Saturday, April 04, 2020

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7/24/2012 - Piano Tuning in Loganville, GA & Conyers, GA

I tuned an old Cable upright piano in Loganville, GA today that had a broken glue joint on one jack flange.  There are 88 jacks in every piano, that's right, one for every key.  The jack is what pushes the hammer up to strike the string when your finger pushes down a key.  The jack flange attaches the jack to a lever called the wippen.  It is very common in what I call "Big Ol' Uprights" for the glue joint that holds the jack to the wippen to fail, especially if the piano has been victim to an assault by a young child who has pounded the keys too hard.  When the jack flange, glue joint fails the jack is no longer able to push the hammer up to hit the string which results in a dead note.  Most of the time, with some long surgical tweezers, a long flat head screwdriver and some wood glue, I can carefully work some fresh glue up under the broken glue joint and then set the jack flange assembly back into it's correct position.  And if I'm lucky, which I was today, the glue has dried enough that the note can be played by the time I reach that note during the tuning process.  There are times when I have had to remove the entire action and take the jack flange assembly off the action rail to reglue and reposition the jack correctly.

7/23/2012 - Piano Tuning in Monroe, GA

The Georgia Piano Tuner is tuning pianos in Monroe, GA today.  Call  770-787-4890  to have your piano tuned!

7/19/2012 - Lake Oconee is Tuned Up and Sounding Sweet!

I tuned 4 pianos, all grands, in the Lake Oconee area today. One Kawai in Reynolds Plantation, one Yamaha in Cuscowilla, and one Boston and one Samick in Great Waters. Two are pianos that the owners have tuned every 6 months (yea!)and the other two are tuned once a year (can't complain about that either). I also had a quick stop in Harbor Club to install a key that I had replaced the keytop on for a little spinet piano. All jobs went smoothly and I was home before 5 pm which is pretty good considering I had over 90 minutes in traveling time!

7/18/2012 - I'll Have My Pimento Cheese With a Little Pepper Jelly, Please!

After performing a pitch-correction on an old Henry Detner grand piano in Rutledge, GA this morning, I decided to drive over to the downtown area to have lunch at The Caboose.  This is one of my favorite places to eat in this area due mainly to their Pimento Cheese with Pepper Jelly sandwich (both of which are homemade).  For just a little less than $7.00 you get the sandwich, chips, pickle slice and your drink, plus you get to eat inside a real caboose.  They also have home made root beer here as well as canned pickles and preserves for sale.  Stop in and check them out next time traveling down I-20 between Madison and Social Circle, they are less than 5 miles from the interstate!

7/17/2012 - Tune My Piano Twice?

I had a piano tuning job in Decatur, GA today that required me to tune the piano twice.  This is a common occurrence when the piano tuner is called to tune a piano that has not been tuned in a long time.  The term "a long time" could be any amount of time greater than two years.  Most piano manufacturers, by the way, recommend that pianos should be tuned twice a year in order to care for them properly.  I tell my customers that they should tune their pianos once to twice a year as a minimum if they are being played and no less than every other year if they are not being used regularly.

What most people don't realize is that pianos will go out of tune even if they are not being played.  As a matter of fact, normal piano playing will not cause the piano to go out of tune much at all.  The greatest factors that affects the piano's tuning are temperature and humidity changes in the environment where the piano is located.  For instance, if you had your piano tuned in early fall when the AC was still on, and then had a cold snap that caused you to turn the heat on for a night or two, odds are your piano will noticeably out of tune the next time you play it.  Why?  Because the environment around the piano changed.  This is the same phenomenon that causes a guitar to go out of tune when it is tuned at home, then thrown in the car and has to be tuned again later that same day when it's time to play the gig.  Guitar strings and tuning pins are very similar to piano strings and tuning pins in that it doesn't take much to cause them to move away from that perfect tuning you just gave it.

So, the truth of the matter is, that pianos will go out of tune even if they are just sitting there and not getting played.  And, if neglected long enough, the strings can get so far out that they either cannot be brought back up to standard pitch or they stand a good chance of breaking when you require your tuner to bring your piano up to standard pitch.

The rule of thumb here is that if a piano is more than 10% (or "cents") above (sharp) or below (flat) from standard pitch then it will require at least two tunings for the tuning to hold at standard pitch for any reasonable amount of time.  The reason for this is that it has been proven that piano strings will drop about 25% of the distance they are pulled up within the amount of time that it takes to tune the piano.  For example, if your piano is 100% flat (that would be one half step flat from standard pitch) and you instruct your piano tuner to bring the piano up to standard pitch, then the piano will be approximately 25% flat (1/4 of a half step flat from standard pitch) by the time he or she is done with the first tuning.  So the second tuning brings the piano closer in from 25% flat to 6.25% (or less) flat from standard pitch.  If you follow this line of reasoning on out, you can see how it could take more than two tunings to bring the piano back to standard pitch if it is even further out than 100% flat.

