Pianos: Cat Me If You Can


I am a cat person. Chance encounters at piano jobs are welcome. Meet a mate's Minchin-esque moggy on my lap. Only a ginger...

The scene just moments earlier.

Working from home is all the rage (except for piano tuners, who must safely negotiate entry into others' domains).

 Sylvester, a piano client's elderly one-eared puss, is long gone...

...and a new little scamp has arrived...

...to supervise the COVID-era Zoom teaching station.

Eminent epidemiologist Mary Louise McLaws features prominently in sensible parts of the media. Every time I hear her surname I imagine she hails from a long line of Scottish cats, the McClaws. Finally an ABC typo confirmed my suspicion.

Spied while out walking. I presume Twinkles was a cat.

If I wear this shirt - will it ward off dogs, or encourage them?

Sure, there's the odd cute pooch, but I have no need to fraternise with your pooches. I'm happiest when doggies are nowhere near me during my service call (especially if they are excitable or loud). Sure, I 'get' that they may just want to meet me, but that (ideally) is carefully managed (by you!). I'm happiest when pooches have calmed down and lost interest... or been placed somewhere else entirely at the outset.

If they're so chilled that I'm almost unaware of them, that may be OK.

Has this working-from-home sniffer dog identified a stash in the bottom of this piano?

Mellow yellow. A labrador length is no longer a suitable physical distance measure.

Pre-COVID, the lady of the house (or was it the cleaner, I never learned) turns up late to find me on the doorstep. She guided me to speak into her her phone. I thought I was on a call with the person who had booked me. No. I was talking into a translation app.

No thanks. Not for me. As established.

My cuppa. As established.

Let's learn something small about pianos. They're crazy precision machines with all sorts of odd materials therein. Here we see a special loop (made of string) which has become fragile and failed. This loop hooks onto a tiny brass spring on each hammer butt in an upright piano. These loops can break, leaving the little springs flapping around and not doing their job. The little springs (too) can fail. Bloody everything can fail in a piano, and that Gumtree bargain is often anything but.

In certain brands of pianos, from certain eras, (or abused or elderly instruments) most or all of these loops may have broken. Today it's just one causing trouble. I've replaced the butt spring loop with a length of beading thread. It worked well. If several of these loops have broken, you can bet that the remainder will fail as soon as they are touched. To replace them all is fiddly time-consuming piecemeal work. It is sometimes done. An alternative is to replace all the hammer flanges (equally fiddly, but you then have new flanges and new flange bushings and centre pins). How long is a piece of string, you might ask?

The cat known as Boule de Niege.

Feline frolics.

Honky Cat.

Love me a highly specific business model. I wonder if they'd stretch to a mousehole.

This regular client periodically tweaks the decor in her home teaching studio. Ooh, a new artwork for me to stare at for the treble half of the tuning.

Notice the brick wall and round-topped green gate. I instantly recognise the setting as being right out the window.

The one-piece lid of this Yamaha T-121 offers the perfect opportunity to view the setting in reflection. Photos don't do it justice, but I must say, these sorts of high-gloss lids are helpful for being aware of folk sneaking up on you as you tune. No one should be breathing down any tradesperson's neck as they work. This was my view before COVID was a twinkle in the poor peeper of a zoonotic snack-bat. It's all the more important now. 

I hasten to add that this client is exemplary in this respect. We greet briefly and safely, then I'm left to work until I conclude and am ready for an efficient final transaction.

The view from the music room window. Do you see the fence and gate?

My tuning appointments are always entertaining and sometimes surreal. The cat seeks to recreate its portrait. A miracle, or just a favourite spot? Life doesn't get better. For the cat, or your humble tuner? Both.

A flashback to my former neighbours' cat reclining in my front yard. At the time, my housemate and I were constantly sharing photos of this cat in various states of contented repose. Would it be churlish to suggest that the best aspect of those particular neighbours was their cat?

This poster is next to a home piano. Click on the picture to enlarge it if you wish to complete your musical homework. Myriad musical terms expressed in three languages, Italian, German and Cat. Sind Katzen musikalische? Ja!


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