\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma (Read 1063 times)

Offline lapland_girl

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 6
Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
« on: April 29, 2020, 03:45:38 AM »
Today one key on my baby grand went mute ( stopped producing a sound), which for me equals to a disaster. I cant go a day without playing am concerned about inviting a piano tuner to my house to fix the key amidst the coronavirus pandemic. He is over 65 and still does house calls in one of the epicenters. He is eager to accept any job it seems. It sbeen also a year since it was tuned last.  And honestly i cant live without playing at least daily. I read in the news about people diying or appendicitis or heart attacks because they are u willing to go to a hospital. And here i am having to invite an at-risk stranger into my house for something considered non-essential.iíve been pretty much stuck at home since February. I would hate to waste this quarantine free time without being able to practice on my piano. He said he will wear a mask and disinfect the keys afterwards . He also said its due for tuning anyways and he can then take a look at the key for free. But he usually tunes for 2-3 hours and it costs more. I have five small children that will not leave him or his instruments alone once he arrives. I doubt his mask would prot ct me at this point, Any advice? Should i still call him?if yes should i go for the full tuning package or just fiixing that one key ( costs 40% less)? Shoul di try to fox the mute key myself? Or should i maybe tough it out without access to a fully functional instrument until we have a vaccine or herd immunity? Please help!

Offline quantum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5737
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #1 on: April 29, 2020, 03:58:18 PM »
Hi, and welcome to Pianostreet.

I had a similar thing happen when I was in university, a hammer shank broke.  It would not have been too bad if it was at the extreme of the keyboard, but no, it was right in the middle - a key I needed to use frequently.  So what was a music performance major to do?  I ended up choosing pieces in keys that avoided using that pitch, as well as did some composition that avoided that key.  Eventually, I did the repair myself and it was all good until the tuner could address it at the regular 6 month tuning. 

In your situation, it is a tough call.  This isolation we are in now is ideal for working on music, however bringing in your piano tech comes with a health risk.  IMO, my main concern would be getting your kids to practice appropriate distancing, surfaces can be disinfected.  Is there any way you can chorale your kids in a different room while your tech works on the piano?  You could communicate with him over phone or video chat from a separate room. 

If you decide to bring your tech into your house, I would do tuning + fix.  He is there anyways, might as well get all the work done as necessary.  We don't know how long this pandemic will last, and you may be stuck at home playing piano.  It will also minimize the need for him to return to do a tuning in a few months. 

If you are able, try to do the repair yourself.  Find the problem, evaluate if you have the skills to do a repair, or a temporary repair.  If not, then call your tech.  Look down through the strings, do your hammers and shanks look good?  Remove the fall board, look around if you can detect anything wrong.  Pencils and erasers have a tendency to drop in there.    If you can't see anything, you may need to pull out the action and investigate further. 


Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline lapland_girl

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 6
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #2 on: April 30, 2020, 04:18:44 AM »
Hi, and welcome to Pianostreet.

I had a similar thing happen when I was in university, a hammer shank broke.  It would not have been too bad if it was at the extreme of the keyboard, but no, it was right in the middle - a key I needed to use frequently.  So what was a music performance major to do?  I ended up choosing pieces in keys that avoided using that pitch, as well as did some composition that avoided that key.  Eventually, I did the repair myself and it was all good until the tuner could address it at the regular 6 month tuning. 

In your situation, it is a tough call.  This isolation we are in now is ideal for working on music, however bringing in your piano tech comes with a health risk.  IMO, my main concern would be getting your kids to practice appropriate distancing, surfaces can be disinfected.  Is there any way you can chorale your kids in a different room while your tech works on the piano?  You could communicate with him over phone or video chat from a separate room. 

If you decide to bring your tech into your house, I would do tuning + fix.  He is there anyways, might as well get all the work done as necessary.  We don't know how long this pandemic will last, and you may be stuck at home playing piano.  It will also minimize the need for him to return to do a tuning in a few months. 

