Blog: Midsummer 2017 - Is a Grand Piano Always Better Than an Upright? Bonus Artwork Follows
One way to show that high quality uprights can be better pianos than the smallest grand pianos, is to show the length of the very lowest bass string. Notice the overlapping area, where a baby grand's lowest string is shorter than that of a larger upright piano. Despite the drastic difference in length of this string between the smallest and largest pianos, the pitch (sound) is actually the same. This is due to the magic of piano design (weight, coil details, tensio, etc.), but the quality of sound is higher when the string is longer. A baby grand might look great in the house, but the humble (but actually more musically impressive) upright might be a better musical choice.
On another topic, recently an 11-year-old child sat quietly behind me as I tuned his piano. I was impressed to find out he'd been not just been watching the tuning, but sketching it. He even caught the details of the strings and tuning pins, as well as the angle I stand at to tune.
Summer 2017 - Is It Time to Part Company With Your Old Piano?
Apparently the people at Travelingpiano.com aren't selling their piano, but it's in the truck and their dog is ready for the road! But are you thinking about getting your piano out of the house, selling it, or? Here's a thoughtful article on the subject from Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer. It's free online, or you can buy a printed copy, at Pianobuyer.com.
I just tuned my 4,000th piano. Let's celebrate with this delicious-looking piano cake!
April 1, 2017 (Yes, April Fool's Day)
There are some special opportunities that I wanted to present at this time.
1. The Bear Piano Services Luxe Treatment, for any piano. I will spray on a sparkly gold or silver finish, to make your piano really "pop" in your home. Bonus- I will leave the spray can with you for touch-ups!
2. Special Bear Piano Services Tuning Discount. Cut the cost of tuning but having your piano moved to my house, where I do not need to allow for the time to drive to and from your house. $50 off the regular price!
3. Bear Piano Services Tuning Magic I can make you, and anyone else who plays your piano, sound better, without the usual need for hours of piano practice! Yes, this one is actually true. Just arrange a piano tuning with me. The further the piano is out of tune, the more you will hear this benefit. But it only takes a few strings out of tune, in the area you play the most, for this to work.
So yes, this is my first April first blog, hope it's good for a laugh... and/or encouragement to tune your piano, probably without glitter spray and definitely not at my place!
Sometimes you can move a piano yourself, if there are no floor level changes, the castors/wheels work well, and your physical health permits the work. But more often than not, the smart thing is to call a professional. They can deal with things like the situation at my own house. The landing halfway down, where the direction changes, isn't as big as a piano is wide. It took skilled professionals to get this done safely.
More than a few of my clients are originally from other countries. I enjoy seeing their cultures blending with American culture, as their children (usually) work on learning the useful skills of playing piano.
Did you know the majority of new pianos are now being made in China? Like Japan's early pianos decades earlier, the first ones weren't impressive, but quality has improved over the years. You might not even know your piano wasn't made in the United States or Europe, but there is a long tradition in the industry of buying old piano manufacturer names, and using them on entirely different pianos. If you're curious about your piano, you can ask me to look it up in the Pierce Piano Atlas I carry in my tuning kit, when I come to service your piano.
Piano Technician in the Newspaper Spring 2016
The Seattle Times recently printed a very nice article which I was featured in. See for yourself. There's a video too, a few paragraphs down, embedded in the first large article-related photograph; click and wait through the advertising message. It's short and shows me tuning and playing piano (plus some time with the others who are described in the article).
Piano Technician Continuing Education Spring 2016
At the end of March (2016) the Piano Technicians Guild is sponsoring a four-day conference here in Seattle. What happens at a piano technician conference? Well for one, suppliers to the trade come, so tools and supplies can be inspected in person, not on line. There will be dozens of classes on tips and techniques, concerts, and time to make connections with peers and well-known names in the profession. I always leave one of these with new ideas, new proficiencies, and probably a few more tools too!
My Eleventh Year!
