Beyond Tuning

Newsletter 22 - Judith Palmer

Routine Maintenance for the Parlor Grand Piano

An owner of a parlor (homesize) grand piano has the good fortune to be able to play and enjoy the piano of choice for many musicians. With proper maintenance, a quality smaller grand will give outstanding performance for generations of musicians. The tone and touch of a grand piano set it apart from other types of pianos. Since the design of the grand piano was perfected early in the previous century, no matter what the age of the instrument, the owner certainly has the "top the line" when it comes to performance and sound.

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Newsletter 21 - Judith Palmer

Routine Maintenance for the Vintage Upright Piano

An owner of a vintage, upright piano has the privilege of playing music on an instrument that was built around the same time that the first Model T Fords were roaming the countryside! With proper maintenance, upright pianos a century old or even older may be enjoyed daily, and have the potential to perform and sound as beautiful as the day they were built. "Planned obsolescence" was definitely not an idea that had occurred to the builders of these wonderful instruments! They were built to last!

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Newsletter 20 - Judith Palmer

Replacing Upright Hammer Butt Springs

Hammer butt (or hammer rail) springs perform an essential function in the action of the vertical piano. Each time a note is played, the hammer must swiftly return to rest position. The hammer butt spring is responsible for this task. Although these springs are simple in design and typically need no maintenance over the life of a piano, they can be easily bent or knocked out of position. In some cases, the spring metal becomes brittle and breakage occurs. When this happens, broken springs may either be replaced individually or as a set. If the hammer butt springs on your piano are showing signs of brittleness then either spot replacement or the replacement of the entire set should be considered.

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Newsletter 19 - Judith Palmer

Damper Replacement for the Upright Piano

Dampers are to a piano what brakes are to an automobile. While the action, strings and soundboard of the piano are all devoted to the production of sound, the sole purpose of the dampers is the cessation of sound. The fact that a piano can go from a thunderous crescendo one second to nearly complete silence the next is a testament to the genius of the design of the dampers. If the dampers on your piano, however, have reached the point in which their effectiveness has been compromised by wear and tear, replacement of old, hardened damper felts with a set of new highquality dampers would be the best solution.

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Newsletter 18 - Judith Palmer

Worn Sharp Keys

The condition of the thirtysix sharp keys of a piano is important first and foremost in that it affects the appearance of the keyboard as a whole. Whether your piano is a vintage instrument with ivory naturals and ebony sharps or a more recently built piano with synthetic naturals and sharps, noticeable wear and tear of the black keys detracts from the keyboard as a whole. In extreme cases, severe wear and tear of the sharps may even affect performance, in that the uneven shape of badly rounded sharps can become a distraction during play. If the sharps keys on your instrument are badly worn, either replacement or refinishing would certainly enhance the appearance of the keyboard of the piano, and would possibly even make playing the piano more pleasing.

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Newsletter 17 - Judith Palmer

Brass Rail Repair

Upright pianos built early in the last century which have brass rails and flanges are by this time often having problems which necessitate repair. Breakage of any of the component parts of a brass rail system will result in notes being put out of commission. If the brass rail / flange system of your upright piano has reached the point where problems have begun to occur, repairs will be necessary if the piano is to be enjoyed without the inconvenience of notes which suddenly stop working.

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Newsletter 16 - Judith Palmer

Repinning and Restringing

For a piano to maintain a stable tuning and sound its best, it is essential that the tuning pins are tight and that the strings are in good condition. If the tuning pins of a piano become loose and tend to slip, the piano will not stay in tune for a reasonable amount of time. If the strings have deteriorated to the point where they are breaking frequently, the tone of the piano will most likely suffer as well. If your piano has problems caused by brittle strings and loose pins, these issues could be lessened or eliminated if your piano were to be repinned and restrung.

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Promo 15 - Judith Palmer

Duplicating and Replacing the Grand Pinblock

For a piano to maintain a stable tuning, the piano's pinblock must hold the tuning pins with a viselike grip. If the pinblock has lost its ability to hold tuning pins effectively, steps must be taken to correct the problem if the piano is to stay in tune for a reasonable amount of time. In some cases repinning the piano with oversize pins or treating the pinblock with CA glue or other pinblock restorative may produce adequate results. Often times, however, the best procedure for a pinblock showing signs of deterioration is replacement of the old pinblock with a new customfitted pinblock. The pinblock of your piano has deteriorated to the point where replacement would be the best option.

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Promo 14 - Judith Palmer

Grand Damper Replacement

Dampers are to a piano what brakes are to an automobile. While the action, strings and soundboard of the piano are all devoted to the production of sound, the sole purpose of the dampers is the cessation of sound. The fact that a grand piano can go from a thunderous crescendo one second to nearly complete silence the next is a testament to the genius of the design of the grand damper. The dampers on your piano, however, have reached the point in which their effectiveness has been compromised by wear and tear. Replacement of the old damper felts with a set of new highquality dampers is the solution.

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Newsletter 12 - Judith Palmer

Regulating the Parlor (or Home-Sized) Grand Piano

The proper touch on your piano depends on it being regulated. To many pianists, a piano's touch is as important as its tone. Touch refers to the efficiency and responsiveness of the mechanical action of the piano, and is what is responsible for giving a piano its full range of power from the silkiest of pianissimos to the crashing double forte. When a piano begins to lose its mechanical efficiency, it is said to have gone out of regulation. Exacting measurements and corresponding adjustments are needed to put a piano back into regulation. The adjustments of your piano action related to touch have not been attended to recently and are causing the piano to be less than responsive. A job of regulation is in order.

