All posts by pianotunerleeds

Piano Tuner Harrogate?

Should I change my name from Piano Tuner Leeds to Piano Tuner Harrogate? I’ve had many requests today for piano tuning in Harrogate, so there seems to be a gap in the market over there. I’ll be spending a full day piano tuning in Harrogate on Friday, before driving to Bradford on Saturday for another day’s piano tuning in that town. If you know anyone in Harrogate who is in need of a piano tuning service, please pass on my contact details and help me get some more work, I’d love to build up a bigger client base in that area.

In related news, I’ve just received a piano tuning lever in the post today. It’s a wonderful Fujan lever with a handle made from carbon rather than wood, nylon or plastic. I have to say, this is the best purchase I have made in my five years working in the piano trade. I used it on a client’s Kawai K-15E in Leeds today and oh my word – you can feel everything. It’s so light in my hand that I honestly feel the wrest pin more than the lever, thus making those tiny movements of the wrest pins so much quicker and easier. The sound and feel of the wrest pin being set is actually pleasurable now rather than challenging. I was skeptical at first, since I every time I have ‘upgraded’ levers in the past I have been somewhat disappointed, but several american piano tuners were raving about them on a popular Facebook group, so I thought I’d see what the fuss is about. I’d add a bit of advice to aspiring piano tuner-technicians: buy yourself a high-quality carbon Fujan lever as soon as you can. You will not regret it.

Recommendation from MP Andrea Jenkyns

Thank you to Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns for recommending me on twitter today to her 45,000 followers. I spent a good two hours tuning and regulating her recently-moved piano in Wakefield this afternoon, finishing a full day of piano tuning in Leeds and Sheffield. Word of mouth helps hugely, so a huge thank you to her and anyone else who has helped to spread the word.

– Richard, Piano Tuner Leeds

The tools of the trade

The Leeds piano tuner must always have the right equipment at hand to perform each job. When I first began piano tuning in Leeds, my tool kit was much lighter than it is today. Many rudimentary jobs can be performed with a piano tuning lever, a paps-wedge, a pair of plyers, a set of screwdrivers, some oil, some glue – and, of a course, a decent pair of ears and the sufficient know-how. If you’re considering following in the footsteps of the Leeds piano tuner and becoming a piano technician yourself, there are many things you’ll have to buy to be fully equipped for the job. I recommend starting with the basics and building up your kit as you progress. Once you’ve bought a tuning fork, a lever and a paps wedge, you could start building up your ‘piano repair’ kit with the following items…

 

An assortment of balance and front-rail washers for levelling the keys (this will ensure optimal touch across the piano):

 

A selection of different felts. Hugely important for replacing worn out felts after finishing the piano tuning. A piano with worn felts inside the action will not be regulated as well as it should be:

 

 

 

The number one most frequently-encountered mishap on a piano is sticking keys! A new piano tuning client will often sound worried on the phone, because some of the keys on their piano are sticking down i.e. they won’t return after playing. In actuality, this is one of the easiest things to fix. It can usually be remedied by lubricating the key bushings with PTFE (teflon) powder and adjusting the keyslip:

Another lubricant I keep with me is Protek CLP. I use a syringe to cleanly lubricate the centre pins in the hammer, jack and whippen flanges. If the note is still sluggish I will replace the offending centre pin with one of a narrower diameter (with a difference of 0.25 mm). Alternatively, if the key is wobbling or mis-striking due to a loose centre pin, I replace it with a thicker centre pin. Simple:

Regulating the set-off buttons so that the hammer is released from the action at the right distance from the strings (3 mm is the standard) is an important part of regulation. Badly regulated set-offs makes the piano ‘feel’ horrible. This set-off regulating tool will come in handy for fixing this:

Once the hammer blow distance and set-off has been regulated, it’s time to turn to the dampers. If the dampers lift from the strings too late or too early (for optimal heaviness of touch it should be when the hammer is half way towards the strings), you’ll need to reach for a damper regulator:

A set of Hexacore bass strings are supremely useful. While it’s better for the unison to have a bass string hand-wound to exact size, if a monochord breaks at the bottom of the piano, one of these Hexacore strings could save the Leeds and Bradford piano tuning customer a bit of money as it can be carried out on the day as the piano tuning:

