Full Service Piano Tuning

           Full Service Piano Tuning
           by Jack Houweling

A full service is more than just tuning. With more than 7500 parts just in the action alone, a qualified technician can easily understand the piano and do what is necessary to bring the piano to a maximum playing condition.
The list below is a sample of what a technician can go through very efficiently in a full service appointment making necessary adjustments and refinements.
First I will remove case parts then play every key, inspect bridge, strings, soundboard and pedals and so on, meanwhile keeping mental notes or mark with chalk anything that needs attention.
Then I start with first tuning and make a plan of what I can do nest to better improve the piano.
This is just a rough guide but an experience technician can assess a piano very quickly and make the best changes to your piano to improve it, giving you most bang for your buck.
Depending on each piano and condition 1 ½ -2 hrs.  will bring your piano to a higher level of performance.
Pianos need regular maintenance and tuning alone will not be enough. Make sure to ask
your technician for a full service,  tell him any concerns you may have. 

                        FULL SERVICE PIANO TUNING
ust pedals                                            titg
Inspection, test keys-touch and tone
Pitch correction or first tuning
Clean, lube
Minor repairs, regulation, voicing
Fine concert tuning


Buying a Used Piano

Suggestions on Buying a Used Piano

1. How does the instrument look?
How will it look in your home with your furniture? Will its size allow it to be moved into your home? (Consider any corners, stairs, wall space.) Does the piano have any missing hardware or veneer, or is the veneer lifting? If you don’t like the looks, you might as well stop looking at it at this point. Any piano can be refinished and/or restyled; however this can be very expensive ($2000 to $5000). Also ask if there is a bench (if one is not in sight).

2. Play the piano.
Play in all registers, both loud and soft, fast and slow, with pedals and without. Does everything work? Is the instrument up to pitch and in tune? Does the tone sound even in all registers? Do the keys repeat quickly? Do some keys travel deeper than others, or are there some keys that start out lower or higher than others when at rest? Do the notes stop ringing when you release the keys and pedal, or do some continue to ring on and on? Do you hear any sounds (like clicking, squeaks, buzzing or rattles) when you play? Do the pedals work smoothly and firmly? (If you do not play the piano, take along someone who does.)

3. Open the piano.
If there is anything on the instrument other than music, ask the owner to remove it. You are better off to have them risk breaking knickknacks, pictures, lamps, etc. It is usually fairly clear how to raise the lid of the piano, but first check to be sure that hinge pins are there, and that the hinges are solid so that you do not risk dropping or damaging the lid. Be careful that the lid does not hit a wall. Prop the lid open and slide the music desk out (on a grand) or remove the front board (on a vertical). You will see whether the front is held in place with screws or clips. Also remove the bottom board (usually held in place with a spring clip) to examine the bottom portion of the strings, soundboard and bridges.

With the case now open, you can note the condition of the strings, tuning pins and action. Check for the following:

• Cleanliness of the action
• Rust on strings and tuning pins
• Any missing strings, new strings (shinier than the others)
• Any pins that have string coils hammered down to the iron plate
• Missing hammers, worn out hammers (look for deep grooves where hammers strike the strings).
• Hammers that rub against neighbor hammers
• Do you see any large cracks in the soundboard, or are there cracks next to the pins where the strings cross over the bridges?

4. Name and Serial Number:
Before you close the instrument, copy the piano brand name and serial number. The brand name should be written on the iron plate, or fallboard (check to be sure they are the same) and the serial number (usually a five to eight digit number) should also be found on the iron plate. If not there, look on the back of the instrument. Different manufacturers put the number in different places, but it is usually in an obvious spot. Also note the model number, if possible. With this information, a piano technician should be able to tell the year of manufacture, as well as other pertinent information about the particular instrument.

5. How will the piano be moved?
Who will be responsible for moving the instrument, and how much will this cost?

If the piano passes these tests, then it is time to have your piano technician examine the instrument. At that time, more technical items can be addressed. I also highly recommend reading The Piano Book, by Larry Fine (Brookside Press), which is a book written for the express purpose of buying and owning a new or used piano. 

Prepared Piano

A “prepared piano” is a piano that has been modified with objects placed in it in a very special way as dictated by a composer of a “prepared piano” composition. This is a valid practice, but may only be done as prescribed below, and only on a piano designated by Piano Shop technicians and under their supervision.
Non Traditional Piano Use Guidelines
Prepared Piano Policy

1. All structural changes to any piano must be approved by and, in most cases, performed by a Piano Shop technician. This includes removing the lid or other case parts and attaching anything to strings or soundboard to modify the sound.

