The Differences Between Grand And Upright Pianos

The Differences Between Grand And Upright Pianos

The Differences Between Grand And Upright Pianos A Brief History of the Piano The first piano was created by an Italian named Bartolomeo Cristofori around 1700. His intention was to make an instrument with a more dynamic tone than the harpsichord, which does not allow musicians to have much control over the volume of the notes they are playing. It was originally called a pianoforte, because in Italian the terms “piano” and “forte” mean “soft” and “loud”, respectively. Cristofori did this by changing the mechanism that causes the strings to vibrate. Whereas a harpsichord uses a plectrum to pluck its strings, Cristofori designed a system that uses a hammer that is pushed toward the string at first and then allowed to travel the rest of the way on its own momentum. This made the piano more responsive to the touch of the musician, since playing a note harder would result… Read More

5 things to consider when buying a used piano

5 things to consider when buying a used piano

5 things to consider when buying a used piano Pianos use a complex system comprised of thousands of parts to make music. They are a marvel of engineering, but all that complexity can present a problem to any layperson looking to purchase a quality used instrument. If a piano is reasonably well maintained, however, it can be passed on to multiple generations, and provide decades of enjoyment to music lovers. In order to find such an instrument at a reasonable price it is important to keep a few things in mind: 1. If possible, hire a piano technician to do an evaluation. Many technicians charge somewhere in the range of $100 to evaluate a piano. Since a decent used piano might cost thousands of dollars, having an experienced, trustworthy, and impartial technician go over it before you buy it could keep you from spending all that money on a lemon.… Read More

Can I tune my piano with a guitar tuner?

Can I tune my piano with a guitar tuner?

Can I tune my piano with a guitar tuner? Many people wonder if they can simply tune their pianos with a guitar tuner. It’s a question I’ve asked myself, before I became a piano technician. The first tuning I ever did was on a little Schumann grand piano with a guitar tuning app. The short answer is yes; but it’s highly inadvisable. It will sound awful to anyone with a decent ear, and downright unacceptable to piano players. There are subjective elements to tuning instruments, and an “accurate” tuning is a slightly shifting scale. A good tuning on any given instrument, including pianos, will take into account the design of the instrument and the mechanism it uses to produce sound. For example, a pipe organ is tuned differently than a piano because a pipe organ uses air forced through pipes, and a piano uses a felt hammer which is hurled… Read More

What do you do with an old piano?

What do you do with an old piano?

Tens of thousands of new acoustic pianos are sold every year in the US. While this may sound like a lot, changing domestic norms and the development of electronic pianos have brought acoustic piano sales down from many times that amount a few decades ago. Peaks of over 300,000 piano sales per year in the US were hit in the early 1900’s and again in the post-WW2 boom. One thing that has not changed: pianos do not live forever. And eventually, usually decades after they are bought, they have to be disposed of somehow. The chances are, you have stumbled across this page because you are trying to figure out what to do with an old piano from the boom years many decades ago that is now past any musical life. Don’t be discouraged by this – no manufactured object lasts forever, and most fall to pieces or stop working… Read More

How much does it cost to move a piano?

How much does it cost to move a piano?

Moving a piano is unlike any other type of moving. It can’t be compared with any other type of furniture, nor can it be compared with any other type of musical instrument. Many people successfully move their upright pianos by themselves, but there are also many pitfalls and many reasons to hire a professional – particularly if you have a grand piano. Prices vary widely across the country, and depending on logistical details at each location, but upright piano moving prices may range from $150-400 for typical local or regional moves, while similar grand piano moves may range at least $100 more due to the break-down and setup that is required. The smallest upright pianos still weigh in at around 400 pounds, while baby grands may easily weigh 600-700 pounds, and larger grands even more. Full length concert grands can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds. The weight of a… Read More

What is a Registered Piano Technician (RPT)?

What is a Registered Piano Technician (RPT)?

Registered Piano Technician is a technical certification awarded by the Piano Technicians Guild to piano technicians who have passed a series of exams to demonstrate competency. There are currently three exams: a written exam, a 4-hour tuning exam, and a 4-hour technical exam (demonstrating various common repairs). There are no government bodies regulating or certifying piano technicians in the US. As a result, the Piano Technicians Guild was founded in 1958 (with the roots of the organization going back to 1910), to provide a common space for piano technicians to learn from one another, and later, to provide a standardized competency certification. There are other organizations in North America and worldwide, but the Piano Technicians Guild is by far the largest and most well-established, and for that reason I chose to complete the PTG’s Registered Piano Technician certification. It is very important that you hire a piano technician whom you… Read More

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… Read More

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… Read More

Heat vents vs. pianos

Heat vents vs. pianos

Quite often this time of year, I have conversations with customers about heat vents in their home. It has been a cold winter in New Jersey, and many home furnaces have been working overtime. Particularly in homes with forced air (blowing) heat sources, it’s important to protect pianos and other musical instruments from the hot, dry air. The simplest and most effective way of accomplishing this is simply keeping the piano away from heat vents. If that’s not an option, consider vent redirect options like the one pictured. Notice the air from the vent is being diverted away from the piano, without any significant loss to the amount of airflow into the room. Your piano will thank you for your attentiveness to this detail – pianos that are kept away from dry heat sources are far less likely to develop soundboard and bridge cracks, and remain much more stable in… Read More

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!