Recently my City of Seattle Business License came in the mail, and I realized that with close of 2015, I have completed my eleventh year in business as a piano technician. In that period of time, my records include 3645 piano tunings (many more than once). Thank you for entrusting your piano to me, in the past, and in the future.
Win a Piano? Winter 2015
Northwest Piano, a piano shop in Bellevue, has a contest going for a brand new free upright piano. They have been doing this for several years, and I have seen photos of past winners. You can enter on line or in person. Click here for more details! The drawing is December 19th. Let me know if you're the winner! Good luck....
Recently I was tuning a piano in a music classroom in the Monroe School District. Since tuning a piano mostly occupies my sense of hearing, I sometimes will look around my current location- which may include views of the Puget Sound, works of art, family pictures, or family pets. This was the first time I saw my name inside a heart, on a classroom whiteboard. The teacher said she made it as a reminder. I certainly felt welcome!
What is She Playing?
My claim to fame is not my piano playing skills, but people are sometimes interested in the pieces I play before and after a tuning. Here's the info, so you can print out the music (where available) or listen to other performances:
Erik Satie Gymnopedie 1
Glenn Hardy Tempermental (not available online)
I have played these pieces on literally thousands of pianos, and I still love them!
Summer 2015 in Seattle
For seven out of the past nine summers I've worked as a piano technician at Interlochen Arts Camp (more on that in previous entries below), but not this year. I'd been to music camp seven times as a child, and after seven times at camp as an adult, it seemed like a good time to return to spending my summers in Seattle. I'll miss my friends, but not the humidity and the bugs! So if your piano needs some professional care, don't hesitate to contact me.
New Year 2015
As I write, it's a sunny cold New Year's Day, and I'm in a retrospective mood. I am thankful for all the people who have invited me into their homes, schools, churches, theaters, and other places where pianos live. My world has been enlarged by seeing into other peoples' lives, and the amazing variety of their pianos. Thank you for considering me to work on your piano, perhaps again. And best wishes on the year ahead. Myself, I'd like to contribute to a little more harmony in the year ahead, literally, and metaphorically!
Are you thinking that in December piano technicians are so busy that there's no hope for you to get your piano tuned? Don't give up before you e-mail or call me (425 765-3514 or 206 406-5576), because I might just have an opening that fits your schedule perfectly.
As some of you already know, I'm back in town after my seventh year at Interlochen Arts Camp, plus a week at the national Piano Technicians Guild convention. Both were a great mix of using existing skills, learning new ones, and camaraderie with my piano technician friends. Below see Jessica Masse, the year-round piano tech at Interlochen, Micah Sundholm, new to Interlochen this year, and me. We're lunching at the lake.
Spring Leaning Toward Summer
From Memorial Day, May 25, I will be back in Michigan to tune pianos at the Interlochen Arts Camp. I enjoy Interlochen for many reasons, but one of the top reasons is being able to work closely with a crew of other piano technicians, the natural result of having several hundred pianos in one place. Here's the crew in a previous year:
I will be booking tunings in Seattle again starting July 22.
While I am gone, I will still be accessible by voicemail and e-mail. For those who need piano service before my return, I am pleased to recommend again Robert Samuelson, Registered Piano Technician. Call him at 206-325-1752, or contact him by e-mail.
I'm certainly not running a contest on this, but the piano pictured below set a new record for stuff that fell into the piano. This is a very nice Yamaha medium sized grand piano, in a home with three young children. Above, you can see me with a grand action removed from a piano, from keys at left to the hammers at right. The photo below shows what I saw when I took off the fallboard of the Yamaha grand. This is just the left third, the rest was just as packed with stuff.
The kids must have thought it was fun to make things "disappear" into the piano. I found photos, plastic spoons, paper cuttings, pencils and pens, and I forget what else. It's kind of hard to see the detail on this picture, but remember all that's supposed to be there behind the white and black keys is wood. Anyhow, you don't want this happening because keys can stop working, and rattles may be created. This gets in the way of the beautiful music you are creating or trying to create!
