Pianos: Belt up and get a grip!

Piano carriers are stoic, skilled and strong. Respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I won't let the fact that they apparently listen to 2GB in the truck diminish my feelings. Who am I kidding? That is marked down as the sole inalienable negative that I will never discuss (with them!) It is boggling work at the best of times. What, piano carrying? Or being subjected to appalling broadcasters? The former. Yes, boggling work - but where stairs are involved the ante is upped, upped, and upped (and so is the price). Large uprights are more onerous to move than grands, contrary to popular belief.

This season's piano fashions: 'Does this belt make bottom bow look big?'  

Two Clive Palmer-sized leather belts are looped over either end of the piano. The belts are tethered together with a third strap at the bottom so that they cannot slip off when the lift is executed. The carriers sling the belts over their shoulders. There are aspects of the technique that I'm not qualified to describe, but suffice it to say there are good reasons why regular removalists hate moving pianos. Wouldn't you rather move many small, medium and a few big things, rather than only the biggest, heaviest and most prized possessions?

A wheelchair lift just to the left of these stairs mocks all concerned (except wheelchair users). It is not designed for anything larger nor heavier than the aforementioned demographic. Although Yamaha C3 grand pianos should qualify for disabled access and parking, they don't. 

A folded protective quilted blanket is positioned on the landing ready for the piano to be set down. Next the four-wheeled trolley (or dolly) will be reinserted underneath the piano to continue the journey on the flat. I'm happy to go the extra yard at times like these and carry the trolley, which itself is so heavy I can hardly lift it. It needs to be heavy to be stable under the bigger pianos, I'm told. Blokes get a shock when they go to pick up that trolley, I learn. Positioning the trolley accurately under a tilted piano is quite the trick, I'm a novice at it, but happy to assist if I'm able. With every instance, I become marginally less novice. Yep, happy to help - not the piano lifting, per se, but the wrangling of the trolley, piano legs, pedal lyre, bench, music desk, along with moving clutter, opening doors, quipping that cobblestone routes are potentially making my job harder. But not the lid, those lids are astonishingly heavy, yet a carrier will heft the lid up onto one shoulder and carry it leaning against his head. The moment the piano is in situ, it's great if I can get at it and tune. Earlier is usually quieter (but not always).    

Occasionally on-site bunting festoons the piano zone. Noticing 'Established 1955' had me imagining pianos sipping milkshakes and slipping coins into jukeboxes in some fantasy US-style diner as I tuned.  

St Francis of Assisi, Paddington. I patiently waited for 'one more' rehearsal of tomorrow's wedding processional. Sure, I need to unpack my gear and open the piano anyway. It turned into three more after that. I sneakily filmed, mainly because their recorded muzak instantly saw my saccharine levels skyrocket dangerously. It was of a yet-to-be-determined genre that made 'white piano music' seem positively impenetrable to the listener. Finally, when the youngsters started beatboxing into the pulpit microphones, I gently asked if they were almost done. They were... almost. To cap things off the bride asked me if I knew where (in both the ceremony AND the venue) the signing of the register would occur. Internally guffawing (but enjoying the respect and authority afforded me) I explained that I didn't know, but assured her that I'm sure it will be clear and obvious and if she didn't heed whatever cues there were I'm confident someone will help. Everything will be OK, I assured her warmly.

I almost gave this snap the B&W treatment, but it scarcely made a difference, and glimpsing the action's wood tones and the gold hinge improves the hasty snap. On this day the carriers had to work in the rain, then I learned that the piano had to be lifted (more likely wheeled up a ramp) onto the stage, and that the performance (whatever it was) was in two days' time. It seemed a waste of a tuning, and a bit of a risk, with the piano having to cry itself to sleep in this unfriendly space. There were no folk around except distant wait staff indulging in the ancient sport of Knifey Spoony. I was not set to quibble, just to do my job and tune. But I did document the scenario in case there was an issue. There was not, but the timing of the tuning was not optimum.

When I saw 'Yamaha white C7' on my event hire piano tuning job sheet, I thought it was an amusing typo. Me and the very busy little 'Yamaha white G1' are such regular work buddies that I'm thinking of inviting that piano to my place for dinner. Surely there is not a white concert grand piano in the event hire fleet? Who would call for 'white piano music' on that scale? 

