Pianos: A mug's game (not really).

Five new bass strings. Fifty-five to go. The aged treble bridge plain wires will remain. 

"If life gives you..." yeah, yeah, lemons. Wanton neglect meant that this piano had dropped down to a third flat. Yep, both types of thirds (minor and major) across the keyboard. What point such a piano (at that pitch?) The pin block was travelling reasonably which made pitch-raising the piano worth it, with risks and uncertainties discussed with the client.

Often I reach for analogies to discuss pitch in a simple way. "If Concert Pitch A440hz is Sydney, your piano's pitch is... " I'll complete the sentence with a locale that serves. Wollongong, Melbourne, Hobart. Here I'd have said Mawson Station.

The treble bridge handled the pitch-raise process relatively well, but the strings on the bass bridge proved to be too degraded. Re-stringing that section of the piano is feasible. In the process the piano is re-pinned with new tuning pins of a slightly larger diameter. Only if there is sufficient life left in the wooden pin block is such a thing worth proposing. If not, what future for the piano? No future.

I engage my partner in piano pampering. We measure torque with a torque meter before removing the bass strings and tuning pins. Torque measurements can be used to confirm what step-up in tuning pin diameter is appropriate. The tuning pins' diameter is measured too. 

The next step is to remove all the bass strings, bundle them in strict order, and take them to the string maker who will measure and replicate them.

Lat's talk torque. The tightness of each tuning pin in the wooden pin block is ideally around 180kg on the day the piano is made. It varies between pianos and within each piano. In the early life of the piano it will have reduced to about 150-160kg. The young adult phase. These pianos frolic gaily, fall in love easily and still climb trees. If they have moved out of home, they still have too many boxes of shit at their parents' house(s).

Later in the piano's life the torque will be around 90kg. The piano's tuning system is still healthy and functional at this level. At 60kg we can still fly. With frail pin blocks you need to tune regularly to avoid significant and invasive pitch-raises; six-monthly and no more seldom. Even then every tuning will be much more of a revision that one would wish, and that's before we consider weather events and inappropriate piano locations within the house. These sorts of pianos have entered the knee-rug and cup of tea phase. They like knitting while watching gritty dialogue-driven cop dramas on ABC television. They have way too many doilies and tchotchkes and could well afford to take a more selective approach to curating their sentimental collections. It's the piano's autumnal years at best (unless major replacement/rebuilding work is undertaken). 

How long does a piano last? I answer how long does a person last? It depends. Good genetics (the manufacturer's design and materials) and environment (location, maintenance and use) impact hugely on functionality and life span. 

45kg is bordering on too-soft. No good. It's a feeling tuners know all too well. You could breathe on your tuning hammer (lever) to operate it. For dealers to sell such pianos is unethical yet it happens. 30kg is a fail. Colloquially we might call such pins 'slippers' because they absolutely can't hold on.

There are other factors that contribute to the pins' behaviour in the pin block (or plank): The quality of the wood and how it was seasoned, the number of pin block laminations (and the glue used) the quality of the metal of the tuning pin itself (and how the pins were installed) the gauge of the wire and the scale design of the piano. 

I eschew novelty items, tchotchkes and general unnecessary accumulation. If I see something I'm desperate to share, I'll snap it, dispatch the photo to whom it will amuse, then move on. I commend this method to others. I eat lots of eggs, but I have never used an egg cup at home. Never.

The fine china. Is there a regulation way to sip from this cup?

Delicious jokes in background signs 'r' The Simpsons. Remember that time when Lisa said, "I love Chinatown... I just wish they'd stop picking on Tibet Town"? There you go, you don't need to remember. I just got you up to speed.

Possibly too punny. I usually say cats can do (almost) no wrong, so I must extend that waiver to their references in mug form.

A wonderful Japanese tea ceremony in the piano room.

Look, a cute 'neko' spoon. I didn't realise (until later when the client demonstrated) that the cat spoon can perch with front legs over the lip of the cup. I thus have no photo demonstrating that pose. The piano almost made me reach for that old-fashioned cliched headache thingie (I've never seen one of those things). I didn't. It all ended well.

Men and women of Australia. It was my honour (at a mate's place) to sip from the famed Goughee cup while liaising with a piano client about her poor piano's predicament and when I'd be returning to my home State of NSW.

 A tour of the Barossa and Clare Valley wineries. Cycling the Riesling Trail was an excellent idea.

Gossamer grape covers.

A fine, fine wine. Shall we dine? Meet the owner of the Goughee cup.

Winery cat. "The Cat will not be granting an audience today".

