piano maintenance, piano repair, piano tuning, Registered piano technician

The mystery of NOTE CLICKING B is solved!

Here’s a snatch of the bug that invaded Steinway M (1917) as long desired, drought-relieving rains encapsulated the piano for days. (Were weather changes the cause of an uninvited guest seeking sanctuary between hammers, in finite action spaces?)

Israel Stein, RPT/EMT, in “high tech” detective mode, responded pronto, and tenaciously scoped out the uninvited nemesis. In a patient, painstaking pursuit, he triumphed, holding up the spoil of victory in full camera view!

My Prep for Israel: (earlier in the day)

My original video detailing the whole keyboard (every note) in anticipation of a big undertaking (action work, voicing, etc.) Israel imparted great advice along the way and repaired two split key-buttons that he discovered during his note-clicking search and destroy mission!


Taking the Noise out of my Pedal


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 press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, you tube.com, youtube.com

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

El Cerrito, El Cerrito piano studio, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Mark Schecter, piano maintenance, piano teacher, piano tuner, Registered piano technician, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten

Piano Technician Call Back: Please fix these notes! (Before and After Video)

Growing up in New York City, I had a memorable, rotund tuner named Buchbaum, who talked my ear off while tuning a Sohmer upright. Consequently, he left the piano with “beating” octaves, thirds, and sixths. In so may words, the piano not only took a beating, but it warbled all over the place, causing widespread distemper among illegally kept dogs in the Marble Hill Projects of the Bronx.

To add insult to injury, Buchbaum once refused to acknowledge a blatantly squeaky sustain pedal, so I would chase him down the hall three consecutive times until he fessed up to a mouse lurking. (He replaced a leather strip in the assembly to solve the problem)

Flash forward three plus decades to El Cerrito California, where my infamous blind date piano, a Baldwin Hamilton grand, 1929, needed “regulation”–that is, I wanted the note-to-note feel smoothed out a bit. And while the voicing pleased me, the far upper treble was a bit “glassy.” (The remaining ranges were quite pleasing)–On that note, make sure to tell a piano technician about your aesthetic preferences. Don’t assume that another individual’s ear buds match up with your own.

As most readers will recall, I selected the Hamilton (my fourth piano) based upon a telephone interview and follow-up eval by a long-distance technician. It was not the best way to choose a musical instrument, but from my perspective, I’d lucked out. The Baldwin-made offshoot produced a lovely tone and character, and in my humble opinion, it epitomized the Golden era of piano building.


In a six-part video series, I’d covered the Hamilton, beginning with its arrival in El Cerrito, California, culminating in a comprehensive on-camera assessment by Mark Schecter, Registered Piano Technician.

Cyber viewers were treated to a seminar on the the inner workings of a piano– how one part of hundreds if not thousands impacted another.

A real education!

After Mark tweaked the Hamilton hammer mechanism launching regulation efforts, he issued a disclaimer. He made it crystal clear that the piano needed a new set of hammers among other things. (He emphasized the interdependency of systems–comparing my piano to an “old car.”) He insisted that the relatively NEW dampers, needed REGULATION.

But I hadn’t the funds to invest in this 4th piano–and besides, I basically liked it the way it was!

For at least 7 to 8 hours, with a few extra few thrown in, Mark labored to smooth out note-to-note progressions as best he could.

The biggest improvement, however, registered as a voicing down of the glassy upper range which involved needling those hammer felts.

The unexpected turn of events!

Following Mark’s visit, to my astonishment, an over-sustain in at least three notes cropped up, not to mention an irksome, metallic-sounding A#, dead center keyboard that sent me into a tailspin!

My emails flew in all directions! And poor Mark weathered the storm.

In fact, every time I played Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, first movement, I’d get stuck in the tinny, abrasive note, causing my music to come to a grinding halt!

Likewise, when one of my students played Gillock’s “Clowns,” a piece permeated by staccato, some crucial notes would OVER-sustain and not produce a crisp and clear effect. A blur had set in.

Still another student couldn’t HOP through her Dozen A Day warm-up without a painful CLOD!

By ALL ACCOUNTS IT WAS TIME TO CALL THE TUNER BACK to repair these “NEWLY” found over-sustain notes, and metallic A#.



Mark listened to me and responded with a level head.

He agreed to come back and fix the problem notes to the best of his ability at no further charge.


