Frequently asked questions
1."Why does my piano go out of tune?"
The main reason your piano does not stay in perfect tune forever is because it is made of wood. Wood is sensitive to climate, particularly changes in humidity. These changes cause the soundboard to contract and expand at various times throughout the year, which in turn, apply and release pressure to the piano strings. As the string tensions rise and fall, so does the pitch of your piano. Another factor, especially in newer pianos (5 years old or less) is string stretch, that is, the natural elasticity which is a characteristic of all music wire. If you've ever seen anyone put new strings on a guitar, you may have noticed that they're out of tune five minutes later. The same is true of piano strings, although it doesn't happen quite that fast. While playing your piano will speed up the "de-tuning" process a little, rest assured that your piano has an uncanny ability to go out of tune all on its own, whether it's played or not.
2. "How often should my piano be tuned?"
For the majority of pianos and players, the answer is every six months. However, it can depend on factors such as humidity fluctuation in the home, frequency of playing, the quality of the instrument, and how much "out-of-tuneness" you can tolerate. Some can get by with less frequent tuning. If you have a good piano that is 5 years old or more, play it just a few times per year, and are not bothered by the piano being a bit out of tune in the months before your service, then once a year may suffice. On the other hand, if you are a serious player or a musician with a discerning ear, then your ears will likely tell you that the piano probably needs tuning 3 or more times per year. Pianos used in churches, studios, restaurants or other commercial establishments need tuning even more frequently, every month or even every two weeks. I have several commercial accounts that require the piano be tuned twice a month, as it is played 5 nights a week. In most instances though, tuning your piano at six month intervals is ideal. Doing so will compensate for the seasonal climactic changes, and keep your piano sounding good year round. As part of my service, I offer periodic reminder calls, texts or emails at the agreed upon service interval.
3. "What should I use to clean my piano's cabinet & finish?"
Usually, a lint-free, non-abrasive slightly damp cloth will do the job. In addition, there are products specifically made for cleaning piano finishes and are sold in many piano stores. These include products made by and "Cory" and "Yamaha" and are excellent for pianos with both high gloss polyester finishes or natural wood/lacquer finishes. You should also purchase a specially made piano cleaning cloth as well. You can use the cloth without the cleaning product much of the time to remove dust and fingerprints. Store bought products such as "Windex" will work in a pinch on the high gloss/polyester finishes, but the experts I know strongly recommend the Cory and Yamaha products for regular use. You can order these products from perfectlygrand.com if you can't find them at your local piano store. Most piano refinishers strongly advise against using supermarket products like "Pledge" or "Endust" on your piano. These products leave a buildup of residue which could damage or dull your pianos finish over time. To clean the KEYS: A slightly damp cloth works most of the time, but if the keys are especially grimy, then add a small amountof mild, liquid dish soap to the cloth. Make sure that you dry the keys right after you clean them, especially if you're cleaning original ivory keys. Pre-moistened towelettes like "Wet-Ones" also work very well for cleaning keys as long as you follow up with a dry cloth or paper towel.
4. Where in my home should I place the piano?
You can place your piano anywhere you choose with two critical exceptions: First, NEVER place your piano over, in front of, or near a heating duct, heater or radiator. Hot or cold air blowing directly on your piano will wreak havoc with the tuning, and can lead to premature problems. If there's a heating duct above the piano, then put a plastic shield under it to direct the airflow away from the piano. Second, do not expose your piano to direct sunlight. The sun's rays can damage the finish of your piano over time, and will also knock it out of tune sooner than normal. Exposure to filtered sunlight for part of the day is usually not a problem. You may have heard someone say that a piano should never be placed against an outside wall. In my experience with thousands of pianos in southern California, it makes little difference which wall the piano is placed on. If you canput the piano on an interior wall, then do so. However, if you find that the only workable location is on an outside wall, then have no fear in putting it there. On upright pianos, be sure to leave a space of about 1" to 2" or so between the piano and the wall. This will make for an insulating cushion of air, and will also allow more of the sound to emerge from the back of the piano, which is its point of origin.
