Factory Technical Manuals

Quality manufacturer technical manuals are rare. For one reason, they are difficult and time consuming to create. For another reason, certain techniques are common to all pianos and many manufacturers just simply assume technicians know all the steps. However that can be a dangerous assumption.

Here are a couple technical manuals from Steinway and […]

What’s A Wippen?

A wippen is the heart and soul of the grand piano action. With some aspects of piano design and construction there is a wealth of variety but not so much anymore with the wippen.

The top two wippens in the photo represent the most fundamental designs (yes, you nit pickers there are more, but […]

Your piano needs regulation

Pianos are complicated.

The piano action is made primarily wood and felt. While both of these materials have great advantages for piano building, they have some very distinct shortcomings for which regular compensation must be made. While wood is relatively stable if the humidity is kept steady, felt is very susceptible to compression and compacting […]

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.


Piano Care

A high end piano, while weighing hundreds of pounds, is actually quite a delicate item. The 2 biggest dangers are swings in humidity and improper servicing.


While high humidity (greater than 70%) can cause inconveniences, such as sticking keys, it rarely causes true damange. Besides, in this day and age most homes that have high end pianos have central air conditioning that keeps the humidity in the summer months at a relatively constant level.

Low humidity (less than 40%) can truly damage your piano. This damage can include soundboard cracks, loose tuning pins, action problems and more.

While maintaining a constant humidity level, say 45%, is desirable, it is difficult to achieve. The most critical step is to put an absolute limit to how low the humidity in the room can go. This usually means carefully tracking humidity with a simple hygrometer, available at most hardware stores, and adding humidity by using a humidifier.

It is best to add moisture to a room, using humidifiers that have a large reservoir to reduce the need to refill and to reduce the chances of going dry for too long. Electrostatic humidifiers, while quiet, have a disadvantage of leaving a white dust. Drum or wick humidifiers need a fan that contributes to noise, but are most effective overall.

Voicing Part One

Voicing is one of the most critical aspects of piano maintenance and repair and perhaps the most mysterious. It’s mysterious because there is so little you can actually specify, unlike the precise measurements of key dip or let off.

Voicing is often referred to as “tone regulating” which has a more clear meaning. It is the technique of adjusting the various parameters that affect the tone of the piano. This of course includes regulation of the action and tuning. But most people consider voicing to be the manipulation of the density of the felt of the piano hammer. It is the image of the technician jabbing a tool with needles into each hammer.


“Why does it take so long…?”

Oh my dear, you understand me but you don’t understand the nature of piano technology.

I took a good wack at making progress on my piano. I fine tuned the key level, then went over the hammer line, drop and let off before taking a critical bash at keydip. AT LAST, it’s beginning to feel […]