The end of 2013 was a double milestone, both the last tuning of the year, plus coincidentally being my 3000th tuning. Happy New Year!
As I write, we've just had two storms in a row. I was lucky enough to not lose power, but if I had, my piano would have still been fully operational. That's one more advantage of an acoustic instrument!
On another subject, thanks to all my clients with animals. They certainly add to the fun of bringing pianos back into tune. Here's a high quality Samick piano along with Max. He napped nearby for the entire tuning, and volunteered for a photo session afterwards! On the same day at a teacher's studio, her black cat jumped up on the bench and sat next to me through most of the tuning. I heard Luna was a favorite of her piano students, no surprise. And don't get me started about dogs, who are usually even more friendly than cats. Luna's beagle buddy Milo was nearby the whole time too.
I look forward to meeting you, your piano, and your pets!
Late Summer 2013
In case you missed it, there's a major sale on pianos going on in downtown in connection with the closing of the last Sherman & Clay piano store. When I first heard this, I thought it would be one of those extended closings over many months, but the last I heard they're closing their doors on September 30th. If you were thinking about bringing a new piano, or a new-to-you piano in to your home or wherever else, it would be worth taking a look. The building itself is historical and it's on the same block as Westlake Center. I apprenticed with Steve Brady on the fourth floor, and tuned for Sherman & Clay on all four floors, so I'll miss not just the store but all the people who've worked there in my time. Anyhow, I bet they'd rather sell the pianos than move them somewhere else, so the sales guys are going to do their best to make you happy. Here's the link to the Seattle Sherman & Clay info and here's the story from King 5 television, which includes an interview with Ben Klinger, the store manager.
I'm back from Interlochen Arts Camp, this year with about 260 pianos for five piano technicians to work on. After camp, I attended the annual conference of the Piano Technicians Guild, conveniently in Chicago on the route home from Michigan. Both experiences were very worthwhile from the perspective of knowledge gained as well as old and new human connections. Above, this year on the ID badge at Interlochen, they included "Piano Tech" for the first time, not just the vague "Instrument Svcs". You get respect for that, there are a LOT of people who play/teach/listen to pianos there!
For the sixth time, I have returned to Michigan to tune pianos during the summer at Interlochen Arts Camp (see more info in the Archives). I will be back July 15th. I enjoy Interlochen for many reasons, but one of the top reasons is being able to work closely with five other piano technicians, the natural result of having several hundred pianos in one place!
While I am gone, I will still be accessible by voicemail and e-mail. For those who need piano service before my return on July 15th, I am pleased to recommend again Robert Samuelson, Registered Piano Technician. Call him at 206-325-1752, or contact him by e-mail.
This summer I will be going again to Michigan join four other piano technicians to tune the pianos at the Interlochen Arts Camp. This will be my sixth year. I have an early schedule this year, and will be tuning here in the Seattle area until May 17, and then will be back in town again on July 15th. This will allow me to attend the Piano Technician Guild national conference in Chicago again.
Knowing Seattle's typical cool rainy summers, I will probably not be missing much summer weather at all!
As a piano technician, you never know what you'll find on the job. The most common items in pianos are pencils, pens, and paperclips, but every now and then you find a space explorer or a rocket ship. I found this adventurer recently. I wished I could reunite him with the space ship I found last summer in another piano, since it looked to me like he'd be blasting off sooner than getting his gloves off for a quick arpeggio. But you never know!
In September I spent a couple of weeks in Norway. It's a scenic, definitely not over-populated, prosperous country. One of the highlights for me was a day in Bergen, guided by Richard Brekne, a piano technician originally from the States. He cares for the pianos in the Grieg Museum outside of town. Above is a view from inside the small concert hall, with a view of Grieg's studio, and a hint of the small lake beyond. As usual for the museum, there was a short recital where we could sit and soak up the atmosphere. I was particularly pleased to see Grieg recordings and printed music on sale at the museum. I hope some people were inspired to take some music home and play it on their own pianos!
