Counting to 100: 31-40

(If you're new to this series, I am writing about my tuning journey, counting my first 100 tunings. Check out previous posts here: 

With two kids keeping me busy, finding time to rehash every tuning I do just isn't happening. Here's a review of the last 9 for anyone who may be keeping track with me. You might remember that I finally got an electronic tuning device (SAT I - it's a really old school one) to help me! It has definitely helped me improve my tunings and my speed as well. 

Piano Tuning #31: Our church's Baldwin upright with the SAT.

Every piano is slightly different in the way it needs to be tuned because of a lot of different factors (pianos are pretty complex). I consistently had trouble getting some of the G#'s and B's to fit when tuning this piano. Having the SAT helped me get them set in just right to fit the scale. I'm not sure why they were so much more tricky on this piano than others, but I was glad to finally start fixing the problem.

Funny note: I am pretty hyper aware of slightly out of tune B's because of my own struggles with them. Our church recently got a brand new grand piano and due to contract obligations it was tuned by someone else. I noticed immediately that a few of the B's weren't quite where I would want them. It makes me feel better that I am not the only one with this B tuning problem! 

Piano Tuning #32: a friend's Kimball spinet

  This piano has a double hitting problem, but because it is a spinet it is not an easy fix. Every time I tune it I look into it some more and try to fiddle with it to fix the double hitting. But I suspect I need to take it apart to really solve the problem. Since I am tuning it as a favor to a friend with both our little kids running around, I usually don't have the time to give it my full attention. Someday I'll take it apart and see what I can do. 

Piano Tuning #33: a student's Baldwin Acrosonic Spinet

These little pianos are workhorses. They don't always sound the prettiest, or play the smoothest, but they seem to last forever and hold up to abuse well. If you are looking for a used piano for your kid's lessons, a Baldwin Acrosonic spinet is not a bad choice. 

Piano Tuning #34: a friend's Kranich and Bach upright

This piano is old and not holding up well. The top notes were slipping this time that I tuned it. Sometimes pegs and pegboards just get worn out and won't hold a pitch as well anymore. That is a sign it is time to get a new piano.  

Piano Tuning #35: my own piano again. 

Yes, I tune my own piano, although it is a little like the cobbler's children. It is hard to schedule my own work in my own house. 

Piano Tuning #36: a Schumann upright

"Schumann" is not a quality name for a piano like it is for composers. This piano had several strings that were untunable, a broken flange, and badly needed a pitch raise. I did the best I could for it but advised them their piano did not have much life left. If your tuner ever has to tell you that, don't shoot the messenger. I understand it is disheartening to hear. However, better they tell you, than you continue to  pour money into an instrument that is just going to keep getting worse. 

Piano Tuning #37: Otto Altenburg spinet

I did a pitch raise over the course of 2014 when I first started tuning for this family. Now this piano is holding well and serving their needs perfectly. A little TLC for a piano goes a long way. 

Piano Tuning #38:  Kimball Upright 

This piano has been moved several times in the past 2 years and not happy about it. It takes a few weeks (or even longer) for pianos to stabilize after being put in a new environment. This affects pitch and necessitates more tunings for a time. 

Piano Tuning #39:  Back to my friend's Kimball spinet

This piano is still double hitting. I have several notes on it and I am going to make time in a few months to check it out more thoroughly. Since we have a special tuning arrangement, I haven't spent too much more time working on it.  

Piano Tuning #40:  Young Chang professional upright

I accompany a community choir and we hold our rehearsals and concerts at a local church. The church primarily uses an organ, so the choir hired me to tune the piano before our concert. I love being able to tune AND play pianos. Did you know that a lot of technicians don't actually play piano themselves? 

Phew I am almost up to date for this year. Stay tuned for pianos 41-50, coming in the next month or so. 

Counting to 100: #21

(If you're new to this series, I am writing about my tuning journey, counting my first 100 tunings. Check out previous posts here: 

How to Spot Drop Action Pianos

Tuning #21 was back to a house with a drop action piano. I've written a lot about drop action pianos, so this time I took some pictures to show what I mean. Knowing the difference between a drop action piano and a standard action piano is actually pretty important when you are shopping for pianos.  

The keys of your piano don't stop where the ivory (ok, plastic) ends. They extend all the way back into the piano. If you take off the front board (behind where the music sits), you should see keys extending inside the piano.

Now for some terminology: all the moving wooden parts in the piano are call the ACTION. 

The keys that you play actually extend all the way back into the piano and make the action move. However, that action can be placed above the keys (and connected with little dowels), directly on the keys (pictured left), or below and behind the keys (pictured right). The two pictures were taken right above the piano looking in, to show where the action is located.   



For the standard action, the parts sit right on the keys. 

For the drop action, there is a big drop and lots of wooden pieces going further down into the piano. The action is all hidden down behind the keys.

<------------- This is another picture of a standard action. The camera is sitting right on the ends of the piano keys, and you can see that the action is located directly on top of the keys.  

There are two basic problems with drop action pianos:

Something Breaks

Something that could be a simple fix on a regular action is much more difficult in drop action simply because there is very little room to work and it is all hidden down in the piano. Some technicians will actually charge more to work on drop actions.  

Sound Quality

Drop action is usually only put in pianos that are really short. These short pianos (called Spinets) are convenient because they are easier to move and fit into a home. However, a shorter piano means less space for strings, and that means poor sound quality. If you care about having a bass (lower end of the piano) that doesn't sound muddy, avoid a short piano. 

There is something else to consider: Not all short pianos have drop action. Spinet refers to the height of the piano (36-39 inches). I have a very short piano, but it does not have a drop action. It is a Console piano, and is 40  inches high. I bought it on purpose because I needed something that we could get into our apartment, but did NOT want a drop action to work on. So, if you don't have a lot of space, there are alternatives! That 1-4 inches makes a difference in what piano manufacturers can do inside a piano. 







<------------------ Here's another problem with this particular drop action piano

I can't leave the lid to the keyboard open all the way and see inside to tune the piano. If I open the lid all the way, I can't see the hammers hitting the strings to know which note to tune. If I close it to see the hammers, I can't press the keys. It winds up being half open the whole time so that I can access the keys and see the hammers at the same time. (I could avoid this by taking off the entire cover, but that is more work that it is worth.) 





Counting to 100: #19

Welcome to the Counting to 100 Pianos series. I am blogging my way through my first 100 tunings. For previous pianos, check out these:

Tuning # 19 was another new piano! (Good thing, you might get tired of reading about the same pianos over and over). 

This piano was another Baldwin Acrosonic drop action piano. When you look inside a piano, usually the keys reach all the way back to the action (hammers and working parts inside the piano) and that action is all ABOVE the keys. On a drop action piano (or spinet) the action is dropped down inside the piano so it is all below and behind the keys. This is how they are able to make the piano shorter. For the average pianist, this isn't going to make a huge difference. The strings are shorter since there is only so much space for them to go, and this will affect the overall sound, but you may never notice if this is all you are used to hearing. The problems come when something needs to be fixed inside the piano. It is incredibly hard to fix something you can't see because everything is stuffed down in behind the keys.

 You'll find a lot of the these pianos because they were well made so they last pretty well. This one was built between 1958 and 1959. They are also pretty common because they fit well in homes with their short stature. My beef with them however is that dropped action. I am dreading the day I will have to take one apart.