Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Importance of Having Your Piano Tuned on a Regular Basis

Generally speaking, your piano should be tuned at least twice per year. When the piano is tuned on a regular basis, good things happen across the board. First, since the instrument did not drop way out of tune, the piano tuner can really fine tune the instrument now, resulting in a more accurate tuning.

Take a moment to picture an auto mechanic performing a tuneup at a service station. The first car is running so rough that the mechanic replaces all the spark plugs, the air cleaner and the fuel line filter. He also changes the oil, refills the coolant and checks all the spark plug wires. Now the car runs properly. The second car he works on was tuned up six months ago and runs almost perfectly. Now the mechanic can take an hour to really fine tune the carborater and check other systems under the hood. In the end, the car is really fine-tuned now.

At the same rate, the piano tuner runs into the same type of job, so to speak. One customer has a piano that has not been tuned for over eight years. Now the tuner must do a pitch raising, stretching all the strings above the pitch that they will be tuned to, then tuning them down to their respective pitches. Chances are a few keys are sticking and need adjustment or even replacement. Now the parts may be replaced immediately if the tuner has them on hand or may have to be ordered. Now the tuner will return within a couple of days or weeks to replace the part. In the interim, the piano may have some notes that do not play right. This first piano job is more expensive and took longer to complete.

The second piano the tuner works on was just tuned six months ago. Although the piano is out of tune, all keys work, the pedals are working fine and all systems are in good working order. Now the piano tuner can focus on performing a regular tuning. The strings do not need to be stretched, nothing needs to be fixed and no parts need to be ordered. As a result, the tuner will spend a good hour or more really fine-tuning your piano so it sounds even better then the last tuning.

That's the goal of the piano tuner: to make your piano sound even better than the last tuning - every time.

Don't let your piano slip way out of tune because it costs everyone more time and money to get it back in shape. Instead, have your piano tuned every six months. This will insure that everyone who plays the piano will enjoy what they are playing and will not be listening to the wrong information; the wrong notes. It is very important that students are only exposed to instruments that are in good tuning order. This will help them develop their listening skills more easily.

It's well worth the money to have your piano tuned every six months.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Sostenuto Pedal, The Bass Sustain Pedal and The Celeste Pedal

The sostenuto pedal or "middle pedal" keeps raised any damper that was raised at the moment the pedal is depressed. This makes it possible to sustain some notes (by depressing the sostenuto pedal before notes to be sustained are released) while the player's hands are free to play other notes. This can be useful for musical passages with pedal points and other otherwise tricky or impossible situations. The sostenuto pedal was the last of the three pedals to be added to the standard piano, and to this day, many pianos are not equipped with a sostenuto pedal. (Almost all modern grand pianos have a sostenuto pedal, while most upright pianos do not.) A number of twentieth-century works specifically call for the use of this pedal. This pedal is often unused in modern music.

The bass sustain pedal can be found on many uprights and baby grands in place of the sostenuto pedal, which lifts all the dampers in the bass. It works like the damper pedal, but only affects the lowest notes.

Some upright pianos have a practice pedal or celeste pedal in place of the sostenuto. This pedal, which can usually be locked in place by depressing it and pushing it to one side, drops a "muffler" (or strip of felt) between the hammers and the strings so that all the notes are greatly muted; a handy feature for those who wish to practice in domestic surroundings without disturbing the neighbors. The practice pedal is rarely used in performance.

So many times piano pedals look the same, but have different functions. A few compositions that demonstrate the sostenuto pedal are Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata (FULL) - Piano Sonata No. 14", Chopin's "Prelude in D Flat Major RAINDROP" and "Mine" by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin 1933.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shopping for a New or Used Piano

When the time comes to buy a piano, which is a better deal: a new piano or a used piano?

Pianos are like cars because it may take some time to find the one that's right for you. More often than not, the "used piano" phrase conjures up an image of an old upright piano on its last legs with a ridiculous amount of repair work needed. This is a common misconception. The fact is, there are many excellent deals on used pianos in the private sector and at piano dealerships all over the world. You must set aside some time to go look at each piano which could take days or even weeks. If you have ever bought a used car, you know that there are good deals out there, but it takes time. One of the advantages of shopping a piano dealer is that you can get a quick overview of both the new and used line. Financing is often available for new or used at the piano stores. In less than an hour, you can get a good feel for what might be the right instrument for your family. Most dealers will deliver and tune your piano as part of the deal.

