Counting to 100: 50-59

counting to 100 pianos.jpg

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

#50: I made it to the half-way point in documenting my tunings! It has taken much longer than I anticipated to get here, but having two kids and being the primary stay at home parent will do that. In the past few years as I've been whittling away at my goal, I have gotten better and faster at tuning pianos. I still have much to learn, especially about taking them apart and fixing things. 

This tuning was particularly exciting because I finally managed to fix an issue that had been bothering me for a while. This piano is a friend's spinet. I knew there were several hammers that were "bobbling" or double striking and had tried a few things to adjust them. The hard part is that spinets are notoriously hard to take apart and put back together and I didn't really want to tackle that yet. This time so many of the hammers were terrible I began to suspect there must be a bigger problem. After checking a few things I found that the entire hammer rail that holds the hammer close enough to the strings was loose and not screwed on properly! Once I got it back in place and screwed on well the difference was miraculous. 

#51: My own Cunningham Piano needed another tuning only 3 months after I had last tuned it. Those three months were the difference between using A/C in our house and turning the heat on. Since my piano is currently not living in the best of locations (right under the A/C unit) I should not have been surprised by this need for another tuning so soon. 

# 52: Another Baldwin Acrosonic spinet that I have seen often.

#53:  A Young Chang upright piano.  This is a piano I play regularly and now tune regularly as well. This piano and location was an upgrade for me from a rehearsal in a restaurant back room playing a 5 octave keyboard. However over the years it has started to show signs of needing regulating. One hammer is rubbing on another, a few keys don't strike evenly or have a clear tone. I am taking some time to do research on the various ailments to prepare to fix some of them when I tune it next. It helps I see it each week so I have an idea of what needs to be done. 

#54: Lester Spinet. I did a pitch raise on this piano during the summer and should have come back to see it a few months sooner than I did. However, this time it was 11 cents flat- an improvement on last time. If it's been a while since the piano was tuned and you decide to go back to having it tuned regularly, one pitch raise often is not enough. It takes an extra tuning or two that first year until the piano strings stabilize and hold their pitch better.

#55: Kawaii Grand piano. The pianist at this church left me a note that one of the dampers was not working properly. Thankfully I had just watched someone else take the action out of a grand a few weeks prior so I was willing to take it apart and take a look. On a grand piano all the action is under the strings so you can't fix much without taking the action out. I oiled the damper and by the time I was done the tuning it was working well again. I actually took the action in and out a few times because I found a problem with the middle pedal after it was all put back together again the first time. It took a bit of searching to find the one loose screw in the inside of the piano that was making the pedal click and not catch correctly. 

#56: Lester Grand piano. Three strings broke while I was tuning this piano and I found two notes that had long been missing a fourth treble string. I replaced one of the strings but two others were on the understrung portion of the piano. On most pianos there are sections where the bass strings cross over the treble strings, hence the name "understrung". This makes it hard to reach the treble strings to take them out and replace them. They really just needed to be spliced but I didn't know the piano tuners knot yet. I had to leave the job for another day and assistance.  I did go home and teach myself how to make a square knot in piano wire the very next day so that I will not have this issue again. If for some reason you are like me and think that you are supposed to be able to twist these knots into piano wire with no assisting tools and therefore never learn because that is ridiculously hard- check out some videos. I made eight good knots in two hours after learning to use vice grips.  More of the story: don't be dumb, use youtube, watch videos. 

Left: Good knots                                                                                    Right: rejects

#57: Baldwin Spinet. This was a new piano for me, another case of an old piano needing a pitch raise. There were several pedals not working correctly but nothing a little screw tightening couldn't fix. When I was finished the piano was still an old spinet but sounded much better and all parts were functional. 

#58 Young Chang Upright: This is a piano I see all the time because I play it every week. I was aware that some notes were knocking and some keys were sticking, so I was able to come prepared to take it apart and with some fixes researched in advance. I took out the action, tightened a lot of screws, pushed some pins back in place, then put the whole thing back together again. A few months later, I can tell that some of the pins are working loose again, but the screws I tightened are not having any new issues. 

#59 Wurlitzer Spinet: A friend asked me to come tune his spinet. He told me in advance that it was playing a half step lower than it should be, so I knew to expect an extreme pitch raise. This spinet turned out to be an example of piano that should not be tuned and really should not be played anymore. Many of the pins were not holding, making a few notes completely unplayable. I told him it really wasn't worth the work, but he wanted to be able to use it a little, so I did what I could. If your technician tells you to trash a piano, please trash it and don't list it for free on Craigslist instead. 








Counting to 100: 41 - 49

counting to 100 pianos.jpg

(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.)