Thursday, March 10, 2011

Making Your Piano Tuner Work For You

The Piano Tuner (by Norman Rockwell)
     When I was a little girl, every time the piano tuner came, we children felt the strange need to scatter and be very absent and quiet until he was finished.  We always knew his work was done when he sat down and played a beautiful rendition of  "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  My little heart used to thrill while I listened!

     Ever since I got my first piano, I have been more curious when the tuner came.  And even more recently, I have asked our tuner (which also happens to be our pastor) to teach me how to tune (and I'm planning on eventually using my Swagbucks to get a digital tuner).  I think it is a very valuable skill to aquire, especially if you live in a more remote area where you have to wait until the tuner has enough pianos to come to your area (as it was when we lived on the island in Nova Scotia).

     I want to share a few tips for you to keep in mind when your tuner comes to your piano. These are things that I have learned in the past 5 years by watching tuners work on my pianos. What a lot of people don't know is this: tuners will do more than just tune, often with no extra charge! So what in the world should we ask them to do?

     1. Ask the tuner to clean your piano. Have a small shop vac handy for their use. Put on the brush attachment, especially for older pianos where there is loose, thin felt along the line of strings. If the suction is too hard, it can strip that felt away.

     2. Ask the tuner to take the keys off- yes, you read that right. Have you ever seen every last one of your 88 piano keys lying in a heap on your living room/studio floor? If not, you should do that soon! A few months ago I was amazed at the amount of dust and actual objects that had collected underneath my keys. Now granted, it had obviously not been done by the previous owner since I found an army dog tag, some very old earrings, bobby pins, old coins, nails, you name it! And the dust bunnies were in the adult stage of life. :)  If you or your students ever seem to get "stuffed up" or start sneezing when they are at the piano, this is why. Pianos get very dusty, but for some reason we forget to spring clean them!

     3. Ask the tuner to do a tune-up. Most tuners I have known will do a tune-up at no extra charge. They usually carry small spare parts with them. (The part may or may not be a small extra charge, depending on the tuner) Here are a few tune-up ideas:  
           *Check the pedals and tighten them if they are loose. Follow the pedal all the way up the dowel rod that attaches and make sure all the joint points are secure.
           * Check the hammers and make sure the pads aren't getting worn down.
           *Do a quick once-over on the strings to make sure none have snapped (although if you are playing all the time you would know that before the tuner came)
           *Check the pins that hold the strings- sometimes they are wooden and they crack. If they are cracked, they need to be replaced.
           *Check the backframe/soundboard to make sure it is not cracked.

     4. Ask the tuner about getting a heating rod, which is to be used during humid times of year. It will help keep your piano at the same temperature and dry all year. This will enable the piano to keep its tune longer.

     5. Talk to your tuner and ask questions! Most tuners are not bothered by people talking to them. Nowadays many of them use the digital tuners and not those heavy manual tools. But even so, musical pitches are the only things that will pick up on the tuning device and interfere with accuracy. So, no whistling! :)



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