to the USA, on to Rio
Rico, Arizona, up the arroyo past gila monsters and wet backs, and he tuned
her piano. She was happy, and Mr. Opperknockity was happy since he got a
nice trip to Arizona in the deal.
Well, the tuning lasted two years
because Otto did such good work, and the Bösendorfer was such a good piano.
But, after the two years, the lady realized she would need the piano tuned again.
She at once called Otto Von Opperknockity in Vienna. She told him she was
ready for her next tuning. Mr. Opperknockity told her that he could not
come. She told him that price was not a consideration. She would pay
his fee, expenses, and make up any loss he incurred by interrupting his regular
schedule. Otto still wouldn't come.
The lady asked why, and
here is what Otto said, "Dear Lady, Opperknockity only tunes once." Now,
I just passed the story on the way I heard it, friend.
TIME- The Cat Came Back
I once answered
the phone in Michigan, and I heard this horrible cat-like contralto howling. A
frantic lady told me her dear kitty cat had jumped down into the old upright piano
while the top was open. It also sounded like the cat was making the keys
play at random. This is nearly impossible from inside the piano. The
lady was wailing and begging me to tell her what to do.
I got very
skeptical as I heard this cat howling. He sounded more like the lady's drunk
husband. Not wanting to offend a truly innocent victim, I stifled a heartless
laugh, and gave the husband instructions how to remove the front. The alleged
cat jumped out, and the lady told me she would be, "eternally grateful" for my
saving her kitty. I am sorry to say, I never heard from Al Gore or Reader's
Digest regarding my heroic gesture. Perhaps Al doesn't like cats after all.
The thing that is very suspicious is that, as soon as I moved to Arizona,
someone called with the same problem, only this time it was a poodle. The
second time I suggested they shoot the poodle. As the Amish say, "Ve get
too soon olt und too late schmart."
Update: A tuner in Illinois told me on the phone recently that
he did indeed have to rescue a cat from an old upright piano. It DOES happen.
I feel much better about the cat. Maybe I had better not tell them
to shoot the poodle next time :-(
CRICKET OLD MAN
The famous batsman for a UK cricket
team recently retired to become a piano tuner. He was a total failure. Every
time he found a piano "off pitch", he would yell "take six."
about that one, my fellow Americans.
Here is a little controversy which
should end in some sort of benefit to us all. It seems that some pin treatments
with glycerin in them may be damaging the pinblock or the pins. Thus:
Being the one responsible for
the creation and maintenance of my own domain, I know how much work has gone into
your site and I commend you for offering some very good information. There is,
however, one piece of advice that has been proven by time to be incorrect. The
use of glycerin, in any form, will ruin the pin block. I'm not the rocket scientist
that figured this out but it has to do with moisture retention and the rusting
of the pins. There were numerous articles about this topic in recent issues of
the Mechanical Music Digest (http:/www.foxtail.com).
That information, however, was not what prompted me to
write. I have numerous links to information, world-wide, that pertain to player
and reproducing pianos and I would like to add a link to the information you have
about players. You are welcome to choose the Title of the Listing that will appear
in the "Lots of Technical Stuff" Category on the Main Page at: http://www.playercare.com
I hope to hear from you soon.
Musically, John A.
Special thanks to John for this note. I believe
I discussed making one's own pin treatment somewhere in the book. You better
buy the factory made item until this is resolved. I do supply a factory
made pin treatment found in the Mini Catalogue. It does sound like, unaware
of this tricky discovery, a lot of tuners have been doing some degree of damage.
Subj: Your book & page
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Paula Goldie)
Thank you very
much for the hard work you put into your do-it-yourself piano repair pages. I
am e-ing you here because I could not link from your web site and your e-mail
address was nowhere to be found (until I hit the classifieds!). We got some $
from my Dad (the Grandpa!) to buy a piano for our daughter who really, REALLY,
wants to play. Plopped it down on a used "spinet", hauled it the 50 miles home
and paid someone to fix the key that was broken. 2 months later, he told us it
was unfixable. Oh, those 1950's plastic parts. Now, bought another "upright" at
a garage sale for $50.00. No crack in the bridge, one broken hammer and the damper
pedal is disconnected, but the sound is beautiful. To make a long story even longer,
we are stripping it (cuz it's ugly) and must patch and paint, as the veneer is
chipped, cracked and gone. But, thanks to your web site, we will at least be able
to order new hardware & maybe felt, too. Plus we won't look like COMPLETE
Again, many, many thanks.
Date: 97-07-16 21:10:31 EDT
email@example.com (Don Moore)
Thank you very much!
My wife purchased a square grand for our home that we are renovating that was
built in 1907 in SC.
Following your advise, she found a
broken partical of ivory under two of the key's that prevented them from operating.
PS: You should add
letter's of success to this web site!
Re: Old piano
Date: 97-08-09 02:22:19 EDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Charles Martin)
Subject: Re: Old piano
Date: Thursday, August 07, 1997 10:46 PM
Chikering is the
oldest piano company in the US. They made great pianos too.
Check the Ctatlogue page for "Action Parts" The things you need should be there.
Also, the book has a section on how to replace the straps.
Steve Van Nattan
The old piano had a twisted hammer. I used your suggestion to straighten it, and
The order for straps follows.
Thank you very much.
NEED TO HEAR YOUR EXPERIENCES
AND OBSERVATIONS FOR THIS PAGE.
TO PIANO TITLE PAGE