Help with old upright piano

General discussion about piano makes, problems with pianos, or just seeking advice.

Moderators: Feg, Gill the Piano, Melodytune

Post Reply
manuel.soruco
New Member
New Member
Posts: 1
Joined: 13 Jun 2016, 18:20

Help with old upright piano

Post by manuel.soruco » 13 Jun 2016, 18:31

DISCLAIMER: I´m not a piano tuner. I´m a soon to be piano owner looking for advice.

Greetings!
I´m having an issue with an old upright piano. It´s my mother´s but she could probably give me to me as a gift if I give it a good use. It just so happens that I´m getting more and more into film, games and theater scoring, and a real piano would be a huge advantage, especially having my own recording studio.
There´s one problem though... I live in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and the weather here is incredibly humid. Basically the years haven´t been kind to the piano, in fact the whole piano is tuned 1 semitone lower than the usual A440 to counter that.
The wood is kinda fragile and it has been tuned like that both as a safety measure so it won´t start breaking becouse of the tension, and also becouse some of the joints that hold the strings no longer hold that much tension and would detune faster.
It´s been like that my whole like. I played violin for 10 years as a kid and my mother would play with me on the piano, but she would have to transpose everything...
I´m a terrible piano planer, I´m just learning and having my virtual instruments composer setup with a keyboard in standard tuning and having a piano a semitone lower will screw up my perception of tonality and which notes are where in the keyboard, which I´m barely starting to lear.
Is there any way around this? Has anyone had a similar experience?
Maybe it´s a stupid idea, but would something like moving up all the strings so they can have a higher pitch without more tension work?
Any help will be apreciated, since that piano has had that problem for over 30 years and none of the tuners in Bolivia has been able to do anything about it.
Thanks in advance!

User avatar
Colin Nicholson
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1839
Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
Contact:

Re: Help with old upright piano

Post by Colin Nicholson » 14 Jun 2016, 09:11

As said at the signature of one of our members.... "it's not the piano that needs tuning, it's the customer"

Classic case of an old piano never tuned for donkey's years, then expected to be used for transcribing music alongside professional gear.

Here is the crux of the matter Manuel.... don't even think about trying to tune it to concert pitch - it will never happen.... time to move on. An old piano like that is best preserved at it's old pitch simply as a decorative piece of furniture, and ideal for the family kids to bash on just after your Sunday roast.

An old piano like that would probably never stay or settle in tune (may be a few days if lucky), and your tuning bills would out-weigh your mortgage or rent costs!! .... not economical.

If you require a "real piano" to use for professional use such as transposing, transcribing, recording etc.... you'll need to buy either a better acoustic piano or digital piano (Kawai or Yamaha range are good), and I use the Kawai ES7 for that.

Listen to all of your piano tuners - they know what they are talking about.... however, the best way to learn for yourself is to ask your most recent piano tuner to pitch raise it - this will involve about 2-3 visits, and take it from there..... if the tuning pins are loose however, they may just walk away, and word soon gets around about your piano - believe me.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a "free piano" (or a piano given to you as a gift - even by your loving Mum) .... you'll pay the price in the end. Your Mother isn't really doing you any favours, and once you accept the piano (and removal costs?) .... your pocket will run dry. Time to move on....

Hope that helps
Colin
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

vernon
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 1407
Joined: 12 Mar 2008, 10:29
Location: N.E.Scotland
Contact:

Re: Help with old upright piano

Post by vernon » 14 Jun 2016, 21:41

In old pedal organs you could raise the pitch by simply moving each reed up one socket.
If your piano is almost past it you could remove the keys and the frame that supports them. Saw off the approprite length at the the top,shed a key and move the whole lot up. If it'e a straightish strung there may be no prblems at the breaks. Never done it myself! Worth a look.
Our mission in life is to tune customers--not pianos.

Any fool can make a piano-- it needs a tuner to put the music in it

www.lochnesspianos.co.uk

User avatar
Colin Nicholson
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1839
Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
Contact:

Re: Help with old upright piano

Post by Colin Nicholson » 15 Jun 2016, 10:02

Heard of that method.... needs good carpentry skills & lots of measuring.

Another method (probably just as mad!/ piano couldn't be sold for money) .... would be to 'S' bend all the key capstan wires to the next note - losing top A85. Best if straight-strung and no breaks between keys. However only can be done if the capstans have longish wires - no good for rocker (German)/ sticker or small grub screw type capstans with hidden screws under a flap of felt. Might be issues with lost or positive motion, but you would pay a piano tuner to sort that bit out. A risk.... but if nothing else .... worth a bash.

Here is a quick drawing ......
Bendcapstanwires.jpg
Capstan wires
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

Post Reply