Piano Tuning, Pitch Raising, Concert Piano Preparation, Repairing, Action Regulation, Voicing, Reconditioning, Rebuilding, Evaluations and Appraisals.
Services NOT personally offered:
Piano sales and rentals, piano moving, case refinishing, or soundboard replacement. – But don’t despair! I can subcontract or refer highly recommended affiliates who DO offer these services.
For my highest recommendation for these services in the Asheville area, please go here: www.pianoemporium.com
To tune a piano means (simply) adjusting each and every string (over 200 of them in an ordinary piano) either sharp or flat to bring them in to their correct pitches, so as to achieve the best harmonious whole.
(It is important to note that any other repair work [e.g. sticking keys] on the instrument falls into one of the other categories below)
In most cases, pianos should and will be tuned to the A-440 standard, unless otherwise agreed upon. Exceptions may be made in the case of antique instruments, or pianos whose strings should be replaced due to extreme age, fatigue, or inability to maintain the correct pitch.
Another exception would be in the case of some orchestras/artists who require the piano to be tuned to a different standard, e.g. A-442.
Often, if a piano has not been tuned for more than one year, it is common for the overall pitch of the instrument to have dropped somewhat. On most instruments, this will likely require what is known as a “pitch raise” in order to draw all (each and every one) of the strings back up to the correct pitch before actually doing a fine tuning. This is necessary to equalize the tension (and bearing) across the bridges and the casting (iron frame), so that the final tuning will be more stable.
A Pitch Raise will, understandably, incur an extra charge, and is another reason why tuning at least twice yearly is recommended.
Concert Piano Preparation:
This involves not only listening well in order to tune the Concert Piano, but listening to the Artist: to be able to meet their peculiar needs to the best of both the piano’s and my own abilities. Often this may require fine tone or action regulation adjustments, or even hunting down an offending noise. An artist may also require the tuner to be on hand for a check-up at intermission…
All of which I pride myself in my ability to carry out to the Artist’s satisfaction.
This, understandably, covers a multitude of items, from loosening sluggish keys, to fixing that note that doesn’t work, to repairing a broken pedal mount, to finding that elusive sympathetic buzz that only comes from one note (did you try taking that picture frame – the one with the loose glass – off the piano? You’d be surprised at some of the causes!). For a complex mechanism that has up to 8,000 parts, it is indeed a thing of wonder that more DOESN’T go amiss! Yet, properly maintained , most pianos will hold up quite well for many decades of enjoyable use.
The keyboard, and all it’s working parts, is generally referred to as the “Action” of the piano. These thousands of bits of wood, felt, leather, metal – and even plastic composites and carbon fiber on newer models – all need to work together to create the response necessary to transfer the motion of your finger pushing on a key to the mechanism that is actually making the strings sound. How well this is accomplished is often determined by good design and construction, and fortunately can be enhanced by a series of fine adjustments to the various components. These adjustments are referred to as “Action Regulation.”
When a piano is new, its action is generally well regulated at the factory to the manufacturer’s specifications, and may get another check-up at the dealer. Usually, though, after a year or two our old nemesis, gravity, takes over. Felt parts compress, wood parts shrink a bit, and soon the instrument falls out of proper regulation.
If taken care of at this time, it is likely the piano will go many more years before requiring full regulation again, but if ignored, may lead to more serious complications later. Like any of our own diseases, better to catch it early! Preventive maintenance is well worth the cost.
Voicing (“Tone Regulation”)
The Piano is a considered a percussion instrument, even though it has strings. This is because the sound is generated by blows from felt-covered hammers (a whole line of 88 little “Drums along the Mohawk”…).
Sometimes the felt on these hammers, either because they’re worn, or artificially hardened, or manufactured soft or hard to begin with, don’t sound their best – but wait – Now we’re getting into subjective territory – sound their best to Whom?…
The following scenario is not uncommon when I’m in the field:
I’ve just tuned a little upright for a new client, a nice family in the neighborhood. I know I’ve tuned it to A-440, and to the best of my ability. I depart, wishing them “happy tunes!,” only to arrive home to a phone call from this client, saying, “there are a few notes that don’t sound right – we’d like you to come back and fix them.” I agree to return, knowing (95% of the time) what I’ll probably find. They point out the offending notes, so I proceed to check my tuning. The notes are perfectly in tune! However, they are also perfectly OUT of TONE, and therein is the difference. It turns out, the owner was hearing that some notes sounded harsher than others, while still others may have been more muted. This meant that some of the hammers had harder (or softer) felt than their neighbors, and this gets adjusted by a process called “Voicing,”or “Tone Regulation” – which is to adjust the hardness or softness of the hammers so as to even out the tone of the whole instrument, to the owners liking.
As I said, Voicing is subjective. Some folks actually like their pianos to sound like breaking glass. Others might want the tone so mellow that it sounds like someone wrapped the piano in blankets and stuffed it in the closet. It’s my job to make sure you get your desired sound out of your piano – to the best of my own and the instrument’s abilities. Voicing can change the entire character of an instrument, usually for the better, and can bring out a piano’s best qualities.
My definition (grant that other techs may have their own):
Reconditioning, in general, is making a piano sound and perform its best without replacement of major components. This may include full action regulation, voicing, replacing old worn keytops, re-bushing the keys, and any number of other repairs to bring the instrument as “up to snuff” as it can get without….
Again, my definition:
Rebuilding includes any one, several, or all of the following – generally in addition to most of the reconditioning items listed above:
Replacing old, worn action parts with whole new sets. (action rebuilding)
Installing a new pinblock, as needed (which requires re-stringing)
Fully repairing or installing a new soundboard (which also requires re-stringing)
This is a thorough, detailed examination of the piano to discover its condition, its needs, any potential problems, and the cost for repairs.
A more basic evaluation of the piano to determine its monetary value/ replacement cost, usually for insurance or sales purposes.