I recently tuned a piano which had been ‘rescued’ by its current owner after it had been dumped outside its old home and left for a couple of days when it was no longer wanted.
Apart from broken hinges on the music desk, the piano was fine. He moved it in and cleaned it up thoroughly. It hadn’t been tuned for a long time, but it tuned well, and I was able to tune it to Concert Pitch (A = 440hz). The owner now has a nice instrument for his son to practice on.
The moral of this story is: don’t scrap or throw out an old or unused piano. With a little TLC, it can be either given or sold on to benefit a budding musician – young or old!!
I went to an illustrated talk at our local library, recently. It was given by a highly skilled individual by the name of George Hook. George is the last remaining Pearl Button Maker, based in Birmingham and the Black Country, who can trace his forebears back through five generations, to the Company’s inception back in 1824.
George makes many small items of jewellery, such as Pendants, Cufflinks & Brooches. His other work includes making small condiment spoons, and inlay work, particularly for fret boards for fine quality guitars.
What is the relevance of this for the piano trade you may ask? Mother-of-Pearl inlay was used in the decorating of fine quality furniture, and so it was with pianos. Early instruments received varying amounts of inlay and carving, the heaviest being reserved for the Victorian Period. Most of the inlaid work went into the ‘top door’ i.e. the panel which is right in front of you when you are seated. Usually in the form of a ‘Rosette’ decoration.
You may be intrigued to learn, that the term ‘Mother-of-Pearl’ is technically given to the Oyster shell where the pearl is formed from its initial grain of sand. As it grows and develops, the Oyster is its protective ‘Mother’- hence the name. The trade first developed with the introduction of much larger oyster shells which arrived in ship’s ballast from Australia. These larger shells were much more versatile than small native oysters. Other shells such as Abalone, Trochus and Conch, were usually sourced from Japan, Polynesia and Manilla.
After much grinding and polishing, the Mother-of-Pearl is ready to be fashioned into its end product, for example inlay work on guitar fret boards, the fingerboards & bodies of bowed stringed instruments, decoration on early keyboards and jewellery work.
Sadly, these skilled individuals, along with the Harpsichord/Early Keyboard makers and other specialist instrument builders, seem to be drastically declining. The British Piano Trade, thriving many years ago, has all but gone. So we need an influx of specialist Musical Instrument Makers and/or Early Keyboard Restorers to take the skills forward. Anyone willing to take up the challenge?
The iron frame, used in the piano as we know it today, was invented in 1825 by Alpheus Babcock (1785-1842). He was an employee of the Chickering Piano Co. U.S.A. who used an iron frame for the first time in their Grand Pianos in 1840.
Until iron reinforcement pieces were introduced to pianos in 1799, frames were generally made out of wood, which were liable to warp and twist under string tension, eventhough it was generally much lower than it is on a modern piano. An iron frame has the ability to withstand 19+ tons of string tension, along with increases in resonance, overall power and tuning stability.
There are 2 major types of casting for piano frames: sand cast & vacuum processed. With green sand casting (also known as wet sand casting), after the sand has been pressed into the desired shape, the pattern is removed from the sand, and a ‘negative’ imprint remains. Molten iron is poured into the mould, and when cool, the sand is broken away, leaving an exact shape behind, ready to be polished, primed & sprayed, to the manufacturers specifications.
The Vacuum mould casting process, also known as the V process, employs a sand mould that contains no moisture or binders. The internal cavity of the mould holds the shape of the casting due to forces exerted by the pressure of a vacuum. Vacuum moulding is a process that was developed in Japan around 1970.
Hands up all of you who purchased an acoustic piano for Christmas. Old or new, big or small, it may take a little while to become acquainted with that new piece of Musical Furniture, but you’ll certainly be glad that you did so. The way ahead may not be smooth, and at times it will undoubtedly be very frustrating. But ultimately, all the hard work will be very rewarding. You can award yourself a ‘pat on the back’ if you purchased a course of piano lessons, either in addition to your new instrument, or as a separate gift for yourself, or for a friend or relative.
For those of you lucky enough to have bought – or have been bought – a piano for Christmas, you are joining that magical group of individuals who call themselves ‘pianists’, or more broadly, musicians. Who knows where your pianistic journey will take you? No doubt some of you will have classical leanings, and will want to become aspiring Concert Pianists, whereas others will be content to play all styles of music as they progress, and the pianists with Jazz leanings? Well they might just want to play the Christmas Pressie Blues!!
Don’t forget to look after your new piano, by having it tuned & maintained regularly. My contact details can be found on all of the pages of my website. HAPPY PLAYING!!