In the Before Sequence of the video below, I identified the problem areas, and in the AFTER sequence, I demonstrated how Mark rose to the task, and made the repairs. (He did some complicated maneuvers that somehow eliminated the carry-over tones and purified them.) I kept him off camera, so he could focus intently on the adjustments.

For a flashback to his earlier assessment of the piano, I’ve provided a links to comprehensive tutorials he gave in my El Cerrito piano studio.

Meanwhile to honor the renaissance of this wondrous piano, my student, Fritz, 8 and I played “Circle Dance,” a musical testimony to life and its renewal. (in Canon)

THE HERO: Mark Schecter in action!


Post Script:

On the issue of tuning, I advise piano owners to test their instruments in consecutive 10ths, and 6ths, and finally octaves before a technician leaves. Just checking what are called “unisons,” notes that match up as the same by 8 notes, is not a guarantee that the piano is in tune.

When buying a piano, please detail it in Legato, and in staccato by half-steps– in soft and loud ranges. Look for over-sustain, or under-sustain; Identify notes that stick out as metallic next to those with a noticeable “wholeness.” Don’t rely on a technician, alone, to evaluate a piano, but bring a concert level pianist, or the equivalent along with you.

Regardless of whether you’re buying a used or new piano, this note-by-note evaluation applies. And don’t forget to check the pedals. (squeaks present? Lazy let up, etc.)

Make a list, and show it to the technician you hire to evaluate the piano. It certainly helps to cut to the chase, saving time, and often money.


My Baldwin Hamilton gets its first diagnostic and regulation


The Elements of Piano Regulation:


New Hammers for Baldwin Hamilton?


Do’s and Don’t for Piano Buyers and Sellers


Baldwin Artist grand piano, buying used piano, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, looking for a used piano, pianist, piano, piano blog, playing piano, Registered piano technician, selected a used piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, The Piano Book, word press, word press.com, Yamaha P-22

Piano Interviews by phone (Don’t copy me)

It’s a rainy day and I’m braced for a shower of criticism.

Just consider a few of my piano phone interviews in the private party marketplace.

I confess that on occasion, I’ve undermined my own staunch recommendations to prospective buyers as follows:

PLAY THE PIANO UNDER CONSIDERATION! IF YOU LIKE ITS TONE, TOUCH, TIMBRE, GET A REGISTERED PIANO TECHNICIAN TO EXAMINE THE ACTION including hammers, tuning pins, cast iron plate. Check for key response, repetitions, let-up/return etc. as well as moths, mice, and moisture. (Note the serial number and search for date of manufacture in the Pierce Piano Atlas)

Find out the tuning history. How many owners? Where stored? High humidity locale? If so, damp chasers installed? Frequent moves, when and where?

Best case scenario, have the piano teacher, or a local performing pianist play it, with an ear toward tone and projection.

Well, even if the piano is going for just $500, it’s worth effort compared to the stinging pain of buyer’s remorse.

So now that I’ve defined stringent requirements in making a peace of mind purchase, I’m going to shatter these in one fell swoop by sharing stories about pianos I never played in person but selected by phone with 5 of 5 turning out to be WINNERS. (one adventure, was a partial phone consultation followed by my on location review)

But first know that LOSERS can be easily identified by hallmark sounds at the end of the receiver: Broken glass, clanging tin cans, pebbles, or b-b gun puffs. By listening intently, you can save yourself miles of gasoline expense.

Now for some of the winners!

Yamaha M-500 console, housed in Merced. Owned by a school teacher. Advertised on Craig’s List. My 4-year old student-to-be had no piano and needed one a.s.a.p.

Her mom and I had conferred on 5 other used pianos posted on C.L. and I had little time amidst my busy schedule to trek out to Clovis, and farther, to check a bunch of them. But I’d managed to detail, in person, a Baldwin Acrosonic, a favorite make of mine. The “Cadillac” of small pianos, it had the wider case innovation to give a bigger tonal projection. The one up for sale, however, had issues related to poor maintenance that kept it out of the running.

The Merced piano on Craig’s List, on the other hand, had an appealing history. It dated to 2005, with hardly any playing. Buyer was under financial pressure to sell and my student’s parents were willing to make the hour-long drive, with my telephone assistance at the final destination. We would confer on the piano, note-to-note by cell.

Operation Piano Check proceeded smoothly.

