Baldwin Hamilton grand, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano, piano blog, piano technician, piano technician's guild

The second studio grand gets a tune-up

With dizzying cable wires swimming in all directions, connected to a horizontal mounted overhead web cam, partnered with a side-mounted one, the spotlight is on my vintage Steinway grand.

A second piano to its right goes unnoticed.

But once a LIVE lesson begins, the Baldwin Hamilton 1929 takes center stage, requiring at least a pitch match-up with its neighboring sister. (Thankfully, its squeaky pedal problem has been resolved)

Those familiar with Baldwin Hamilton’s history, know it was a blind date piano that miraculously panned out as a permanent partner. Initially sampled by phone, (no sane way to judge its character) I had good vibes about it, and in the after glow of first attraction, I dispatched a registered piano tech to the location, hundreds of miles away. After he doubled on my opinion, the sale was made. (Don’t copy me and meet your date in person!)

Yesterday, award-winning tech, Israel Stein tuned the Baldwin Hamilton, and pin-pricked a few hammers along the way. Our conversation recorded in progress, enriched the tuning experience and added to my growing Stein oral history archive.


Stein at Baldiwn  voicing

piano technician's guild,

The final word on piano buzzes from Israel Stein, master piano technician

Israel SteinPTG logo

Israel Stein is one of a kind.

An award winning, Registered Piano Technician, he’s been recognized nationally by the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) and continues to tune, voice, regulate, re-build and consult on pianos that prospective buyers are considering. He’s also a creme de la creme PIANO EXAMINER at the Guild and gives classes at the PTG Conventions and elsewhere.

Before I moved to the California Bay area, I engaged Israel from afar to check out numerous vintage Steinways for my students. His narratives were comprehensive and valuable to the last detail.

Once I relocated to Berkeley, I happened to spring upon a few dazzling grands that were tonally gorgeous repositories with immaculate, smooth actions, only to discover that Israel was maintaining them. (One was onstage at the Hillside Club; another at the East Bay Jewish Community Center)

Judging by the sonorous output of these pianos, I knew he and I were philosophically and musically on the same page.

As an example, Israel tunes by ear, but uses the latest technology as an adjunct without abusing it. I watched him bring one of my former pianos (a Kawai GE 20) into a ballpark overview range as a point of departure, before he commenced finite INTERVAL EAR tuning. I don’t believe that exclusively tuning UNISONS or matching up octaves works, so that’s why I single out Israel as an exception to the preponderance of time-saving technicians who think they’ve TUNED a piano with the machine, when it’s left with beating notes. (i.e. “sour”-sounding)

And when it came to the sub-constellation of “buzzing” notes that I’d recently blogged about, ( I drew on Israel Stein’s time-honored expertise.

From the sage of Registered Piano technicians:

“Buzzes drive piano technicians crazy also. And you can’t generalize about them – they can be intermittent in all cases and can come and go with changes in humidity – whether they are internal or external. Sound travels along surfaces, and often where the buzz seems to come from is nowhere near its real source. The only sure way to find the source of a buzz is to keep touching various possible places that could conceivably generate a buzz while playing the note or notes that make it happen. It often takes two people – one to continually play the note(s) and the other to keep touching various places. The buzz usually indicates something loose that’s vibrating in very close proximity to something else in sympathy with a given pitch (and its overtones in other pitches0 – screw, hinge, splinter of wood, some loose junk on the soundboard, a crack, a picture frame or light fixture, a caster not in solid contact with the floor (only on uprights – on three legged grands that’s impossible) etc. etc. A change in humidity can cause the two components of a buzz to either move too far from each or to get into tighter contact with each other – in either case the buzz stops. That’s true for both outside or inside the piano. I hope this helps.”

My Berkeley-based Steinway ‘M’ grand is due for a tune-up along with the El Cerrito Hills Baldwin, so I won’t hesitate to call Israel Stein because I trust him more than any other tech in the area.

