Counting to 100: 41 - 49

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

(Piano Tunings 41 through 49 all happened during the summer months - if anyone is following along, I'm playing catch up again) 

Tunings 41 and 42 were in Maine. I tune a few pianos there every summer when I am visiting family. This is the third year I've come back to these pianos, which gives me a good look at how I am doing better and what I still need to work on. In general I tune a lot fast than I did when I started. Most jobs take me less than two hours now. Tuning #42 is a piano that has one broken part. I've pushed it back into place before, but that isn't cutting it anymore. I'll need to see if I canibring a part and replace it next time.

Tunings 43 and 44 were two grand pianos at a church in PA. Tuning grands is similar to uprights, but different enough to make it take a bit longer for me. The strings and tuning pins are vertical instead of horizontal, there tend to be more strings, and there is usually a better tone making it easier to hear accurate pitches on the lower and higher notes.

Tunings 45 and 46 were both pitch raises. The pianos had not been tuned in some time and both were about a half step flat. I had to go through the tuning sequence several times to pull the string up to pitch. I will need to visit these pianos again soon. Getting a piano back to stable tuning takes a while and several tunings. 

Tuning 47 was a piano I've tuned before, now in a new home. It was nice to see it still holding up well. If you sell or give away a piano, let the next person know who your technician is so they can receive continued care. 

Tuning 48 is a friend's piano. I've seen this piano many times now as well. 

Tuning #49 was my own piano. This is a new Cunningham piano that I purchased in the last year. It's last tuning was done for free with purchase price, so I was surprised to find it fairly sharp when I started tuning it. I don't know how much of that was environment, or the previous tuning. I bought the piano right before we started some renovations so it has been living under an AC unit. (NOTE: This was foolish. Do not buy a brand new piano right before ripping up the room it is supposed to live in and then stick it under an ac unit. Buy the piano AFTER the room is done. However, we didn't plan for this to happen- does anyone?  I do love my new piano very much and am glad I didn't have to wait another year to purchase it.) 





Counting to 100: #17

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

Piano #17 is a piano I am very familiar with, but unfortunately, I don't think I wrote down a single note about it. You see, this is the piano I grew up playing. My parents got it sometimes when I was in late middle school, from the elementary school down the street. It still bears the marks of many small children abusing it daily. But it sure beat our electric keyboard with a buzz in the speakers, so we gladly took it home, and put it in our "piano room" and called a tuner. It wasn't in too bad of shape to tune and played decently. He had to replace one of the higher strings and it sounded a little funny for months until it finally adjusted. The technician came out several times to re-tune it and stretch it more. 

The last time I went up for a summer tuning extravaganza in Maine, I fully intended to tune my parent's piano too. But I didn't get too far. I was slow, and to be honest, I didn't have the same motivation with family. (I say this as my piano sits in the living room, badly in need of a tuning). So, I tuned the middle (the section technicians start with) and left it at that. It didn't sound great. But for whatever reason, it didn't sound horrible. 

This year, I tried to do a proper tuning during nap time. I figured my kid's nap is usually 1 1/2 hours, so I could get the majority done if I was fast and got everything set up before he went to sleep. He was upstairs with a super loud fan, I was downstairs and would try to be quiet. Well, this kid LOVES the piano, and does not like to sleep through anything, even piano tunings, so 45 min later he was awake. Luckily my folks took him outside while I finished as fast as I could. This piano really needed to be tuned, and probably could have used more work, but I did as much as I could, before my kid decided he REALLY had to come inside and see me. 

Moral of this story? Don't tune a piano during nap time.  

Counting to 100: #16

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 #16 was a Colonial Piano Co. Player Piano.  I tried researching the piano and was only able to find that it was a somewhat popular company based out of Boston in the 1900's. The particular piano I tuned was likely made between 1910 and 1920. But the most interesting part is that this piano used to be a player piano. There are extra pedals and pieces inside that make it evident there was once scroll work inside, but that is long gone. I have not done much work on player pianos, but I hope one day I get to see one that is intact!

This piano also had one key that was not playing. When I looked inside it was easy to find the part that had popped out. I was eventually able to push the piece back in place with a long screwdriver, and did not have to take the whole key out to glue it. You'll find most tuners have simple tools like screwdrivers and pliers in their kits. One thing I have learned along the way is that pianos are not as delicate as you might think. Sometime they just need some well-placed force to fix something. The key is "well-placed" so please don't take a screwdriver to your own piano! 

Counting to 100: #15 or Sometimes Heaters Are Good

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


Last year I completed one of the hardest tunings I've ever done. You can read about it here. When I arranged to go back this year, I was apprehensive but resolved. I managed to do it last time, surely this time it couldn't be worse. 

Well, it was better. Night and day better. A completely different piano. So what happened? What made those jumping strings even out and wonderfully easy to tune? I honestly don't know. Especially since I couldn't figure out why the strings were jumping last time.

But here's my best guess: something changed in the humidity of the piano. I just wrote about Where to Put Your Piano and said not to put a piano near a wood stove or similar heater. However this piano is in the same room as a wood stove, and I think in this case it was a good thing. Now, it wasn't RIGHT next to the heater, which would have been bad. However, the heat of the stove may have dried out the piano just enough that everything started moving properly again.  Another factor might be general seasonal humidity. Last time I tuned the piano in late August. This time I tuned it in mid-June. A summer of humidity could have played a significant role as well.  

The moral of the story is humidity (or lack thereof) has a HUGE impact on your piano. 

Counting to 100: #7

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

Piano #7 I've been hesitant to write about. In my short career there have only been two pianos that I have started tuning, only to quickly realize there is something wrong and tuning the piano is going to be a nightmare. This was the second. 

Many times when a piano cannot be tuned it is due to loose tuning pins. The tuning pins are little metal rods that the strings are wrapped around. These are pounded into holes in the pin block (made out of wood). They are supposed to be so tight that they can withstand the strain of the super strong piano wires pulled taught. If the holes get worn down and the pins get loose, then the piano won't stay in tune.

But on these pianos, the tuning pins weren't really that loose. Instead, I think the tuning problem was with the wires getting caught somewhere and not moving smoothly. There are various points of contact for the strings within the piano other than the tuning pins. If the strings get stuck at any of those points, they will not move when you try to raise or lower the pitch. When they finally do get free, the sudden release of tension will make the pitch jump way beyond what was intended. This doesn't mean the piano is impossible to tune, just really hard.   

Anyway, it was a Cable-Nelson grand piano in other wise fairly good condition. I hope next time I can figure out more of what is going on and help save a very pretty piano. Otherwise, I can just expect another rough tuning next time.