I recently worked on another old piano and I thought I would share some pictures here.
This Steinway upright was built in 1877. The workmanship is beautiful! It has new strings and hammers, but most of the action parts are original.
I was there to repair a spring on a bass damper that had finally broken after 127 years of service.
The repair took about 20 minutes, but it took another 45 minutes to solve a mysterious buzzing noise and the pedal squeak.
This piano cost around $500 in 1877, which is about $18,000 in today’s money. Every detail was beautifully made. Even the screw the held the front panel in place was decorative. The only person who would ever really see this is the piano tuner who takes the piano apart!
The day after Thanksgiving I had the dubious honor of tuning the piano onstage for the tree lighting festivities at Pioneer Courthouse Square. This kind of events is always an interesting experience with lots of unknown factors for me as the piano’s caretaker.
The first disadvantage for this kind of event is the weather. Any outside event is going to present a tuning challenge. If it is cold or hot, or humid or dry, the piano will throw a fit and go way out of tune and in most cases, keep going out of tune as fast as I can tune it! This event was cold. High 30’s I think. And it was also wet! I had rain blowing in on me while I was tuning and even hitting the piano occasionally!
The next disadvantage for event tunings is you never know how much time you will have. I got there early and the performing group was warming up and testing the sound system. I was supposed to tune at 4:30 and they were still singing when 4:30 came and went. When I got on stage and started to tune, I overheard the group’s director talking with the TV newsman and learned I only had about 15 minutes to work! It normally takes about an hour to tune a piano in the best of conditions!
7′ Steinway B tucked in on the left. the NW Community Gospel Choir onstage.
You also never know what the background sound level will be when tuning for an event. I’ve tuned over sound checks, white noise (the worst), or even pressure washers! In this case the newsman was riling up the crowd and making them scream getting ready for his clip he was going to take in a few minutes. The bass player made eye contact with me and just shook his head.
So I had 15 minutes, the environment was horrible for the piano, and I could hardly hear to tune over the high noise level!
I just had to stick my head down inside this poor Steinway and work through the piano, tuning the worst notes until I ran out of time. In this kind of scenario, if they haven’t planned well for the tuner, I just have to do the best I can with the hand I get dealt! The piano sounded decent when I was done, but certainly wasn’t perfect. But, even if I had done a perfect tuning, within 20 minutes, there would have been notes out of tune just because of the cold!
Oh well. It was an adventure.
This video was from last year’s ceremony, but Pink Martini performed this year as well. I hope the piano sounded good for them!
I recently tuned for a customer with a magnificent custom built home. The whole end of the main living area was devoted to two beautiful pianos, a 1973 Steinway B and a vintage 1939 Baldwin F, both around 7′ long. The room had wood floors, walls, and 20′ ceilings: great acoustics! I didn’t get a great picture, but you can see the glass wall at the end of the room. You can enjoy a view through the trees and over a deep valley while you play one of these wonderful pianos.
I had the privilege to tune one of Portland Piano Company’s rental pianos for Portland’s Monday Musical Club this week. Portland’s Monday Musical Club puts on concerts to raise money to give out in scholarships through the year (I received one of these scholarships myself as a teenager).
Their concert this week was a program of two piano music, so they brought in an additional Steinway B to match Reedwood Friends Church’s own piano.
My job was to tune the rental piano as soon as it arrived so it would be ready for their concert at 1:00.
After the piano was delivered at 10:00, I first checked the “home piano” and found out it was 7 cents (7/100 of a pitch) flat. And since these pianos were going to be played together, I had to tune the rental piano 7 cents flat as well to match the “out of tuneness” of the piano already in place. I touched up the unisons on the church’s piano and was on my way at 11:30. Wish I could have stayed for the concert at 1:00!
Two 6′ 10 1/2″, 760lb Steinway B Grand Pianos