What can you do with a Piano that Can’t be Tuned?

 

This is a very common question. Many times when people want to sell a piano that has been in the family for a long time, they don’t know where to start. When we receive calls from from people in these types of situations, we always ask them the last time the piano was tuned.

 

The reason we ask this is because pianos need very regular maintenance. The longer they go without tuning or other work, the more problems they might incur. It’s certainly possible that if a piano sits in the right climate for a long period of time and remains untouched it could need very little work, particularly if has been tuned on a regular basis. For a piano that has been in a home where the temperature and humidity have affected it over the years and the owner neglected to tune it on a regular basis, it can sometimes put undue stress on the instrument trying to get it stable again.

 

Sometimes pianos can’t be tuned. No matter how many times you try and tune them they will continue to go out of tune or simply can’t be tuned at all. Many times this means the piano has to be rebuilt because there is most likely an issue with the pin block which can’t hold the tuning pins tightly. The pinblock is a multi-laminate piece of hardwood custom shaped to the plate of each piano that sits right below the plate.

 

In order to replace the pinblock you have to remove the strings and pins and then use a crane to lift the plate out of the piano. Then a custom pinblock must be made for the specific piano – which is a very skilled job. This involves substantial expense and not something you will want to embark upon with just any piano. Rebuilding costs thousands of dollars and is only worthwhile on worthy instruments.

 

So what do you do with a piano that has loose tuning pins and isn’t worth the rebuilding costs? Luckily there are a few things you can try to see if you can salvage some more life out of the piano. The simplest solution is to tap in the pins a bit further into the pinblock to get more friction. There must be some room between the coils of the strings and the pinblock to allow for tapping. This can sometimes alleviate tuning problems. Other times it can only be a temporary fix depending upon the integrity of the pinblock. This is something that can only be done by an experienced piano technician or irreparable damage can be inflicted upon the piano.

 

If that doesn’t work you can have the piano restrung with fatter tuning pins. Every time you restring a piano you have to put a little bit larger tuning pins into the pinblock in order to get them to stay securely in place. If the pinblock is in good shape, this can solve the problem in some instances. This is a bit more expensive than tapping the pins down but less costly than rebuilding. If the pinblock has cracks, using larger pins will just enlarge the cracks. Also, there is a limit to how large a tuning pin can be used in a piano.
As a last resort I have heard of people trying super glue in the pins! This isn’t to lock them in place, but to add friction to the tuning pins. I would not recommend this unless you have absolutely nothing to lose because the piano is not worth rebuilding.

 

Something to keep in mind is that if you have a piano in a humid environment that has pins that are slightly loose, moving the piano to a desert climate can make the pins looser and you may have serious tuning problems.

 

So depending on your situation there are a number of options for a piano that can’t be tuned. If you have a piano that is valuable like a Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Bechstein or other high-end piano, then it might be worth rebuilding if other structures of the piano are sound. With low end pianos that can’t hold tuning, you may be better off seeking out another piano.

 

I hope this has been helpful for you. Thanks again for joining me Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is a very common question. Many times when people want to sell a piano that has been in the family for a long time, they don’t know where to start. When we receive calls from from people in these types of situations, we always ask them the last time the piano was tuned.   The reason we ask […]

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The Difference Between Mozart and Beethoven – Mozart Vs. Beethoven

 

This is a very broad subject you could devote at least an entire semester to. Books have been written on the subject! The point of this article is not to suggest that one composer is better than the other, but rather to compare the differences in their music.

 

One important fact is that Beethoven came after Mozart. This means that the foundation of his music was built upon the music of Mozart and composers before him.

 

Both composers used the Sonata Allegro form which was widely employed during the Classical period. I have a separate video that explains the Sonata form if you are interested in a more in-depth explanation.

 

In the video I use the Mozart Sonata K330 in C-major and the Beethoven Sonata Opus 14 Number 2 in G major. I’m picking an earlier work of Beethoven to highlight the differences between the two composers. Although Beethoven’s later work strayed even further from Mozart. Still, this earlier work is a great choice to highlight both the similarities and the differences.

 

You will notice right away that even though these composers were working within the same sonata form, the music is very different. They each have their own distinct personalities and this comes through very prominently in their music.

 

The first thing that comes to mind with the K330 is the roundness of the phrasing and the perfection of the structure. If you changed even one note the piece would sound completely off.

 

Beethoven has a much more fiery personality. Whereas Mozart’s music is clean and precise, Beethoven employs many surprises in his music. Many times he will build up the music as if it’s leading to something only to suddenly get soft – his trademark use of subito piano. This is a common theme to his music and keeps the listener engaged in the music.