LATE SUMMER 2012
This year the national Piano Technicians Guild Convention was here in Bellevue. For a few days in July, around 500 Registered Piano Technicians and Associates, friends and family, and piano technology industry members were able to come to an area of the country where the weather was cool and comfortable. Nonetheless, we spent a lot of time inside, going to classes, considering purchasing new tools, and trading stories. This was time well spent.
Not long after the convention I tuned my 2500th piano. When I mention numbers of pianos tuned, I always remember what my teacher Randy Potter pointed out, that some people may have tuned a large number of pianos, but without ever improving the quality of their tunings. I can't say I improve with every piano, but I'm always thinking, for example, about the factors I can, and can't control.. Is the chihuahua's snoring too loud? Never!
LATE SPRING 2012
When is a piano tuning like a circus? When I'm tuning in a retirement home, at least the one I last tuned in! There were probably twenty people with various levels of "being tuned in", and they all sat (some dozed) through the entire tuning! I have very few clients that stay in the same room while I tune, but here there was extra entertainment provided by the Activity Director wearing a big green sequined bow tie. I missed a lot of it (I was facing the wall, not the group) but I did see a large beach ball being tossed around the room, and I heard stories being told. I added a little info about piano tuning, demonstrating how tuning is just tightening and loosening piano strings, and at the end played a couple of pieces (just like I do in my other clients' homes) to great appreciation. It was not just "another day at the office"!
The weather is changing, and your piano will be affected by that. You might need a tuning before you 'd planned- give me a call or send me an e-mail, and let's get your piano back in tune!
LATE SUMMER 2011
I'm back from seven weeks in Michigan, part of a 4-person team tuning about 235 pianos for the 2000-plus students at the Interlochen Arts Camp. No more walking between pianos with just my tuner kit on my shoulder, like a frontier piano tuner! Fun as that was, it's great to be back in Seattle, where the weather is much kinder to people and pianos alike.
For my fifth year, I'm in Michigan until August 9th, tuning pianos at the famous Interlochen Arts Camp. While I am gone, I will still be accessible by voice mail and e-mail. For those who need piano service before my return, I am pleased to recommend Robert Samuelson, Registered Piano Technician. Call him at 206-325-1752, or contact him by e-mail.
It's a lot of fun to go to camp, but it's great to come back to Seattle, too.
Have you ever put a vase with fresh flowers, or a coffee cup on your piano? Please consider this: A spill may cause cosmetic damage if not more severe damage. Put drinks in a safe place away from the piano, and consider a dried flower arrangement. The battle of keeping water bottles etc. off pianos is a battle I fight every summer at Interlochen Arts Camp, and it's sad to see a brand new piano with rust or beverage rings, or a piano with repeated avoidable damage over the years. Be kind to your piano!
On Saturday January 28th at 10 a.m., there will be a presentation on "The Art of Selecting a Used Piano" at the Bellevue Sherman & Clay location (1000 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004). There is no charge but they'd appreciate an RSVP to (425) 454-0633. Coffee will be provided. There are lots of ways to get information about used pianos, including having a piano technician help you evaluate one you've found (see below), but this kind of class is not frequently offered. Afterwards you can walk around the showroom and see if you feel more knowledgeable!
Did Santa leave a new piano under your tree? Schedule its first tuning not before it's been in its new home for two weeks. This applies whether the piano is new, or just new to you. And congratulations!
Thinking about buying a piano privately (like on Craig's List)? Save yourself from the disappointment of a piano that's untunable or has expensive problems. I'll do a purchase evaluation for $50, refundable on a future tuning. I'll do two evals for $50, without the deal on a future tuning. This could also apply to a used piano in a piano shop. Save yourself some money/disappointment in the long run!
