Pianistic peregrinations...

...Or why pianos don't like sun, swimming, nor sheds.

One thing folk seem to universally understand is that a piano should ideally be located on an internal wall in a house. Well, cop a load of the Shed Piano. Why? Because the teen likes it there, she can retreat from the house and be a teen. I did not tune this piano which was woefully under pitch and falling apart inside (abundant action centre-pin failures, and more). 'It wasn't always this bad, it has gotten worse.' I wonder why! 

In fact, an internal wall is not utterly essential (this idea is a remnant from times when houses were usually of much lighter construction and less well-insulated) but a moderate environment that does not widely climatically swing is strongly recommended. An internal wall location may still see extreme contrasting airflow gush through a hallway when external doors are open, or direct sunlight bothering the piano. But I digress. 

Oh, dear. The poor Shed Piano. This piano is in its dotage, an old person, I said. But in this location it's like being an old homeless person!

I inspected three more pianos on the adjoining property and rated them based on the swimsuit section of their presentations. They were all woefully neglected and very far under concert pitch, but at least they were in what qualified as a 'room'. Just.

My impassioned opining about abuse were heard by the client. The Shed Piano was 'Gumtreed' away in a trice, possibly set to provide a rude awakening for someone else when they engage an expert to look 'under the hood'. It's sad to see this old Deutsch dear have its practical working life reduced when already in its twilight. Unfortunately, the economic magnitude of the required repairs is very hard to justify. Shared neighbour negotiations saw me engaged to pitch-raise and tune the best of the other three pianos, with the keen teen securing permission to go next door for her music-making. 

The Shed Piano's successor, still wearing its little slippers. A new piano some twenty-five years ago, it was then circumstantially caught in a time-warp of no maintenance and no use, quite the Miss Havisham piano. At least it wasn't in a shed. Now it is at concert pitch and ripe for teen explorations.

Did someone mention direct sunlight? In the heady world of event hire piano tuning (ever-entertaining) I turned up to a (s)wanky hotel to find this scene. You've got to be bloody kidding (I didn't say bloody, there was another word there). It's funny how the theoretical idyll presents so many practical problems. Someone at 'the top' has likely shouted down their advisers, 'I don't CARE... just do it, or I'll sack you and hire some REAL ego-stroking yes-men!'.

I loitered and muttered for a while. What was I waiting for, a Bunnings gazebo? (It would have been nice). OK, this is today's job, get on with it! I took the piano's temperature, touching the cabinet all over. This is one of the few times when being a white piano is an advantage. The less-than-gentle breeze seemed just enough to counteract the blazing sun. Nonetheless, it seemed that it would serve neither the piano nor myself to have the lid open any longer than absolutely necessary. 

I had tuned this piano two days earlier in much more comfortable circumstances, so I was banking on that helping me now. Quick, quick, lest my tuning hammer become an ersatz sundial.

It's enough to have to protect myself from the sun as I bicycle to these sorts of jobs, but then to have to worry about SPF while tuning, whew! I advised the organisers to keep the lid closed right up until it was party performance time. Party time was the evening, by which time the sun would have been gone, but the stiff breeze remained. 'No dive-bombs near the piano.' was my parting quip. 

I deputised for a colleague replacing three broken bass strings in his client's piano. Bass strings must generally be custom-made by a string maker, who copies the broken string (or calculates from measurements of neighbouring strings). The length of the copper winding (where it begins and ends) must be accurate, and both inner wire and copper winding wire dimensions are calculable and critical.

In the piano I found some tasty neat string splices (knots) someone else's fine work. Splices are a legitimate strategy in piano repair. They may sometimes be regarded as interim, and at other times may soldier on medium-term or longer, perhaps! Old copper-wound strings often become dull-sounding as dust builds up in the windings and the metal of the string stiffens and ages, and a zingy new string may stand out just too much. 