Just a sidebar. Land lines are definitely better than cellular connections when performing these evaluations. The cells break up, making the instrument sound like it’s spitting anti-aircraft fire. You’ll never know what hit you.

Well, we did the best we could under the circumstances. Mom played each note starting from the very highest C, and trickled down in half steps to the lowest A.

Very nice resonance! No sticking notes. Smooth feel, nice voicing. No metallic sounds or broken glass.

What about the inside? “Take a look,” I advised.

The seller had already showcased the cast iron plate, tuning pins and hammers in her Craig’s List photo. The action was doubled by examination, as clean as a whistle.

Finally, I asked dad to check for deep grooves in the hammer felts.

Stupendo! Very light usage confirmed, barely detectable grooves.

Above all, the PRICE was right–less than $1500 out the door!

SALE FINAL! A nifty Russian mover hauled it down a tricky flight of stairs, loaded it on his truck and brought the lucky piano to its welcoming Fresno home.

A good, solid beginning piano for the child! And the tech who did the first tuning, loved it!


Story 2:

I came across a Baldwin French Provincial grand piano (1998 model) advertised in the Fresno Bee. It was housed at a horse ranch and required a 6 mile-trek to the location. But before I set out, I called the seller and asked for a piano-by-phone consult. She accommodated me.

In moments, I heard a sonorous instrument from top to bottom as the owner followed my instructions to a tee. The big unknown pertained to regulation and that required my in-person PLAYING assessment.

Here I am going over it:

To cut a long story short, the piano was a DREAM, was purchased by me, and made it to Fresno with some legal hassles, memorialized in a blog. Besides a blow-by-blow battle, the sale was eventually sealed.


Unfortunately, I sold this piano a few years ago to subsidize a used Camry. It was one of those car breakdown crises.

Story 3:

A Yamaha P-22 studio upright, appeared on Craig’s List, Modesto, Merced, Bay Area and elsewhere.

Since I knew the make and had some experience playing these, I was especially drawn to it. P-22’s are school variety pianos that absorb a lot of wear and tear but stay resilient.

In keeping with my phone preliminaries I called the buyer and asked for a few precious moments of his time. First I acquired the necessary ownership and maintenance history, serial number, etc. before I asked for a piano phone interview.

The owner complied. The preview yielded positive enough results to forward on to the prospective buyer, a dad of a beginning piano students. She was compromised a 61-key digital that sorely needed replacement.

As luck would have it, dad was on his way home from the Bay area and would pass through Paso Robles so he was happy to make a side trip to inspect the P-22, though he had absolutely no piano instruction.

It was still an easy ride, comparable to the excursion with Yamaha M-500 in Merced.

Without belaboring the story, the piano was purchased for $1100, a steal price and safely delivered to its new owner, an elated 9-year old.

Jeff Wood, Visalia piano tech, gave the baptismal tuning and praised the piano.

Story 4, in progress:

Should I admit that I’m awaiting delivery of a piano in El Cerrito that I selected following a phone interview? (with an able RPT piggy backing me! and a subsequent phone conference yielded meticulous details about the rebuild quality, plate, hammers, bushings, strings, regulation.. Again the price was RIGHT!)

I’ll keep this one a secret until it’s snugly placed in this awesome living room where I will be teaching next week.

Okay, here are two teaser pics.


Pianos that I’ve owned and reluctantly let go


Do’s and Don’ts for Piano Buyers and Sellers


"The Endangered Piano Technician" by James Boyk, arioso7, Dale Erwin, Dale Erwin Modesto California, Dale Erwin pianotechnician and rebuilder, James Boyk pianist, New York Steinway hammers, Ny Steinway vintage piano, piano, piano technician, Piano Technician's Guil, piano technician's guild, piano tuner, piano tuners, piano tuning, Piano World, pianoaddict.com, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld.com, PTG, Registered piano technician, Renner piano hammers, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Steinway piano factory in Long Island, Terry Barrett, Terry Barrett piano technician, voicing pianos, word press, wordpress.com

The voices of piano technicians around the country

I had the invaluable opportunity to interview various Registered Piano Technicians around the country about various aspects of their profession.

First, to become a RPT, the candidate takes an exam that’s administered through the Piano Technician’s Guild (PTG) which has branches in cities all over the country. Since piano tuning is not a licensed profession, PTG “has set up standards of quality workmanship and examinations to test for them.” These cover tuning, regulation and repairs, as well as basic knowledge of piano building and design.

