The piano is now in tune, but you find it difficult or uncomfortable to play.

Many times my first ques­tion to a cus­tom­er is, what is the piano used for: a begin­ner stu­dent, a ser­i­ous stu­dent, hob­by­ist or con­cert pian­ist, or just Oh Canada once a year?

88 Notes more…

Both Yamaha and Steinway count some 12,000-plus parts in a piano and they ought to know giv­en they've both been mak­ing some of the finest instru­ments for more than a cen­tury. With 88 notes on most pianos there are more than 200 strings from low A to high C. The cast iron frame has to sup­port tre­mend­ous ten­sions, depend­ing on string length and gauge, that can be upwards of 20 tonnes.

Each note of a piano has numer­ous points of adjust­ment just a few of them are:

  • how far the key goes down
  • how much force is required to depress the key
  • how much 'play' is required to allow the mech­an­ism to work
  • how far the ham­mer is from the string
  • how soon does a damper engage

All those and many oth­ers con­trib­ute to the play­ing exper­i­ence. The human hand will often give the brain much more inform­a­tion than the eye and if the touch is not pleas­ant I can guar­an­tee you won't want to prac­tice no mat­ter how beau­ti­ful the piano.

New and Old more…

A piano right out of the fact­ory is a won­der­ful thing as the parts are all new and everything is to spec, but after not too many hours of play­ing those brand new parts need some minor adjust­ments to give a con­sist­ent touch for the pian­ist. On a new piano I can make a lot of those adjust­ments as I'm tun­ing at no extra cost.

With an older or neg­lected instru­ment many minor adjust­ments can be done as the tun­ing pro­cess goes ahead as well, but if parts are worn or dam­aged through use, more than tweak­ing may be neces­sary. At this point it is import­ant that we talk about the piano and what you want so we under­stand each oth­er before any work is under­taken.

I nev­er cease to be amazed by the piano and the fact that it can be more than a cen­tury old and still mak­ing won­der­ful music. There are very few, if any, mech­an­ic­al devices that age as well as a piano. It will func­tion and make music under a wide range of con­di­tions and it is really a ques­tion of how well the instru­ment has to per­form.

Voicing more…

So the piano is now in tune and feels nice to play but you're still not sure about the sound; it is brittle, tinny, muffled, or incon­sist­ent.

This brings us to voicing, or mak­ing the instru­ment sing. Voicing is com­plex and very sub­ject­ive, so we have come back to the need for com­plete under­stand­ing between us. Every situ­ation is unique, and it is import­ant for me to strive for a com­mon under­stand­ing before chan­ging the ton­al qual­ity of a piano.

So if you say the piano sounds too bright we can then talk about wheth­er you mean metal­lic or just too loud or, wheth­er you feel the sound is too shrill. It's a bit like nail­ing jelly to a wall at times but it makes the dif­fer­ence in your sat­is­fac­tion at the end.

"The goal of a tech­ni­cian is to make the piano invis­ible so there is noth­ing between the artist and the music."

I wish I could say I came up with that line but I would have to cred­it a tech­ni­cian from a sem­in­ar I took some years back. It stuck with me as an admir­able kind of goal even if some pianos are more or less opaque than oth­ers to begin with.