Piano Technician (contact: 510-558-0777)
San Francisco State University
February 2005 – Present (8 years 9 months)San Francisco, CA

Maintain pianos at the College of Creative Arts, manage piano inventory.
A-Major Piano Services
April 1997 – Present (16 years 7 months) Albany, CA – San Francisco Bay Area

Piano service and rebuilding
Piano Technician
Sherman Clay
January 2000 – January 2005 (5 years 1 month)

Preparation and tuning of pianos for sale, piano troubleshooting, warranty piano service for piano purchasers, appraisal of pianos for trade-in or purchase by company, concert piano preparation and tuning.
Piano Technician
M. Steinert & Sons
December 1998 – June 2000 (1 year 7 months)Greater Boston Area

Concert tuner/technician for Steinway Concert and Artist program. Prepare and tune pianos for sale. Recondition used pianos for sale. Warranty tunings and repair for piano purchasers. Piano tuning and service for regular company clients (mostly past piano purchasers). Inspection of pianos for company purchase or trade-in.
A-Major Piano Services
June 1987 – December 1995 (8 years 7 months)Cambridge, MA – Greater Boston Area

Piano service and Rebuilding
Volunteer Experience; Causes
Committee member and chair
Piano Technicians Guild


Sidney O. Stone Service Award
Piano Technicians Guild – Western Region
March 2012

In recognition of service to the PTG organization in general and specifically within its Western region
Putt-Crowl Member of Note Award
Piano technicians Guild
June 2010

In recognition of recent outstanding service and dedication to the Piano Technicians Guild
Presidential Citation
Piano Technicians Guild
June 2008

In recognition of service on the Examinations and test Standards Committee and as counsel to the President
Examiner of the year Award
Piano Technicians Guild
June 2004

In recognition of outstanding service as Chair of the Technical Examinations Subcommittee and in exam administration.

Registered Piano Technician
Piano Technicians Guild
May 1987 – Present


Piano Technicians Guild
Instructor at National and Regional Conventions/conferences; Co-chair, member – Bylaws committee; Chair – Techncial Exam Subcommittee, Technical Examiner Pool Coordinator.
May 1986 – Present

The PTG is a Trade Association of professional piano tuners/technicians and practitioners of related crafts. The organization seeks to upgrade its members’ skills through educational offerings and an exam program culminating in the Registered Piano Technician certification. It also offers information and resources to piano owners and users.

Berkeley piano technician, John Peters piano technician Berkeley, piano, piano maintenance, piano technician, piano technician's guild, Registered piano technician, Steinway and Sons pianos, Steinway model 1098 upright piano, word press, word, wordpress,, you tube, you tube video, you,

An informative chat with a whimsical piano technician (REGISTERED, of course)

John Peters piano technician rotated

I had a delightful exchange with John Peters, RPT, about pianos, restorations, repairs, machine vs. aural tunings, and all that sprung from his wild imagination.

For instance,

John communicates an intense passion for tuning.. “I get paid to “meditate,” he insists. Then he quickly veers off with a one-liner about fixing squeaky pedals.

“I pour Drano down there,” he exclaims, as he demonstrates with a straight face.

Even with his lighthearted personality, John comes across as a capable tuner, having 40 years experience under his belt.

A one-of-a-kind interview opportunity presented when I needed my Steinway model 1098 upright tuned in readiness for sale. And as a committed follower of the gospel according to Larry Fine, (THE PIANO BOOK), I put my best foot forward for a prospective buyer. (Don’t forget to dust the piano after tuning it)

Never mind the usual claptrap that a piano will have to be tuned once settled into new home, so why bother tuning it? Would you sell a car that was ill-maintained? Not unless it was a give-away jalopy and you were asking beans for it.

My piano is a Cadillac of the upright variety, so it gets the loving attention/maintenance it deserves.


Incidentally, my reference to “squeaky pedals” in a Baldwin grand at my Hills teaching location, is extracted from a video about how to fix the problem. (???)

Go to 2:24 in the attached track to memorialize the procedure:

The technician doing surgery was NOT John Peters, incidentally, so henceforth, Peters will have the opportunity to provide a more permanent repair.

Thanks, John for the banter. You’re definitely a tech I’ll recommend around town.

clean business card

Keith Aikens Registered piano technician, Mark Schecter, Mark Schecter Registered Piano Technician, piano maintenance, piano repair, piano technician, piano technician's guild, PTG, Uncategorized, word press, word, wordpress,, you tube, you tube video

Piano Maintenance– About hammers: all or partial replacement? (Video)

When my Baldwin Hamilton 1929 grand underwent exploratory surgery in the capable hands of Mark Schecter, RPT, I had some pointed questions.

