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July 2016

“Prepping” the New Piano

Prepping the New Piano A new acoustic piano is delivered from the factory to the dealer completely assembled and with the basic adjustments necessary so that it “plays.”  It has usually been tuned only two or three times after the basic string tension was set in a process called “chipping.“  It will have had little or no additional attention during intermediate storage or shipping. “Prepping” a new piano is much like the preparation of any other complex manufactured unit.  It is the final work expected to be performed by the dealer.  For example, in the automobile industry this process [...]

May 2016

The New Piano

The New Piano The piano is an instrument made mostly of wood.  Depending on its style and design, it has approximately 1,200 working parts  and is engineered to sustain a constant string-pull pressure on the harp-plate of some 32,000+ pounds. More than 1,000 pounds of this is triangulated through the harmonic tone bridges to “float” on the sounding board itself. The sound you hear is not the strings at all, but the soundboard which is being energized by the highly tensioned, specially made, music wire strings.  It also has features which produce the musical dynamics necessary to interpret the piano [...]

Pipe Organ Care

Pipe Organ Care The pipe organ is a mechanically motivated wind instrument which operates by pressing keys on a keyboard to allow slightly compressed air to flow through specially made tone generators know as “organ pipes.”  Same as all other relatively complex mechanical devices, it requires extraordinary skills to operate and play, and it must work exceptionally well in order to support the choreography which we normally associate with its use. The average pipe organ has hundreds of working parts and requires routine maintenance care as well as occasional major repairs in order to perform as expected.  Most usually its [...]

Piano Tuning Care

Piano Tuning Care The piano is an acoustic stringed instrument.  It usually has 88 different notes, each having one, two, or three separate strings.  These strings are set into motion by felt faced hammers hitting each string or set of strings whenever a key is depressed.  Most other stringed instruments such as the guitar and violin have just a few single strings which are either plucked or bowed to produce their note choices.  All stringed instruments have a delicate balance in their dimensions and adjustments, and their strings always cross a “harmonic” bridge which floats in a special position on [...]

Piano Strings

Piano Strings Piano strings are the wires which are stretched between the tuning pins and end pins on the harp plate.  These wires are made from a specially formulated steel alloy which has been drawn through a die. Then, they are ground to the exact diameters required to generate and sustain the frequency of the piano’s individual note-tones.  The treble notes are made of bare steel music wire in varying diameters.  The tenor and bass notes are made of the same wire which has been weighted with copper wire windings.  Collectively, these “strings” produce the frequencies and strength required to [...]

Pitch, Temperament and Tuning of the Piano

Pitch, Temperament and Tuning of the Piano The pitch of the piano is its reference tone level.  This is usually stated as the beginning note of the temperament system of tuning and carries a number indicating the frequency in cycles per second (c.p.s.) such as A=440 or C=523.3, and so on.  A variety of tone generators, such as the pitch pipe or tuning fork, can be used to establish the pitch of the beginning note of the tuning system.  Then, several methods to accomplish a reference octave can be used.  All the notes remaining are then tuned to these (reference) [...]

Aural (ear) Tuning

Aural (ear) Tuning Standard aural tuning is often based on two, or at most three, specific tone intervals, viz., the dominant 5ths, sub-dominant 4ths and, occasionally, the sub-mediant 6ths in a single octave subset of twelve notes called the “temperament octave.”  Then, this basic octave is expanded in octave intervals over the remaining scope of notes until all the notes are “in tune.”  The limitation of this system is the very small group of intervals used in the tempering and expansion process.  The result is that the chord structures in the music have very little of the integrity essential to [...]

The Piano and Its Room Enclosure

The Piano and Its Room Enclosure The piano is an acoustic instrument.  That is, the instrument itself is energizing the room or other space in which it is located instead of being a substitute sound source such as a recording or electronic sound synthesizer.  The amount of sound a piano produces depends on its scale and the condition of its mechanism and  sounding board.  The way its sound fills an enclosure depends on the shape and size of the auditory space.  Also, its placement in that (auditory space) is critical.  Materials such as carpeting, wall coverings, window dressings, and the [...]

The Piano Action Mechanism

The piano action mechanism In addition to considering the musical properties of the piano, we must also take into account its mechanical characteristics.  The key-bed and other tray action parts, as well as the pedal trap mechanism and its related parts, are complex working assemblies. These impart the intentions of the pianist to the musical parts of the piano.  With few exceptions these parts are made of wood. The bearing surfaces and stationary contact points are made of various grades of pressed or woven cloth, and the hammers are covered with specially processed wool felt. The piano’s keys are actually [...]

The Older Piano

The Older Piano As the piano ages it changes according to how regularly it is being used and serviced including tuning.  It also changes according to the environment in which it is kept.  It is important for a history on the piano to be developed throughout its life cycle including service and tuning dates, pitch and temperament records and brief statements from time to time on how it is being used and where it has been kept.  Other information such as moves, ownership changes and technician identity are also important things to know.  The conscientious piano technician will keep these [...]