Piano technicians call this process of tuning a piano twice in one visit a "pitch raise" or a "pitch correction".  Generally speaking, this procedure involves the first tuning to serve as a faster and less accurate tuning to just get the whole piano within the parameters so that the second tuning can serve as a normal "fine tuning" just as if it the piano had been tuned a year or two ago.

7/6/2012 - Broken Elbows

I went to tune a piano in Athens, GA today that had broken elbows. 

No, I am not talking about a piano that had been visited by loan sharks or mafia hit men.  What I am referring to is a piano part that is found only in spinet piano actions.  The elbow in a spinet action is found on all 88 key/hammer assemblies and is located below the keyboard.  They are easily seen and accessed by removing the knee board and by looking into the piano while sitting on the floor.  Elbows can be made of either wood (good) or plastic (not so good) and look just like a human elbow that is bent at a 90 degree angle.

Broken elbows are easily diagnosed on a spinet piano when you see keys that are resting in the down position, as if someone had played them and they never returned back to their original height.  Plastic elbows that were made for spinet actions 50-60 years ago are notorious for deteriorating and becoming  fragile and brittle to the point that they can break with very little pressure applied from playing the keys.  Once a plastic elbow is broken, the link from the key to hammer is interrupted and that particular key will no longer cause the hammer to strike its corresponding string.

In most cases, if one elbow has broken, then it is only a matter of time before many others will follow suit.  Therefore, it only makes sense to replace all 88 elbows at the same time even if only one or a few are presently broken.  This job usually takes 3-4 hours if performed by an experience piano technician and will wind up costing considerably more than if replacing only the affected elbows.  But once done, it is a permanent repair that will not need to be repeated during the remaining life expectancy of the piano.  So, if this is the only issue with a particular piano, then it usually is worthwhile to have your piano technician to replace all 88 elbows in one visit (make sure he/she knows in advance that this may be an issue before they arrive to tune).  In the end, this will be much less frustrating than to replace just the current broken elbows only to have others break shortly after your technician leaves your house.

7/3/2012 - Loose Tuning Pins

It happened again today.  Went to see a first time client in Snellville, GA who had just bought a piano off of craigslist and wanted to have it tuned up for her daughter who was beginning to take piano lessons.  At first glance the piano seemed decent enough.  It was a little spinet that looked good with an action that seemed to be in good shape.  But as soon as I played the first few notes, I knew this was going to be a story without a happy ending.  Many of the keys played 2 or 3 pitches when my fingers pushed them down, which is a good indication that loose tuning pins might be a problem.  This was confirmed when I put my tuning hammer on the pin and found no resistance at all when trying to pull the string up to pitch.

Loose tuning pins are really just an indication of a much bigger problem, that being a disintegrating tuning pin block.  This is the piece of wood that the tuning pins are inserted into.  And when this piece of wood begins to deteriorate, it usually spells the beginning of the end for most pianos, because to properly fix the problem the piano has to be totally rebuilt (price tag being somewhere between $5-10K for an upright piano).  Yes, you can go out and buy a new upright piano for less than the cost of having an old one rebuilt.

While there are a couple of "dirty" fixes that can be done which may or may not help: such as removing the loose tuning pin and replacing it with one the next size bigger, or laying the piano on it's back and injecting super glue around the tuning pins, these procedures are not guaranteed to work.  So, the owner is faced with either putting out more money for a "fix" that is not warranted, spending big bucks on having the piano rebuilt, or just trashing the piano and starting all over again with a yet another unknown quantity.

This is not to say that you can't find a good used piano from somewhere other than a reputable piano dealership.  But, if you decide to purchase a piano in this manner, it would be wise to have the prospective instrument inspected by an experienced piano technician before committing to buying it.  This will assure you that you are buying a quality instrument free from significant problems or issues.  Most technicians I know usually charge about the same as their tuning rates to go and inspect a piano as long as it is located within their local service area.  If you are considering buying a piano that is not close to home, then it would be a good idea to find a
Registered Piano Technician with The Piano Technicians Guild who lives close to the piano and pay him/her to inspect the piano and report back.  The Piano Technicians Guild website has a Registered Piano Technician locator feature by which you can enter in a zip code and RPT's will pull up by order of proximity.

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