Category Archives: Piano Tuner Leeds

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.

Piano Tuner Leeds back on the road….

After Saturday’s traumatic incident/accident, my sister Katherine Lidster has kindly lent me her Volkswagen UP (which I’m insured to drive) for the week, so I can get back to piano tuning in Leeds right away. If you need a piano tuning in Leeds urgently, Sunday during the afternoon or evening would work best, or possibly a day next week – I’m fully booked until Sunday now. I won’t be working as much in the mornings for the next few weeks as I’m dedicating a few hours a day to music and improving my general health and fitness. I’m still shaken up after the car crash – I was a split second away from losing my life, but on the other hand it has given me the desire to live adventurously.

What happens when my piano breaks a string?

In about one in a hundred piano tuning jobs, the piano technician is faced with a rusty or worn-out string which snaps as the tuning pin is tightened. When faced with this problem, we have a few options…

If it is on the bass, the customer will be charged for a new string which is hand spun by a professional and sent back to me within ten days. I then charge the price of the new string (which is usually in around £20 – £25 depending on its thickness and amount of copper required) plus £20 labour to fit the string. There are no specialists in Leeds or Yorkshire that I know of, so the string has to be sent to Bath in order to be remade.

There are three different types of strings on the piano: monochord, bichord and trichord. The lower middle and bass section of the piano consists of copper wound monochord and bichord strings (the hammers hit either one or two strings in this section), which have more length and thickness than the upper two thirds of the piano. In the treble section of the piano we find trichord strings at which each hammer hits three strings, creating a richer sound. The farther up the piano you go, the shorter the strings are as obviously the shorter the string the higher the frequency. One of the most important skills that a piano tuner needs to master is tuning the bichord and trichord strings so that they are exactly the same pitch (we call these the unisons). If they are even slightly out of tune with each other it creates a horrible chorusy sound, which ruins the tone of that particular note.

When I pack my car to each morning before driving into Leeds, I have a box of different sized piano strings, which I keep as back ups for emergencies. I have a selection of hexacore bass strings which can be used as a temporary fix, but the pitch and intonation of a piano string never sounds quite right unless the string is exactly the right size. If the diameter of the new string is even a few millimetres off, it can give that particular note a nasal or thin quality, so this is usually done only for emergencies until the replacement string has arrived. For the trichord strings I have lots of different sized plain wire which can be measured with a micrometer and fitted after the piano tuning.

It is rare that every string on a piano would need to be replaced, but in a full restoration job it could be worth it if the piano is of a sufficiently high quality. Seeing as there are 230 strings on an average-sized piano, the cost of labour and materials is usually upwards of a thousand pounds, but there are some very old pianos that have benefited from this as part of a full restoration – and have greatly increased their value in the process.

As always, call your local piano repair man (hopefully me) – don’t try and do it yourself! Piano tuners go to college for three years, this isn’t a job for an amateur!

Star of Service

I’ve recently found a fair number of new Leeds piano tuning customers through the useful yet mildly confusing website Star of Service.

If you hired me through this website and were happy with my work, please remember to leave a review. I’m not a hundred percent sure how the system works, but I think they recommend local tradespeople to users searching for a service – so the piano tuners with the best reviews will be recommended more often. When someone is looking for a piano tuner in Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Sheffield, Stockport, Manchester etc, I receive an emailing advising me to contact them, and as I check my emails dozens of times a day, I can often make a booking to tune their piano immediately.

Highly recommended for anyone who works a trade or has recently set up a new business.

New Recommendation – The Piano Man, Leeds

The reputable and highly-regarded piano shop, The Piano Man in Harehills have just given me a plug on their website. If you visit the ‘find a piano tuner page‘ on the Piano Man’s website, you’ll see my contact details and links to both my piano tuner Sheffield and piano tuner Leeds websites. Over the last three months I have met many new clients thanks to personal recommendations from their staff – hopefully I’m developing a good reputation in the area! Needless to say I also recommend them for their extensive range of reasonably-priced, high-quality pianos – the acoustic Yamahas and Kawais being particular favourites of mine.

If you’re based in Leeds or Bradford and urgently need your piano tuned, don’t forget to visit my page Piano Tuner’s Availability for my upcoming availability over the next week.

Piano tuner’s case – what’s inside?

Every morning before I set off to work with my piano tuner’s case in hand, I have to pack the boot of the car with four boxes of spare piano parts – strings, felts, washers, wires, oils, bridle tapes, centre pins, etc. In my main piano technicians case I have three levers, a tuning fork, several different screwdrivers, pin tight, two knives, pliers, protek CLP, teflon powder, super glue, wood adhesive, and several other different-sized regulation tools which are all used regularly. Most piano tuning and regulation jobs can be done with the tools found in the case, but packing the car with spare parts can help safe time with more extensive repairs.