As far as the privately owned pianos go, there are probably several good deals on these within an hour of your home. A 45-minutes trip may save you $500 in many cases. Once again, like used cars, the environment tells the real story. If you walk in to a piano teacher's studio and see a nice neat room where the piano is the centerpiece without a scratch on it, you know the thing is probably in excellent condition. On the other hand, if you show up and the piano is buried under lawn equipment in the garage and all nicked up, that one will probably need at least $500 worth of work. You could bring a piano technician out for the price of a service call to take a look at this beast. Maybe it just needs a few minor repairs, cleaned up and a good pitch raising. In this case, you could offer the owner $100 for it because it obviously needs some T.L.C. Most owners of this type will say, "Sure, I'll take $100 for it. I just want to get it out of here to make room for my riding mower." Now get the piano tuner to arrange the move and the repair job and in about 10 days, you'll have a great new instrument sitting in your living room for half the price.

If the seller "wants to think about it," pay the piano tuner to do an appraisal before you leave if you really like the piano. You can then use this as a bargaining tool with the seller the next day on the phone.

New pianos are an investment. Many reputable dealers who have been in business for a long time will finance your piano, have it delivered and tuned, and offer a trade in of equal value which is good anytime in the future. So if you trade in a $9,000 piano 12 years from now, they will take $9,000 off the selling price of your next piano. The question is, will they still be in business when it's time to buy your next piano? Are they a chain store with several locations? Once again, like a car, you would put a down payment on your new piano and finance the rest. This situation is perfect for the serious piano student who might want to practice on a Yamaha like they have in the practice rooms at college. Also, for the person who has always wanted a brand new baby grand in their living room.

One final note: do not buy a cheap, beat up piano for a brand new student because, just like a freshman's car at college, nobody wants to spend much time around a broken piece of machinery. So if you want your kid to come home from college to visit once in a while, get them a decent used car and if you want them to practice piano and stick with it, get them an instrument in good working order, new or used.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Digital Pianos Can Have a New Lease on Life

How do you handle a digital piano that is driving you crazy?

Call a piano technician who is qualified to work on electrics!

Back in the day, there was the Fender Rhodes, a few Roland's and a couple of Wurlitzer's out there. Now, many music schools are using digital pianos. This is a hot issue with many piano teachers. Some feel that it is imperative for piano students to play solely on the traditional acoustic piano so the student will get an accurate feel for the instrument. (I tend to agree with this philosophy.)

But every year, more and more music schools are filling their classrooms with digital pianos and the beat goes on.

At any rate, I must admit, the touch on some of these instruments is pretty close to an acoustic piano, but not really the same. One of the reasons is, the keyboard has lots of mechanical parts. These parts don't last forever and wear out after a couple of years especially in the classroom environment.

Before you sell your digital piano in the front yard for $50 on Saturday morning, check the web for a qualified digital piano repair person in your area. Many times, these can be fixed in a couple of hours for less than $200.

Don't pull the plug until you have someone take a look at it. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cleaning Your Piano Keys

Keys may be cleaned with warm water and a weak solution of Ivory soap. First fill a mixing bowl with warm tap water. Next drop a bar of Ivory soap in the bowl and let it soak for about 5 minutes. Remove the bar of soap and your solution is ready. Grab a roll of paper towels, your bowl of your soap solution and another bowl of plain, warm water. You are now ready to clean your keys. Just dip the paper towel into the soapy bowl, ring it out and wipe about one octave with the solution (It's O.K. if a little bit of water drips threw the keys. It should evaporate within a day or so and it will not damage your instrument). Next, get a new paper towel, dip it in the plain water and wipe the same octave again to clean the soap off the keys. Now, get a new paper towel and wipe that same octave and furniture finish near the keys completely dry. Repeat this procedure, one octave at a time until the entire keyboard is clean. That's it! Your keyboard is nice and clean now!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Humidity Management for Your Piano

A drastic change in humidity is the NUMBER ONE REASON why a piano goes out of tune! (More so than a drastic change in temperature.) For best protection, the climate surrounding the piano should be controlled. If a building or room humidification/dehumidificaiton system is impractical, the piano may be protected by installing a climate control system right inside the piano itself. If the room that the instrument is located in has more than 15% change in humidity, having this system installed is imperative. These systems generally cost between $100 and $300 installed and help your piano to last longer.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Positioning the Piano in your Home

Your piano should be placed along an interior wall of your home. This will help to keep the temperature of your piano stable--a maximum temperature change of no more than 10 degrees all year. Do not place your piano against a baseboard heater or a heating vent. This can throw it out of tune and dry out the soundboard causing to crack, eventually. Do not place your piano in front of windows and doors. Instead, place it on an interior wall that is far away from drafts from the outdoors. Avoid placing the piano in a concrete block building or on a concrete floor, either of which is usually very damp.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Call a Professional to Move Your Piano

Over the years, I've heard comments from my piano tuning customers like,

"It took six of the neighbors to get this piano in here and they broke my front door step in the process!"

