Archive for April, 2012

Why Restore When You Can Buy New?

The dilemma a lot of piano owners face is what to do with that old, scratched-up, dinged-up, twangy sounding piano that can’t hold a tune anymore. There are only a few piano stores left here in Chicago-I’ve seen many go out of business in the 35 years I have been tuning pianos.

Buying a new piano is a rather large investment. If you or your children are serious players, you will want to check out many different brands of pianos which will require a lot of driving, and time. Determining the right piano for your pianist is a lot like buying a new suit, or dress. In other words, it has to fit right, be comfortable, and look good on you. Most pianos today come with 88 keys, 220 or more strings, and three pedals. They all use essentially the same type of mechanism in the action. So, what makes it so hard to find the right one?

The answer can only be given by the pianist. There is a connection-from playing a note, to the tone that you hear. That connection consists of an infinite number of variables. The response of the instrument, the touch weight, the ability to play and be in control in a number of expression levels, regulation, repetition, tone, volume, timbre, harmonics, voicing, fundamental vs. partials, and many other subjective points are to be considered.

The selection process can take a while. How long it takes depends on how accomplished your pianist is, and how sensitive they are to the nuances of the instrument. It is important to select the right piano, because once you buy it, it’s yours. And you are not likely to want to go through the process again if you make the wrong choice.

If you already own a piano that you really enjoy, but it looks like it fell out of an airplane, has worn hammers, and does not hold a tune, you might want to consider the option of rebuilding it. A properly rebuilt piano will have a new action, a complete refinishing, new keytops, new strings, tuning pins, felt, pinblock, a repaired or replaced soundboard, bridges, bushings, damper felt, and back action, everything to the decals that proudly display the brand name. What you will have is the piano you have always loved, but now it is new again.

Don’t expect to save money by rebuilding. In fact, you might spend more than buying new. Of course, the piano has to be good enough instrument to justify rebuilding it. But in the not too distant future, when you see the piano that has been in your family for generations, looking and sounding new, with that old familiar “connection”, you will know you made the right decision.

Kurt

How I Connect with People on a Musical Level

After being in the piano tuning business for 35 years, I have come to appreciate some of the “perks” that come with the job. One of the most important facets of my experience as a piano tuner is getting an insight of the many different families I meet and visit regularly, and how their sons and daughters are progressing with piano lessons, school, and their lives in general. I have seen many people grow up from young children to adults with their own families, which I get to know and am now seeing their kids grow up as well.

There is at least one thing in common with all these people; their love for music, their dedication to the different activities they engage in, and most important their organizational skills. Kids today have a lot on their plate. They are expected to spend hours a day studying, they are active in sports such as soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and others. I ask myself how young people can organize their time so efficiently as to accomplish all these activities in a given week. I think part of the answer lies in the fact they have music in their lives, and they are enriching their minds both subjectively and objectively. Studying music requires that you know how to count in cadence, in perfect tempo, and understand measures, beats, time signatures. It also forces you to read music while you simultaneously play that music, using both hands. It isn’t an easy to become an accomplished musician-in fact, it takes years. The rewards-the immense joy that is had by being able to play music, is infallible, cannot be replaced, and cannot be bought for any amount of money.

Most of my customers’ children do not grow up to be professional musicians. That’s fine-they earned their skills of playing music through hard work, perseverance, and genuine love for music. Some play at cocktail parties, others in bands, and still others just sit down at the end of the day and relax by playing their favorite composition by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy, or others. The rewards from their hard work are that they have the ability to do this, and nobody can take that away from them.

Kurt

From Piano Rolls to iPads

Back in the early 1900’s, the sources of home entertainment were rather limited. Today we can watch virtually any movie ever made through our Blu-Ray DVD players, Netflix, Hulu or other online companies. We can play video games with other people in the world online. Our Wii can be the center of entertainment at any party. We browse Facebook, Twitter, follow blogs, read the news as it is happening, pay bills, schedule appointments, and communicate with each other on home computers, laptops, iPads, iPhones, and other electronic devices.

Imagine a world without all of this. Imagine an evening spent at home with just the family, perhaps a few friends, no television, and little else but the walls and ceiling. Its called: Use Your Imagination. That’s right-we have to get creative and use our own resources. Personally I sometimes wish things were that way today. I mean, people would actually have to interact with each other!

One of the sources of home entertainment back in those days was that old, adorable, noisy player piano. You had to put on a paper piano roll, connect it to the take-up spool, and sit down and pump the pedals to get this thing to make music. Not only would the operator create some great piano playing, they would also get a good cardio workout! Usually everyone there would stand around the piano, looking at the lyrics printed on the roll, and sing along. Mom would probably bake some snacks, bring in beverages, and even let the kids stay up until ten.

Is it a better world today, with all of our electronic gadgets? Are we better off, walking around with our cell phones to our ears, totally caught up in our own conversations? Is it really important that we can watch any movie, TV show, or play any interactive video game at our command?  Today if we have a power outage the party’s over!

Kurt