LATE SUMMER 2010
I'm back from seven weeks at Interlochen Arts Camp, again. "All the comforts of home" really means something, after almost two months in a dorm room, eating cafeteria food, tuning on the average four pianos a day. Now I'm back up to speed in Seattle (and thereabouts), please give me a call or e-mail and get on the schedule before the fall rush!
From June 20th to August 15th I will be at Interlochen Arts Camp again (here's my public radio interview about the experience). While I am gone, I will still be accessible by voicemail and e-mail. For those who need piano service before my return, I am pleased to recommend Robert Samuelson, Registered Piano Technician. Call him at 206-325-1752, or contact him by e-mail.
Poetry-Song-Music Project. One of my friends recently asked me to help him with a project he is working on, which needs the services of one or more musicians to complete. His concept is the combination of his own poetry, a singer, and musicians: " Lyric verse, music, and ambient sound with strong emotional content or humor." The musician's part is to be playing specific songs (jazz, popular) behind the poetry being spoken. It will be accessible from a website, and there is some financial compensation involved. If you are interested, please contact me.
A tip- if you're in downtown Seattle on a Thursday, take in a noon concert at the Sherman & Clay store downtown. The show starts at 12:15, is free, and features live piano performances, sometimes other instruments, or vocal performances To confirm who's playing, call (206) 622-7580, or send an e-mail. There is no need to make a reservation; you can just show up, though once a while there is no one scheduled so it's a good idea to ask to be put on their e-mail list.
This is a while off, but this summer I will be tuning pianos at the Interlochen Arts Camp again (see more about this in the Archives). My last appointments before I leave will be on Friday June 18th. Please e-mail or call so your piano gets the attention it needs before I leave.
EARLY SPRING 2010
One afternoon a week, instead of my usual routine of driving all around the Seattle area, I get to work at the Sherman & Clay piano store downtown. There are lots of characters there- salesmen, piano teachers, customers, piano technicians, etc. Just recently the salesmen (Ben, Oscar, Gary, and the other Gary!) introduced themselves on YouTube. Check out their videos, and then come down to the store and see if one of the pianos there belongs in your house. You might be surprised how little a brand new piano costs.
Welcome former clients of Ali Tucker! Ali and I used to work together at a piano shop in downtown Seattle. Now she's moved out of the area, and I am delighted to be the piano technician she has recommended . Please take a look around my website and then give me a call or e-mail to set up a visit. I am looking forward to meeting you and your piano(s). And, bon voyage Ali!
EARLY FALL 2009
If there's anybody out there that's considering buying a Steinway grand piano used in a famous venue (Tanglewood, Carnegie Hall, etc.), eighteen instruments in several sizes will be available from September 17-20 at the Sherman & Clay in downtown Seattle. If you're looking for something less expensive, you could still take a look at these instruments before narrowing your focus to a Boston, Essex, Henry F. Miller, or other new or used, grand or upright piano. For questions or to schedule an appointment, please call Manager Ben Klinger: 206.622.7580, ask him about free parking, and tell him Ginny sent you.
LATE SUMMER 2009
By the time most of you read this (from August 4th), I will be back in Seattle after my third summer at the Interlochen Arts Camp.
This year we four piano technicians got to take a "field trip" to the Piano Technician Guild national conference which was conveniently in Michigan this year (convenient for us at Interlochen, that is). Having just qualified as a Registered Piano Technician this year, I was given free registration to the conference, a one-time only great deal. It was the usual exchange of knowledge, and money too, as the exhibit floor was full of items that we wanted to take home. I left enthusiastic to share the new things I'd learned with my clients, old and new. Please call 425-765-351(or 206-406-5576) or e-mail me to arrange a tuning or other piano service.
Here's a shot of the Interlochen Piano Technicians at our favorite local ice cream shop. We could eat, talk shop, and watch the cows who contributed to the making of the delicious ice cream. A great summer!
Through August 3, I am tuning pianos for the Interlochen Arts Camp again (here's my public radio interview about the experience). Note- as of May 2014, this link doesn't seem to work anymore. Sorry!
