Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pianos, Well-known and Obscure

Most of my pianos are small:   Wurlitzer and Acrosonic spinets are very common, as are consoles and assorted uprights from the best to the worst  "free" pianos. (Note:  There is no such thing as a free piano any more than there is such a thing as a free kitten or free puppy.)    Most of the little pianos are fewer than 50 years old and are in decent shape.   I have tuned a few which had not been tuned since Grandpa bought it,  right after he came home from WWII.    I've had mouse nests bigger than softballs and live larvae as well as the odd black widow or dead mouse.
     In the past 20 years,   I have tuned, perhaps 5% grand pianos.   The big surprise to me has been the number of Mason & Hamlins,  specifically the Model A.   I must maintain close to 20 of those,  ranging in age from 1914 to 1954.    I have fewer Steinway grands,  only one of which is a concert grand,  most being about 6'.   I do tune many Yamahas,  the largest C5's,  and the smallest G1's.    I enjoy tunng most of the Yamaha's as long as they are in a stableenvironment.   One of them,  by the way, is  from 1950 and has been well-maintained.
     One of my favorite pianos to tune is a 1964 Bluthner.   I play it every week, and it holds tune remarkably well,  in spite of much internal rust and a split soundboard.
      A piano most interesting and challenging to me is a 1954 Grotrian-Steinweg studio which came from Switzerland to Minnesota and spent at least 2 years in a metal shipping container,  altenately being toasted and frozen.    Lovely sound,  but it is very unstable.
      It is rare that I cannot tune a piano,  but I have refused when the harp is broken or when the need for repairs exceeds any potential value of the instrument as a playable device.    I have, on occasion,  suggested  gutting the cabinet and either installing a digital piano or making it  into a desk or bar.    Some pianos should be put out of  their misery.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Return to publishing

To all who have wondered where I was,   I'm still here,  though my website was not mine for the past year.    I intend to add more information and, perhaps, humor and even pictures.    Thanks for your interest.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wonderful Pianos

I never know how a piano will sound until I am finished tuning it. From concert grands to modest spinets, it is often a surprise. It can also take several tunings to make a piano sound its best--and to be stable at that. I am occasionally pleased that a cheap piano can be made to sound decent. My worst experiences are with pianos that are so worn and have been neglected to the point that the hammers are disintegrating, the action is so loose that the hammers don't hit the strings squarely and the pins have been pounded until the coils are against the plate or block. I sigh and do the best I can. Often these pianos have sentimental value or were free to whoever would take them.
Some of the nicest pianos I maintain are old uprights. There is a J & C Fischer from 1913 that was recently given to a church nearby. It is in beautiful condition and sounds like a grand. It has a full sostenuto. All the pedal mechanism is metal. The keyboard is in great shape as is the case--classic and simple. I know it is heavy, but what a nice instrument.
For people who want a piano that is easy to move, I often recommend a digital model. I do have an acoustic grand which is hard to beat, but I would not give up my Roland FP-9 either.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Player Pianos

I am occasionally asked to tune and/or repair player pianos, from the oldest, cheapest and most worn-out to the most-modern electronic units. Generally, players are more-difficult to tune because of the mechanism in front of the strings and tuning-pins. Aside from that, most older players are very leaky. It is rare to find one that is air-tight and in good condition. I often replace the larger vacuum hoses and do carry a supply of the tiny rubber tubing, but I do not rebuild players. To do so properly requires removing the player mechanism to a shop and stripping it before rebuilding, and I simply do not have the space at this time. Players that have been rebuilt in the past are already deteriorating. In many instances, the tubing installed when the piano was rebuilt is now older than it was when it was rebuilt the first time.
In some pianos, an electric vacuum pump may be installed, so that the owner does not have to foot-pump the piano. This costs hundreds of dollars and may be worth the cost if the rest of the player mehanism is in working condition.
A good player piano can be a joy to have, but a worn-out one can be frustrating.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Places I have tuned pianos

I often tune pianos in schools and churches, but most often in private homes from unheated log cabins with no light in the winter to mansions. I enjoy tuning pianos in summer camps, in beautiful lodges in the mountains, sometimes in the winter with a big fireplace on the other side of the room, other times in the summer before the guests arrive, and it is very quiet. Now if only I could get the mice to stay out while the people are away... I tuned a piano in a 2-story stone hogan with only a cat on the windowsill to keep me company. Another time, I had two dogs under my feet at all times while I worked. Cats enjoy my toolbox and frequently curl up in it. Sometimes they sit beside me on the bench; I recently tuned while a cat matched the pitch of the note I was adjusting. She could only reach a limited range, but her accuracy was uncanny. Another cat patted my back as I tuned the bass strings. I enjoy tuning so much that I would go almost anywhere to do it, but it is best when I am alone and it is relatively quiet.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Services Available

At present, I travel from Salida north to Leadville, up US 285 to Fairplay, west on US 50 to Gunnison and Crested Butte, over Poncha Pass as far as Crestone, and east on US 50 to Texas Creek. I tune pianos and peform minor repairs including string replacement, damper, hammer and pedal repair and other adjustments as required, often at little or no additional charge. My fee ranges from $50 for a tuning in Salida to a maximum of $90 for tunings in the farthest reaches. I try to carry the most-often-needed parts and supplies with me. I can also make minor repairs to reed (pump) organs. This includes cleaning of reeds and unsticking of keys. I hope to be able to recover bellows in the future. This takes more time and is rather expensive because of the rubberized cloth used. I will look at electronic organs but will not attempt repair unless I feel it is a mechanical problem. I prefer not to waste your money or my time, so I will not charge to look. I do offer appraisal service for any piano for insurance, sale, or donation tax deductions. I generally do not charge if you are donating an instrument.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Piano Service

Since moving to Salida, Colorado in late 1988, my life has changed dramatically. Although I am still employed full-time by the US Postal Service and work all night there, I have been tuning and repairing pianos and reed organs here since 1994. I do not advertise except for signs on my vehicles, and I have more business than I can handle. I charge much less for tunings than anyone who comes to the area. I also discount fees for churches and schools and other non-profit organizations. Although sometime in the future I may buy and sell keyboard instruments, I limit myself to helping people find pianos or to find homes for their unused pianos. This is a labor of love for me and has enriched my life with customers who have become friends and friends who have become customers.