Here is a splice in the single string (monochord) range of the piano. There is just one string per note in this area of the low bass range. A splice is only possible if the string breaks at a point where there is still enough core wire length left to attempt to join a new section of plain wire. Even then, it might fail, given the age and degradation of the string. These strings are in apparently good condition (yet there are several breakages, hmmm).

This is more unusual, and surprised me. Here is a splice in the mid-range of the piano. One would not normally see a splice here because from the mid-range up strings are simply lengths of plain music wire (of graduated gauges) and it would be more common to replace the wire than splice it. With several plain wire lengths missing, the correct gauge may not have been to hand. Oh, so nifty and neat! This was the only note that bothered the client, because new wire does continue to stretch, and the knot itself tightens, so this string was more out of tune (flat) than its neighbours.

 More event tuning. Look, spectacular costumes and beautiful people, The Lion King, in rehearsal. I tuned this, the second of two pianos, to the gentle sound of thorough mopping of the special dance surface and all the tape position-markers being carefully re-applied. As the cast began to arrive (I'm still tuning) every single person greeted me, which took me by surprise, but also gave me the impression that this is a happy and positive work environment. But part of me thinks these gorgeous young dancer-actors aren't old and work-hardened enough to be jaded by anything yet (said she, very jadedly).

Oh, for the sound of gentle mopping! A surreal (and not ideal) circumstance where clearly everything was running very late, and it wasn't going to improve in the immediate future. When I arrived (to the sound of air compressors powering nail-guns) and much purposeful hullabaloo, the piano was upstage while they finished the flooring downstage. Then the piano was moved downstage and the measuring, cutting and installing of the stage floor continued. I just had to push through as best I could, urging air compressor and PA operators to hold off a little longer. 

It is negotiation and education, I use my ears to tune, there are limits. Pin-drop silence is strongly preferred, but not always available! If possible I'll urge folk to converse a little further away from the piano, or I'll stop and wait for folk to finish an annoyingly noisy thing, then resume. I'll communicate and dovetail in on timing (expressing my desires, and learning of others' needs, and try to make them 'fit' reasonably). I'll push my earplugs in further and bury my head in the piano. Sometimes the compromised hurly-burly means things ain't going to get much better. This was one such occasion. See my dumb phone there, on the piano? When I'm 'out and about' I don't have access to emails, so text or phone call are safer ways to be sure to reach me promptly. 

Here's something! The APTTA* Convention was recently held in Manly, Sydney. Piano technicians from all over Australasia attended to share ideas, learn, and socialise. Most of the pianos involved travelled up in the lift (still no mean feat, requiring skilled handling by piano carriers). But this piano, the Yamaha CFIII, stunningly rebuilt by Ron Overs at Overs Pianos, with many improvements and innovations, was too large for the elevator. Fortunately, the stairs involved a landing that was curved and relatively wide. Nonetheless, we observers were agape watching the not-insignificant act of TWO men using traditional techniques (and Sumo-style pre-pump-ups) to lift and carry this 500-kilogram instrument! Without a scratch. The cabinet has removable plastic on it to guard against superficial scratches. The blue rug/doona in the bottom of the shot is where they parked it at the top of the first flight of stairs. There were plenty of cameras and phones filming as a collection of folk watched from the upper level. I wonder how the carriers felt about performing this more-complex-than-usual job with an audience. No vibe from them, just focus. Incredible. Respect! 

We're at the Convention. Everywhere we look there are pianos, sometimes that's a good thing, other times, well. Nobody's going to fret too much about the venue's own pianos, possibly neglected and full of canape prawn tails. This table-like use by the DJ caught my eye. It seems almost acceptable after Shed Pianos and Pool Pianos, but it is generally frowned on in the finest circles.

Hey, I got a new app for my dumbphone, it keeps appointments, names, numbers. Brilliant!**  

I'm big on skin-notes, but it's not often I use my whole arm! I was in a shopping centre as I took a booking, I had no time to scrabble for anything that was not me to write on. It's a wonder I could find something to write with.

** I admit that now I'm all iThinged up. I still write skin notes (but now I have alternatives).