Piano Action Rebuilding

I’ve taken on an action rebuilding project recently. The piano is a Steinway model L from the 40’s. The piano is being rebuilt by my friends and fellow PTG members Jim and Amy Tiernan of Dog House Pianos. I specialize in action work, tuning and voicing and am happy to have somebody else do […]

What is a Duplex Scale?

A duplex scale is a length of the string, other than the speaking length, that is intended to vibrate sympathetically. That’s my definition, I have not idea how they define it at the Oscar Walcker School. There is often a rear duplex, but there can also be a front duplex, making it a triplex?

The speaking length is the part of the string that is hit by the hammer and creates the basic tone coming from the piano. Rear duplex string lengths are the most common and are those that are on the far side of the bridge, between the rear bridge pins and the hitch pin. Front duplex strings lengths are found between the tuning pin and the capo bar or agraffe. Usually front duplexes are only in the capo bar area. The front lengths in the agraffe section are almost always muted with felt.


Piano Work as Meditation

Piano work can be a lonely occupation. Yes, one deals with (hopefully) a stream of customers, many of whom can be quite interesting and some of whom  become friends. This connecting with individuals with whom one shares (again, hopefully) a common passion is rewarding and inspiring.

But the work itself is isolated. In fact many people make a specific point of leaving the general area in which a piano technician is working, at least for the tuning part. Tuning of course is difficult to do in noisy environments and takes concentration as well as quiet, so a friendly chat while one is tuning is not really an option.

The other work including regulation, voicing, and repair requires focused concentration and can take extended periods of time during which even the most interested layman usually finds something else to do. After all, if you’ve seen a technician set drop on 2 notes, you pretty much have the idea and there is no reason to watch him or her set the remaining 86. Let’s face it: piano work can be quite tedious and to do it correctly, one must perform an appropriate sequence of steps carefully and evenly, regardless of how one is feeling, or how ones day started out. This can be a demanding profession for all its rewards. […]

HEP Guy on Youtube

I’ve been working on building up a collection of piano tech related items on my Youtube channel. Hopefully the quality will follow a path of continuous improvement.

Traditional and Modern Soundboards

The soundboard is one of the most important parts of a piano.  Soundboards have traditionally been made of thin planks of solid spruce, about 1/2 inch thick and the width of your hand, glued together on the edges to form a very large surface. While this traditional approach has been used throughout the history of the industry, there are some very well known problems with this approach.


You Must Have a Good Ear…

I’ve been told that I must have a good ear, usually by someone I’ve just met who has learned that I’m a piano technician, and I’ve always wondered exactly what it meant.

Piano tuners do train themselves to hear components of piano tone, usually called partials or harmonics. These are pitches within pitches (the g that sounds 1 1/2 octaves above midde C on the piano for example) and they are an important part of what the tuner listens to when tuning. However the process of learning to tune was not easy. In fact it was quite agonizing and long and there are still times when I think the piano is going to win.

I think I now know that “having a good ear” means being able to detect very subtle differences in sound or musical tone and, secondarily, having the skill to adjust those tonal differences, either with a tuning hammer or a voicing tool.


Cool Tools for Piano Technicians

A couple of cool tools for piano technology.

Richard Davenport string tools

Great hammer spacing tool from B & K.






Yes, I am holding it upside down.

Lacey Act, Gibson and Pianos

The Gibson Company was raided twice by agents of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, once in 2009 and again in 2010,  on suspicion that Gibson had acquired ebony and other rare woods illegally. The musical instruments industry press went crazy decrying the action (apparently some agents had drawn guns!) and the laws leading […]

Justin Elliott in St. Petersburg Times

Great article about my friend Justin Elliott and his work improving the looks and sound of pianos.

PTG National Convention

I enjoyed a couple of days in Kansas City this summer at the PTG National. These annual events are a piano nerds dream, with classes, presentations and exhibits about all aspects of pianos with a focus on technology (build, repair, regulate).  This was the first national convention in many years where I attended as a private individual rather than a manufacturers representative. I went to maintain industry contacts, but I was also looking forward  to taking classes. I attended a variety, including  presentations by Kawai, Yamaha and  Abel hammers, as well as classes on tuning and regulation. […]