If you are able, try to do the repair yourself.  Find the problem, evaluate if you have the skills to do a repair, or a temporary repair.  If not, then call your tech.  Look down through the strings, do your hammers and shanks look good?  Remove the fall board, look around if you can detect anything wrong.  Pencils and erasers have a tendency to drop in there.    If you can't see anything, you may need to pull out the action and investigate further.

Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough insights. I see that most medical experts recommend cancelling all non -essential (non- lifesustaining) home services. Its definitely a risk bringing the piano tuner into our home environment. I heard of people giving  up their house cleaners, even plumbers or electricians during these uncertain times.  Since the start of the stay at home order iíve personally learnt how to change sink faucets and remodel flooring all by myself. How hard can it be to learn the mechanics and logistics of such piano repairs? I see many females who comment under DIY piano repair youtube videos that were quite successful in fixing minor issues like mute or sticky keys. My piano tuner doesnt play, he is a retired college professor of computer science. I have a professional degree too, so i guess i am able to learn new things. The problem will be getting access to special tools perhaps or just summoning the courage to pull out the action and start investigating in a more invasive manner.its ok for me if the learning processs takes time as long as i see the light in the end of the tunnel. Oh , and i am really scared of destroying the piano mechanisms beyond repair by my layperson moves. I posted a short 10 second video in my instagram stories ( fashionandpiano) illustrating the main issue of the problem. Basically the hammer wont reach the string to strike it when you press the key. I could not find any debris or foreign objects inside so far. But the sudden nature of this problem makes me wonder if the cause is purely mechanical and hopefully easily repairable.

Offline quantum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5737
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #3 on: April 30, 2020, 09:47:24 PM »
If you are comfortable doing home DIY jobs, you are probably okay to be looking into your piano.  A little research and common sense goes a long way, and if you are familiar with a workflow of repairing stuff you already have good knowledge at your disposal.  Know your abilities and identify when a job becomes too much for you to handle. 

Investing in a few specialty tools is a good idea.  I purchased piano tuning tools many years ago thinking I would use them to only fix the odd sour note.  Now I do full tunings of my instrument, and enjoy doing it.  I also do touch up tuning very frequently, sometimes every day.  Home recording on my piano is so much more enjoyable when it remains in tune. 

Just be careful when pulling out the action, you want to avoid having hammers catch as the action slides out.  Watch a few videos, it is easier when you have seen it done at least once.  Take the opportunity to clean out dust while the action is pulled out.  Again, be mindful of the exposed action parts, you don't want to end up breaking something while you are cleaning. 

Post a picture of the broken part when you find it, someone here may be able to help you identify it and offer a solution. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline faa2010

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 536
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #4 on: April 30, 2020, 10:10:49 PM »
Hi, I am close to how you are feeling.  I haven't called to my piano's tuner for around two years and my second baby (I have an electric piano as well, which is my first one) needs to be tuned, specially after it helped me last year with an important exam.

My piano tuner is elderly as well, and due to all this pandemic situation, I can't call him until things get calmer. The option I am taking is not to force the piano too much and play what it is needed.

In your case, if your baby can handle it for the next 6 months, then you can wait as well. However, if it can't take it, follow quantum's idea about first buying the necessary equipment to tune the piano, study, analyze, inform yourself about how to fix it, a DIY job like quantum said, and after that, check if it is possible if someone can give you a hand via online like in Skype, Zoom, etc. I don't know your talents, qualities and abilities, but in my opinion and because I know myself moreless is neither work nor act alone, if you are insecure while you are going to do it, then don't do it from the beginning, it is better if you has done this kind of job before and can guide you on doing it.

