Pianos: Slickers and stickers

The busy event hire pianos love work in the city, and so do I.

Black and white rag(e)? No. A calm, pleasurable affair with only the most genteel levels of restaurant waitstaff knifey-spoony. 

As I trundle at complete leisure on my bicycle from an event hire piano tuning in the CBD to a private tuning on its edge, I have time to notice one of Sydney's iconic buildings, Mark Foy's. The trumpeted haberdashery seems so quaint, as though none of these items have any modern currency. Most of them still do, but still: Hosiery, Silks, Millinery, Shoes, Laces, Gloves, Corsets, Costumes, Flowers. My hasty snap to document the list deserves to live on, with reflected sunlight chequering its way across the street. 

Top billing for Laces and Gloves. Race in for all your criminal supplies.

Surveillance: more roof cameras per square metre than in all the casinos I've graced recently (for employment, not leisure). Help, I need Mark Foy's gloves, my dabs are all over this piano. I was well under way with a tuning within the Supreme Court Building (right on obsessively-punctual time) when my liaison person delivered this sign for me to put on the piano to discourage any soundscapes to the sentencing (other than the weird one I created while tuning). Fabulous, and the piano tuner gets top billing!

I dutifully installed the sign with two small masking tape loops. I reasoned that having the fallboard down (keys covered) would further protect against barristerial bacchanales.

A muso mate spied this one. I'm convinced piano leaning leads to canape remnants being discarded in the piano (intentionally or not).

Hosiery? Almost. At the launch of a clothing line in a swanky menswear store I encounter a piano that has clearly been chosen because of its colour. The warm dark woodgrain tones blended in perfectly with similar decor, but any piano that is not on the regular roster means more catch-up work for me. Meanwhile, the stage was being constructed underneath me as I tuned. Think air-powered nailguns, tradie discussions and the intermittent automated activation of a compressor. No one can tune through the sound of a compressor. Throw in a backpack vacuum and the non-ideal scene is complete.

I pause to overhear conversation as a dapper mustachioed bloke enters the store. "I'm sorry, sir but we're closed for a private function." Because he's managed to enter the premises without impediment, he has imprimatur, "I'd like to buy a shirt." "I'm sorry, but you'll have to come back tomorrow." Mr Dapper's immoderate protestations make it perfectly clear that the notion of not buying his shirt right here, right now, is completely unacceptable. I wonder what type of man is man enough to wear this fetching cycle pant... not (I imagine) one with a handlebar mustache!

Inside leg detail. 

The Monkey Baa is a sleek new theatre space for children's entertainment. The kindergarten-like (and childproof) foyer has themed activity sheets. Mum sharpens pencils and I sharpen the piano.

I'm greeted by another piano lid no-no. The prop stick is correctly orientated in the inner locator cup (for the long stick) but the small lid is closed - it should be open. Refer to the opening picture of this blog entry to see the small lid correctly folded open atop the big lid. I would much rather find the piano closed, especially in such (often wintry) sidestage and loading dock locations. I close the piano at the end of the tuning, too, unless there are boom microphones reaching in. Even then, I might lobby for a delay in positioning electrics in any remotely unfriendly location. Sun-drenched steamy hothouse glass-walled restaurants and highly humid marquees are standard-issue in the corporate piano world. But just why the waitstaff, or snooty, demanding wedding planner-types so often open the piano immediately, is a mystery.

This multi-act extravaganza meant the piano would be on and off, but these neat wheel cups make that proposition less onerous.


I'm instantly charmed by the Australian-themed political in-joke-laden Monopoly board floor. It is the Wharf Revue set. I dared not be indiscreet by photographing it in detail, lest I be providing spoilers. And I actually have a job to do. Notice 'Fat Chance' reflected in the piano's stretcher rail. Photographically, I've created another piano shape in the area of floor where the piano isn't - I rather like that.

I might have needed to document the pedals, eh? Something's afoot. At any other time stepping on a pup would be cruel, but here it's compulsory. 'PUP' stood for Palmer United Party - how times change, it's not even 'a thing' anymore. Politics is more fickle than the weather, but at least the weather is honest.

More surveillance. A GoPro attached with a suction cup is tested, with me emulating the pianist's seated position, then quickly getting back to work.

Another too-early job, but I'm always happy to chase the piano into its position and get at it the moment it's on its legs. At the State Theatre, this cage lift is how gear reaches the stage from the loading dock. The lift (or all its associated metal ramps, chains, doors) makes a lot of (bloody annoying while tuning) clatter. The lid is slipped in beside the piano, and somehow the legs and pedal lyre (lower left) are fitted in as well. 

Snug and secure. The corporate fleet of pianos is manhandled daily... and then I get a go.  

I've provided a rudimentary piano-shaped outline for orientation.

It's ready for extricating.

A piano pirouette - the blokes tread the boards.

A hotel foyer piano...

...that does not need my attention. 

I'm full of ideas and daydreams, but only the tiniest percentage get activated. I usually lose interest or chicken out (except for all my stultifying and memorable successes!) Seeing the corporate piano fleet emblazoned with little gold stickers trumpeting someone who no longer does this particular work, I think, "Why don't I get little gold stickers and start slapping them on these pianos?" Before I characteristically churn, I'm off to Officeworks to discover that the minimum order is a bloody large number. So - let the rebranding begin...

There's precious little time to work out how best to deal with this situation on the job, I wish I hadn't started. Help me, Shannon Lush!

There we go. Like so much tuners' advertising - placed where it's only seen by other tuners. Hmm, we're not very good at marketing.

Meeting the same pianos in differently-lit situations, I spy more and more branding - this time it's in a position that could be viewed by sing-along drunkards spilling booze and dropping prawn tails into the piano. I have a lot of little stickers and am feeling bold.

Let the re-branding of the corporate fleet continue (where and when time permits).

It's a luxury to insert a sticker without having to channel Shannon Lush for cleaning tips. In case you think this rebranding seems dodgy, well, what can I say? We can all enter the Sticker Wars, the minimum order was a significant number - well enough for a gold label brand-off. My sticker gun is locked and loaded and in my hip holster - bring it on! 

If I had a dollar fer every time I'd tuned Little Whitey... hey, wait - I just worked out I'm waay ahead! Life's good.

Stand by, dedicated readers, for myriad tales of piano time-travel. I'm certain that car mechanics are not confronted with such heritage happenstance requiring tools that time forgot, but it's just another day at the office for the Caped Regulators, well, not quite...

I'll round things out with some unusually (although no doubt common for the time) rounded black keys, from an era when fingers (and people generally) were considerably less rounded. Observe how the throats of the whites are also rounded for a pleasing curvy coupling... speaking of curvy couplings - did you know that pianos are full of spoons? And not only in restaurants. Tiny spoons assist in lifting dampers in upright pianos, and have more jobs in both grand pianos and grand banquets.

Coming soon: Shannon Lush's exclusive cleaning tips: What to do when your white keys are black...  or learn more HERE. For the extra nerdy, the balletic soundtrack in my one-minute video recalls some famous orchestral low notes I've earned a quid from as a tuba player. If I had a dollar for every low note... oh, wait - I'm waay ahead... but I'd rather play in the middle (or other) registers, whatever it takes to make whatever my musical statement in the moment is, as a highly-spontaneous brass player.

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