Pianos: Bristols and barflies

What the smurf? Apparently it is legitimate to use the word 'smurf' in that manner.

Rescued. All part of the service. Music soothes the savage smurf. 

This glass-topped piano is smurfproof.

It's more a case of knowing that these folk are the music-lovers.

It's in a piano bar. The glass lid (which overhangs the piano's rim) can only be moved with assistance.

My correspondents have beamed in a couple of exotic piano signs. I'm grateful for the translations, however clunky, lest I be reduced to mere mirth minus meaning. 

Stockholm. The aforementioned barfly glass-topped piano (in Sydney) has sought a special exemption.

I peek at Gumtree periodically for amusement. This piano was described as having been converted into a writing desk. The action has been removed and a glass panel extends from cheek block to cheek block covering the keys. The seller wants it gone. The obstacle is that with the fully-strung cast iron frame still in the piano it's bloody heavy. An inconvenient move at best, back-breaking (and wall-gouging) at worst. 

At least it's not pretending to be a piano that 'just needs a tune-up' like so many other free and cheap piano listings on Gumtree, Ebay and Facebook Marketplace. My maxim is 'beware of free pianos'. Or in this case, 'authoring a weighty tome does not require a weighty desk'.   

Last blog post I brought you the intriguing diorama of architect Mike Brady (not his real name). Emerging from that cluttered basement (where the piano lives) I spied this cute feature element. I love seeing interesting things in the piano houses I visit. And did you notice my subtle selfie?


In celebration of that moment when you discover that your partner in piano pampering has not encountered the term 'Bristols'.

I had to pull over to snap this one through my windscreen.

Nice tee.

This hall looks humble and almost rural. It might be the former, but not the latter. Event hire piano jobs (where the piano is installed for the concert, then removed) are sometimes very local. I could have walked to this one (I rode my bicycle). I wish that Vespa was mine... and that parking spot. Only in Sydney's 'Little Italy' would Vespas be active all year round. I just learned that 'vespa' means 'wasp'. Perhaps I should fear them more.

This view of the hall's roof (and the Vespa shot) were provided as real-time clues in a guess-where-I-am report. But here I table it as another example of correct prop-stick positioning. 

Long stick = inner locator cup.
Short stick = outer locator cup.

I'll continue my (possibly futile) campaign. It's on a par with trying to educate people that a regimen is the disciplined, orderly routine we're trying to initiate or maintain, while a regime is the domain of despots. One letter separates correct from malapropism.*

When Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, he added a central joke which has become more famous over the years than the novel itself: "The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42." 

This has added resonance for piano technicians with 42 per cent being deemed the optimal level of relative humidity for a piano's comfort. In reality it is nigh on impossible to control conditions to that specific level. That's fine. It's OK for a piano to experience higher (but not extreme) humidity levels. What is undesirable is the piano being swung from pillar to post by wide variations in temperature and (more significantly) humidity.

Ideally, the impact of large fluctuations should be minimised. This means selecting a protected location within the house. A room where things don't vary much, a room that you moderate for comfort. Common piano-unfriendly positions are: separate granny-flat office rooms (only moderated when in use), positions near large windows, entrances, integrated indoor-outdoor rear living areas. Pianos are crazy machines made out of wood (and many other materials) and they are very responsive to humidity changes.

I recently recommended to a client that she consider moving her piano from what was essentially a built-in back verandah - to the lounge room. I made the offer that if she moved the piano within six months, I'd come back and touch up the tuning gratis. I would also address the mold that was developing on the action parts. 

Why did shelves full of toys (so, so, so many toys) get to be in the 'good room' while the piano, a decent instrument, in good condition, had a position that would reduce its functionality and shorten its life? Ill-fitting draught-emitting sliding windows and light-construction walls were the piano's protection. Yes, there was a roof, but this really was outside the 'real' house. All the nearby blinds had to be kept down because the client knew that sunlight shouldn't be pounding on the piano, yet it was still a losing battle. Such a space will be bloody hot in summer and bloody cold in winter.

I made all these arguments gently and respectfully. The clincher (aside from demonstrating that there was mold throughout the action) was when I commented that it was such a shame to have to draw all those blinds in a battle to protect the piano - denying yourself the chance to look out at the day, garden, and your kids at play. It seemed absurd (I didn't say that last word, but I came close).

This story is a happy one because within two months the client had moved the piano. I returned, re-tuned, and expertly cleaned the mold. I don't mind being the Shannon Lush of pianos, having done quite a few roof leak insurance jobs. Wow, I just dubbed myself an expert, and fair enough - a piano's innards are peculiar and particular. It is not a job for the cleaner nor the pianist.

The client was rejoicing on myriad levels, having discovered that she played the piano more now that it was in a central location in the house. The move had been a catalyst for other organisational revamps in the space. She was thanking me for helping her think 'outside the box' about more than just the piano. Wonderful.

It's not the first time I've persuaded a client to move their piano...

We slid this piano on towels from the arctic entrance hallway to the living room. But don't worry - if your piano is positioned at a quarter past ridiculous, I'll still service it. But it would be unethical for me not to imagine how things could be improved, however marginally, and perhaps I might make micro-mention.

A well-known local reception centre. I have taken care to protect the guilty by anagramming its name, so if you're a dedicated David Astle-type with too much time on your hands you might like to solve it.

Just another day in paradise. Finders keepers. 

This piano is paying out in a Barney-Gumble-mistakes-cup-of-poker-machine-coins-for-beer-drinks-it-then-belches-out-coins kind of way. But look to the right of the dodecagonal wealth. You'll spy blue and white spherical sweets in the tradition of the Kool Mint. If they were rattling around atop the key levers, that'd be annoying enough. Instead, many were also (allegedly) pre-masticated and had gummed up the works between the key levers preventing their movement. Ridiculous. What? Two Barney Gumble references in the one blog, or the deplorable state of the pianos at Melon Gate? 

I love chocolate. Normally I'm happy to be offered treats on a tuning job, but not like this.

No, not like this...

Despite my unshakable conviction that chocolate is a food* and that Monsanto has our best interests at heart... not like this.

More stars than the Milky Way. One has to wonder.

Stars fell on Alabama (and the floor). A more-than-they-deserve level of cleaning is embarked upon with infrastructure and heartening support from my partner in piano pampering. Coffee and a suck, not a euphemism. 

This sucks. Deploy the dust devil... and the famed Hitler brush. Gotta love a man doing the 'woman's work'.** 

Another of Melon Gate's elegantly-triangular grand pianos. This one was not scheduled for any service and is living up to its 'display only' epithet. Behold, a candle wax re-enactment of the glacial melting that successive Australian Prime Ministers refuse to acknowledge. Disgraceful. What a waste of wax.


Domestic bliss. The scene opposite the piano. You might recognise the white doggy from a previous visit.


Dog two.

* Brought to you by the "I'm-not-Captain-Grammar-Pants-but-I-still-care" department.

* I have a mate with a job at the National Library digitizing old ads. His online output of such is a delightful window into the days of yore. He's paid to stroll down Memory Lane reviewing delusional manipulation through the ages. What a sweet gig.

** It's a joke, Joyce (but I do love it).