Offline lapland_girl

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 6
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #5 on: April 30, 2020, 10:34:21 PM »
The main concern currently is that the the problem will require to "take out all mechanics" of the baby grand and as a slender female (BMI 17.5) i may not be able to lift the heavy thing and as a result breakage will occur. That what some piano tuners told me. Is that the reason why all tuners are males? the problem is mostly likely with "jack". it sucks to think i will have to wait until the end of this pandemic to fix a mute key which essentially renders the piano unusable. currently i am studying vlogs and youtube channels of tuners who are willing to share bits of their craft and dont mind if general public does minor repairs in extreme circumstances like the current one

Offline quantum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5737
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #6 on: May 01, 2020, 04:33:53 AM »
You may not need to fully lift the action out of the piano, at least for the initial inspection.  Sit on your bench supporting your posture with your feet.  Carefully slide out the action, taking care that none of the hammers catch.  Try to use the sturdy support braces as grab points, and not the delicate action parts.  Slide the action out to the edge of the keybed, to where you feel the tipping point and the action begin to fall towards you.  Let the action gently tip toward you, the keyboard end coming to rest on top of your thighs. The back part of the action remains resting on the edge of the keybed.  This way you don't have to support the full weight of the action.  With the action tipped toward you, begin your investigation.  If you positioned yourself right, the action should be in a comfortable position so that you are facing directly at it, and can begin your work.  You might want to put a thick towel or blanket on your lap if you are sensitive to circulation in your legs being cut from the weight of the action. 

You should have your workspace setup before you do this, and have all tools and adequate lighting within arms reach.  It is not exactly easy to get up and get something with the action resting on your lap. 

In the past, I've had a female piano tech do voicing work on my piano.  This is exactly how she pulled the action out. 

Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline outin

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 8212
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #7 on: May 01, 2020, 06:45:57 AM »
If he is willing to come and you or your family are not in risk groups, I would book the tuner to fix the piano. It is of course his own decision to still do house calls, so you do not have to worry about his health. Just let him in and then go out with your whole family and only return when he is ready to leave. After he leaves, you can clean the piano but I would say if he takes care of hygiene the risk for transmission is minimal. You should be well able to avoid close contact with him which is the main route of transmission. I would also not say fixing your piano is non-essential if it is that important for you.

I should also get the yearly tunings done this month, but I can do without for a while so will probably postpone a little.

Offline lapland_girl

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 6
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #8 on: May 01, 2020, 10:50:56 PM »
Thank you for all this advice. I was surprised to learn that there are female piano tuners out there. I. even found one in NY who worked on the same exact model as my baby grand. I am still waiting to hear from her. It would be amazing if I didn't have to "lift" anything per se, but rather drag any heavy parts. I wish there was a video out there to at least take a look. I could not find so far any videos of female tuners' work.

Online dogperson

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1384
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #9 on: May 01, 2020, 11:27:28 PM »
You might want to contact Sally Phillips
https://pianoperfectllc.com/about

She has a background that is hard to beat.  I certainly donít know if she has a video or not, but she certainly has the experience to answer your questions

Offline j_tour

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2070
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #10 on: May 02, 2020, 06:43:33 AM »
Thank you for all this advice. I was surprised to learn that there are female piano tuners out there. I. even found one in NY who worked on the same exact model as my baby grand. I am still waiting to hear from her. It would be amazing if I didn't have to "lift" anything per se, but rather drag any heavy parts. I wish there was a video out there to at least take a look. I could not find so far any videos of female tuners' work.

Is that for real?

The best piano tech in the PNW for decades has been one single woman, and she's excellent.  I think she's retired now, possible deceased, but not only did she do all the local colleges, she was a pretty good pianist as well, and also a nice person.  I'm not going to say her name to drag her rep down, but at least in these parts she's the one you'd have called if you wanted some work done, even just tuning.

And, like somebody else said above, it's pretty likely your local tuner knows how to do this and would probably jump at the chance to do something more than fix the unisons and whatever.

/*ETA yeah, the action assembly, I'd just listen to quantum.  I don't really think it's as physically demanding as you claim:  it's just a hot mess of wood and sh*t.  I wouldn't want to do it myself, but if you've got the time, I'm pretty sure you can figure it out.  Then again, I've still got my Rhodes stage and the Wurlitzer 720A and they are not sounding too good these days, so my advice should be taken cum grano salis.  Really, it's just laziness on my part.*/
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline lapland_girl

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 6
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #11 on: May 03, 2020, 01:03:41 AM »
thank you for your responses. in my zipcode and vicinity all RPTs are males thats why i was unaware of the existence of female specialists.