 

In Beethoven’s later sonatas he developed the form further as the technology of the piano improved. The development sections are massive and even in his earlier sonatas they would go much further than in a Mozart sonata. This is just one of many differences between these two iconic composers.

 

We will be bringing you another part in this series very soon where we will discuss more similarities and differences between Beethoven and Mozart.

 

If you have any questions or observations please send them to me Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729 Thank you!

  This is a very broad subject you could devote at least an entire semester to. Books have been written on the subject! The point of this article is not to suggest that one composer is better than the other, but rather to compare the differences in their music.   One important fact is that Beethoven came after Mozart. This […]

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Does Moving a Piano Make it Go Out of Tune?

 

This is a very common question I get all the time. Pianos are very temperamental instruments and they need to be cared for fairly well in order to have a long life. That’s why it’s not surprising that popular wisdom has everyone thinking that as soon as you move a piano it has to be tuned. But is this really the case?

 

Keeping a piano in tune is a constant challenge. As I’ve stated in another video, there is actually no such thing as a perfectly tuned piano, it’s a fruitless pursuit. So does moving it really affect the tuning in a negative way?

 

The first thing you have to take into account is whether you are moving a piano across a room or to an entirely new location and environment. If you’re moving a piano across the room by pushing it you probably won’t need to tune it right away. We move pianos around our store every day and it doesn’t make them go out of tune. But what about if you are moving a piano with professional movers?

 

If you’ve never witnessed a professional piano move it’s quite a complicated process. It often requires 3 people or more, putting a piano on end on a grand board, loading it onto a truck, wrapping in blankets and securing it to the wall of the vehicle. If you have to move a piano from one location to another there is really no way of getting around it; you’ll need a professional piano mover. Risking injury to yourself or the piano is not worth saving the cost of a piano move.

 

But what about when the piano arrives at it’s new location? Will it automatically be out of tune? – not right away. The move is not what will make a piano go out of tune; it’s the new environment which will affect the instrument’s tuning. Today many piano trucks are climate controlled to help keep the stability of the instruments inside. Pianos used to be moved by horse and buggy and even this wouldn’t necessarily knock the piano out of tune. A long-term change in temperature or humidity is what will gradually make a piano go out of tune. Sometimes the piano can drop or raise in pitch and you might not even realize it. The most important thing for a piano is stability and if it drops in pitch it may take several tunings before it can become stable again.

 

So yes, if you are moving a piano from one location to another – no matter if it’s right down the street or across the country, it will eventually need to be tuned. However, you may not have to call your tuner right away. If there are no issues, you may let the piano sit and acclimate to it’s new environment for a few weeks before you get your first tuning. Tuning the piano sooner won’t harm it, but you will probably have to tune it again once the piano settles into it’s new location.

 

If you have any more questions about pianos or moving pianos please feel free to contact me. Thanks again for joining us, I’m Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is a very common question I get all the time. Pianos are very temperamental instruments and they need to be cared for fairly well in order to have a long life. That’s why it’s not surprising that popular wisdom has everyone thinking that as soon as you move a piano it has to be tuned. But is this […]

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HOW TO PLAY BACH’S FRENCH SUITES – Part 3 (Sarabande)

 

Welcome back to our ongoing series on How to Play Bach’s Fifth French Suite. In our first part we covered the Allemande section, Last time we covered the Courante, Today we will be exploring the lyrical Sarabande Movement.

 

Even though this movement is very different from the first two that precede it, the same principles apply; which is to delineate the melodies from one-another with phrasing.

 

There are some differences from the first two movements that I would like to point out. In those movements I employed a clipped staccato accentuating the detachment between notes. This achieves clear delineation of the musical lines. In this movement, you will want to approach the staccatos a bit differently.

 

It’s a common misconception that staccato means short. It actually means “detached” and there are different techniques you can employ depending on the piece. For more information on playing staccato please check out our previous video on the subject.

 

In fast movements you will want to play staccato notes short, but in a more lyrical and slow movement you can play them detached but with more length so the notes don’t have a clipped sound which can diminish the lyricism. By playing the eighth notes detached but not short you can produce a nice delineation of voices without the harsh sound that short staccato notes produces.

 

There isn’t a right or wrong way to approach the phrasing of this movement. However, I personally like to give the eighth notes a clean and nuanced detachment rather than the abrupt shortness that works so well in the faster first two movements. However, you will want to avoid having the musical lines blend with each other which would be more appropriate in late 19th century Romantic period music. One of the defining aspects of the Baroque era of music is the delineation of counterpoint – hearing the distinctness of each musical line.

