Pianos: Libraries, lemons and Lego.

This time last year I was determined to squeeze out a belated blog entry before I hit the road touring. I'm in the same boat (plane, car) again. How has a year gone by without an update, despite the never-ending stream of blogworthy happenings befalling me daily? I got waylaid for quite a while making little movies, or 'filmlets' with my iThings. Fresh bloggings were expressed in filmlet form - now I can barely remember what I've told to whom, or where. With the sun setting on my time at home, I'm back, Gentle Reader. I thank you for your patience. 

A mate deploys an upright piano wippen as a cable tidy. I'm responsible for inserting the word 'wippen' into said mate's vocabulary. She's responsible for inserting a piano part into her car's air vents.

Nearby music books always give clues as to the type of playing the piano might receive. I remember learning a couple of John Thompson numbers. That was about the extent of my handful of failed formal piano lessons. The greatest lessons I learned were lessons in how not to teach. I was an aurally-gifted improviser who would announce, 'I made up a song'. What happened next was zero engagement with that utterance. As a tutor (of brass) I would not base a whole lesson on such an offering, but I would explore it at least. 

A library room sports two triangle pianos and one of those ladders you can ride (it can be moved laterally the width of the shelves). It must be detached and re-hooked to make one's library selections 90 degrees away. I daren't read, erm, I mean ride.

I see myriad impressive houses. I'm endlessly fascinated, although some days witnessing astonishing opulence makes me feel like I'm going home to a shoe box, which I'm not. The swanky investment often does not seem to extend to the quality of the pianos, nor commitment to their upkeep. It's a conundrum.

This rusty Bösendorfer sports an impressive removable capo d'astro bar. The yellow rubber wedge is a tuning mute. But when you arrive to find a piano with other felt pieces muting off strings, it is almost certainly an indication that certain tuning pins are too loose to hold the strings at the requisite tension.

An event hire tuning in a coffee shop proved to be one of the few times I was highly irritated to hear the sound of a coffee machine (because I was using my ears to tune a piano). Meanwhile I'm sure the grumpy I-haven't-had-my-socially-sanctioned-drug-of-choice-yet worker bees of Sydney's CBD were not particularly whelmed to be hearing a piano being tuned.

A Blüthner with its extra sympathetic strings (known as aliquots) has been tastefully rebuilt. 

The aliquot strings are elevated and are not struck by the hammers.

It still sports several original action parts and features. Spidery springs not normally seen give me arachnophobia. They're bloody weird wippens, let me tell you.

I had to be quick to grab a stealthy snap of this bizarre good-luck nappy* on the piano's fallboard as the client swooped upon it. Certain folk favour odd and unnecessary piano garments and shrouds. I've enough examples to publish a special piano negligee edition.

I had the manners not to ask the client, 'Does this edition include Chopsticks?' A quip just in my head... and here.

I like the idea that one's muffin top necessitates clothing alterations.

Another astonishing house receives an event hire piano for a party. The installation of the white Yamaha C7 required five men (because there were fifty steps). Ten steps a man? No. I was intrigued by the Lego art above the piano.

 Surely these folk can afford non-Lego art. 

When my client mentioned a note from his neighbour I thought it might be a complaint. Instead it was charming: 'Your music makes my heart sing. Viv, No 6'. It is kept atop the piano which, come to think of it, one would not be inclined to do with an abusive note.  


The things we see inside. Lovely punctuation in forms almost obsolete now. Australia Post banned the dot-comma at least two decades ago because it confused the carrier pigeons. The sunlight touching the tips of the rusty tuning pins makes it seem like the piano was outdoors, yet it wasn't. I can't recall the layout of the windows, skylights or if the sofa had the spot the piano coveted. 

Suffice it to say that the Autotone's additional quaint verbiage 'under the supervision' charmed me (even if the piano itself did not). I caution against Googling 'Hardman'.

I'm on the eve of a spate of performance touring. I encounter stage plans, sound specs and 'rider' requests as a performer and as a piano tuner. This sneak peek was afforded me courtesy of a stage hand somewhere. It was for some really famous group. Really famous. It's just as well I can remember neither whom, nor where. 'An experienced, sober and English-speaking System Engineer...' makes one wonder about the shocking gigs that led to that clause being firmed up. 

A new piano client's solution to his piano being too loud. It's not entirely unreasonable. The lid is normally closed (with the little lid open). I removed everything to tune, naturally. By the end of the service call I was able to discuss how the incredibly worn hammers were contributing to the piano's harsh, bright sound and lack of nuance. We touched on ideas like reshaping and voicing the hammers and the more wonderful daydream of new hammers and shanks. It may just happen.

It's not so great seeing the piano so near last winter's charred logs...

...but to be fair, the piano had been moved out and away from the spiral staircase so that the lid could be opened for tuning - so it was a little closer to the fireplace than usual.

It's reminiscent of this event hire tuning in one of Sydney's snootiest houses. I documented this scene in case anyone complained that the tuning had changed, particularly in the treble. I was ready with  'what do you expect?' retorts, but I was not called on to deploy them.

Ardent followers of this blog will know that the Caped Regulators (piano pamperers to the stars... and you) love to snuggle up to a warming wippen fire. I toast iThings attempting photographs.    

'If life gives you lemons...'. This job at first felt it was going pear-shaped, but the plan for this horrendously flat and frail piano is assured. Another (augmented) wippen fire? No. The pin block is travelling well for this poor old family piano. The bass bridge will be restrung, for a start.

Only the piano may wear shoes in this house...

...it makes a difference from the little socks that might be retained on the pedals.

Harris Street Pyrmont. A dog wears footwear. He darn well had better take those shoes off at the door. Me and my fellow performers were informed pre-show by our Stage Manager recently that there would be an 'assistance dog' in the audience - a Chihuahua in a handbag. It was hard not to imagine that some Double Bay dame might use that line any time she entered an eatery. 'Zis ist mein assistance dok'. Has a Chihuahua ever done a hard day's work? 'Chihuahuas are lazy. And that's why I don't pay them.' It sounds like a tweet from Donald Trump.

Who doesn't love a cat-in-the-box? When I returned to this piano (in a new location) there was a new cat, and a framed photo of Gypsy on the bookcase. 

Rest in peace, Gypsy.

* If you are Australian, the word 'diaper' has no place in your vocabulary. If I hear you say it, I'll reach out through the internet and rip your bloody arms off!

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