Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Makes a Piano Work?

Yesterday I sat for three hours (well, I did clean during that time too) at my hubby's grandmother's house. She is 90 years old and wanted to start playing the piano again. It had been three years since she had touched her small Wurlitzer that sits in the living room, but when she began to play it again she noticed that it wasn't sounding quite right. This is a significant fact considering she rarely wears her hearing aides.

She called in one piano tuner who told her that her decade old investment was not worth repairing or tuning and she should just buy a new one. Apparently the mice had found the piano in the ensuing three years and decided to munch down on the felt or so he said.

Something did quite ring true to his tale so my mother-in-law asked me to do some research. My boys & I have been taking lessons since September so I asked our teacher. Who do you use? 

I called the gentleman she named and he was happy to come out (at least an hour drive) and look at the piano. I warned him that some repairs would be needed and mentioned the felt issue. He didn't blink an eye. 

Yesterday he arrived and I must say it was quite the education to watch him. 

I didn't quite realize all the parts to a piano. Well, let me say I do know that there are many parts to a piano, I had just never seen one completely disassembled on the living room floor!

A Wurtlizer - similar to my Grandmother's

The only thing left in the piano were the wires. The keys were all removed and set aside (in order). The sound board was also removed and set aside until he could check it over. The key cover, the music stand, and even the bottom panel were taken off.

It turns out that the mice had set up residence. He asked for a vacuum and proceeded to clean up all they had left behind. Then he began to take inventory of what was wrong. There were only two things that needed to be repaired and none involved felt of any kind. 

It was fast appearing that the original tuner only wanted to tune the piano, not repair it. Unfortunately, the piano was in need of two major repairs and thankfully this gentleman was more than happy to do them. 

One of the wires had actually snapped off and needed to be restrung. It's a similar process to a guitar I think, but just much bigger in scale. The second issue was a small spring had come off one of the "whippens" (the thing that hits the string to make the sound). It took him well over an hour to repair these two issues.

Next came the tuning which was desperately needed. It actually needed a double tuning and it took well over an hour for him to accomplish this as well. I did ask him if he played the piano and ironically enough he does not. He did say that most tuners play some sort of instrument (he plays the guitar) or sings. I would think they would have to in order to properly tune a piano. 

He was a very nice gentleman and it was a pleasure to watch him completely take apart the piano and put it back together again. The best part...it's now as good as new and my hubby's grandmother is thrilled to be able to play it again.

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