Pianos: No worries? No, worries!

Free truck! What a beauty. An Austin rustin'. I pine for the golden times when vehicles had teeth. And lips. But I am realistic.

The title of this blog instalment is inspired by a classic Simpsons punctuation gag. Lawyer Lionel Hutz is challenged on the content of his advertising.

Bart: But your ad says 'No money down'.
Hutz: Oh, they got this all screwed up.

He corrects it to WORKS ON CONTINGENCY? NO, MONEY DOWN! then concedes, 'Oops, I shouldn't have this Bar Association logo here either.' He proceeds to eat the offending document.  

I will continue to post picturesque clunker cars spied in my travels in the hope that I will drive home the point that pianos, too, are complex machines. From dermis to duodenum things need to be at some level of functionality. We are swimming in a sea of pianos that are at the end of their functional lives. Pure and simple. Nothing lasts forever. Things can be repaired and replaced, but there are limits as to what can be done. Money is not the only measure.

Crappily-made entry-level new pianos - that will not last a tenth of the time that these fine old steeds have lasted - are a separate issue.

This piano was so local I could have crawled there. For that reason I offered to inspect gratis. I sensed that this would be a walk-away-with-education situation. Despite my information, the client kept circling back to, '..but if you were to fix up the problem notes, how much would it cost?' My utterances were florid variations on, 'It cannot be done. It cannot be recommended ethically. Anyone who says it can, or should, has not thoroughly assessed the situation and will be misleading you and themselves.'

'But just for now, as a stop-gap? So my son can practise.' I'm told that his 6-year-old son had been learning for two years. What a horrendous prospect. This piano is more than a semitone flat with unplayable notes all over it. Hammers were actually missing just below Middle C (see the gap in the photo above). Any wonder those notes can't be played. You are ensuring that you train a bad musician, I opined. You will turn your son off music. Wanting a quick and cheap interim solution, I urged him to get a weighted-action electronic keyboard. He did. Good.

Done. We had already discussed options for disposal of his old piano. A heavy hint for his heavy burden.

Another horror. Don't think that a fix-up is simple or cheap. This piano displays obvious red flags to anyone who looks inside. If pianos were re-registered every year like cars, this one would not be able to get its certificate of musicworthiness.

Obvious red flags. Just no. The trouble is that the degradation in old, neglected, abused pianos is not only multi-faceted but often far from obvious. This is why folk need to stop saying 'yes' to free pianos without getting the input of a qualified piano technician before they make a big mistake. A pianist or piano teacher cannot determine.

To be frank...

...prospects of resurrection are shaky. It's a 'no' from me. Actually, the Francke piano received significant servicing, but it still has problems. Each case is unique as to whether to service and what to propose.

A typical example. G is a very popular note. Let's see what adventure I have ahead. You are welcome to contact me. I imagine I'll be be able to help. It's amazing how many folk end up with the surname Clunker in my phone. Is the G key problem the tip of an odious iceberg? Does the G note sound more like F sharp? Often folk go for aeons without tuning, oblivious to (or tolerant of) the piano's scandalous sound. Then they holler for help over a mechanical mystery. Ideally servicing would be more consistent.

When clunker pianos are serviced it is often fraught. This is one of the smaller irritants, but it exemplifies the fact that they are full of frail old wood and rusty screws. Here a simple adjustment that one would like to make to improve dodgy playability ends in yet another repair.

A capstan is a dome-topped wooden part that is designed to be adjusted on its screw. Often you can barely touch bits of such pianos without them falling apart. Many repairs along with one of the largest multi-pass pitch-raises in history were given to this clunker. But the caveat is that this piano cannot be banked on for too much longer. So many pianos are on the precipice. Often we have to recommend that last push.

A nod is as good as a Winkelmann to a blind horse. 

It's amusing how often folk ring up and say, 'I have a Gesundheit piano made in Mudgee'. It will be the local shop branding that has caught their eye. This Kolski has the shop branding of Winkworth & Son in Annandale. There was a famous piano factory in Annandale, that of Beale Pianos.

Those keys need levelling. No, I'm glad this piano donated its bits to a creative spirit. I don't personally need such an ornament.

I can't believe I passed up this find at Vinnies. I was in a 'don't accumulate' mood. I often break my own rules. But I abhor clutter, mismatched knick-knacks, over-furnishing, chintzy curtains and busy fabric patterns. This is not a complete list. But now I think this Homer mug would have fitted the ethos of my household well. I imagine him saying, "Oooh, free piano." with rounded mouth and fingers twiddling in anticipation.

Another piano struggles along and receives service. With very few exceptions, having a piano at Concert Pitch A440 should be the goal. The longer pianos are left the more invasive the process required to get them there becomes. It is false economy to tune irregularly, yet it's so common.

Old-fashioned shop branding was taken to the next level with this embroidered key cover. 'Nicholsons of Sydney'. It fits squarely in the unnecessary chintz category, but the clients have lovingly placed it on the keys since they got this piano (one imagines). They have lovingly done little else.

The sash might not win its own sash in the craft tent at the Royal Agricultural Show, but it has been honoured here.

If the environment is very humid, these items do more harm than good.

I confess mild derision towards a jazz band that would brandish these embroidered banners, with confusing layout to boot. I politely declined a banner because I don't need to read music, I use my ears.

I didn't know the trend was to write a phrase on one's Year 12 guernsey. Unless 'I like jazz' is the lad's nickname. I would say I like jazz, and hate it, it just depends on how it's being played at the time. So many caveats, Cazzbo.

The security guard was napping when the O was nabbed.

I'd pilfer that errant E and that superflouos apostrophe if there weren't so many cameras.

Rorschach anyone?

The Washinton Momument. A rare moment where Marge shares a whispered joke about its phallic qualities. Homer tenderly chastises her schoolgirl humour, 'Oh, Marge, grow up.'

Rorschach anyone?

P.S. Did you know that 'no wuckers' is an abbreviated spoonerism? It is colloquial and in this form not the least bit offensive.


Would you care to join me for a saunter around the blog garden?