5. What other services might my piano need?
Here's a brief description of other piano services that are commonly performed:
-Pitch Adjustment (pitch raise) - If it has been several years since your piano was last tuned, then there's an excellent chance that the pitch of the instrument is flat. It’s also possible, if the piano has been in a high humidity environment, for it to be excessively sharp in pitch. In either case, the piano will need one or two rough tunings to bring it up (or down) to the correct pitch, before the main, fine tuning is done. Since this is obviously more work for the tuner, an additional fee (usually about half of the normal tuning rate) is charged. If you have your piano tuned at least once a year, then you probably won't need a double tuning or pitch adjustment.
-Regulation – Regulation of your piano keyboard, or action (the internal mechanism inside the piano which translates your keystrokes into sound) is analogous to tuning up your car's engine, except there are no carbon monoxide fumes. Regulation can be defined as the adjustment and correction of the positions, distances, timing and spring tensions of the individual parts of all 88 keys in order to achieve optimal and consistent response, touch and feel from the keyboard. Let’s briefly look at the regulation specs for a Yamaha grand so you can get a feel for what regulation is all about (hang with me on this …). Ideally, the keys should go down 10 mm before stopping. The resting hammers should be 48 mm from the strings and the tops of the keys should measure 64 mm in height from the base of the keybed. The hammers should disengage from the key just 2mm before hitting the string, allowing inertia to carry it the rest of the way to strike the string and produce a sound. On its rebound from the string, the hammer is caught by the back-check and should be held there 15 mm from the string. And so on. These are just a few of the many steps involved in the regulation procedure. If any one of these measurements or dimensions is incorrect, the action will not perform at its peak. But why do pianos need regulation in the first place? Over time and use, the felt and leather parts inside the piano become compressed. Repetition springs lose some of their tension. Hammers become grooved and begin to flatten out. These gradual deteriorations eventually distort the relationship and geometry between the action parts, causing sluggish response, poor repetition, and lack of dynamic control. These factors all conspire to make the action less enjoyable to play. And it’s not exactly unheard of for a piano to come from thefactory or dealer in need of regulation. As with most piano services, how often your piano needs regulation depends on how much it's played, the quality of the instrument and the level of response you desire from your piano. Your technician will let you know when it’s time.
-Cleaning - Does the dust on the soundboard of your Steinway piano prevent you from reading the manufacturers' emblem? Is there so much crud between the keys of your Kimball that they don't return after you press down? Have critters turned your Kawai into a resort hotel? If so, then cleaning is in order. My cleaning service (done primarily on grand pianos, but also on uprights if needed) involves wiping and vacuuming all the dirt and grime from the soundboard- under the strings- as well as from the keyboard, plate, tuning pins, action and action cavity. I suggest having the piano cleaned once every few years, and more often if the lid is kept open, or if your cat lives in there.
6. How long does tuning take?
My average tuning time is about one hour and 10 minutes, but this can vary depending on how far out of tune the piano is and whether any repairs are needed. Some tunings may take as little as 40 minutes while other, more complex jobs can last several hours. I like to have at least an hour and 1/2 available to me on a piano I haven’t worked on before.
7. Will my piano be damaged if I haven’t had it tuned in many years?
Probably not, but it depends on how old the piano is and much neglect it has endured. Pianos are quite resilient, as was confirmed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. If neglected however, you could suffer minor damage to your wallet, as you'll most likely need to have extra work done, in addition to tuning. This work will almost certainly involve a pitch adjustment, possibly some regulation, voicing, replacing broken strings or parts, lubrication and ideally a follow-up service in six to eight weeks. The bottom line though, is this: unless your piano has been sitting outside in a tropical rainstorm, been run over by a semi-truck, or purchased from a rip-off artist at a swap meet, it can usually be repaired and made playable again.