The Guild has two types of members: “Registered Piano Technicians” and “Associates.” “Associate membership is open to anyone with a “professional or avocational interest in piano technology.”

RPT, Israel Stein, a tuner in the Bay area, is one of the PTG Examiners. He’d mentioned in passing, that a time factor is integrated into the tuning segment of the examination. I found this fascinating because some tuners will spend hours tuning a piano, while others might be in and out the door lickety split.

Off the top of my head, I can think of two tuners, both RPTs, who have contrasting tuning styles. One tunes by ear without electronics, and the other comes with a Verituner. The latter tuned a student’s Knabe medium size grand piano with the “machine” in 15 minutes flat, and left the piano “out of tune” when she left. I stood there, jaw dropped, observing the proceedings. Since I had helped the pupil acquire the piano which had not been tuned in approximately two years, I had a keen interest in the quality of follow-up maintenance. A big disappointment!

The machine-dependent tuner, by the way, didn’t play any harmonic intervals in the course of her tuning which surprised me. She calibrated the gizmo, or set the temperament and that was it. I was frankly appalled by the results.

The second tuner, Terry Barrett, who “tunes” by ear will spend hours with my Steinway grand, fussing over every interval, in 5ths, 6ths, 3rds, 10ths, you name it, and by the time he’s wrapped up the whole afternoon, the piano is in excellent “tune.” For repairs, I’m out of luck so my piano remains painfully unregulated.

Sight compromised, by the way, Barrett rides a bicycle to his appointments, bogged down by bags of tools that are carefully weight balanced over both back wheels.

This well-built RPT uses a powerful magnifying glass to inspect the intricacies of a piano’s complex assembly and in fact, solved the mystery of my Aeolian spinet’s date of manufacture using this very implement. SEE Blog: https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/a-table-style-piano-with-three-leaves-the-whole-story-in-lurid-detail/

I honed in with his digital cam, and photographed deep into the key bed to capture the “1936” engraving.

Terry is mum about machine vs. ear tuning, so I don’t engage him in any related discussions.

The Central Valley climate, by the way, is kind to pianos with its low humidity in the 40% to 55% or so range. So most pianos will have a decent life span if kept here and tuned every 6 months to a year. (that presupposes a set of strings that are viable; and hammers that have enough felt to give them a lease on life.) Technicians will also argue with reasonable assertion, that the piano, to stay maintained, should be voiced and regulated; checked for moths and mice critters that can attack at any time and eat their way through the action, and updated if parts of the hammer assembly need replacement.



Rick Clark, Piano Doctor/technician at Artistic Pianos in San Diego, says in this regard, “that just about everyone thinks their ancient upright is in good shape and ‘just needs a tuning.’ In fact, these pianos are for the most part highly deteriorated inside where it counts, and age alone takes a great toll on felt and leather.” Kick in the climate on the Eastern seaboard and you often get “rust and Stress Related Deformation to the wood.” He notes that plain old “wear and tear” on the piano from years of playing also “takes a toll”…In essence, most of these pianos are ready for the scrap heap.

But Clark posits a last ditch resuscitation with some reservation: “Sometimes you can improvise/patch up the worst problems and get all the keys to work, and some resemblance of a tuning, but if you’re looking at a total rebuild, “it may be too expensive to justify.”

I should add that rebuilding my 1940’s era, New York City based Sohmer upright was cost prohibitive. It had unsuccessfully braved East Coast weather changes/elements, and stood as a pretty piece of furniture taking up space in the living room. Recently, I mourned its death during my trip back home in upper Manhattan.

Back to “voices” of Registered Piano Technicians:

In this segment, I posed about 20 questions that were sent out and answered by email.

Dave Estey, an RPT working in New Jersey shared his thoughts on pertinent tuner related issues.(He’s a tuner/techician that also does restorations and rebuilds in his shop) http://www.esteypiano.com David Estey Piano Service

First, I asked him where he received his tuner/tech training?

“I apprenticed in a rebuilding shop under an old-timer for about 3 years. I learned the basics under my apprenticeship, but learned much more by hands on experience. This would be the case for all those in the business–you learn by doing and experiencing different problems–pianos–etc.”

My next inquiry focused on the use of machines to tune pianos, always a hotbed of discussion:

“Machines are OK–but also require experience to use. The Sanderson Accutuner is one I’m familiar with, as I own one–using it for training purposes. From my perspective, tuning by ear, the machines are awkward requiring way too much time to work with. If one learns to use them, learns to set them to each individual piano, they are good enough for Jonnie and Suzie taking lessons, but I would not send a tuner who used such a device to a client such as yourself.

