Loss of tone on bass strings?

Loss of tone on bass strings?

The copper-wound bass strings on your piano collect dust and grime much more quickly than the plain-wire treble strings. If you don't believe it, you can see it plainly in the picture; the portion of the string under the damper on a grand piano looks as good as new, while the exposed part of the string has turned almost brown over time. And this was not an old piano! This is the primary cause of tone loss in the bass over time. Gunked up bass strings, unsurprisingly, do not produce good tone. The best solution, of course, is new bass strings. Measurements can be taken to replace all copper-wound strings with a complete set of new strings customized to the proper size and length (different on every piano model). New bass strings are often needed well before treble strings. Another option is to clean the bass strings. There are several ways to do this, and a good cleaning can yield surprising improvements...
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What is a pitch raise, and why is it necessary?

What is a pitch raise, and why is it necessary?

When a piano has not been regularly maintained, it often drifts very far from its target pitch center. Most pianos are manufactured to perform optimally at A440: with the note A4 being tuned to 440hz and everything else tuned to that. When a piano has been neglected for a number of years, it's not uncommon for it to be as much as 100-200 cents flat - 100 cents being the distance between two notes on a piano. In other words, a piano that is 100 cents flat sounds a B when you play an C. This is a problem for many practical reasons, but the most basic is that the piano is designed to work and sound best at a certain level of tension on the strings, and anything significantly less is compromising the performance of the instrument. The other fact that many piano owners do not realize is that pianos do not go uniformly out of tune. As you can see...
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Cleaning piano keys

Cleaning piano keys

Cleaning even the dirtiest piano keys is much simpler than you may think. There are rarely any special chemicals or tools needed, and particularly with most modern plastic key tops, there's very little you could do to harm the keys. I would always recommend starting with the least abrasive cleaner possible. Quite a lot of cleaning can be accomplished with just a damp cloth. In the picture below, I did all of the cleaning with a multi-surface furniture cleaner spray, along with some paper towels. On ivory keys, more care should be taken, not so much because typical household cleaners will damage the ivory (just test on an inconspicuous spot first to be safe), but because the ivory keys are much easier to chip if you're not careful around the edges. With a little common sense and some elbow grease, most piano keys can be cleaned quickly and safely! ...
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Polyester finish repair

Polyester finish repair

The most common type of clear coat finish on modern pianos is not shellac, lacquer, or polyurethane. It is high-gloss polyester, which yields a beautiful, almost mirror-like level of gloss. Virtually all ebony (black) finishes in recent years are coated with polyester, as well as many other colors. One of the greatest advantages of polyester is its durability - it is very resistant to scratches, wear, and chemical damage. However, for the same reasons, it is also difficult to repair when it does get damaged. These pictures are of a piano I worked on recently that had received very heavy use in a school environment for years. Even this major damage, however, can usually be repaired to an almost like-new finish. The biggest hindrance is typically cost, as it is labor-intensive to repair polyester, and the finish materials needed are specialized and somewhat expensive as well. If you have a piano with finish damage, just ask for an estimate! I do polyester...
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Cleaning, Regulation, & Voicing

Cleaning, Regulation, & Voicing

Tuning is not the only maintenance that pianos need! As dust and other debris accumulates inside a piano, age and routine use wear down moving parts, and hammers compact and form deep grooves, various other maintenance tasks become essential. There is no standard interval for these maintenance tasks; but as a general rule, the more use the piano gets and the more advanced the pianists using it, the more frequently they should be done. Many pianists are simply not aware of what a well-regulated and well-voiced piano feels and sounds like, and don't realize what they're missing! As a general rule, any instrument that is being used by an advanced pianist, or for any performance purposes, should have voicing and regulation touched up on an annual basis. A thorough cleaning and regulation will generally be necessary every few years. If these tasks are done on a regular basis, the costs and time involved are much more manageable. In other cases where general...
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Tharan keytops

Tharan keytops

To replace the old, yellowed, and chipped ivory keytops on this keyboard, the customer choose Tharan. Tharan is a relatively new substance developed by Kluge in Germany, with the goal of imitating the feel of ivory as closely as possible. It also looks beautiful, with a slight sheen that sets it apart from the standard plastic keytops used on most pianos. Furthermore, for pianists that are accustomed to the slightly better "grip" of ivory keytops, Tharan is an excellent choice due to its high mineral content and matte texture. The ivory trade, of course, has been very restricted throughout the world and replacing ivory keytops with new ivory is no longer an option. However, several options exist which very closely mimic ivory, and in many ways are superior. ...
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New Season

New Season

Although summers are busy in all kinds of other ways, the end of the summer season, the start of a new school year, and the change into fall weather brings with it a significant increase in piano work, particularly institutional pianos. A couple of times each year, I have to clean out all of my tool bags and toolboxes and reorganize. This is a small piece of what that looks like! I guess you could call it a "fall cleaning." As I return to blog posting after a couple month's hiatus, keep an eye out for some exciting projects and interesting work that took place over the summer! ...
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DIYers Beware!

DIYers Beware!

I don't discourage DIY piano work. In fact, I think it's a great thing for piano owners to learn more about their instrument and even do repairs when they feel comfortable doing it. However, there are some potential pitfalls and it pays to be aware of them in advance. One of the most common accidents when working on a grand piano: pulling the action out without keeping a close eye on the hammers, and snapping off a hammer that was sticking up too high. The previous owner of this piano had done all the work on it himself, and while most of it was decent work, there were three different hammers that had been broken off in this way. They were all repaired, but unfortunately the repairs were causing other problems since they, as well, were each somewhat experimental. So, by all means, learn more about your piano and try your hand at tuning or repairing...but only after doing your research. And if...
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String splicing: often the best option

String splicing: often the best option

When a string breaks on a piano, it often breaks at or very near the tuning pin. This means the majority of the string's length is still perfectly viable, and in fact is ideally suited to the rest of the piano in age, timbre, and general wear. In these cases, it's often best to splice the string (tie a knot, essentially), creating a new lead wire to attach to the tuning pin, but leaving the rest of the string's length almost exactly as it was before. This is especially preferable on bass strings, where the length of the string and the thickness of the copper winding is completely customized, meaning a replacement string must be a custom order, and even still will not match the old strings very well in timbre and appearance. The picture is of a recent splice on a customer's old spinet piano. The piano is not worth the investment of new strings, and even a single custom-order replacement...
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Key Dip: All pianists notice it, few think about it

Key Dip: All pianists notice it, few think about it

One of the biggest and most immediate factors in how a piano "feels" to the player is the key dip. You've probably played a piano with very shallow key dip, and disliked it, but not been able to put your finger on the culprit (pardon the pun).The keyboard may have felt sluggish, clunky, hard, unresponsive, or just plain weird.    Key dip is the distance the key travels downward when you play it. As pianists, we are used to a key dip of about 3/8", and even the smallest fraction of an inch makes a significant difference in how the piano feels. Part of this is due to the fact that the key dip is directly related to several other action regulation items, such as how far the hammer travels, at what point it stops being driven by the action (let-off), how far the key continues to move after let-off (aftertouch), and the timing of damper movement. Recently, I have worked on...
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