But I find it is so. I've been chasing the very busy event hire pianos for nigh on two years and this is our first encounter. Again, I've heeded Shannon Lush's excellent tip for making annoying surface rust on piano strings disappear: "Convert an image to monochrome and squint at it." It is a much bigger job to tune this not-regularly-tuned piano, but the function room environment is kind. Visiting folk (with tenuous connections to the pending event, a Weddings and Bridal Expo) periodically approach and coo, "What a beautiful piano." I agree cheerfully and add that I'm endeavouring to make sure it sounds beautiful too.  

Still life with screwdriver.

That's about the size of it!

Chairs await positioning. I'm done. Closing the lid (my usual custom, if possible, no boom microphones, nor any other reason for it to be open) is a challenge on this scarcely-bigger-than-the-piano stage... modern grand piano lids are very heavy. I find that to be in any position other than squarely under the lift quasi bench press style, is to risk back injury. In this instance, there is but the most slender slip of stage to stand on to open or close the lid.

The black Yamaha C7 (a more regular flagship in the piano fleet) is hefted up onto a high small stage in yet another complex multi-faceted event. Two legs and the pedal lyre are on. The third leg will be attached when the piano is a bit more horizontal. Is this piano the Yin to Big Whitey's Yang, and which one is which anyway? The Evil Twin? No, I think I trust the black C7 far more than Big Whitey (at this point).

I arrive to be issued with a parking permit (splendid) and a Hi-Vis vest, to be compulsorily worn at all times while on site. I had no idea that piano tuning was quite that dangerous - or that people couldn't hear me long before they saw me. I did see why when both indoors and outdoors forklifts, some with crated-up loads three times their width whirred, buzzed and beep-beep-beeped around like some sort of George Lucas mechanical drone characters. 

While actually tuning I took the executive decision to dispense with this Clive Palmer-sized garment, lest if flap around so much as to mute strings I was trying to tune. I was curtly instructed to don my site uniform by a beep-beepy-forklift driver, and I beeping-well immediately obeyed.

Another room, far from the usual predominantly inner-city event hire haunts. Just me and Little Whitey, alone together, with the tantalizing smells of an adjoining restaurant kitchen, and tolerable levels of Knifey Spoony. Normally I find these rooms to be stunningly stylish. Beautiful... in a corporate way-too-much-money sort of way (tho I'm delighted to tune here, there... you name it!)

Somehow this space and its decor struck me as the ugliest event room I'd encountered in all my wild spruce chases. I couldn't quite decide exactly why. Was it the floral centre pieces inspired by Sideshow Bob? The nausea-inducing colour scheme? The upturned Devo-hat chandeliers that looked as though even when illuminated, they'd still appear to be darker than their depressing surroundings. The office-style ceiling panels with illusory skylights-to-nowhere? This was noon, this tune. No light, that's right. I think the answer is 'yes' to all of the above.

I resolved to ask my sister if this seemingly eighties decor was repulsing me for any design reasons that I had not readily divined. Quite why I feel she is an eighties afficionado and that I am not, with a mere seventeen months' age difference between us, is a mystery. And a fact. Perhaps those salmon napkins remind me of her bridesmaids' frocks when she wed the love of her life - she'll correct me if I'm mistaken (about the frocks, not her husband!) 

It's way too early. It's raining. It's winter. A minimum of two of those three criteria are required to chance a rare sighting of the Long Trousered Piano Carrier. 

Ooh, do I spy Clive's belts? Sydney certainly has a lot of boat people, look at all those boats! 

Rain. It's wetter than it looks when photographed. The piano is wearing an extra 'horse blanket' (quilted doona) while the horses whine that pianos have much cushier jobs than they do. Horses (in glue form) are legitimate tools of the piano trade, to this day - what, a hide? What a hide!   

Belt up.  

The world's most deceptively heavy trolley is visible under the piano. I am quick to stop photographing and assist by removing it as the first lift is executed. 

A narrow flight of stairs with a tight corner halfway.

The first landing. I'm not trying to take unflattering photos, but I can't really be anywhere else but where I am at this moment - near, but out of the way. Well, I could be home in bed. It's not even breakfast time (according to my circadian rhythms).

Accidentally arty!

I balance all this papping by grabbing that trolley and carrying it up behind. Note the litte red folded piece of cloth on the piano - it keeps the fallboard from flapping open during transit. Did someone say behind?

Whether your cargo is the finest musical instrument, or the clunker for free or on the cheap, that may or may not be a bargain - engaging specialist and experienced piano carriers is strongly recommended. Soliciting a piano technician to have a peek 'under the hood' of a 'free piano' before you relocate it can save you in the long run. The piano may not be worth moving. But I digress.

Whinging about your job? Belt up and get a grip!

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