8. How can I make the tuner's job easier ?
I've never actually been asked this question in all my years as a tuner, but here's the answer I'll give if someone does: We tuners are generally an unassuming bunch who don't ask for much. All we really need is quiet! Tuners must be able to hear very faint and subtle acoustic vibrations from the piano in order to do a great job. For this reason, we'll be most grateful if there's no TV or radio on, no vacuuming and - please - no gardeners mowing and blowing outside. Also appreciated is sufficient light, and a piano lid cleared of all photos, sheet music and knick-knacks. Coffee and tips are optional, but appreciated. Oh, and by the way, I’m a dog person, so don’t feel like you need to shuttle your pooch into another room before you let me in (assuming it’s a friendly hound of course…)
9. Is it OK to move the piano myself?
If you're moving the piano to another residence, I would strongly urge you to hire professional piano movers. Go to my "resources" page for a list of good piano movers in the LA area. Whether you're moving a spinet or a concert grand, professional piano movers have the equipment and experience to do a safe job. Grands need special care when moved. The legs and pedals must be taken off and then properly reattached at the new location. Few general movers know how to do this. Another reason to hire professionals is safety. Pianos can weigh half a ton or more and are very bulky and hard to maneuver without special equipment. Please don't risk injury or damage by moving your piano out-of-town or out-of-state yourself.
If you're moving the piano to another location inside your home, I would still strongly suggest using professionals. Knowing, however, that most people will try to do it themselves, here are some tips that can reduce the risk of injury or damage. With upright pianos, (or spinets, consoles and studios) two strong people can move it, as long as they lift up just a little in the front to keep the weight off of the legs. Be sure to keep the legs from getting snagged on the carpet, or anything else in their path. If you're going to move a grand, you'll need five or six strong people to grab the piano on all sides and lift as you roll. You don't need to actually lift the piano off the floor, just raise it up enough to minimize the strain on the legs. Please be extremely careful when moving any piano, but especially a grand; if a leg should snap off while you're rolling the piano across the room, disaster could result.
10. I'm thinking of buying a used piano from a private party. Any suggestions?
Be very careful here. I've had more than a few customers buy an old Victorian upright that looked beautiful, but was in horrible shape mechanically and needed hundreds (even thousands) of dollars worth of repairs. That's if it could be repaired at all. I recommend taking me, or an equally qualified technician, with you to fully inspect any used piano before you buy it. Better to pay a technician for a service call now, than pay thousands of dollars later for repairs on your newly acquired "PSO" (piano shaped object). Please, let me help you avoid making this expensive mistake. Go to my blog page to read my schpeel on old uprights.
11. Where can I buy a piano bench?
Keyboard Concepts in Van Nuys has a selection of benches for sale. They are located at the corner of Burbank Blvd. just south of Van Nuys Blvd. in the Valley. Their phone number is 818-787-0201. Crenshaw Pianos in Burbank also sells benches. If you prefer to buy online, check out perfectlygrand.com or www.piano-benches.com.
12. The keys on my piano feel too light. Can that be fixed?
Usually, yes. Solving this problem usually means adding lead weights to the back end of the keys or removing leads from the front of the keys. This is most commonly done on grand pianos but can also be helpful on uprights and consoles. We generally try to discourage this on spinets, due to the different (& less efficient) way the action works. Sometimes, an overly light feel is the result of worn felt bushings. Replacing these bushings will restore friction to the action and result in a heavier touch.
