Classical music blog, piano blog, piano maintenance, piano repair, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten

Piano Maintenance: 48 hours of pain and anguish!

tearing my hair out

What was seemingly a straightforward search and destroy mission surrounding a clicking note, mushroomed suddenly into a PSTD level catastrophe.

Pianists, so viscerally tied to their beloved musical partners, can be catapulted over the edge when something unexpected occurs. In fact two post-clicking note repair events had transpired that threatened my mental health.

1) After the pulled action was re-set, and the tech left, I suddenly noticed clacking noises in the bass register. I learned quickly that these were called key bed wood slaps that might be related to loose cheek blocks on either ends of my piano.

Out came my iPhone to document what amounted to a playing disaster!

Within hours of contacting the tech, he responded, did the block tightening and eradicated the “slaps.”

(Sigh of relief!)

Unfortunately, still another traumatic event occurred following the SLAP dash event.

2) While practicing that very evening, I began aching through my J.S. Bach Suite Gigue, finding myself having to leverage excessive weight into the keys to produce a convincing legato (smooth and connected touch) It was like I was caught dead in note traps and land mines–a war zone, at minimum, not a locus of beauty and expression.

Naturally, I broke out my iPhone and scrutinized every note starting at the mid-range, fanning out in two directions.

By this time, I was a BASKET CASE, BARELY HOLDING ON TO MY SANITY. (You will hear anguish, anger and frustration in my voice) Enough was enough after what began as a relatively simple challenge surrounding a note click.

This cascading set of tragic events had to have an end in sight as I was hanging by a thread.

In a state of panic I posted the disaster to Piano and obtained the following feedback:

Sally Phillips, RPT:

“My guess is that if the technician took the stack off to repair the keys that they didn’t get the action stack screwed back down – seated correctly onto the keyframe. The rubbing could be the back checks rubbing against the sostenuto rail as a result of the stack being in the wrong place. This should be a simple matter of making sure the screws are tight and the bracket feet of the stack are solidly down on the keyframe.”

ED Foote, RPT

“It is not uncommon for pianos to be different after the action has been pulled and reinstalled. It may be that the keyframe has returned in a different place, which can happen if the hammers have matted to the strings with debris between the stop block and keyframe. In and out and the hammers are all over to the left by perhaps the width of a paper clip or the thickness of a nickel and all sort of strange sounds ensue. This is how simply vacuuming out a piano can change its sound.

“If the action were tilted, all sorts of foreign and domestic objects can move around, particularly under the key ends. Loose key leads will take this opportunity to go look around, and any flange that has managed to shrink from its duty will let the part explore whatever range is available.

“If the keyframe is really out of whack, the return can be accompanied by an altered key dip, which would cause a cascading series of regulation related problems.”

Mid-afternoon, 48 hours into the ordeal, my tech returned, TIGHTENED the stack screws (top part of the action) secured the match up, and eradicated all blubbering, friction, and squeaks.

A miracle had happened here on the second day of Chanukah, no less! I lit my Menorah, said the bruches, (prayers), and counted my blessings.

After all was said and done, I became a font of wisdom and knowledge about the consequences of loose screws in the action re-set process.

Hopefully, this experience will trickle down to my colleagues who might keep their sanity while patiently awaiting a repair!

(One thing is for certain, I don’t have any loose screws, and the tech soundly confirmed. In the spirit of good will and harmony, he profusely apologized for his oversights!)


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