What’s a “mezzo-thermoneal stabilizer” you ask? That’s a great question. In the post-WW2 era, when the piano market was really taking off in America, manufacturers started coming up with all kinds of new patented techniques to make their pianos stand out from the competition. Or, at the very least, to make them sound special. “Mezzo-thermoneal stabilizers” are a great example. No one really knows what it means, but it sure sounds cool. Almost like your piano was designed by NASA! Most of these kinds of labels, unfortunately, are little more than marketing gimmicks. This particular piano is a 1979 Kimball Console. It’s actually a good little piano, but the mezzo-thermoneal stabilization probably has nothing to do with it!
Have you ever wondered why grand pianos have these holes in their plate? Piano plates are made of cast iron, and as such are forged at very high temperatures. These “cooling holes” are strategically placed in the plate to break up large contiguous areas of cast metal so that the entire plate can cool more evenly and quickly, avoiding warping and cracking. As cool as it would be, they are unfortunately not “subwoofers” or “sounding holes” and having more of them does not necessarily make your piano better. There is minimal impact on sound and that is not the purpose of the holes. What IS cool though, is that various manufacturers trim and decorate the holes in different ways, and it can be a unique identifying element of a piano’s history! This one is a 1926 Steinway L baby grand.
This 1938 Lester spinet doesn’t have any resale value, hasn’t been serviced or tuned in over ten years, and frankly was a low-end piano to begin with. So why am I writing about it? Because it never ceases to amaze me that pianos like this still have life left in them. When I finished tuning (twice over) and doing some minor regulation, this piano sounded pretty good! In fact, it hit me that it sounded and felt better than most mid-price electric pianos I’ve played. Some of which cost several thousand dollars. I think that’s pretty impressive for an 80-year-old bottom-of-the-line piano from Lester. There truly is no comparison to quality craftsmanship and acoustic sound. (Don’t get me wrong here: there are WAY better acoustic pianos than this! Don’t settle for an 80-year-old spinet if you can afford something better.)
They’re probably better known for cars than pianos (and rightly so), but my car and this piano have the same roots! Hyundai was a huge conglomerate in South Korea that broke apart in 2003. Hyundai Motor continues to make and ship cars all over the world, but Hyundai Music, a division of Hyundai Development Company, continues to manufacturer and distribute pianos all over the world! Like many large companies, Hyundai’s pianos are manufactured under a variety of brand names. On this particular piano, the “Aeolian” name was used and this Hyundai logo was visible only on the plate. On some other models, the Hyundai name may not appear at all.
Key level, squaring, and spacing: three areas that few pianists notice unless they are very poorly regulated. But all three areas dramatically affect the feel and function of the keyboard. Adding to the fun on this keyboard were a few loose keytops that had not been glued well when they were replaced. Taking care of your piano keyboard is one of the most visible and important cosmetic aspects of the instrument, but it also will make it much more enjoyable to play!
Top: before and after hammer reshaping. This can’t make the hammers new again, but can restore some of the tone, even out the sound, and improve sustain. In this case, it was a helpful measure on an old piano where replacing hammers wasn’t currently in the budget. In a perfect world, this should be done every few years on all hammers, especially on high quality or heavily used instruments. Bottom: new hammers on a 100-year-old upright. This is the ideal solution for this age instrument, where the original hammers really have nothing left to give. Many people do not realize that hammer quality and maintenance are some of the biggest factors in the tone quality of a piano! They are worth everything you put into them.
This piano was more than a half step flat! Tuning something this poorly maintained is not much fun, but the task is made much easier by an ETD (Electronic Tuning Device). If you watch the display carefully, you can see, as well as hear, each of the three strings rise in pitch until they are all at the target pitch. Customers often ask about the difference between tuning by ear (aurally) vs. using an electronic device. Some people hold to strong positions one way or the other. At the end of the day, the quality of the tuning is what matters! I use both methods, but I tend toward mostly aural for fine tuning quality instruments, and mostly electronic for a first-pass pitch raise like this, where all you can expect is to get it in the ballpark.
This is what your piano keys are resting on (viewed from the side). Sometimes you may not want to see it… But a deep cleaning is part of every good regulation job. This piano felt, looked, and sounded like a different instrument after a thorough cleaning and regulation!
This dark line running across about 25 strings is corrosion – very likely from something spilling or dripping into the piano. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common sight. You should NEVER put beverages, flower pots, fish bowls, or any other liquid-containing items on top of a piano. Especially a grand piano!
I’m happy to announce that I am now a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) with the Piano Technicians Guild! It has been my pleasure to professionally service pianos for the last eight years. This year, I chose to join the Piano Technicians Guild and complete their certification process. The PTG is the foremost organization in the USA for piano technician certification, networking, and professional development, and I am happy to now be a professional part of it. For more information about the PTG, check out their website! www.ptg.org In the meantime, I’ll be continuing to expand South Jersey Piano Service. I’ll also try to get back to regular social media updates!