13. Do you guarantee your work?
Because pianos are made primarily of wood, and are therefore subject to unknown and unforeseeable humidity and temperature changes, most tuners cannot offer a “guarantee” in the traditional sense. Atmospheric conditions will act on a piano the moment the tuner leaves your home, and indeed, even during the tuning! Luckily, these changes affect the piano very gradually and normally are not noticed until much later on. Plus, all pianos respond to climate change a little bit differently, depending on the quality of the instrument, the properties of the soundboard, the change in humidity inside the home, how much and how hard the piano is played, among other factors. Most professional piano people (musicians, music stores, recording studios etc.) understand this and therefore have their pianos tuned more frequently than every six months. In a pro recording studio for example, the piano is tuned before every session, because players and engineers know that a piano can drift from perfect in as little as a few hours. So basically, even though we’d like to, tuners cannot realistically ‘guarantee” how long a piano will hold its tune.
However, it is vitally important to me that you’re happy with my work. Therefore I will make a good faith effort to touch-up or correct a tuning if need be, provided it is no later that one monthafter my visit. There are some limiting factors however. If the piano has loose pins, if the home has wild humidity fluctuations, or the piano is flawed in some other way that effects tuning stability, then I cannot really guarantee the tuning for any length of time once I leave. Usually though, problems like that can be discovered while I’m there and I’ll let you know if you have a potential “problem piano”.
With repairs, the situation is a little different. If I fix a sticky key or squeaky pedal for you, and a week or two later it’s sticking or squeaking again, then you have every right to expect me back to fix it again at no charge, which I will certainly do. I guarantee most repairs for a reasonable length of time and then some, depending on the repair and the piano. But here again, there are limits. For instance, let’s say one of my customers breaks a low C string in the bass. I repair it, but then a month late it breaks again. Is it reasonable to expect it to be repaired again at no charge? Well…. What if we learn that the player plays very loudly five or six hours every day very and constantly pounds on that C string? Or what if that string always breaks at a bearing point that needs to be smoothed down but the customer doesn’t want to pay to have it fixed? Or what if the hammers are worn flat and whack the C string with more surface area than needed? See how this can get complicated?
My philosophy on “guarantees” is simple. I want to be in business with a great reputation for a long time. So I need many satisfied customers who will continue to use me for their piano service and also me refer to their family and friends. Therefore, you can rest assured that I will make every reasonable effort to make sure you’re happy with me and my work.
14. My piano has some nicks and scratches in the finish. Can those be fixed?
You bet. Call me and I would be happy to put you in touch with some excellent local finish and touch-up people.
15. Help! Something spilled inside my piano!
Usually, spills are more of a nuisance than a danger to your piano. In fact, in my many years as a technician, I’ve never seen a spill actually “ruin” a piano. As long as they’re cleaned up immediately, most spills are not much of a problem. However, there is one type of spill which can be real trouble and that’s if it’s on the bass strings. If anything ever spills on your bass stings, it must be removed right away. Any type of residual goo or gunk that gets in the windings will more than likely ruin the strings, making replacement necessary. Most spills can be cleaned by the owner, but if they get inside the piano, or under the strings on a grand, then it’s time to call your trusty technician. The worst liquid damage I’ve ever seen was on a piano that was removed from the house for a backyard party, then left out all night … while it rained. Oops! That one was a goner.
16. My piano makes a buzzing/rattling noise when I play certain keys. What’s up with that?
Buzzes in pianos are always one of three things: 1. Something is touching the soundboard that shouldn’t be; 2. Something sitting on the piano or close to the piano is resonating sympathetically with a note or group of notes or; 3. a part of the piano is either loose or not seated in it’s proper position. Let’s take these one at a time.
#1. Something touching the soundboard: If you have a grand, look carefully at the soundboard and make sure there is nothing lying on it that has no business being there. Common buzzworthy culprits are pencils, paper clips, M&M’s, coins, tacks, screws and the like. These little trouble-makers may also be hiding under the metal plate, and if that’s the case, then let your tuner get it out for you. On uprights, the problem is almost always something that was dropped or set behind the piano and is now resting up against the soundboard. Common culprits are Christmas ornaments, little toys, picture frames and who knows what else. These pesky items will be revealed once the piano is pulled away from the wall and the back inspected.