Given that the piano had a glassy-sounding upper treble due to worn down hammers, would installing a partial set of new ones be a reasonable route to take?

Mark didn’t think so, and explained.

My guess was that the weight of the hammers could be a variable, making one part of the piano feel qualitatively different than another.

More about hammers on video:

And a valuable Piano World Forum post from Keith Aikens, RPT conformed with Mark’s opinion:

“It is important to realize that there isn’t any “partial set of hammers” readily available on the market. Here’s why:

“Hammers are made as one long piece of felt pressed around one long moulding. Then the completed pressing is cut into individual hammer heads. (We just call them hammers).

“The costs to make a partial set will be close to the costs to make a full set of hammers. So there is no economic incentive to a hammer maker to make a partial set — even if there were a sufficient demand. And, if a full set is broken up and sold, who will buy the remainder? The costs are still the same = 1 full set.

“That’s the story from the hammer maker’s side. From the side of the piano/pianist/technician, it’s really quite simple. The piano as an instrument is an organic whole and when parts are worn, it’s best to replace them in sets, rather than trying to set a standard of “how worn is still acceptable” and then measuring them to determine pass/fail according to whatever (necessarily arbitrary) criteria are established.

“So, even though the treble hammers may be worn down to the wood and the bass ones aren’t, the bass are still worn and merit replacement. But, beyond that, the new hammers simply won’t match the old ones. It’s like having heavy, lugged snow/mud tires on one side of your car and racing tires on the other side. It won’t be a pleasant driving experience.”


The Back Story:

cleaning ivory keys, gray spots on ivory keys, ivory piano keys, Mark Schecter Registered Piano Technician, piano, piano maintenance, piano technician's guild, piano tuner, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Uncategorized, word press, you tube

Windex on ivory keys: Did it remove the gray spots?

There was definitely an improvement after Mark scrubbed the whites and even the black key OFFENDERS with Windex. I don’t believe, however, that the gray will ever be totally removed because it had become ingrained into the keys by its introduction through supposedly “shoe-dyed” ebonies. (See

Here are photos that I took 24-hours post Windex:

Mark in Action:

Schecter talks about the Piano Technician’s Guild:


The Back Story:

Just in time for Valentine’s Day: I meet my Blind Date Grand Piano in El Cerrito! (6 part video) and Coda

Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Mark Schecter, piano maintenance, piano regulation, piano repair, piano technician, piano technician's guild, rebuilding pianos, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, you tube

Piano Maintenance: The elements of Regulation (Videos)

Mark Schecter, RPT, demonstrated a phase of the Regulation process as it pertained to smoothing out the note-to-note feel of my Baldwin Hamilton 1929 grand. In the course of a thorough assessment, the instrument was found to have worn out hammers, (though refiled) and problems related to their balance and alignment (as revealed in prior posted videos)


The Back Story:

Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Mark Schecter Registered Piano Technician, piano, piano maintenance, piano maintenance and repair, Piano Street, piano technician, piano technician's guild, Piano World, piano world-wide, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Uncategorized, word press, you tube

Piano Maintenance Teaser: Graying ivories and a squeaky note

This is a video preview of what will follow later today when several uploads related to my Baldwin piano’s weekend “regulation” are lined up on You Tube.

As a start, one of the problems plaguing my recently acquired Hamilton grand 1929, a.k.a “blind date piano,” was a grayish discoloration on every ivory key.

In my ignorance, I conjectured that such an irregularity was indicative of older pianos. Yellowed keys were more familiar than speckled grays.

That’s about when piano detective, Mark Schecter, RPT, (Registered Piano Technician) came on the scene to make a diagnosis and possible repair. His larger mission, however, was to “regulate” the piano as best he could once his assessment of the action including hammers, bushings, etc. was completed. (many video segments)

But first, his “surface” exploration of the keyboard is worth viewing plus a squeaky note diagnostic and potential repair.

Hopefully, this opening footage will ignite interest in the whole video series which constitutes a primer of piano maintenance. It fleshes out the need to have well-trained, qualified technicians service pianos to their optimum performance level.

Graying Ivories saga:

Squeaky B annoyance!


Continue Part One and Two:

The Back Story:

6- part video, I meet my Blind Date Piano for Valentine’s Day!