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: #13 or How NOT to tune a piano

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

I tuned my own piano this month, and it reminded me of all the ways you should not tune a piano, if at all possible:

1. Over the course of a few days.

This does not help with the stability of the tuning. You can almost think of a piano as a living instrument. It is made out of wood and metal, so something is always slightly changing, even if it is the tiniest bit. This means that it should be tuned all at once, so the slight changes won't effect the overall tuning. Unfortunately, with a small child underfoot, all at once isn't always an option.  I tuned our piano over the  course of about a week, finally finishing in a mad rush between piano students, while my kid was with a baby sitter (see #2). 

2. With a small child yelling and babbling.

Babies babbling are cute. But there is something about their high pitched yells, whether yelling for good or bad reasons, that makes it really had to hear strings vibrating.  Aural tuning and loud kids just don't go together well. 

3. With a small child trying to steal your tools.

My kid loves my metronome, and was also begging for just about every other tool I was using. 

4. With a small child hanging on your legs. 

Although, as a parent I suppose I am pretty used to that one by now. It still does make tuning more cumbersome than it needs to be. 

This is just a small picture of what it looks like to tune your own piano with a one- year-old at home. But the good news is our piano sounds a lot better than it did, and I have a challenging 13th tuning under my belt! 

Creative Arts Night or "Unintended Lessons in Tuning Pianos"

Last week I accompanied two soloists at the Creative Arts Night. The church did a great job of putting together an evening aimed at opening eyes to the slavery and abuse of women in our own area. They had posters on all the walls with facts and information and a computer center set up to be able to email local representatives. One of the entrances looked like this:

Husband and I at the event

Various forms of artwork were displayed for sale, and even some that weren't for sale were sold (for the right price). I was just a little part of this, accompanying during the recital that followed the general art-viewing. The recital (mostly opera and art songs, with some classical piano, guitar, violin, and some modern drama for good measure) was very well received.

 This picture is from one of the dramas.  Different numbers were displayed representing statistics about abuse and human trafficking. The picture does not show this well, but the people holding the number signs all had duct tape across their mouth.

Overall, I hear it was a good night.

But here's the back story, and the part that had me worried all afternoon, night, and the next morning even, and taught me lessons which I don't think the planners of the event ever intended:

You see, I had offered to tune the piano for the event when I was asked to play, thinking by that time surely I would be done with the tuning course (or enough of it) and be ready to get to work.  So, I wasn't entirely surprised when I received a phone call the day of the event... but I definitely wasn't where I thought I'd be in the course. However, I pictured some really terrible church pianos that I've played and figured I should give it a try and at least make it sound better. I agreed and had exactly 2 hours to tune the piano.

Problem #1- I hadn't actually tuned a piano all the way through and assumed 2 hours would be enough. It wasn't.

Because of...

Problem #2- The piano had existing damage that I didn't know about until I started tuning it. And I didn't realize how extensive it was until I got going a little ways. Which made it much harder to tune, which means time, of which I didn't have very much. It was either tune the piano or get it back to where it had been and tell them I couldn't tune it... and I chose the former because at this point I'd already started, and let's face it, who likes telling someone you can't do what you said you'd do. (I've learned my lesson. Next time, I'll just tell them I can't do it.)

So, end of story, I ran out of time, took some short cuts (I know, all the piano technicians out there are shaking their heads saying "what shortcuts?"), and did as best as I could. But it still didn't sound how I thought it should. And I wasn't happy about that, at all. It was my first piano tuning, and I wanted it to be perfect. I went home, changed, ranted to my husband, got supper on the run, and came back in time to play for the recital. The recital went well, but I could still tell something was wrong.

After the recital, I offered to come back and fix the piano the next day. And after a very troubled night I did go back, leaving it in much better order than I had the night before. It also took less time that I thought, restoring some of my faith in the work that I've done so far in my course.

Anyway, I've learned my lesson(s):

1. No emergency tunings.

Not for a while anyway. I really don't know how long it will take me to tune any given piano at this point... so getting stuck in a tight time-frame is not a good idea.

2. I don't know everything yet, and that's ok.  It's actually kinda hard for me to be ok with that, but I know that everyone has to start somewhere. And if I can't do something, I'll just admit it, and not try to muscle through... unless for some reason the client really wants me to do so.  But I think that will probably only happen with my parents' piano.

Still want to hire me?

Good! Give me a few months, and then I'll see what I can do.

Until then, it's back to practicing and homework for me.