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


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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

squeaky piano pedal repair

A Conversation about machine and ear tuning (and more) with Israel Stein, Registered Piano Technician

I couldn’t resist an opportunity to immerse myself in an engaging dialog with Israel Stein, RPT, as he was tuning my piano.


Regaled far and wide by a community of pianists and teachers as he amasses awards bestowed by his peers at the National Piano Technician’s Guild, Stein remains thoroughly dedicated to what seems like an ART form. If there’s a Zen-like approach to his work, it embodies a complete immersion in the wellness universe of pianos of all ages, shapes and sizes.

At my Berkeley, California flat yesterday, Israel perched himself at my Steinway M grand as he carefully staked out a two-fold approach to tuning it. First he took out his Reyburn CyberTuner for a complete ballpark assessment and pitch review of my 88’s before he meticulously advanced to the aural phase. (By ear)

Naturally with all the banter and controversy surrounding Machine vs. Ear tuning I was eager to pick this Master tuner/technician’s brains about how he effortlessly inhabits two universes without skipping a BEAT.

A four-part exchange followed with side bars exploring the world of modern-day piano antecedents; digitals and their culture, “paradigm,” etc; tuning/technician standards/exams and much more.




LINKS to Israel Stein blogs and an OVERVIEW OF HIS HONORS and AWARDS






PTG Hall of Fame
Piano Technicians Guild
July 2014

In recognition of continued service to the organizations in the areas of examinations, education and bylaws. Specifically: development and implementation of a training and certification process for technical examiners, development and implementation of more precise and objective scoring methods on technical exams, revisions of technical exam manuals and written exams, introduction of innovative hands-on instruction methods at PTG conventions and…more
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.

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Piano Repair: Taking the noise out of my pedal!


Israel Stein, Registered Piano Technician, whose feats of repair have earned him national recognition, descended upon my humble abode like the fix-it fairy, and banished my sustain pedal noise forever! (Count on it for the years remaining in my playing lifetime)

Trouble-shooting as he went along, Stein diagnosed the problem and followed through in graduated steps that are memorialized in this video.

Thanks, Israel for a job well done!

Now on to tuning the Steinway grand at the end of May!




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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

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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:


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Assessing a piano prior to purchase

This can be an iffy universe, depending on whom is hired to do the new or used piano evaluation. I had one negative experience, paying a tech who basically had a commercial tie to the seller, who was himself a technician buying and selling pianos. Nevertheless, I still embraced my “new” Baldwin Hamilton’s character and tone, though ideally, I would not have anticipated all the man-size work needed. (particularly the overhauled action recommendation, ex post facto) Now that alone would have run me 6 to 10K– an investment I would not undertake, given the $1495 I paid for the piano.

Words of warning

Some piano examiners might charge $500 to do what they advertise as a complete inspection, when in fact, it will likely fall short of a comprehensive screening due to time constraints. Okay, so “the hammers look great…they’re not deeply grooved,” while these are sitting on the front rail, causing all kinds of regulation problems. Or the bushings, old as the hills, are contributing to more problems not always picked up by the tech. He may not have looked carefully.

For instance, Mark Schecter, RPT talked about “bad actors” hiding in inconspicuous nooks and crannies of the piano. So it might take a whole day or more to find these, costing the consumer prohibitive dollars.

But I also believe that techs parceling out the inspection as a separate cost (often inflationary) and then deciding to do the billed work on the piano at a hefty charge, would likely be out of range for a used piano buyer.

One of the reasons I passed up the services of another tech, was because he wanted to charge me a significant amount to assess the Baldwin piano– All well and good for him and his business needs. But I wanted to cut to the chase and have the tech I engaged, begin the regulation process at whatever level he deemed appropriate, putting his work hours to good, practical use.

Another tech whom I ruled out, had an out-of-line estimate to regulate my piano. I promptly crossed him off my list!


I think the Caveat Emptor warning especially pertains to the “expert” you hire for a particular piano evaluation.

1) Seek a tech with good credentials and experience. I would start with the local symphony for a reference. Call other piano teachers who have fine pianos to maintain. Ask whom they use.

2) Make sure the tech is not affiliated in any way with a dealership (if you are checking out a brand new piano) Those that have dealer connections will get kickback commissions if they nudge a deal over the finish line. (By the same token piano teachers absorb these commissions so don’t ask your instructor to take the place of tech, though she can be of value in an evaluation of an instrument’s tone and timbre)

In the universe of used pianos, many are sold through dealerships, so be cautious!

3) Where piano appraisals are generated by techs for used instruments, BEWARE! I have seen too many inflated reports that fly in the face of truth while others produced from scanty exams, may undercut good pianos. So depending upon whom is paying the tech, his opinion might be swayed.

4) If you’re sending the tech out to evaluate and APPRAISE the prospective piano’s value, ask him about specific measuring criteria, and where he got his COMPS.

5) It’s a good idea to be present at a piano’s assessment, in order to ask pertinent questions and get immediate answers. (Make sure the tech is open about exchanging information. I have run into techs, particularly in situations where I am having work done on my piano, who are threatened by my inquiries, and want to make autonomous decisions about voicing my instrument) I dare a concert technician with this attitude to keep a job with a symphony where soloists come and go and have individual needs regarding the house instrument. Keep the lines of communication open and flowing. If this is not possible, hire another technician who can interact positively and be helpful. (Good chemistry definitely kicks in)

6) Don’t spend a huge chunk of money to evaluate a used piano that is being sold at a bargain price. Consider its resale value against what it might cost to “fix” the piano or rebuild the action.

7) Watch out for techs who basically pad the bill, and make up recommended repairs that are unnecessary, (just like car mechanics) thinking they’ll get the proposed overhaul work if you buy the piano. Many will push the refinishing end of things which will do absolutely nothing for improving the tone or playability of the instrument.

8) If the tech comes across as a money-generating machine, run in the other direction.

Sorry to be harsh, but I’ve had enough experiences with RPTS and Associates whose work was not top quality. And I had to go through an assortment until I found a capable technician who was not going to charge me five times the hourly rate of a piano teacher’s fees to look at a piano I was interested in.

Some techs recommend Larry Fine’s Piano Book, to get a sense of the marketplace of new and used pianos. The problem is, to be currently informed, you have to buy the “new” edition each year.

And then again, one may not agree with Fine’s assessment of particular piano models.