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Newsletter 12 - Judith Palmer

Keypin Replacement

One essential element for the effective operation of the keys in a piano is that the keypins must be smooth to the point of being slippery. Each note has two of these keypins, the front rail pin and the balance rail pin, that keep the key aligned in its proper position. When a note is played and the key rocks forward, the felt bushings of the key make positive contact with the keypins to prevent any wobbly sidetoside movement. Any corrosion on the surface of either keypin will result in unwanted resistance, and will produce excessive wear and tear on the bushings. If the original keypins in your piano have become badly corroded, replacement with a new set would be the best solution.

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Newsletter 11 - Judith Palmer

Bass String Removal, Duplication, and Replacement

One characteristic which all great sounding pianos have in common is that they possess a rich, vibrant bass. A strong, resonant bass brings the music played on a piano to life. Unfortunately, as an instrument ages the bass strings which give the piano its musical heartbeat tend to deteriorate. Gradually, over the decades, the tone of the typical acoustic piano loses some of its original luster, and the instrument may come to have a bass sound which is "tubby" and not strong and vibrant. At this point, replacement of the factoryinstalled bass strings is in order. If the bass section of your piano has gotten to the point where it sounds tubby the installation of a new set of bass strings would benefit your piano tonally.

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Promo 10 - Judith Palmer

Rebushing Keys

For piano keys to have that "new piano" feel a quality set of key bushings is essential. Felt bushings are to piano keys as piston rings are to the pistons of an automobile engine. Without piston rings, pistons would clatter loosely and ineffectually inside their cylinders. Likewise, without key bushings, the wooden keysticks would clatter against the keypins which serve to keep the keys on track. When bushings are worn and hardened with age, or have loosened and dropped out of place altogether, keys are wobbly, giving the piano a distinct "old piano" feel. The key bushings of your piano have reached the stage of wear and tear where it would make an appreciable difference in the feel of your piano to have them professionally replaced.

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Promo 9 (Heads-Up) - Refelting keybed

Refelting The Keybed

The quiet operation of the keys of your piano depends upon three sets of felts (front rail punchings, balance rail punchings and back rail cloth) that function as cushions. Besides their ability to absorb unwanted sounds, these felts are also important in determining both the height of the keys and the depth of the keystroke. As the piano is played over the years, however, these felts become thinner and harder. The keybed felts of your piano have worn to the point where removal and replacement would benefit both the touch and appearance of your piano.

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Promo 8 (Heads-Up) - Replacement of worn Aisian hammer butt flange

Replacement of Worn Asian-Design Hammer Butts and Flanges

The Achilles heel of Yamaha, Kawai and other Asian­made pianos is a ham­mer butt assembly that relies upon a small braided cord to hold an essential spring in check. After years of use this cord is prone to breaking (as shown in photo on cover), which causes the piano action to perform unsatisfactorily.

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Promo 5 - Vertical Regulation

Keytop Replacement

A piano with a beautiful and durable set of keytops is more likely to be appreciated than one with a beatup set of keys. The luxurious feel of topquality keytops invites one to sit down and play the piano. On the other hand, when old keytops have become discolored, chipped or broken off altogether, playing the piano becomes more of a pain than a joy.

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Promo 5 - Vertical Regulation

Vertical Piano Regulation

The proper touch on your piano depends on it being regulated. To many pianists, a piano's touch is as important as its tone. Touch refers to the efficiency and responsiveness of the mechanical action of the piano, and is what is responsible for giving a piano its full range of power from the silkiest of pianissimos to a crashing double forte. When a piano begins to lose its mechanical efficiency, it is said to have gone out of regulation. Exacting measurements and corresponding adjustments are needed to put a piano back into regulation. The adjustments of your piano action related to touch have not been attended to recently and are causing the piano to be less than responsive. A job of regulation is in order.

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Promo 4 (Heads-Up) - Plastic Elbow Replacement

Plastic Elbow Repair

Many spinet pianos manufactured during the 1950's and '60's were outfitted with plastic parts which after decades of use are beginning to weaken and break. One of the most common of plastic parts to fail is what's known as an elbow an integral part of a number of models of spinets.

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Promo 3 - Ivory Keytop

Ivory Keyset Restoration

A beautiful set of genuine ivory keytops on a vintage piano is becoming more and more of a rarity. Many ivory keysets on older instruments have suffered from wear and tear over the years, and are not particularly attractive. Bringing an original set of ivory back to "factoryfresh" condition is at times possible when done by the professional technician, but it can be very timeconsuming, and the techniques involved to do the work correctly are painstaking.

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Promo 2 (Heads-Up) - Judith Palmer

Hammer Head Filing

The hammers on your piano have reached the point where routine maintenance in the form of filing off the outer wear layer would be of benefit. The result would be heard in a crisper, cleaner tone more like what the piano sounded like when it was in the showroom as a new instrument.

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BridleStrapReplace1-200x200

Bridle Strap Replacement

One repair which at some point needs to be performed on your piano is the job of bridle strap replacement.  For this job, the action (removable working mechanism) of the piano would need to be removed and transported to my shop.  I would be glad to work with you to find a convenient time to schedule the work in order to complete the job.

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Keeping your piano in good condition involves much more than just tuning.

Here is a list of piano maintenance procedures that are commonly done to keep your piano sounding and performing at its best. Periodically, descriptions of more repairs will be added to this list.