Here's a clue...it should take two men to move an upright piano properly with a piano dolly. Three men to move the upright up or down the stairs. Professional piano movers move anywhere from 1 to 12 pianos per day on average. They know how to handle your instrument, so it's worth the money.

Most pianos are damaged when they are moved by the owner or owners. Dropping a piano six inches to the floor, in many cases, costs about $500 or more to fix.

It is best to hire actual "Piano Movers" listed in the yellow pages, through your local music store or on your favorite search engine on the web. Protect your investment - call a professional!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Are Acoustic Pianos Here to Stay?

The traditional acoustic piano has been around since the year 1698. Although the modern electric piano has evolved into a great new keyboard instrument, the traditional piano will always be around. Most piano teachers I have met over the years require their students to practice on a regular, acoustic piano. It is imperative that students learn the feel of a traditional keyboard. Some electric pianos keyboards come close, but never feel quite like a standard piano. The natural sound of the acoustic piano, like the acoustic guitar, will be around for many centuries to come. Nothing compares to the "real McCoy" of pianos.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why People Come Back to Get a Second Look at Your Used Piano , But Will Not Buy It

Simple! They are coming to look because the price is in the ballpark. Get a piano appraisal at PianoAnswers.com for $8.95 so you can give an accurate sales pitch. Call local movers and get a general price on moving your piano locally. Offer to lower the price of the piano to cover the move! If your piano is in good shape, the customers probably don't want to pay for a move. (Remember, the music stores include the move in most cases.) Always have the buyer put the move in their name! Give them the money and the movers phone number. Don't get caught in the middle.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How to Keep Your Piano Business Going in a Tough Economy

Go "old school" and pull out all the stops! Remember back in the old days when you would tell everyone you knew that you were in the piano business and hand them your business card? Well, it never hurts to practice proactive activities like this one. The web is great, but piano people are typically more traditional then the average bear, so you should be aware that most of these customers would rather get a phone call than an e-mail. They'd rather meet you in person than see your "bio" on the web. It still works. Get out of the house and promote your business the "old school" way a little bit.

What does Donald Trump tell people to do on the first day on "The Apprentice?" He sends them into Times Square in New York City and makes them raise as much money as they can in some cases and in other cases has them get as many new customers as they can and dollars don't count. Why?

Because "old school" works!

Yes, use the web, use Facebook, but don't forget, for hundreds of years the piano has been the center of attention in many social situations. The piano bar, the piano teacher's studio, the professional recording studio, the church, at your neighbor's house, below the stage on Broadway, even above the McDonald's doorway in New York City!

Piano people like to use the piano as a reason to socialize...so talk it up!

1. Tell your friends and family that you can use some more piano business and if they "know of anyone" to please have them call this number because business is slow and you need all the help you can get right now.

2. Post cheap Pennysaver ads. (In Massachusetts, I pay about $17 per week to reach 77,000 households.)

3. Partner with other types of businesses with the "I'll promote you if you promote me for free" philosophy.
(This actually works just fine with businesses that are not related to music. If you are a piano teacher, you might strike a casual deal with the local tutor who gives after school help to kids.)

4. Tell your kids that you'll give them a commission for every new customer they bring you! You'll be surprised what results kids will come up with if you ask them.

5. Go meet some people. Stop in at the local diner and eat at the snack bar. Talk it up.

6. Understand, when people see you are trying to drum up business, they will many times offer some type of help...even if it's a referral that you now have to go follow up on, do it.

7. Answer this question the right way,

"What have you been up to?"

"I've been working on drumming up more piano business today...any suggestions?"
(Not "Oh the economy is so terrible, I don't know what I'm going to do.")

There are plenty of people are thinking about spending a little money right now, you just have to show them "why it's a good idea."

8. Keep trying everything, every day until you find what works...don't chicken out! Be persistant!

9. When people ask for a discount, say this:

"Well, I normally give a 10% discount on this, but I'm going to add a second discount in an effort to help people get a second price break right now during the recession."

10. Ask your current customers to refer business to you and pay them a one-time referral fee if it turns into a sale! I tell people all the time, "If you refer a piano tuning customer to me and it turns into a paying job for me, I will send you a check for $10. What is your address?"

One out of ten people will send you a ton of business. Tell your customers that you need to work on the "honor system" so you will have to trust each other to make this work. The person who is doing the referring should keep a list of who they talked to while keeping in mind that everybody will not turn into a paying customer. Only a portion will...so double check the end results with each other and "TRUST" IS THE KEY.

Hope this gets the wheels turning a little bit for you.

Thanks for reading this over.

-- Rob A.