While I am gone, I will still be accessible by voicemail and e-mail. For those who need piano service before my return, I am pleased to recommend Robert Samuelson, Registered Piano Technician. Call him at 206-325-1752, or contact him by e-mail.
Also, I am pleased to report that I have completed the testing process to become a Registered Piano Technician through the Piano Technicians Guild, a long time goal. RPTs have passed a battery of tests including a written test, a tuning test, and a technical test which includes repairs and regulation. However, this does not mean my education efforts are over. I am an active participant in the local chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild, and I will be attending the national convention in July. There's always something new to learn!
Once again, I have been invited to return to Michigan to tune pianos during the summer at Interlochen Arts Camp (see more info in the Archives). I will be gone from June 15 to August 2nd. If your piano needs tuning now or in the near future, please book right away to make sure I can fit you in before I leave.
I enjoy Interlochen for many reasons, but one of the top reasons is being able to work closely with three other piano technicians, the natural result of having several hundred pianos in one very small area!
FALL AND WINTER 2008-9
Late in 2008 I had the opportunity to tour the Steinway & Sons factory just outside of New York City. Although the buildings date back over a hundred years, the techniques used to build pianos now are a blend of old and new. Among the highlights was the transformation of several lengths of wood, glued and bent around a piano-shaped form to create the rim of a Steinway grand piano, in just a few minutes. Each person had a very specific part to play; it was choreographed almost like a dance. I was the only piano technician on the tour and I was glad to be able to answer questions about pianos and their care to the other tour participants.
I had a wonderful time tuning among the talented young people at the Interlochen Arts Camp, and am now back home in Seattle. There's no place like home!
Starting in mid-June, I will be tuning pianos for the Interlochen Arts Camp again (here's my public radio interview about my last experience there). Note- as of May 2014, this link doesn't seem to work anymore. Sorry!
While I am gone, I will still be accessible by voicemail and e-mail. For those who need piano service before my return on August 11th, I am pleased to recommend Robert Samuelson, Registered Piano Technician. Call him at 206-325-1752, or contact him by e-mail.
I have extended my work area to Vashon Island. The Neighborhood Discount applies to Vashon too, in a slightly modified way; no surcharge for the ferry ticket when I have two (or more) appointments on Vashon on the same day. Call a neighbor with a piano, and then call or e-mail me to arrange the visit.
FALL 2007 NEWS
I was recently interviewed on the Working Girl blog. And then, someone from England with a blog about pianos picked up on what I said about perfect pitch and piano tuners. It was particularly interesting as he seems to be one of those rare people with synesthesia (kind of like an extra sense- connecting numbers and things with colors, in his case it applies to musical pitches).
SUMMER 2007 NEWS
I attended the Piano Technician Guild 50th Anniversary Conference and Technical Institute, along with over 700 other piano technicians. Classes spanned five days, and topics ranged from new technical skills and tools, to the intricacies of tuning by ear and with electronic devices. Highlights of the event included a performance of a replica of the first piano ever made, and the appearance of the world's oldest piano technician, 104 years old! Besides classes, there were also concerts and an exhibit hall which was staffed by piano makers from Steinway of the United States and Germany,, to Pearl River of China as well as tools, books, and just about anything a piano technician would want to consider acquiring. It was a great time for professional growth and networking.
SPRING 2007 NEWS
I have recently begun tuning pianos at the Sherman & Clay store in downtown Seattle. Sherman & Clay is the largest Steinway dealer in the world. You can find everything from apartment-sized small uprights to magnificent concert grand pianos on display. I am delighted to be associated with Sherman & Clay, with a reputation of quality earned over its 130 years in the piano business.
I spent summer of 2006 at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
While in Michigan I was featured in a radio interview on American Public Media's Weekend America. It's about nine minutes long; click on the radio graphic at left to listen.
Note- as of May 2014, this link doesn't seem to work anymore. Sorry!
Photo courtesy of Interlochen Center for the Arts