“Bottom line, no one can be a decent tuner using a tuning device and not have the basics of aural tuning or a trained ear to some degree. Again, bottom line–the main ingredient to any accurate tuning is raw experience. In my first year of tuning (about 30 years ago) an old timer told me that I wouldn’t know what I was doing until I had tuned 1,000 pianos. I chuckled inside–saying “you gotta be kidding,” but the old guy was right.I don’t care what kind of device you use, including your bare ear–the extremes of bass and treble require practice and experience to be tuned correctly due to imperfections (wild strings) and tonal variations on any piano including a concert Steinway.”

Christopher Hill, concert piano technician, working in the New Jersey area, praised his Sanderson Accutuner:

“I resisted buying a Sanderson Accutuner for FIVE years as my friend/mentor pestered me. I had been tuning for 18 years at the time, and at the concert level. This machine is the best tool I have ever owned. And Yefim Bronfman and others in his business did not say a word when they saw me take it out of my tool case. Even the inventor, Dr. Sanderson, always said at conventions that you MUST use your ear. If it’s a crutch and not a tool you are in trouble. In the past ten days I have worked with Alfred Brendel and Andre LaPlante and neither asked me how I got the piano in tune. They smiled and thanked me, for which I am most grateful. I still thank my friend for his push eleven years ago. (and he has worked for more artists than I ever will….)”

My questions continued in the following order:

How do you think the Piano Technicians Guild can reach out to the community to inform piano owners about the need to regularly tune and maintain pianos?

“They have made great strides with the PTG website but have failed in this effort to put the interests of RPT’s first. This has hurt the organization. The PTG to date has not been working with this website in synergy as they could. PTG gives no preferential order to dealers and re-builders who are RPTs. They are in alphabetical order–so even though I support the Guild, pay for the web site with my dues, have meetings in my shop, I am lower on the list than those who do NOTHING to support the PTG. As a matter of fact, if you look at the piano dealer list, you will find the first listing bumps you off the PTG site to another listing of dealers who have NOTHING to do with the support or interests of the guild.

“I think PTG marketing has a long way to go–they need to encourage more to join as RPTs by making it a distinct BUSINESS advantage to do so. By doing the proper marketing–which would be the website–e.g. working closer with Pianoworld.com–and giving advantage to its members who pay for the site and support the guild–the revenues and marketing budget would increase thereby enabling the piano market to be better informed.”

How can PTG improve services to its members? (Was I being redundant?)

You have my rant about the website. I think PTG is overly paranoid about discussing the business end–pricing, etc. The average tuner in this area is charging about $100 to $110 per tuning, including RPTs. Call GE or Sears to come and fix your dryer–$149.95 to walk in the door and another $25 to turn a screw. Generally, RPTs are charging too little for their experience. Imagine spending decades to hone your skills and charging less than someone who fixes a dryer (no insult to the Maytag guys, but you get my point)

Since you are from New Jersey, I would imagine that the high humidity might require the use of damp chasers. Do you recommend them?

“We have had fantastic results with the pianos equipped with a Damp Chaser system. As a matter of fact, I like to put them in any piano I sell or rebuild. I highly recommend them.”

Finally, a question that was particularly dear to my heart, concerned the choice of hammers placed in a NYC vintage Steinway grand. When my instrument was finally re-built to recup its damages from an untimely assault by a piano technician, I was fussy about the type of hammers the re-builder would install. There was an issue related to employment of Steinway NY hammers vs. the German, brighter sounding Renners. My piano had the NY Steinway variety when it was originally purchased which preserved its singing tone. On the other hand some rebuilders wouldn’t think twice about installing the German Renners (used in the Hamburg grands) in a NY manufactured Steinway.

In the end, after sampling each, I had signed off on the NY variety.

Estey weighed in with his opinions:

“As a matter of fact we use Renner most of the time, unless the client insists on Steinway parts. (He acknowledged the use of Renners in the Hamburg Steinway, which for me has a bright and angular sound)

“The Steinway parts have generally required much more labor to install–I have found their pinning to be inconsistent–the hammers require considerable voicing, and their rep lever springs are just plain obsolete, in my opinion. With Renner rep levers you adjust by turning the screw that can be very exacting. Steinway rep lever springs must be manually adjusted which is a crazy waste of time in my book. Renner hammers (Blues) come out of the box consistent and requiring much less labor to voice properly. Steinway hammers need to be lacquered and romanced. We are capable of doing this work, but unless a customer insists on Steinway parts, I’ll choose Renner in a heartbeat.”

