Sunday, October 27, 2013

Piano Accessory Holiday Shopping Tips - Do's and Don'ts

Piano accessories can make great holiday gifts. Composer statuettes, piano lamps and metronomes can make awesome surprise presents for the serious piano owner or student. The younger music major loves the famous piano scarf and G clef earrings. In fact, if you look online for music themed gifts, you will find thousands of clothing accessories, jewelry items and miniatures that are lots of fun.

Awkward Alert: Do not buy custom items as surprise gifts because accurate measurements are needed for many of these accessories.

For example, piano covers really can be custom made so they fit tightly on the instrument. Before you can order piano caster cups to protect floors, you will need both the wheel measurements and piano weight details so the cups don't break. Climate control systems for the piano should really be ordered by the piano technician after the piano is measured correctly. Piano benches need to be the correct height and width. Many times, the owner will want the bench to match exact finish color of the existing piano. Piano finish shades vary. Contact your piano technician to get advice on color matching a new bench to the piano.

Stick to the "sure thing." Small framed posters or paintings of the piano lesson in progress are popular for their traditional value, but spending $300 for a needlepoint bench cover is risky business unless you can sneak in and get the exact measurements of the bench lid. Let the piano tuner help with shopping for a decorative piano bench cover. 

Piano pens, pencil holders, musical brooches, barrettes, ski caps, snow boards with piano keys and even music boxes are very popular. My favorite place to buy piano related gifts is eBay. You can even find sheet music that your great-great grandmother learned from. If you're looking for new musical items online, use one of the top 10 search engines to start the process and you will be amazed at what comes up on your screen.

Remember: If it requires custom measurements, plan ahead and ask your piano tuner to help or shop for something else.

Shop eBay for collectables. Amazon is great for both new and used items and many times you can get free shipping. If they are into clothing and accesssories, use the search engines to start your search and plan ahead because there are lots of great deals from overseas, but shipping time averages about three weeks.

Shop for musical gifts make someone smile when they open their gifts this holiday season!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Do You Really Have to Wait Two Weeks to Tune Your Piano After it is Moved?

Well, that's what the textbook says, but the reality of what goes on out there in the piano service world, you may be able to cut that corner.

When the piano tuner finishes tuning your piano, it starts to go out of tune on a micro-scale within a few hours. Slowly, the top end goes out along with any strings that may have loose tuning pins and after a while, it's completely "out" again.

In  another case, where a piano has had several strings replaced, the tuner will stretch these strings and then tune them. In a few weeks, these strings will tend to go out of tune first. The tuner is called by the customer and comes out to tune the piano again and charges the customer again for another tuning.

In a third situation, the piano is placed near the front door in sunny Montreal, Canada is tuned and goes out of tune quickly as it gets a sub-zero draft a couple times per day. In some cases, the piano can be moved to a better location in the room, maybe an inside wall, farther from the front door. But in this case, "Aunt Sally" likes the piano right next to the front door because she can look out the window at the snowflakes as she's playing, "Winter Wonderland."

You see, after four piano tunings in under two years, a decent piano in good shape will "stabilize." It is at this point, and only at this point, will you as a piano owner get to enjoy a well-tuned piano for six months at a time.

Don't expect your piano to stabilize after you tune it once, two weeks after the movers leave.

Where am I going with this?

Right here:
In my opinion, the sooner you tune your piano four times within a two-year period, the sooner it will stabilize for six months at a time.

So, don't bother waiting two weeks. Just call your piano tuner, schedule your first tuning and then make sure your piano gets tuned every six months, every year, all the time and the world will be a better place.

"Tune it forward?"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Your Cat is the Only One Who Plays Your Piano?

Ah, pets and pianos.

I must admit, I am primarily a "dog person," but find cats interesting to watch and try to figure out...especially when they play their piano more then their owners.

I've probably worked on around 5,000 pianos over the years and I have seen many pianos that have been beat on by our furry little friends. Damage ranging from a minor scratch on the piano lid from a candlestick vs. cat kick-boxing match...all the way to broken keytops with deep scratches in the cabinet.

One piano had some sticking keys back in 2010 and there was about a third of a bag of "Purina Dog Chow" under the keys, in the action, in the harp and under the pedals. A few hours later, the piano was repaired, given a pitch raising and was as good as new (except for about 500 permanent veneer scratches on the fall board, cracked action parts that no longer available and disfigured music desk which I consider, "animal music-art.")

Cats like me when I tune. They come into the room and pace around behind me, rub their whiskers up against my leg and sometimes jump right up onto the keys next to my tuning wrench.

If I'm not mistakin', domesticated cats are territorial creatures (but I'm not totally sure because I am a dog person and never bothered to confirm this) so I think they are trying to tell me something.

Maybe something like,

"Hey Mister, what are you doing on MY PIANO?! No humans have even touched it in years! I'm the only one who uses it, so WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?"

Well "Morris," I am here because pianos are really "simple machines" in a way and they need regular maintenance.

If you don't start the lawn mower every six months, it may not start in the spring and your lawn will be two feet high causing the neighbors to stand up at Town Meeting and vote against your community pet project.

If you don't go to the dentist and get your teeth cleaned every six months, you will eventually be asking your local grocery store associate where the "Polident" is.

AND...if your human friends let their piano sit for years without regular maintenance and tuning, it will cost hundreds of dollars to correct the problem when Aunt Trudy comes to check on her piano this coming holiday season.

So attention all pets with pianos:
Move your fuzzy ball-thing, tell your doggy brothers to get the rawhide bone out from under that pedal because it's time for the semi-annual piano tuning which needs to be done, even if your the only one who plays it!

The Final Score:

Piano Tuner...1

(See you in six months.)

Cat plays piano

Dog playing his favorite tune on the piano. (Hit it boys!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Craigslist Piano Reality Check

So the piano you got on Craigslist doesn't REALLY play that well?

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry would say, "Oops!"

Well, it happens to the best of us.

Here's a plan to "unscrew" that piano problem. Contact your local piano technician request a piano repair estimate. More often than not, the best course of action is to plan on paying to have your piano tuner come out to your house, open up the piano and find the problem. It's well worth the money. Most tuners will do this for around $100. If the problem is a minor in nature, the technician may offer to stay and repair the piano and then tune it on the spot without charging you for an estimate. This is the best scenario, so take advantage of it.

If the piano needs major repairs, you should ask what the charges for an inspection, appraisal and repair estimate. Many pianos need action overhauls, string repairs or key repairs which can give the piano a new life. These repairs usually run several hundred dollars. Have piano inspected to get a list of the repair problems, get an appraisal to find out what it's worth and a repair estimate to find out exactly how much it will cost to bring it up to speed. Pianos are like cars; when they need major repairs, you need to make a decision as to whether or not they are, in fact, "economical to repair."

The Reality Check Part:
Don't just let the piano sit there. Sometimes, pianos cannot be repaired unless completely rebuilt costing thousands of dollars. Most often, free and cheap pianos found online usually cost a few hundred of dollars to fix, so "bite the bullet" and plan on paying for a repair estimate. Then schedule your piano technician fix it and you will be playing, "I Can See Clearly Now" in no time.