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… Read More
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… Read More
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… Read More
The Dampp-Chaser Piano Lifesaver system is an all-in-one humidity control solution for pianos. Pictured are three different stages of the installation: 1. All components installed. 2. All wires tied and secured neatly out of the way. 3. Undercover installed. This not only helps protect and “seal” the humidity and temperature levels inside the piano, but also neatly covers up the entire system without affecting the sound at all.This church piano was having major problems with tuning stability due to temperature and humidity fluctuations in the church. It’s no magic bullet, but this system should make a big difference! #pixlr
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!
It’s important to recognize when you hire someone to work on your piano (or anything you own) that the fee or hourly rate you pay encapsulates the entire amount needed to run the business and offer you the service. There are significant cost overheads involved in any business; self-employment and in-home services are certainly no exception One of the biggest cost overheads in piano work is tools. In order to work efficiently and quickly, at a high level of quality, while minimizing the risk of any damage to your piano, there are a number of specialized tools that piano technicians carry. One of the most important is the tuning lever, or “tuning hammer.” This Fujan tuning lever is not cheap, but it is one of the best investments I’ve made. With a carbon fiber shaft and precision machined head, it gives the best possible grip and torque on tuning pins.… Read More
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!