My piano tuner would jump at the chance to make extra buck and i dont mind it, i actually badly need his services, but COVID19 threat changes everything. the fact that he is older ( over 65) and still doing house calls in the middle of a pandemic against the governer's shelter in place order makes me suspicious what other corners does he cut to make a buck? i am just trying to stay safe.  plus I have a big family to worry about, even if I myself am not per se at risk.

Some piano-tuners outright rejected the idea that  with my complexion (6.1 tall but 130 pounds weight) i could lift the heavy action from the baby grand (about 40 pounds?)
They say if it was an upright any lady could fix the broken jack with some time and patience. but the fact that it is a grand makes things way more challenging and i risk breaking the wood and parts if i start removing action myself without extensive work experience. thats why i am now curious how do female tuners work with grands and especially how do they fix broken jacks (mute keys) without lifting/taking out the action. I will definitely pursue the female piano tuner mentioned. I have ample time,  space, patience and not to boast but i also have a Jd degree so i am not the dumbest lady out there i should hope. I dont mean to steal jobs from RPTs, i only wanna be able to fix smaller problems like this in emergencies/extreme circumstances like the current pandemic. perhaps all i need is a little extra encouragement and guidance. I am a bit of chicken generally


Offline themaximillyan

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 136
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #12 on: May 03, 2020, 06:03:25 AM »
I have ample time,  space, patience and not to boast but i also have a Jd degree so i am not the dumbest lady out there i should hope. I dont mean to steal jobs from RPTs, i only wanna be able to fix smaller problems like this in emergencies/extreme circumstances like the current pandemic. perhaps all i need is a little extra encouragement and guidance. I am a bit of chicken generally




 

Offline j_tour

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2070
Re: Piano tuner and coronavirus dilemma
«Reply #13 on: May 04, 2020, 06:10:17 AM »
i actually badly need his services, but COVID19 threat changes everything. the fact that he is older ( over 65) and still doing house calls in the middle of a pandemic against the governer's shelter in place order makes me suspicious what other corners does he cut to make a buck?

Those are some excellent points.

I wouldn't know this guy's work ethic, but IMHO, a lot of people are just desperate to return to work and keep some semblance of normality in their lives.

I had to take a week off my day job, with either CV-19 or just a regular flu, and I was crawling the windows, at least when I wasn't sleeping 18 hours a day from extreme fatigue.

You've got masks of some sort, right?

I'd just go with that.

Besides keyboard techs and tuners hate it when you watch them work, IME.  The old standard line is "If you watch, it costs time and a half or double."  I don't think techs actually do that ó just the standard joke ó but they really like to be left alone to do their stuff.

I think you'd be all right, and if this guy is a professional, he's likely not going to be coughing or blowing snot all over your instrument.

Quote
Some piano-tuners outright rejected the idea that  with my complexion (6.1 tall but 130 pounds weight) i could lift the heavy action from the baby grand (about 40 pounds?)

Well, this is just a guess, but there may well be some self-aggrandizement there. 

I wouldn't automatically believe what technicians claim about how difficult their work is.

For me, tuning and regulation is difficult as heck, but it doesn't mean I can't do it.  It just takes me ten or even a hundred times as long as a pro.  About the same as me trying to fix my car, vs an experienced pro.  Plus, I just dislike mechanical work in general, so it's not a good fit for me.

Hey, doctor juris!  You can just put papers on him if he doesn't do right!

Yeah, I think even smaller women have been well-represented among piano techs for quite some time.  Perhaps they wouldn't make ideal piano movers, not that they couldn't in principle, but by far most of my tech work when I had an acoustic grand was performed by a rather petite woman who probably weighed ninety pounds soaking wet.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.