A 'new normal'. Piano service during the COVID-19 crisis.


Seeing all my muso mates' discussions and tribulations with Skype (or Zoom) instrumental teaching inspired me to smash out this meme. It's possibly not the best use of my evening, but whaddayagunna do, Cazzbo, write a symphony? Go viral, little meme, in the best way possible... 

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I normally write this blog in a kind of 'timeless' way, but cataclysmic developments in Australia (and the world) compel me to address the 'now' that is the rampant escalation of the COVID-19 crisis.


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On 20 March 2020 I wrote:

So, this morning's tuning was after the kids' first Skype lesson, wherein the teacher heard the home piano and declared the situation 'an emergency'. True.

I guess I might still be able to tend to such emergencies, I don't know. The Skype teacher had stongly urged the mother to act quickly, before we all go into some sort of lockdown, saying she didn't want the kids (nor her) to be hearing the piano in that state, with no chance of rectification. Theoretically I could enter a house and do my job with no face-to-face at all. One hot-button topic of recent times has been how to disinfect keyboards. I can advise, but I won't specifically be doing that here.

As I have entered others' houses in the last few days it has been a weird dance representing this new dystopian era we're entering. This strange vibe of 'who is trusting - or distrusting - whom?'. Completely appropriate social distancing is practically impossible (why is everyone else in the world a pathological sidler?) to be fair, I have been attempting to distance long before it was mandated. A merry demonstrative waltz I can perform, and no one can hem me into a corner at a party, I will escape, like a trapped tiger (or moggy). I digress.

But I think of all the healthcare workers who must do their best, with PPE and mindful sanitation practices, to assist those who are vulnerable and in need.

Of course, like all musos, all gigs are off, ditto the event tunings (which are for other gigs that are off). So, will I still enter folks' 'good rooms'? Perhaps in a limited capacity. I don't know. If folk have to self-isolate, and want to get creative and further their hobbies, make albums, write symphonies (not to mention Skype-teach) perhaps they might need my services. I'm good either way, I'm not chasing anything at all. I'm fine.

No one would fail to find a way to have a plumber visit if they had a burst pipe. Rarely might a piano's plight be regarded as quite such an emergency, but today it was.


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Less than a handful of days later that event feels like ancient history and I have no plans to replicate that visit anytime soon.

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These are extraordinary times. All that we regarded as 'normal' is out the window. It needs to be so. How to proceed is evolving on a daily basis. Things that just a week or two ago were unimaginable are now our reality.

What is happening now in the realm of domestic piano servicing? Folk (at their initiation) leaving the house prior to a service technician's arrival, leaving the door unlocked, or a key under the mat (or some clearly-stipulated hiding place). All conversation about the piano will be remotely via phone, text, email. Photos and videos of the piano can be a useful tool. They will continue to be.

The clear and sensible directive is for all to self-isolate as much as possible, to stay home. If one ventures out for purposeful legitimate reasons, one must physically distance oneself from all others in all circumstances  What will this mean? We must fulfil our piano tuning appointment without meeting. It is the only way to operate ethically and safely.

All my muso mates are grappling with Skype (and Zoom) interfaces over which to conduct instrumental lessons. I can't tune your piano over Skype. I need to enter your house.

Consequently, I'm compelled to have a crack at outlining some guidelines for in-home piano servicing for the next little while. This may all change again very shortly. If this whole kaboodle (my guidelines) are not your cup of tea, that's fine. I don't need to service your piano, I am perfectly fine self-isolating at this time.

What remains now is a small window of time in which folk are motivated (almost clamouring) to get their home pianos sorted out, in anticipation of the almost-inevitable more stringent lockdown regulations, after which we'll hunker down in our bunkers and seek solace in music, teach Skype lessons, receive Skype lessons, self-publish ditties, record albums, write symphonies.

I am healthy and have not travelled anywhere remotely exciting in any recent times. I have not been overseas, nor have I had close association with anyone else who has.

OK, here goes...

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Guidelines for in-house piano servicing during the COVID-19 crisis.


Access to your house

We will make a plan that can be executed remotely. It might be just you unlocking the front door prior to my arrival then moving to a distant part of the house. It might be you (and yours) leaving the house with a key under the mat for me. I will be punctual for our planned appointment (it is my nature).

Where is the piano within the house?

If it's not blatantly obvious, you might say 'second door on the left off the main hallway'. Or whatevs.

Physical distancing/isolation.

This needs to be hardcore. Hardcore. I'm sorry (but I'm not sorry). This is what is needed. This is the only way we can proceed ethically and responsibly. You will need to be in a part of the house that is distant from the piano room, nowhere near, for the duration of my visit. You might be out. Please allow a minimum of two hours for the service call. Last week's old-school meet-and-greet at the door is now completely off limits.

Access to the piano.

Please clear all the music books, knick-knacks, metronomes, busts of Beethoven and associated cluttery tchotchkes off the top of the piano. If you don't, I'll be moving them, which is fine, but I would far rather you take care of it. I need to be able to open the lid fully and remove several cabinet parts to tune. I will be removing the upper front board, fallboard, and sometimes the lower front board.

Sanitation.

I will have in my tool kit the appropriate means to sanitise my hands, and the piano keyboard. I will clean your keyboard before and after the service call.

Other non-tuning issues with the piano.

If you've got significantly troublesome sticky note(s) or a pedal squeak, let me know. Sometimes these problems are difficult to diagnose, other times they're more obvious. Clients marking problem notes with Post-it Notes or leaving lists is nothing new. We can still communicate remotely about what a realistic scope of work for the piano will be, we just won't be doing it side-by-side.

Appointment duration.

Allow a minimum of two hours for the appointment. It may take longer. I will let you know (via text or call) when I have finished and departed.

Payment method.

Prompt electronic funds transfer will most likely be the most convenient option at this time.

I'm here to help your music-making.

Can it be done? Let's see, let's try. I suspect that this 'new normal' will not last very long at all.

I may be amending this blog entry at any time.