2. Marking strings. Small stickers may be used on dampers or agraffes to mark notes. Please purchase stickers that are easy to remove such as the small colored dots. Care must always be used when touching dampers as they are easily bent. Never use masking tape or any other adhesive that may leave a residue. The performer is responsible for removing any stickers immediately after any performance. There should be nothing applied directly to the strings. This includes white-out, tape, stickers, nail polish, etc. In some cases chalk may be used to mark steel strings but never the copper-wound bass strings.

3. Striking and plucking strings. Strings may be struck or plucked with fingers or guitar pick. (Since oil from the skin can tarnish strings please wash hands well before touching any string.) Other devices must always be of a material that will not mar or scratch strings. On steel strings, only materials that are softer than the steel string may be used, such as brass or aluminum. Copper-wound bass strings must also be struck or plucked with a material softer than the copper. Acceptable material includes wood, plastic, rubber, etc. Piano Shop technicians are available to help the performer select materials that will not damage the piano. In some cases, literature calls for the insertion of screws or mutes between piano strings. Again, a material softer than the string must be used, such as brass or aluminum.

4. Extreme volume. There is a fine line to be drawn between passionate musical expression and outright banging on a piano. Please use good judgment when playing above a forte. Harsh playing is damaging and will not be tolerated.

5. Common sense. Most damage to pianos can easily be avoided by using good judgment. Please consult with the Piano Shop technician before using unconventional techniques. Usually, an alternative can be found to satisfy both the performer and this policy.
Remember that a “prepared piano” is a special preparation required for a “prepared piano composition”, and except for this unusual circumstance pianos should only be used in the “normal” way.

When should a piano be tuned after Moving?

A piano should be tuned 1-2 weeks after delivery.

A piano that has been moved and spent time in a truck may not be out of tune after it
is delivered. Pianos are tough and can withstand up to 20 tons of string tension and decades of heavy use, so moving usually has very little effect on the piano.
 Steinway recommends 2 weeks and Bechstein 1 week after delivery. Remember the primary reason a piano goes out of tune is because of humidity changes.
New pianos will go out of tune sooner because the strings are new and still stretching,
this is why piano manufacturers recommend four tuning the first year.
A piano will always hold tune better when tuned by a skilled tuner, but stable temperature and relative humidity conditions will also increase the likelihood of good tuning stability.

Piano Killer Octave

What is the “Killer Octave”?
 It is the area around the fifth and sixth octave, usually F5 to F6. This is the area where the tone is weak and has short or no sustain. This is a problem in certain pianos due to original design, such as soundboard thickness, strike point, string scale and position of bridge. Although redesign is costly many improvements can be made to the piano.
Most pianists want control over volume and tone, to be able to play soft “softs” and loud “LOUDS”
It is important to have power and sustain across the keyboard, also to be able to blend  tenor and bass, and capable of playing soft and loud without distortion. A well designed piano should have a broad dynamic spectrum of sound and tonal characteristics.

Steinway School

All -Steinway School Definition

The All-Steinway School designation is given to an institution directly by Steinway & Sons.
An inventory analysis must be submitted to Steinway & Sons before approval can be granted.
Requirements to become an All-Steinway School
1. 90% or more of the acoustic pianos owned by an institution must be Steinway & Sons, Boston or Essex pianos.
2. A Steinway approved maintenance program must be in place. It is important to the reputation of the institution as well as to the reputation of Steinway & Sons that all pianos in an All-Steinway School be kept in performance quality condition. If this stipulation is not met, Steinway & Sons reserves the right to remove the All Steinway designation from this institution.
3. Steinway pianos are to be placed in the performance spaces and piano teaching studios and, preferably, in piano major practice rooms.
4. Steinway-designed pianos are to be placed in all other teaching studios, classrooms and practice rooms.
5. Pianos not designed by Steinway & Sons (i.e. historical instruments must be handled with discretion).
6. The institution cannot participate in any loaner programs from another manufacturer.
7. Existing inventory that is to be considered for qualification as an All-Steinway School must be in good condition which will be determined by a Steinway factory representative.
8. All-Steinway Schools are subject to periodic inspection by a Steinway factory representative to be sure that the pianos are being maintained in accordance with Steinway standards. Steinway & Sons may request that an inventory analysis be conducted periodically.
9. An approved number of technicians who service All-Steinway Schools are required to participate in the Steinway & Sons Technical Programs.
10. All-Steinway Schools in the Americas must maintain an inventory of at least 10 pianos.
*Steinway & Sons reserves the right to amend this definition.