#2. Something is resonating: The piano, in addition to being the greatest of all instruments, is also an irresistible showplace for pictures, vases, lamps and even objects d’art. Items such as these are very frequently the source of buzzes or rattles. Before calling your tuner to find and fix The Buzz, you might try doing a little detective work yourself and quite possibly solve the problem on your own. Have someone play the offending note, while you put your ear near things that are sitting on the piano. Usually, The Buzz will emanate from something metal, like a lamp or picture frame, but hey it could be anything! If that proves ineffective, then begin removing items one by one and see you can isolate The Buzz. If everything has been removed from the piano and The Buzz persists, then it could well be another object in the room, several feet away not even touching the piano. Sound waves travel remarkably well through the air and are more than capable of vibrating picture frames, lamps, or anything else within their sphere of influence . If you still can’t find The Buzz, then it’s probably time to call the technician, because at this point the problem is likely …
#3. A part in the piano is loose: There are many parts on a piano that, if loose or not properly positioned, can give birth to The Buzz. Loose windings on bass strings, loose soundboard ribs, strings not seated to the bridge, loose hardware and even tiny wood shavings resting against a string can add unwanted expression to your playing. It’s best to let your technician play detective for buzzes of this variety.
17. Can the keys be made to feel lighter and easier to push down?
If the keys on your piano feel too heavy or hard to push down, then yes, we can usually lighten them up a bit. We must first make sure that the action is in good regulation and have no badly worn parts. If you have a new piano, this should not be an issue, although it’s not uncommon for some new pianos to be in need of regulation. If the parts and regulation check out OK, then we can begin to lighten the feel by reducing friction in the action. This is done by applying special lubricants at friction points in the action. This step alone almost always results in a noticeable lightening of the touch and usually no more need be done. If things still feel too heavy, then we can start removing mass from the hammers or make changes in the key weighting. Remember though, it’s always a good idea to play the piano thoroughly before you buy it to be sure you’re happy with the feel of the keyboard.
18. My piano sounds too bright /too mellow. Can that be corrected?
Yes, this is called “voicing”. Voicing can involve sanding, poking with needles or otherwise manipulating the felt in order to change the texture of the striking surface or other areas of the hammer, thus affecting the tone. In this way, a piano that sounds too bright, harsh or “tinny” can be made to produce a softer, more sonorous tone. Conversely, if the piano sounds too dull or mellow, then lacquer or chemical solutions can be applied to the hammers, resulting in a brighter tone. Remember the piano sound in that song “That’s Just The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby? Now there was a seriously bright and wonderful piano sound! Ultimately, the most important goal in voicing is to have a consistent tone from note to note, whether that tone quality be bright, mellow or somewhere in between.
19. My neighbor/friend/teachers piano sounds and feels different than mine. Why?
There are many factors involved in how a piano sounds and feels. In the “feel” department, these factors include the basic design of the action, length and weighting of keys, mass of hammers and other action parts, degree of friction in the action, action geometry and regulation. In the “sound” category, factors include tuning, quality and density of hammers, size and type of piano, length of strings and room acoustics. When you consider all these variables, it should be no surprise that all pianos sound and play differently. Concert grands generally have a heavier (but much more precise) touch than, say, a medium quality console. Some uprights feel quite heavy while others have keys that go down with almost no effort at all. The bottom is this: if your piano is tuned and in proper working order, then the way it sounds and plays is the way it’s supposed to sound and play. So relax, enjoy your piano and make music!