This is a sore point for me. As a performing pianist, in possession of a very tonally beautiful Steinway that now needs much work, I tend to lean toward putting the compatible NY Steinway hammers in my vintage treasure. When Dale Erwin of Modesto resurrected my piano from the dead in the early 90’s, he spent inordinate time “voicing” my piano with my constant feedback. Part of the process was letting me sample the tone produced by a Renner vs. NY Steinway hammer.

In my mind, short-cuts with Renner hammers, that produce more of a brassy sound that belongs to the Hamburg Steinway, or is the DNA of this European instrument should not be gene-cloned into the East Coast manufactured piano. I doubt the builders in the Long Island Factory in New York are putting the Renners in the crop of new and even vintage era pianos. It would make no sense, genetically.

Here’s what Dale Erwin had to say. (Erwin’s Piano Restoration, Inc) I give this shop ***** rating! The man saved my piano! And he viewed it as a singing tone instrument, plying and treating the hammers in such a way as to milk every note for its maximum cantabile effect.

My opener to the discussion:

“Dale, I remember when you rebuilt my Steinway that you let me sample the tone yielded by a Steinway vs. Renner hammer, and I readily chose the NY Steinway hammer that you then voiced and developed magnificently. I was curious as to whether in the long years of your Steinway restorations if you have come to a consensus about whether its best to use the NY Steinway hammers in the vintage instruments to get the Steinway sound? I’m also confused when I hear about re-builds where Renner actions are used in tandem with Steinway hammers. The Steinway factory seems to say that the Steinway pianos need Steinway hammers and other Steinway parts. They insist in the Concert and Artist Department that the Renner implanted hammers in Steinway pianos are changing the gender, so to speak, of Steinway pianos.

Dale: I agree. But the action parts and the hammers are two separate issues. Renner parts are fine parts but I dislike the hammers. The average consumer is overwhelmed by confusion in regard to this whole rebuild area. And I must say that I am compelled to do research and find vintage rebuilt Steinways that have only Steinway parts, en toto to compare with the Renner modified.

Me: The other thing I heard is that replacing soundboards by technicians is a major compromise.

Dale: “What a crock. Yes, it’s the marketing hype of Steinway and Sons. They’d have you believe that they have magic wood and they are the only artisan soundboard makers. Their soundboard-making method is archaic, antiquated, unreliable and outdated. If you ever hear my pianos you’ll know what they say is not true. I saw their Convention display of a Steinway A, 1900. The board was already collapsed even though just rebuilt. Horrible!

Me: When I read James Barron’s The Making of a Steinway Piano, I realized the arduous work that goes into tendering a soundboard, starting with trips to the forest in the Pacific Northwest–and that much of the purchased wood is tossed out with grain, moisture, and other problems…what about modifications to the lyre. Modifying a lyre does not sound right.

Dale: (side stepped my comments)

“So much rebuilding I see is garden variety commercial grade disappointments. Very little artisan quality work in the world.”

Me: I’m fortunate that my Steinway, “M” grand has the original soundboard with a patchable crack. While it needs a going over since its rebuild in the 90’s, it still sings and provides satisfying hours of playing.


To conclude this blog segment, that will be followed by more shared “voices” from the technician community, I’ve chosen a riveting quote of James Boyk, concert pianist, who wrote the “The Endangered Piano Technician,” published in Scientific American, 1995.

In the course of our e-mailed correspondence he questioned my intent in writing an article about the universe of tuner/technicians.

Boyk: “I admire you for all this. I would only suggest with respect to your undertaking, that you keep a focused idea of whom you’re trying to convince, and of what, precisely.

“A) if you convince everyone that they ought to engage top quality tuner/technicians, but such people don’t exist, it won’t change anything. Contrariwise, (B) if you inspire a thousand young people to become tuner/technicians–and even if they are in a position to devote years to training–and they were ready to embark on a career, they would have no work unless customers had been educated to want them–which is where I started this circular paragraph.

“Like all such ‘chicken and egg’ problems, this one is tough to crack.”