Various glues are needed (I carry PVC-E, super glue, wood glue and hide glue – different glues for different needs), but the most commonly used is wood glue. In older pianos the wood is extremely brittle and you’ll often find parts broken inside – be they flanges, hammer shanks or even part of key:

A bottle of pin-tite comes in handy when you find many loose tuning pins on a 70+ year old piano… which is often the case. The tightness of the wrest pins plays a hugely important role in tuning stability. If it’s a higher-quality upright or grand piano you’d be better off replacing the wrest pin with one of a slightly larger diameter as pin-tite can be a pain to clean up in the long run:

If you’re booked in for a piano tuning at a Leeds or Bradford school, you’ll need a set of keys. School pianos are often locked and the staff rarely know where the keys are! I found this out the hard way (although in some cases you can remove the lid by unscrewing it from the back):

Finally, an appropriate file for hammer voicing certainly won’t go amiss! It’s astonishing how many piano tuners and technicians ignore this aspect of the job, as many pianos benefit tonally from voicing/toning just as much as they do from tuning (though tuning does improve the tone as well). Basic voicing skills should be learned as quickly as possible:

 

There are many hundreds of things that can go wrong with a piano and this blog only covers a fraction of them. That said, if you’re just starting out as a piano tuner, the aforementioned tools/equipment will go a long way!

– Richard Lidster, Piano Tuner Leeds.

 

Are there any jobs the Leeds piano tuner won’t undertake?

For the last five years I have dealt primarily with piano tuning, repairs and regulation – these are the areas I feel most comfortable with and are the jobs I carry out on a day to day basis. While training at Lincoln College in the early part of this decade, I also studied piano restoration extensively – these lessons took up a third of my study time, and while piano restoration requires a full workshop, I have these skills ingrained in my memory. During my career as a Leeds piano tuner, there have been one or two jobs in area of restoration that I have declined to carry out, chiefly because I lacked the tools and/or work space to carry out the jobs to a sufficiently high standard. However, once I have access to my new workshop (late July 2019), I can start to rejig my memory on how to perform several frequently requested restoration services (mainly linked to aesthetics). Two of the most popular that spring to mind are:

  1. Re-finishing are re-polishing. I can do this once I have access to a workshop with an array of high gloss, french and spray polishes. If your piano’s case is scratched or damaged I can bring it back to life.
  2. Fitting piano castors – a frequent request I have to turn down until I’m in possession of piano lifting equipment (all of which are extremely expensive to buy). One of the first things I will buy for my workshop will be a portable bench truck – this will allow me to tilt a piano on its back in order to change the castors. I can then offer this service to my Leeds and Bradford clients – many older overdamped pianos are often in need of new castors. I can re-fit them at the end of the piano tuning once we’ve discussed the extra cost.

Keep reading my Leeds piano tuning blog for more information.

– Richard.

The Leeds piano tuner’s workshop

Firstly, if you live in Leeds don’t worry – I’ll still be piano tuning at least four or five days a week in Leeds and Bradford – that won’t change. However, I will also be spending at least one day a week in my workshop down in the Ranmoor area of Sheffield, where I will be focusing on piano resoration as well – something I enjoy and find more rewarding than piano tuning. The workshop has been purchased but won’t be in operation until at least August of 2019, as I am in the process of buying the piano restoration tools I need. I also need to make sure it’s well-stocked with woods, polishes, action parts (different sized hammers, flanges, jacks, whippens, screws), piano wire, piano key coverings and so on, all of which will ensure I can carry out a full, thorough and first-rate restoration job on every piano that comes my way.

If you have a Leeds piano you’d like to sell or donate, I will accept pianos on the following brands for a restoration:

  • Bechstein
  • Bluthner
  • Bosendorfer
  • Challen
  • Chappell
  • Ibach
  • Lipp
  • Schiedmayer
  • Steinway
  • Welmar

If you have a high-end piano of a different brand, I might be interested anyway. I am unlikely to accept a overdamped piano and will certainly reject straight-strung pianos (they’re not worth the cost of new parts) even if they have sentimental value to the customer. Piano restoration is a painstaking and arduous job, but when you bring a 100-year-old Bechstein back to life, it is certainly worth the effort!

– Richard, Piano Tuner Leeds.

Why do you only charge £10 an hour for repairs spinet pianos?