20. What’s the difference between a spinet, console, studio and upright?
These are the four size categories of upright pianos. A spinet is the shortest (and poorest sounding) of these. Spinets are usually 36 inches high and have what’s called an “indirect blow” or “drop” action, (as opposed to the “direct blow” action found on the three other types). On a direct blow action, the end of key opposite your hands pushes up directly on the hammer assembly to strike the string. On a spinets indirect blow action, the key pulls up on the hammer assembly, which then strikes the string. This adds an extra step in the process of moving the hammer and explains why spinets have poorer repetition and a less efficient response when played. Spinets are sometimes touted as being smaller than other types of uprights for those with space considerations in their homes. In my opinion, this is goofy. Spinets are just as WIDE, and stick out into the room just as FAR as other uprights. They’re just shorter. And since lack of wall height is rarely a problem, I honestly don’t see why anyone would buy a spinet to save space! If space is an issue, then you should probably consider … gulp … a digital piano. Or better yet, a guitar. Yeah that’s it, forget the digital piano, get yourself a nice guitar instead!
A console piano has a direct blow action and is 40-42” in height. Consoles generally have better tone and always have improved keyboard feel than spinets. Consoles have traditionally been the most popular of the four styles of upright pianos.
Studio pianos have direct blow actions and are between 44 & 48” high. Since longer strings produce better tone, studios usually sound much better than spinets and consoles. My home piano is a studio, a Yamaha M112, measuring 44” high. It has a wonderful tone and a very responsive action.
That brings us to full-size upright pianos. Upright pianos also have a direct blow action and are 52” high. Have you noticed a pattern here? If so, then you can probably guess that full-size uprights have the longest strings and will therefore produce the best tone. If you are at all serious about piano playing, and buying a grand is not an option, then you should definitely consider a studio or full-size upright.
21. What’s the difference between a grand and a baby grand?
I don’t know. Really, I’ve been a piano technician for over half of my life now and I still don’t know exactly where the cut-off point is between a grand and a baby grand. The truth is, there is no textbook distinction that I’m aware of and it doesn’t matter much anyway. The smallest grands on the market today measure 4’6’’ and are really nothing more than spinets in a grand case. If anything can be called a baby grand, then certainly pianos of that size would qualify. But hey, it’s not a terribly important distinction, so feel free to invent your own definition!
22. My high treble notes keep ringing on, what’s the matter?
Nothing. The last octave and a half of any piano does not have dampers, since those notes die out so quickly on their own. In contrast, the lower notes must be artificially damped to keep them from ringing on too long. Remember, the longer the string, the longer the ring.
23. What do the pedals do?
The pedal farthest to the right on all pianos is the called the sustain pedal. When pressed, it lifts all the dampers off the strings, allowing them to ring until the pedal is released. This is the pedal you will be using 99.95% of the time. The pedal on the far left is called the soft pedal. While this pedal is being held down, the notes won’t sound as loud. On a grand, this is accomplished by sliding the entire keyboard just a little to the right, forcing the hammers to strike only 2 of the 3 strings on each note. On uprights, the pedal pushes the hammer closer to the strings, giving them less distance to travel before they make contact. Less distance equals less velocity, equals less volume. The middle pedal does different things depending on the piano. On most grands (and all good quality grands), the middle pedal is called the sostenuto. When depressed, the notes you are holding down at the time the pedal is engaged will be sustained, while all the other notes will be damped as normal. On most spinets and consoles (and some lower end small grands) the middle pedal acts as a bass sustain. When you press the pedal, only the dampers in the bass section are lifted. This effect is rather cheesy and rarely used. Thankfully, most pianos now use the middle pedal for a much more useful purpose; to engage the practice bar. A practice bar (a/k/a a mute rail) is a long strip of felt that is lowered between the hammers and the strings. This makes the piano much quieter, rendering it useful for practicing late at night, or out of consideration for family members who may be one performance of “Fur Elise” away from mental anguish or uncontrolled rage. For some people, this might be considered a safety feature.
24. How can I remove nail polish from the keys?
You can use nail polish remover, but make sure it’s the NON-ACETONE variety. Under no circumstances should you use standard nail polish remover with acetone! Why? Acetone will usually damage, almost melt, most plastic keytops. Another good product that I use for this contains no harsh chemicals and will safely remove the nail polish. It’s called “Motsenbocker’s Lift-Off”, a biodegradable, water based stain remover that works well for removing nail polish and many other types of stains. You can usually find it at Home Depot. In many cases, a damp cloth and simple “elbow grease” will remove it.
