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. […]

Tuned for a famous musician recently

Had the great pleasure of meeting and tuning for a very famous classical musician recently. His apartment in NYC has a Bosendorfer model 200 that really needed some attention. Casually displayed on the bookshelf were just some of his many awards and honors. Just off to the left was his Kennedy Center Honor, looking […]

Old dogs

Some of you may have been following my very slow progress toward regaining my RPT status. For those who don’t know, the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) provides structure to the industry of piano maintenance, producing annual national conventions and numerous regional ones that focus on education, training and professional behavior. In an effort to […]

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.

Book Reviews

There are 2 books I’ve been reading lately, one new and one not so new.

The Voice of the Piano by Andre Oorebeek is a welcome addition to the sparse list of books on piano technology. This book is a very clear and thorough examination of the process of high end piano voicing, which concentrates […]

Tuning part 2

A single piano key sets into motion a set of 3 strings, all set in motion by the same hammer and all tuned, ideally, to the exact same pitch. This collection of 3 strings is called a unison. One usually sets a temperment by muting off 2 of the 3 strings in each unison […]

Fixing my piano – now the work begins

My Yamaha CFIIIS came back from PianoWorks in Atlanta and was installed in Charleston. It was very nicely strung with new pinblock and treble bridge cap. Flawless delivery to Charleston sounding very good on arrival. Good is relative, of course. The parts PianoWorks did were very very good. The sound of the hammers and their presence in a midsize room was harsh. They will only begin to sound acceptable with a couple of hours of serious voicing, and that can’t happen until the piano is tuned and very stable. To me, that’s at least 10 tunings. I just have to get started.

I haven’t tuned a piano in a year and before that probably 2, so I’m rusty. The skills of tuning stay with you, like riding a bike. The facility and confidence, however, have to be painstakingly, patiently rebuilt.

“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 […]

Stretching (not Yoga)

I’ve owned a Reyburn Cyber Tuner for the last year. Pretty cool little device and very informative to let you know what is going on when one tunes a piano. I’m far from being one of those egg head electronic tuners that are so common at the conventions, but have gotten a little way […]