Voicing

Voicing

Voicing Voicing a piano means making adjustments which change its tone. It is a different process than tuning, and this difference is important to understanding what people mean when they refer to tone. Tuning changes the pitch of the string, while voicing changes the quality of the sound it produces, or the tone. Tone Piano tone refers to how the piano sounds overall. It is a complex topic, but one commonly discussed aspect of tone is brightness vs. mellowness. The following audio clips are of the same song, Satin Doll by Duke Ellington, played the same way, but with different tonal qualities. One has a brighter tonal quality, while the other has a mellower tonal quality. Listen to them back to back to get a sense of the difference. Bright   Mellow   A bright piano produces more harmonics on the higher end of the spectrum, while a mellow piano produces more harmonics on the low end. For a breakdown of harmonics we have a separate post on...
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Free Pianos

Free Pianos

Free Pianos Free pianos abound on the internet, at yard sales, or as hand-me-downs. It is tempting to pick one up, since it will potentially save you time, energy, and lots of money. Or will it? In my experience as a piano technician, free pianos that are actually worth tuning and maintaining are few and far between, though they do exist. "Free" is also a deceptive term in the context of the piano market, since there will still be costs associated with moving the instrument and preparing it for use. Free Is A Relative Term Yes, you found a piano that someone is giving away. But you still have to move it and make it usable. Moving Costs Even the smallest acoustic pianos are heavy and large compared to other objects people normally move around. In addition to the size and weight, it's best not to handle it too roughly while you're moving it, or you could render your new find useless. This means you'll want...
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What Is Regulation?

What Is Regulation?

What Is Regulation? Overview Regulation is equally as important as tuning, but piano owners are generally less aware of its necessity. In broad terms, regulation involves a technician going over the moving parts of the piano to make sure they are functioning properly. Pianos should be regulated periodically in order to: compensate for environmental changes (such as increases or decreases in humidity) compensate for wear and tear improve feel and tone Regulation does not need to be done as often as tuning, but neglecting it results in poor performance and tone. If a piano is never regulated, parts may stop working altogether. I recommend that clients get their pianos regulated at least once every 5 years, or any time things start feeling noticeably worse. During the course of a regulation, a technician will go over two main systems: the action and the trapwork (pedals). The Action The bulk of a regulation takes place in the action. A piano's action is all of the parts that connect...
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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 in a louder sound, and vice versa. Modern pianos, though they have evolved over...
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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. I fully encourage you to research your purchase on your own, but a technician...
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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 at a tense wire. The key difference between instruments from the perspective of...
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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 much more quickly than an acoustic piano. I still regularly service pianos...
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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. Moving a grand piano safely requires good equipment and careful procedure 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 piano is...
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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 can trust! I view the RPT certification as one of several ways that...
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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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