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  Welcome back to our ongoing series on How to Play Bach’s Fifth French Suite. In our first part we covered the Allemande section, Last time we covered the Courante, Today we will be exploring the lyrical Sarabande Movement.   Even though this movement is very different from the first two that precede it, the same principles apply; which is […]

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Should You Learn To Play Music With Your Kids?

 

I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a musical household. Not only were both my parents musicians, they were teachers as well. This ended up being a very positive environment for me. What about households where a parent might not know much about music at all? Is it detrimental to their child’s musical development? Should they learn to play the instrument with their children? These questions are what we are going to be covering today.

 

Learning to play along with your kids can be very beneficial to both you and your child. Especially if you are having a child learn to play an instrument at a young age it’s a very good idea to learn to play along with them. Being able to guide and help them in their lessons will greatly improve their learning – especially when it comes to reading notes and learning rhythms.

 

Not only does learning an instrument with your child potentially improve the technical aspects of their development, it also allows your kids to be more engaged in the musical process. By seeing you learn an instrument along with them they will see you engaging in a similar activity and they will naturally want to emulate you. It’s a great bonding experience and will greatly enhance their enthusiasm to keep learning.

 

It’s certainly not the end of the world if you want your children to learn to play a musical instrument and you can’t play one yourself. I have seen this countless times and I’ve seen many great students come out of these types of circumstances. However, if you are not going to be directly involved in the learning process you need to make sure that you are providing a good environment for them to learn. This means getting the best teacher you can afford as well as motivating them (not forcing them) to learn and keep up their enthusiasm. If you take an interest in what they are doing and provide encouragement it will help them immensely.

 

Either way you should provide a positive environment for them to learn their instrument and develop as a musician. Just paying for lessons and not taking an interest will eventually lead to disaster.

 

Thanks for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@Livingpianos.com (949) 244-3729

  I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a musical household. Not only were both my parents musicians, they were teachers as well. This ended up being a very positive environment for me. What about households where a parent might not know much about music at all? Is it detrimental to their child’s musical development? Should they […]

Read More

How to Relax While Playing a Musical Instrument

 

We’ve touched on this topic a few times but we’ve never dedicated an entire video to the concept of relaxing while playing your musical instrument. There are a number of reasons why this is an important subject and we are going to cover a wide range of aspects as well as some tips in this article and accompanying video.

 

Above all, being relaxed and comfortable at your instrument will allow you to play better technically. Over time if you develop good habits while playing, you will be able to perform longer and at a higher level while avoiding injury. Playing with tension over a long period of time can eventually lead to damage. More than that, you will have a more beautiful tone when you approach your instrument in a relaxed manner.

 

Building strength over time by playing and practicing a great deal will allow you to be more relaxed at your instrument. For example, with weak fingers at the piano, it is a challenge to play for long periods of time and you will find yourself contorting your body to accommodate difficult passages. This idea holds true for other instruments as well.

 

You must take your time to set yourself comfortably at your instrument. Sitting in exactly the right position, having the instrument in the right place, or adjusting your embouchure on a wind instrument appropriately before you play a note is vital.

 

When you first approach your instrument there are a few things you can do to mentally and physically relax yourself. I personally like to just take a moment and relax my body, take a deep breath and put myself in a very comfortable state. If there is a large audience in front of you, you will probably be a bit tense and nervous. Sitting down and relaxing for a moment and putting yourself into the right mindset will help you immensely.

 

While you’re actually performing you will want to take every opportunity you can to consciously relax. You can’t shift your focus from the performance, but taking a small breather whenever you can will keep you fresh during the performance. Athletes constantly find moments during games when they relax their minds and bodies or else they would never make it through an entire game. The same is true for musicians.

 

During a recent trip to New York to celebrate the 90th birthday of my piano teacher from years ago, Madam Ruth Slenczynska, we spoke about how she often makes her hands go limp between phrases as time allows during a performance. This is a way for her to relax and prepare herself for the next passage. At 90 years of age, she is still performing all around the world; so I believe she is on to something!

 

If you’re playing a violin you can let the instrument rest on your chest during rests as opposed to keeping it in position on your shoulder through the entire performance. When playing a wind instrument, you can let the air out of your lungs and relax your diaphragm for a moment. These “mini-vacations” during a performance can go a long way to keeping you healthy and relaxed in your musical life.

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  We’ve touched on this topic a few times but we’ve never dedicated an entire video to the concept of relaxing while playing your musical instrument. There are a number of reasons why this is an important subject and we are going to cover a wide range of aspects as well as some tips in this article and accompanying video. […]

Read More