The first thing to do when buying a ‘pre – loved’ piano (or if you are offered a free one), is to assess the casework-are there any signs of general damage, such as missing or splintered veneer, damaged castors/feet, corrosion on the hinges, pedals etc. indicating that the instrument has been damp at some point, perhaps left in a garage? More seriously, are there any signs of woodworm? and if so, is it active? Don’t touch the piano if it is!
If you can, remove the top & bottom doors (the panels that face you, above and below the keyboard), also the fall (keyboard cover). If you have any misgivings about going further than the outside of the case, then you should enlist the services of a qualified Piano Tuner/Technician, to help you in your search.
Have a look for broken or missing keys – these can’t always easily be replaced. Missing hammers will also need to be replaced. Another sure sign that the piano has been in a damp environment, is rusty strings. These do not always take kindly to being tuned, and many could break during tuning. Any signs of water damage on the case, keys or action, should be viewed with suspicion. A vase of flowers, mug of tea, or similar, could have been spilt inside, potentially causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage, or writing the instrument off completely.
Moth damage can be fairly catastrophic for a piano, with a lot of the main wooden components relying on a cushion or spacer/washer of felt, as well as keyboard and pedal trim. It is worth checking that the pedals are working correctly. If not, some further work may be necessary in order to rectify the problem.
A serious problem which would probably write off the piano, or make it terribly difficult to hold in tune, is cracks in the iron frame itself. Obviously, they only need to be hairline cracks, to compromise the string tension and any grip the tuning (wrest) pins may have. So if these can be spotted before purchase, along with small splits in the wrest plank, radiating out from the tuning pins, a lot of money and anguish may be saved.
If you would like any help or advice on any of the above issues, please do not hesitate to contact me. My advice is strictly impartial, and is my own professional opinion only.
Here’s a question for you. Why are so many ‘old’ pianos simply thrown out, or broken up, when all they require is a general check over, and probably tuning (which, no doubt, they haven’t had in years), and a few minor repairs that would put them back on the road to recovery?
Many fine pieces of furniture have gone to that celestial piano showroom, unless saved by an enlightened owner. I believe the therapeutic values of that unloved ‘heap’ in the corner are endless, ranging from keeping the brain active for individuals with Alzheimer’s, luring bored youngsters away from their phones/tablets(impossible?) through to adult learners, beavering away in their spare time.
That old acoustic piano is so much better for developing correct finger technique, and for training the muscles in the fingers, rather than a digital keyboard, with its keys which are generally pivoted at one end, and feel as if they are sprung loaded. Even modern digital pianos, with their touch-sensitive and weighted keyboards, can’t quite re-create the nuances of the REAL piano keyboard!
So I would urge you to think again before throwing out the unloved piece of furniture that Great Grandma bought when she was in her prime!
Hello, and welcome to my website! My name is Stephen Haynes. I am a Professional Piano Tuner and Technician covering the West Midlands area. My aim is to make your piano sound as good as possible for the fairest price. I also carry out repairs and regulation in addition to my tuning services. It doesn’t matter if your instrument is very old or brand new – they all receive my very best care regardless of age. I usually work a seven day week, so I can attend to your piano at a time which suits you best. If you would like me to assess your piano first, I offer a FREE PIANO HEALTHCHECK within 5 miles of my WV12 postcode.
I am now starting a Piano Stool Restoration Service, following an initial project from a colleague, so if your current stool is looking a little tired and is in need of a facelift, don’t hesitate to contact me, and I’ll see what I can do for you.
Apart from considerations such as the size of the piano, where it will look attractive in the room, and convenience for playing, there are a number of other factors to consider. An even temperature will help to maintain the tuning stability, so always try to keep it away from any heat sources such as central heating, radiators and fires. Changes in humidity can also be detrimental to the well being of a piano, particularly the drying effect of central heating. If the piano is an upright, it needs to be placed against a wall as they are inherently unstable. It is also preferable to avoid direct sunlight from falling onto the casework, both from the point of view of the heating effect on the instrument as a whole, and the fading effect sunlight can have on the polish.
Hi, My name’s Stephen Haynes and I have been a professional piano tuner for a number of years now after graduating from the renowned Newark College Piano School in Nottinghamshire,
My love for music began back in primary school when I learnt to play the recorder. This led to playing clarinet and bassoon in secondary school where I played in the wind band and orchestra.
I carried on with clarinet and recorder into adulthood, joining a local concert band and the Society of Recorder Players. I enjoy listening to and playing a wide variety of music from Medieval and Renaissance, through to Classical and Jazz.
It is because of my love for music that I want to help you make the most of your instrument, and piano tuning is a passion for me, as well as a career.
I know that lives today are busy, and that getting your piano tuned is possibly way down your priority list, and this is why I offer flexible times to suit your needs (including weekend and evenings).
To find out more, or to have a chat about other services I can offer you please call 07866 953 039 for a no obligation chat, or just complete the contact form here.