Pianos: Blue in Green

Tuning under the watchful eye of Miles. The client was impressed to the point of gobsmackery that I had remembered both piano AND striking decor when I was engaged again to tune one year later. But it's pretty striking, I argued, AND you have a fine piano - you're 'miles ahead'. 

If only player pianos wouldn't taunt me and call me names when I'm considering whether or not to deign to service them.

When tuning in the Art Gallery folk sometimes think you're some sort of interactive installation. Perhaps I am - just ask me. I gaze around as I work (you only need to look at the piano when you're re-positioning hammer or mutes). While bringing sounds into concord, I observe folk guiding their kids in observation of the exhibits. It's great people-watching. I sometimes imagine folk might engage and I'll score another job, but it is certainly not the purpose of my gallery visit. I'm a performer, so I have to watch myself.

This day a lady was papping me (or was it videoing?). That's fine (although I might fade under too much flash photography). After her overt phone snaps she decided she had better communicate why I was of interest.

She scrolled through her copious phonetographs and found one to show me. A tuner. Her husband? Father? Boss? With no shared language, I'll never know. She wanted a picture. I invited her up onto the stage to stand nearer the piano. I brandished my tuning hammer. The security guard swooped to make sure I wasn't being bothered. We had to show him the picture on the phone to make sense of it all and reassure him that this brief interruption was fine.

Witness the same piano from the Art Gallery installed on a theatre stage. Busy pianos, busy me. Here we can play detective. This piano was wheeled in on its side, it doesn't live here permanently. Spying the trolley tracks (and the carriers' boot prints) on the almost-virginal stage surface mildly amused me.

Will the real piano please stand up? Not one, but two 'piano-shaped-objects' with which I do not need to trouble myself. A stage hand polishes an electric mini-grand. The upright is more unusual.

I've daydreamed of fitting an electric keyboard into an upright cabinet - but elegantly, with a much prettier piano cabinet. I'm unlikely ever to do it.

'WAGS' (wives and girlfriends). It's the first time I've seen this term used outside the realm of English football. I wonder how many variant initials should be added, or mashed into, the current acronym.

Boys' schools are brutal on pianos. At St Simian's School for the Entitled we examine entrails in the office. I'm not accustomed to a level of privilege where jousting (with grand piano prop sticks) is part of the curriculum. If the offenders were forced to used the resultant splinters as bassoon reeds it might improve the sound of the woodwind section.

A big old clunker in a big new house. These weird springs are an alternative to normal butt springs. They clearly didn't catch on. They may have been devised to evade a patent issue, there aren't many other arguments in their favour.

Here's an example of a normal, respectable butt spring. That's more like it. On this job the Caped Regulators fitted new flanges to a Yamaha piano whose spring loops (see that little white cord?) had all degraded and broken. One method is to create new cotton loops and carefully glue them in. Fiddly stuff, but not unreasonable. It happens.

Here we opted for the relative luxury of new flange parts, providing new loops with no scraping nor glueing. Additionally, the new flanges provided this piano with new centre pins and flange bushings. Now the butt springs can again do their job. However this task is approached, there is plenty of dismantling and mantling, with resultant regulation to ensure that the new parts are integrated into the system and functioning well.

I see so many lovely things when tending domestic pianos. This sign was on the door of Liam's room, which faced the piano room. Honestly, I know quite a few adults who could benefit from such a structured prompt list. Here's to fertilizing the Tree of Life (Skills). 

Above the piano I find Australia's nocturnal animals. I need to ask my mother why I never learned of the bettong at such a tender age. 

A swathe of city event hire piano tunings coupled with arkworthy 'weather events' finds me catching the train more than usual. This barber shop under Town Hall Station intrigued. Is this the best publicity? Surely one might want their money back (or not to have invested it in the first place) to step out of the salon looking like that barista, erm, I mean model. I can't wait until razors come back into fashion. But, hey - if you're reading this and you have a beard - let's just presume that I like YOUR beard.

This bloody barista bloke is everywhere, even on t-shirts at the airport. Clearly he has just stepped out of Style Plus.

I'm desperate to progress things in my garden, but I must be patient. Details catch my eye just as I'm leaving, causing me to wield smartphones for potential show and tell. This leaf looked delightful, but it's probably an indication that my plant has high pH or gluten intolerance. Only the Brown Thumb Gardener (me) could be so ignorant that a friend mentioned the name of these little purple beauties and I declared I had just learned something...

My purple pansies, bought from the old man at Rozelle Markets, have bloomed.  

No, they're not garden seedling stakes, but bridle wires within a long-dead upright piano action. It has my best wishes to be creatively repurposed...

...or to warm the cockles of the Caped Regulators' hearts this winter. The observant will note that our hearts' cockles are being warmed by grand hammers today. Is this akin to Malcolm Turnbull igniting his cigars with $100 notes? We'll see.

You might suspect, spying aged keysticks, with rusty balance pins masquerading as sundials, that you're staring at the next cockle-warming bonfire. But no, this piano was helped to limp along for a little longer.

It's a poor old straight-strung John Broadwood clunker in a housing co-op recreation room. This is the very piano from which the Erskineville chapter of choir Ecopella takes its notes to learn world-changing songs. As a lapsed member of this branch of the choir, affectionately known as 'Erkopella', I had cause to seek to help this piano with its myriad problems. 

At a rehearsal one night I asked a fellow chorister, 'Who looks after this piano?'. Her answer: 'I think that piano is an orphan.' Notice in the bichord section (two strings per note) that the highest string has been missing for many aeons, presenting palpable forensic evidence with just one deep groove in the hammer. This string had actually been moved lower down to replace a missing monochord (one string per note). That is a reasonable strategy where more major investment in string replacement is possibly hard to justify, but I never would have thought to do it.

Here a client had created a means by which she could notate something for her young granddaughter to play. Cute, but always be sure to poofread, I mean proofread! Meanwhile, who is that bonafide tradesman whose card is among the findings in this piano?

It's none other than dear old Ray Green, lovely chap, still going strong.

Unremarkable, yet remarkable. So often folk insist on putting their piano right near where they enjoy that indoor/outdoor lifestyle. There is always some reason why this is the 'only place it could go'. I can only conclude that the Sofa Union has some persuasive members. Sometimes I boldly suggest alternative locations, just to put it out there, to educate (at least) that pianos don't do well when their micro climate and relative humidity are swung from pillar to post. Whatevs - you might just have to tune more often then. 

I'm perversely amused by the number of Gumtree ads for pianos where the piano has already been evicted from the house. Here we see a whitewashed clunker flirting suggestively from under its sou'wester, touting for business. It is more than likely not suitable for meaningful music-making. 

Gumtree again. It's an attractive cabinet, but we have no idea about the condition of the mechanisms inside. It is wise to get a piano technician to appraise an old piano before you potentially make a big mistake accepting the offer of a free (or very cheap piano). They're not all horror stories, but take care, folks. In any case, this piano can't be enjoying its current location.

The piano carrying companies have specific pricing for carting pianos to the tip. It happens regularly as the old dears reach the end of their functional lives. Resurrection is generally uneconomic, repurposing is invited. Sad but true. The piano tuner is the one who has to tell it like it is, if anyone will listen.