25. How can I clean the inside of my grand piano?
You can clean dust from the accessible areas inside of your grand by either just wiping it off with a soft cloth, using a feather duster, or a paint brush with soft bristles and a vacuum cleaner. However, cleaning under the strings is a job best left to your technician. We have special tools to get under the stings and also in the little nooks, crannies and crevices inside your grand. Click here to learn more about grand piano cleaning.
26. Is it OK if little kids bang on the piano?
It’s the rare child who can resist the opportunity to bang on a piano, especially once they see someone else doing it! While, naturally, banging on the piano should be lovingly discouraged, the chances of a toddler doing any damage to the piano with just his hands are pretty slim. Of course if the youngster wields a blunt object such as a hammer or large flashlight, then all bets are off. To this day, every single key on my moms’ piano still bear the scars of a little future tuner who decided to turn her beloved Grinnell Bros. upright into a percussion instrument. With a hammer. She finally forgave me for that incident sometime in the mid 1990‘s.
27. I’m thinking of buying a piano from a swap meet. Any suggestions?
Yes ... DON’T !! Read on ...
Let me tell you about three customers of mine and their pianos. One very nice couple from Santa Clarita, who has been a client for many years, recently bought a beautiful, refinished upright. It has the appearance of a ‘nickelodeon’ type player, complete with stained glass window, rinky-tink rail, and a top-notch refinishing job. Looks like it would be a lot of fun at a party. Another family, in Burbank, also purchased a newly refinished upright, and this one even has a brand new, computerized player mechanism installed. Their piano also has a decorative stained glass window and it too boasts a world class refinishing job. The third family has what appears to be a lovely new grand, with a black, high-gloss polyester finish, sparkling white keys and shiny new brass hardware. These pianos all have three things in common: they were all very expensive, they were all bought at swap meets in Southern California … and they are all useless, unserviceable pieces of junk, worthless and beyond repair (outside of a complete rebuild).
The piano owned by couple #2 would not stay in tune, even for a minute. When I arrived to check it out, I found out why. The tuning pins were loose and simply would not stay where they were put, indicating a cracked pinblock. Folks, if your piano has a cracked pinblock, you might as well torch it. The only possible repair is a total rebuild. On top of that, the hammers were worn flat, the bass strings were shot and the bridle straps disintegrated at the slightest touch. I had to hide my shock when they told me they paid $8000 (!!) for it. And, surprise, they couldn’t seem to get hold of the guy they bought it from!
Couple #3 from Burbank had it even worse. The “rebuilders”, in preparation for installing the player mechanism, had cut away large pieces of wood that normally support the action. They cut away so much wood that the action, and now the player mechanism, were supported only by four little tabs of wood - all that remained when huge chunks of the supporting base were hacked away. The customer could not believe his eyes when I was able to wiggle these slivers of wood with my finger! And these four tabs of wood, each less than 1 inch wide, were the only things supporting an action and player mechanism, which together weigh over 80 pounds or more. Unbelievable.
It seems there is some piano outfit out there, renting vendor space at swap meets, who are in the business of intentionally ripping people off. Either that or they are the most incompetent rebuilders I have ever seen. There is no other way to look at it. How someone can do such good refinishing work while completely ignoring the inside of the piano is beyond me.
In short, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES BUY A PIANO FROM A SWAP MEET, no matter how charming it looks. If you find an interesting piano at a swap meet, then by all means, hire a technician to inspect it for you! And don’t be surprised if the seller-scheisters get a little nervous when the tuner shows up. If any of you have ever had, or have heard of someone having a bad experience with a swap meet piano, please email me & let me know!