Piano Tuning, Regulation and Voicing

Piano Tuning, Regulation and Voicing
by Jack Houweling
There are three basic areas of piano maintenance: Tuning, Regulation, and Voicing
Tuning is adjusting the tension of the piano strings to bring them all to the proper pitch. The fourth A (the A above middle C) is a starting point on the keyboard, it is set to 440 Hz. or cycles per second. Every thing else is tuned in relation to the A. Proper pitch is important for ear development.
Regulation The piano keys and action (the mechanism inside the piano) are made of leather, wood and felt and will compress and change shape with wear. They need fine adjusting to bring back for proper function. This will improve the playability of the piano.
Voicing deals with the tone quality of your piano. From bright to mellow the tone can be changed with voicing. Softening or hardening the hammers is one part of the process to change the tone. A technician can voice and change the tonal personality. There are many words used by technicians and piano players to describe the sound of a piano. here are just a few ….dark, tinny, crisp, tubby, muddy, weak, metallic, woody, rough, and clean.
How does your piano feel? What does your piano sound like? The degree of changes is dependent on the piano design and condition. Talk to your piano technician she can bring out the best in your piano.

Acoustic Piano or Digital Keyboard?

Acoustic Piano or Digital Keyboard?
A keyboard may be inexpensive compared to the cost of a piano, and the size is hard to beat. And although a keyboard is able to stay in tune and produce a sound just like a piano, you will not hear the true and matchless tone that you hear from an acoustic piano.
Keyboards may work for students or anyone who is a beginner, but for the more serious musicians, teachers and connoisseurs I would recommend an acoustic piano. A piano may be an investment, but the value will stick unlike its digital imposter which will depreciate.
Many people may opt for a piano simply to honour the tradition. You can see the beauty in the structure, feel the power from a single stroke on the pearly white keys. You can open the lid and view the mechanics of the instrument and appreciate the intricate design.
Most importantly is the SOUND. You can create a sound of resonant amplification only produced by strings, felt hammers and wood. The pedals of a piano are used to create a whole palette of sound which is impossible to create in a digital instrument. The end result that you have created is truly unique and irreproducible.
It’s like wearing a diamond or settling for a crystal. The crystal looks like a diamond, it is pretty and sparkly and easy on the wallet, but it’s not a diamond.

Piano Moving

Piano moving

by Jack Houweling

Piano moving can be very difficult and should be left to professionals. Both the weight and size of a piano determine how it should be moved.

Pianos can weigh between 400 and 1300 pounds making this task risky for an inexperienced mover. And although heavy, different pianos have different proportions, thus they need to be handled differently. Upright pianos are top heavy and can easily tip. Grand’s are more difficult because the must be flipped on their side and put on a special skid. Although you may not want to hire a mover just to move around the home this can also be dangerous or cause other problems such as marking floors, walls or steel casters will not roll properly. Even movers will put a piano on a dolly to move a piano across a room.

The pros move many pianos a day and are very good at it. Because they are fast and efficient the cost will be fair as opposed to other types of movers who will take twice as long and do not have the experience. Professional piano movers make it look so easy, but it takes experience and proper equipment to be a pro. They use ramps, dollies, straps, sleds and moving blankets and even some use stair climbers.

Call a piano store, teacher or a piano tuner to get a referral for a qualified piano mover,

or check your directory for PIANO MOVERS who only move pianos.

Only let piano movers move pianos.

How to find a Piano Tuner Technician

How to find a Piano Tuner Technician

In every profession you will come across those who are good, not so good and those who are great. Piano technicians are no different and there are steps one should take in order to find a great piano technician. Many people find someone to service their piano through referrals from friends, reputable piano teachers, piano players or music studios.

A great technician is one who has educated themselves, and continues to do so by attending piano seminars or conventions. He or she should be able to complete any repair and bring the best out of your piano. Understanding the art of tuning and knowing how to create beautiful touch and tone are the goals of any good technician. The customer should be able to feel and hear the difference.

Finding a great technician who is reliable, honest and experienced can be difficult and time consuming but with some research and asking questions you will find the task much easier and rewarding. Some questions to keep in mind while doing your research are how many years of experience do they have, are they able to do all repairs, what are the guarantees and what kind of references do they have.

Remember that a great technician is only as good as the last piano serviced.