Spinet pianos are the smallest types of pianos available and account for less than 1% of the ones I see as a piano tuner in Leeds and Bradford. At such a short height (typically 36 inches tall) the short strings and small soundboard do have the same tone quality as an upright or grand piano. They are leftovers from a period when manufacturers competed to make pianos smaller and cheaper for the customer, and while I have encountered some reasonable-sounding ones (such as an early Baldwin spinet piano at a Leeds home) I wouldn’t recommend spending money on them as they aren’t worth anything anymore. They are only convinient for the Leed and Bradford piano tuning clients who have limited space and aren’t looking for a powerful bass tone.

The main reason I charge just £10 for repairs on a Spinet piano is that they have different type of action to the typical upright piano. A spinet piano has a drop action which is extremely time-consuming to work with. To remove the action, every key has to be disconnected from its sticker and removed from the piano. Then the stickers have to be tied back (in some cases they have to be removed from the action) before the action is unscrewed and carefully lifted out of the piano. It usually takes 2 hours just on removing and putting back in the action. Considering the piano itself is not worth anything monetarily, I will only work on these pianos if the customer has an emotional attachment to the piano, such as it belonged to a deceased family member. If that’s the case, I don’t want to charge £25 an hour for a job that could take 4 – 5 hours, as the repair work would be more costly than the price of a better piano. If your spinet needs repair work that involves removing the action (such as a damper spring replacement) I will be extremely open and honest about the amount of work that is needed after your Leeds piano tuning and I will discuss this offer with you if you think it is worth the time and money.

All work and no play for the Leeds Piano Tuner

What a change of fortune – he’s had so many requests that the piano tuner is almost fully booked. Almost.

If anyone urgently needs the Leeds and Bradford piano tuner, he’ll be available across West Yorkshire on Sunday from 2 PM. Please bear in mind that he also has an extensive customer list in Sheffield and South Yorkshire so isn’t available every day for piano tuning in Leeds. If you’d like to contact him, it would be more convinient to arrange something for the week beginning April the 15th.

In the meantime, keep on practicing your scales and try to keep a Handel on it.

– Piano Tuner Leeds.

New-found fame for the piano tuner

In between tuning pianos and repairing broken hammer flanges, the Leeds and Bradford Piano Tuner has been working hard on writing a debut album with his band Apostles of Chaos. A proggish blend of classic and modern rock, there have been very flattering comparisons to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy in the first reviews. Unfortunately no piano-playing appears on the album, it’s all keyboards, guitars, bass, vocals and drums. Next time I’m in the studio a few arpeggiated chords on a perfectly tuned Yamaha U1 will be thrown in for good measure!

If you would be kind enough to support an up and coming band, please give us a ‘thumbs up’ wherever you see us on social media and buy the album at the following links:

Progressive Gears Bandcamp Page – Listen for yourself

Progressive Gears Homepage – Buy the CD

I have a beautiful Victorian piano in the family – would the piano tuner be willing to restring it for me?

The piano tuner has recently received several enqueries from piano owners in the Leeds and Bradord region requesting a complete piano restringing of an antique piano. Now, if a piano is in a condition where it needs a complete restringing then it will almost certainly need other extensive repairs on the action, pinplock and soundboard.

Pianos made before 1950 can be nice to look at, but unlike other instruments such as guitars and violins, pianos unfortunately do not increase in value (or tonal quality) as they age. Even a top tier Bluthner or Bechstein will likely not hold much value today if it was made before 1930, even if it’s in good condition. If you live in the Leeds or Bradford area, then the piano tuner will be willing to tune and tighten the wrest pins for a modest £40. But if you are going down the expensive road of restoring an aged piano, you first need to be aware of the pianos worth. I’m certainly not averse to a partial or complete restoration job, but I need it to be cost effective for the customer before I can start it in good conscience. The price of restringing a piano will be in the range of £1000 to £1200 when taking into account the price of a set of strings and wrest pins plus labour costs – and as I say, it will likely need other extensive repairs to the action and/or the soundboard and pinblock.

One can usually tell a pianos age by certain features that date it from a certain peroid. For example, a typical Victorian piano may be adorned with candle holders on a tapestried front panel or it might have quaint London or swan legs on the front of the keyboard. Failing that, a serial number is often found inside the piano, which enables the Leeds piano tuner to identify the exact year of manufacture.