Some of the items in my case were purchased from hardware shops around Leeds and Bradford, but many had to be ordered online from companies who only sell to qualified piano tuners. Should you decide to pursue a career in piano tuning be prepared to spend a lot of money on hardware!

Another 8 maintenance tips from a piano tuner

Another eight maintenance tips from your favourite Leeds piano tuner that could help your piano live longer:

  1. A piano is very heavy and awkward to move without proper equipment. You will avoid possible damage to the instrument and injury to yourself by having an insured professional move it. Get advice from your piano tuner and technician (hopefully yours truly) for a qualified mover.
  2. Never put thumbtacks on the hammers to achieve the rinky-tink or mandolin sounds they will ruin the hammers. You can purchase attachments, commonly found on player pianos, which will produce these effects without ruining the hammers.
  3. If a piano is to be stored for a long period of time, be sure the storage facility is adequately climate-controlled. If this is unavailable, at least have a piano dehumidifier and control system installed inside the piano, and be sure that it remains plugged in. The piano may need cleaning and lubrication after storage.
  4. If buzzes or rattles suddenly develop, check for objects on top of the piano or in the room that may be vibrating sympathetically with certain notes, such as lights, framed pictures, etc. Check to see if objects have fallen behind the vertical piano, or onto the soundboard of the grand.
  5. When the piano tuner arrives to tune the piano, please maintain a quiet environment for him to work in. While piano tuners don’t always require complete silence, loud noise can be very distracting when try to listen to very small pitch changes. Try not to book the builder and the piano tuner on the same day!
  6. Pianos are heavy and can leave permanent marks on floors and carpeting. Caster cups are available which will save the surface from some of the strain.
  7. A ceiling fan above a piano can give the instrument an unusual “warbling” or “beating” sound. The frequency of the fan blade oscillations can clash with the frequency of the vibrating strings, especially when set at higher speeds.
  8. Discourage smoking around the piano. Cigarette burns mar keytops and woodwork. Smoke and ash can permeate the action, causing discolouration and sluggish response.

10 maintenance tips for the piano owner (to keep your piano in tune/alive longer)

  1. Keep your piano at a fairly stable temperature and humidity. Approximately 20 degrees celsius and 40 – 50% relative humidity would be sufficient!
  2. Never place potted plants, drinks, fish bowls, or other liquid containers on the top of your piano. Spilled liquid will ruin the finish, and if it gets in the action it can cause serious damage. If spillage occurs, call the piano tuner immediately so he can dry the affected parts.
  3. Never use oil or grease on any part of the piano. Your piano tuner technician knows the proper procedure for lubricating piano parts.
  4. Keep the exterior of  the piano clean using dusting sprays without oils, waxes, or silicones. An older piano’s appearance can be improved with the use of lemon oil and waxes, but they detract from the appearance of a newer piano, especially one with a high polish finish. Polyester finishes are actually a hard plastic coating, and can be cleaned with a slightly damp rag. Cleaning the inside of the piano is best left to the piano tuner.
  5. Keys should be cleaned with a slightly damp rag. Stubborn stains can often be removed with a touch of mild white soap or a rag sprayed with mild spray cleaner.
  6. Do not put moth balls or other pest preventive chemicals inside the piano. The fumes from these products can have a corrosive effect on the piano, and felt parts on newer pianos are now quite effectively moth-proofed. Having the piano cleaned is the best method of keeping moths out.
  7. Beware of small objects on the top of the piano. Pencils, paper clips, erasers, etc. can easily slip into the action cavity behind the key cover of a grand piano, causing sticking keys and clicking noises. Children love to drop pennies and other objects between the keys of pianos, causing them to bind.
  8. It matters little whether one keeps the fall board up or down when the instrument is not in use. In years past, people were advised to keep ivory keys exposed to roomlight to restart their yellowing, but this is not necessary for the plastic keytops on most pianos today.
  9. Play the piano frequently! This helps keep the keys and action working freely, as well as provide the enjoyment the piano is intended for. For obvious reasons, pests are less likely to make their home in a piano that is used frequently.
  10. Keep the piano out of direct sunlight (if possible). Bright sunlight shining directly on a piano for prolonged periods can cause the finish to blemish, the soundboard to overdraw, and glue joints to weaken.

Written at the request of a Leeds customer. Another ten tips will be posted next week, with relevant information to Leeds and Bradford piano owners.