My Goughee cup-wielding mate showed me a feature in her workshop. It is two pensioned-off piano keys cobbled together to form a pillar or post. And we're back on topic (if the topic is pianos). Hey, the topic is in the eye of the beholder, Gentle Reader.

This is the only vessel this blog not handled by me. I had to share this meme with my housemate. It epitomises him. Earnest, respectable muso, but not a morning person. 

Oddly this has seen me embrace the 'morning time' as 'mine'. It feels like the grown-up time before a teen surfaces. I garden and further other industrious projects. I'm not a morning person either, really, but I do like uninterrupted focus when tackling a task.

I'm determined to celebrate my garden. I'm a brown thumb, but it's amazing what a bit of attention, effort and time can achieve. As well as seeing folks' houses (servicing their pianos) I also see many a garden. It's inspiring. Then when folk see my spaces and respond positively I realise I am getting somewhere. I tend only to see the ugly, half-dead and untended in my own garden. 

It's important to prune unnecessary apostrophes from plant tags. I can't believe how often this one is inappropriately deployed. It's one that trips up the otherwise-literate. If you're not indicating a contraction of 'it is' or 'it has', then your its requires no apostrophe.

What a lucky local, just the one yokel. Or is he unlucky, having to BYO for the whole restaurant?

City life, 'tis the life for me. When my partner reported striking a City Life brand piano I was quick to recall that I had seen one. I blogged it. Was it the same client? 

Folk can sometimes be far from loyal (and perpetually serial) with their tuner choices. It (almost) doesn't matter, since such clients can tend to be irregular, neglectful, lax, difficult, unrealistic, tight-arsed and ignorant. But not always.  

It was not the same client. Life's good, with many regular quality clients, interesting jobs, varied challenges and the opportunity to educate and make a positive difference.

Gah. Literacy has gone to the dogs.

Not my proudest moment (nor uncommon) to find myself working on the floor. My follow-up with this piano involved two replacement bass strings and some regulation. I had forgotten about the exploded hammers. I found myself improvising with the clamps I had. I looked at my notes as I drove to the job, I had recorded the hammers. It's too late to be reading my notes at red lights between jobs. Crazy, busy times. It is hard to remember the details of the oodles of pianos, despite all my lists and lists of lists. 

Glueing, trussing, clamping. It looks messy but nary a drop of anything goes anywhere it shouldn't. Not glue, nor coffee. You can see I have already stress-eaten a plateful of shortbreads. My partner would have brought a folding table (and so might I have if I'd reviewed my notes the night before). It was a room with just plush chairs and sofas. That's why my refreshment tray is also on the floor.

More wanton neglect (piano and client's considerable shitpiles just out of shot). Did someone say wonton? I've been meaning for some time to research this. OK. A certain country has 34 provincial-level administrative units: 23 provinces, 4 municipalities, 5 autonomous regions and 2 special administrative regions. So it's more confusing than I thought it would be. Do I focus on 34, or 23?

Suffice it to say that Sydney is n + 1.

Shame-minus-name. Two full days of regulation and maintenance (two technicians) and despite dumplings and tea, no actual moolah. This client failed to pay. Rare, but not unheard of. I have very few tales of this type, my partner has several. Not OK. We discuss the theory of how one could create a hostage situation with a de-tuned string or a confiscated keystick, and there are tales to be told that are not that far removed.

Did someone say wonton? This was a school piano and percussion room and the photo formed both in-joke and location guessing-game for my (riesling trailblazing) mate who has featured in this very instalment.

After a tuning very near, I decided on a little pilgrimage.

Another piano house sighting. This mug is double-sided with liquid permanently between the sides. The handsaw reminds of the time homer embarked on his famed spice rack project.

I'm at my local Vinnies again. Is it one-bag-in-one-bag-out day at my local charity shop? I'm a passionate advocate for interrogating one's possessions, interviewing items as to whether or not they are earning their keep. But some items make it home, supporting the theory that we often acquire and divest for entertainment. This mug was so great that I broke my usual rule and bought it.

In the land of clubs that time forgot but gambling remembered we find that the lift is too small to receive the piano in the usual 'landscape' mode (with the straight edge, the bass edge, on the dolly). Two of the three in this shot are not the piano carriers. They work at the venue, but they're happy to muck in and take direction to be deployed as 'grunts'.

Instead, the 'horse blankets' (as I like to call them) are deployed as the piano (sans legs and pedal lyre) is repositioned so that the keyboard end is pointing downward on the horse blankets.

The piano is then slid on the blankets (more like industrial doonas).

I think I'll take the stairs.