Piano moving

Quite often We are called upon to deliver a piano in NYC to a building without an elevator and up a difficult set of stairs. The best way to size up the situation is to bring a piano template (a cardboard cutout) and physically pass it through the the stairs. Most deliveries have no problems, just a lot of juggling and sweat. Then there are those jobs that are seemingly impossible to do yet we have to get the piano in somehow since hoisting in NYC is very expensive ($1500 and more).

What is not understood is how the pianos are moved up stairs. The shear weight of a piano (500 lbs +) makes it impossible to carry it through the stairs thus it has to be slid up on a piano skid. Sliding and sometimes tipping it on its end while lifting it around the turns is very tricky. It is virtually impossible to guarantee that a nick or some minor scuff wont happen.

Why do I write about this? I recently had a flashback to 1990 and what was seemingly a textbook delivery of a Yamaha upright in Brooklyn. I got a call from the building owner about damage to his steps. Needless to say I had to take a look at the damaged steps after the movers gave me their assurance that nothing was damaged. I arrived at the building and after meeting with the irate owner he then proceeded to show me the damage. I looked and looked unable to see anything but superficial nicks on the wood. With a flashlight he pointed at the tiniest scratches . Obviously this was an extreme case but the point is that no matter how carefully a piano is moved and covered there will be some wood to wood contact and chances are that something can happen with this kind of weight. Even shoes will scuff the steps to some degree. Maybe we have to call this “wear and tear” because remember: the piano moving equipment is meant to protect the piano, not the steps.
M.

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How Not to Store Your Piano

Recently we were called to move a piano for a client which had been placed in “storage” a few years ago. The piano in question was a large (7′) grand piano by a reputable Asian company. According to the customer it was stored in a garage behind a house in Queens, NY. Finding the piano under mountains of stuff and placing it on it’s side on hard rubber mats was only the beginning.

The unheated garage was very humid and damp. The movers had taken the top off and laid the piano on it’s side effectively putting all of the 800 lbs of weight on three tiny hinges and ripping the screws out of the body. After wrestling the piano onto the piano board and pushing it through the heavy snow we delivered the beast to it’s destination. But after putting it on its legs it was apparent that the action had suffered badly from the dampness. All the hammers were sluggish and not responsive. The damage was estimated at approximately $800-$1200 and possibly more with passage of time.

The moral of the story ?
You should store a piano, if possible, in a climate controlled warehouse, or at least lend the piano to someone who will have it tuned and cared for (our customer could not afford to store it anywhere). M

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The Demise of the Acoustic Piano?

As I strolled through the annual NAMM show in Annaheim, CA, visiting the various piano maker’s booths I was struck by the incredible volume of digital pianos this year. Some have the typical look of a digital while others are cleverly disguised as ordinary upright and baby grand pianos. Just a few years ago piano action mechanisms were made to simulate  “real pianos”. The results were not great, just adequate at best.

The action on some of the ones I tried at NAMM was  quite a revelation in just how far the manufacturers have advanced with digital piano technology. Now, I  know the purists out there are going to disagree with me on this, But I am also not suggesting that a digital piano can replace a properly regulated grand piano for the touch and feel at all . For example, a large part of our company’s business is renting/selling pianos to families who are starting their kids with piano lessons. Also, more and more baby boomers seem to want to play the piano again. The ability to plug in headphones and practice virtually any time has to be a good thing. Just think of an average Manhattan apartment crammed with family gear where every inch counts. We are called to tune and repair older upright pianos with actions that hardly function, tuning pins that are not holding the tuning and etc…you get the picture.

A digital piano that is touch sensitive is probably the way of the future whether we like it or not. M

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The Curious Case of a Grand Piano

My first real post is the story of a newly arrived soviet piano tuner and the curious case of a piano that he could not tune.

This story takes place some years ago and is absolutely true.

The day started pretty much like any other day, assigning the tuners with their daily assignment to go about New York City tuning various instruments. Sasha, the new guy, fresh from having played the Tuba at some Russian circus orchestra, was sent to tune a grand piano in Astoria, Queens. According to the customer the piano had not been tuned in a few years and was sounding a bit off. The customer asked me if the tuner was experienced with all kinds of pianos and I assured him that his grand would be no problem (or so I thought).

Sasha called me an hour later and with his somewhat limited vocabulary skills tried his best to explain why he could not tune the piano, he repeated “no pin, no pin” to me. Great, I thought, the guy has a Mason Hamlin “Screwstringer” grand a piano that had no tuning pins and needed a tiny little square wrench to tune it. I told him to leave and come back to the store.

Sasha got back and dragged me to the nearest grand piano, wildly gesticulating with the words “no pin, no pin” again, to which I thought, the poor guy, he had probably never seen the M&H Screwstringer behind the iron curtain.

I was dead wrong! Now that the story started to unfold,  it was becoming clear what the real problem was with the tuning pins .

It seems that the customer was a well to do concrete and cement contractor and he was also tired of paying the tuner to come twice a year at the tune of $80 (pardon the pun) to tune his piano. So he had come up with a brilliant plan a couple of years ago! Bring in the tuner and have him tune the piano for the last time. As the piano was being tuned, the customer’s men were hard at work in the backyard mixing the strongest batch of concrete (ahh this one is a classic). Apparently the men then poured and smoothed the concrete over the tuning pins thus preserving the A 440 pitch for generations to come. And like any decent contractor the job was finished  with matching gold paint like the rest of the piano harp. I did get a call from the gentleman in question a few days later inquiring when the tuner would come back. My reply: Is not really printable on a family forum.

The moral of the story: If you have a piano you should be able to pay for two tunings a year (nowadays $ 100-125 a pop).  M

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Hello Piano world!

This blog was established to share stories about pianos in New York City and elsewhere with links to them. Who are we? A full service Piano retail and service company in NYC dealing with all kinds of  pianos on the daily basis. We will strive to try to include humorous and sometimes incredible stories about Pianos and the world connected to them . If you have questions about a piano you are looking to buy/sell or have technical problems with, send us a question and we will  try to answer as best we can. M

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