I’ve just arrived home safely after a delightful week in Bettiscombe, Dorset. Far away from civilisation, I had little on my mind this week. Very relaxing. I’m now reinvigorated and eager to start piano tuning once again in Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Harrogate. It’s been so long I’d forgotten I’m a piano tuner. The only time piano tuning was of interest was when looking around Forde Abbey House and Gardens on Tuesday morning. The owner had an early John Broadwood from the late 18th century. Quite extraordinary.
I’ll try to update my availability as soon as I can but I’m too exhausted to make a list at the moment and my brain isn’t working properly.
This week I’ve been working really long hours tuning pianos in different towns, from Leeds and York to Hull, Stockport, Nottingham and even one in Skegness this Wednesday! I love piano tuning, but the amount of travelling this week has really worn me out. Much of this work has been through contacts in the Leeds piano industry which I’m grateful for, but I need a good bit of rest this weekend. A few hours sat on the sofa watching TV will sort me out.
I am getting my diet in order and trying to be a bit healthier as well. Cutting out fizzy drinks and service station food is on my list of goals and aspirations. You eat too much fast food when you spend this much time travelling as it’s quick and convenient, but bad for your health and has noticeable effects on energy levels. Adequate sleep is also a must, but I’ve only been getting 5 or 6 hours a night.
All in all I’m happy and grateful to receive piano tuning jobs in different towns, but I think it’s forgivable that I’m late to update the website as I’m hardly ever at the computer with such long hours! Onwards and upwards. Next week is looking to be a lot more balanced in terms of hours spent travelling.
A frequently asked question by many of my clients during a piano tuning is “will my piano ever need new strings?”
If a string snaps during the tuning process a small charge is made for a new string around £20 for a new string if it’s in the bass (a bit less if in the tenor or treble section) and £20 labour to fit the string. Putting a new string on takes me about 20 minutes. I would say a string breaks in about one in every hundred jobs so it’s not uncommon, but not something to be unduly concerned about.
If a string is missing from a piano it isn’t ideal, but one string missing isn’t going to effect the overall tension enough to cause problems. It can take between a week and a month for a bass string to be remade and sent back to me. If it’s in the very low end of the piano then the note won’t strike as the hammers for those keys only strike one string each. The upper bass the note will sound slightly weaker as the hammer will hit one string instead of two.
In the middle and treble sections things get a little more complicated and regular piano wire is used up here. Some of them are connected to the hitch pins with a coil at the other side of the string. Most of them wrap around the hitch pin meaning that if a string snaps in this section the hammer effectively hits two strings or one string depending on which string has snapped.
Re-stringing a whole piano is expensive (£2000+), but if it was part of a restoration process for an old but high-end piano, it might be worth it if done in conjunction with the replacement of a dried-out wrest plank and loose, rusted wrest pins. As a general rule, most pianos on the market would not benefit enough from such a process to be worth such an expenditure. I have found that many of the pianos I’ve encountered while piano tuning in West Yorkshire have some rusty strings and while this will negatively effect the tone, there are other much worse factors in tonal degradation. Rusty strings can also be cleaned on request, though again, much care has to be taken with health and safety plus the fragility of certain strings.
New strings do have an impact on the sound of a piano but there are so many other factors that contribute to good tone. And do you know what the most important one is? You guessed it: having your piano tuned and serviced regularly. Please get in touch with the Leeds piano tuner today to book your piano tuning: 0754 266 7040
It seems like next week will be very slow. It’s a good time to get in touch with me about a piano tuning in Leeds, Bradford or Wakefield (I work in all West Yorkshire). I’m piano tuning in Sheffield on March the 8th all day (regular customers), but other days I’ll be ready and willing.
My current rate is £50 for a piano tuning. If the piano is flat of concert pitch (more than 7 cents on average) an optional piano raising service is offered for another £20. It’s entirely dependent on what the pianist needs from the piano and the piano tuning. Concert pitch (A440) is the pitch standard at which modern music is played to, but there are lower, historical pitch standards that work better for pre-1930s pianos (A432, A435). I’m open and transparent about the options before each piano tuning is carried out.
Minor repairs and regulation can be performed on the day for no extra charge. More extensive repairs/restoration depends on the price of the parts and the amount of labour it entails. I didn’t become a piano tuner to make the maximum profit, I like to give people an excellent deal and to help people.
At present I do not have the workspace for restoration jobs involving the cabinet, such as polishing/refinishing and have not performed such tasks since my training (2011 – 2014). My forte is in the piano tuning and in repairing and regulating the mechanism and the keys, much more than the aesthetics (although I do have a complete piano cleaning kit). If you’re looking for a refinishing service, many of my customers have an stellar experiences with this company.
A happy new year to my cherished and valued customers (that’s all of you). A sincerest thank you to everyone who was kind enough to book my piano tuning services during the turbulent and rather frightening 2020. While I received some financial assistance via the self-employed grant, I only managed to keep above water due to people occasionally needing my piano tuning skills in Leeds and Bradford. One would think with people having more “leisure time”, pianos would be popular again, but that hasn’t been the case from what I’ve seen. Many children begin on digital pianos, which is no substitute for the real thing as far as I’m concerned. Call me old-fashioned, but if you are serious musician, nothing can compare to the touch of a well-regulated and finely tuned Schimmel or a Kawa acoustic piano. Digital pianos and keyboards have their uses (headphone practice and live performance), but an acoustic piano should be the mainstay of your piano playing.
Now I’m just sounding old and cranky. Enough of that. Let’s keep positive and hope 2021 is a much better year for all of us.
Q: To Leeds Piano Tuner. When you say minor piano repairs what distinguishes this from major repairs?
A: When I say I carry out minor repairs and regulation for free after the piano tuning, I am referring to the standard maintenance that must be carried out to keep the piano playing at it’s best. Pianos are subject to changes in humidity which inevitably takes its toll on the action parts (particularly felts and wooden parts) over the years. If the parts become too worn or too swollen (with excess humidity) they have to be replaced – that would constitute a major repair job as I’d often have to order in new action parts. However, it’s often a matter of re-adjusting parts of the action to restore it to it’s past condition.
A quick, minor repair job could be anything from lubricing the key bushing with teflon power (allowing for smoother playing), as shown here:
To replacing one or two bridle tapes that have disintigrated or snapped (replacing every tape on the piano would fall under a major repair job):
Or regulating the capstan screw to stop hammer warbling (not an offical term):
One of the most common job of all is realigning any hammers that have come lose and re-tightening the flange screws or replacing lose centre pins:
Re-positioning the back checks so that the hammers check at an equal distance (another big problem that adds to unevenness of touch across many pianos):
And of course, making sure the pedals are as responsive as they can be is always a priority for the customer (sometimes by oiling, sometimes by regulating and sometimes by re-fitting the lift rod):
All highly technical. You could say some of them fall under the category of ‘piano regulation’ but I see repairs and regulation as one and the same. It’s a matter reversing atrophy. If a piano has been neglected for a number of years I focus on piano tuning first and foremost as there will be a lot more work in that regard. Then on the next visit I focus on jobs that could be considered secondary, but that will greatly improve the touch and sound of the piano, such as voicing, regulating the touch and cleaning out dirt and debris that’s clogging the action.
If you are unsure about the work your piano needs, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to answer any questions. Sending pictures of your Leeds piano (particularly close ups of the action, the wrestplank and the strings) will give me a good indication of the amount of work your piano will need and whether or not it’s worth paying for extensive repairs (if needed) or whether you might want to invest in a newer piano. The majority of the time a first piano tuning visit costing £45 will go a long way in bringing your piano back to life.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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.