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Repairing your piano...

Many common piano repairs can be done at the customer’s location and do not require moving the piano to a repair shop. Some repairs may require removal and transport of the piano action to the tuner/technician’s shop if more extensive work is required. Although there are many routine repairs performed on pianos, some of the more frequent customer complaints include:

  • Sticking keys – Whether the piano is new or old, sticking keys can result from a small objects falling into the piano, such as a pencils, hairpins, coins and crayons. Over the years, small objects can find their way into the piano’s moving parts and can substantially degrade performance. Such objects may even break action parts that may need to be replaced or repaired. Sometimes, a front rail key pin simply needs to be adjusted to “ease” a few keys. Humidity is another common factor that can affect keyboard performance. Many of the working parts in a piano are made up of wood and felt. Both are sensitive to changes in humidity. Some key problems will simply disappear and then reappear with the change of seasons. Be sure to point out these poorly performing keys to your piano tuner even if they are working properly on the day he arrives to tune your piano.

  • Sluggish or non-functional keys – Many factors can contribute to a degradation of keyboard performance aside from the need for regulation. Hammer butt springs can be dislodged, or broken. Jack springs can become weak with age, or missing altogether. Bushings at the hammer butt flange or jack flange can become too tight due to humidity and may require lubrication or re-pinning with smaller center pins. In older pianos, bridle straps may have become rotten and broken. Deteriorated flange bushings are another common problem in old pianos. Sometimes a center pin will slip partially out of place on a particular note causing improper tracking of the hammer as it strikes the string. A hammer shank that has become dry and brittle with age can break – no sound will be heard when the key is played. These are just a few of the more common problems that tuner/technicians see all the time, and most can be remedied quite easily.

  • Squeaks, buzzes, clanks, knocks and rattles – A squeaky note or several notes is not usually expensive to remedy. Oftentimes the problem can be traced to a contact point between a metal part and a leather or felt covered area in the action that has become dry or hardened. A little powdered graphite goes a long way in solving these troublesome squeaks. In old uprights, it is common to find hammer butt flanges that are broken, jack flanges that have detached from the wippen due to a weak glue joint, or loosecenter pins. Flange screws can also work loose. These problems can cause clanks, knocks, and key malfunction. A few rattles and knocks are often a quick repair, but if the action is noisy throughout, it may be an indication that the action should be removed and overhauled. Buzzing noises can be caused by loose cabinet parts, or small objects that have fallen behind the piano and are lodged against the soundboard. Other reasons for buzzing sounds include loose copper windings on bass strings, loose bridge pins, cracked soundboard, and strings that are not seated properly on the bridge.

  • Broken strings – Replacing one or two treble strings is a fairly inexpensive repair. Piano technicians usually carry rolls of piano wire in various gauges with them on service calls. However, piano tuners that do not routinely do repair work, may not have the necessary tools, wire, and training to properly replace a broken string. Tell the piano tuner ahead of time that a string needs replacing and ask if they do that kind of work. Replacing bass strings is more expensive because they have to be custom made-to-order for your particular piano and will require a follow-up service call. The old bass string must be removed from the piano and shipped to a piano parts supply house to be duplicated. The new bass string is then shipped back to the technician. A return visit to the customer location is required to install and tune the new string. Also be aware that there is a “hidden cost” associated with string replacement that most people don’t think about. New strings, bass or treble, will stretch and go flat in pitch quickly. Several follow-up visits may be required before the new stings “settle in”, so be prepared for at least a minimum service fee to have your piano technician stop by and touch up the tuning on the new strings.

  • Pedal not working – Most of the time, this is a simple and fast fix. Sometimes one of the push rods that transmit the downward motion of your foot on the pedal to the damper mechanism of the action has become dislodged, and simply has to be put back into position. It will only take your piano technician a couple of minutes to remove the kickboard of an upright piano, or crawl under a grand piano to reposition the push rod. There is usually no extra charge for this service. However, if a pushrod is missing, one will have to be special ordered, or fabricated by the technician requiring time and expense.

    Repairs to your piano should be done by a qualified piano tuner/technician. If you believe that your piano may be in need of repairs in addition to tuning, be sure to ask the tuner if he/she carries spare parts and if they are qualified to make repairs. Some piano tuners just tune and have not received training in repairing, adjusting, or voicing pianos. Most minor problems can be quickly and easily addressed as part of a routine tuning visit. Depending on the extent of what needs to be done, there may be an extra charge, but in many cases there will be no extra charge. Most minor repairs can be made at the customer location and will not require transporting the action to the tuner’s shop. However, if repairs are extensive and involve a lot of part replacement, the technician will typically remove the action from the piano and take it to his/her shop where the work can be done more accurately and efficiently. It is quite reasonable to ask for an estimate before proceeding with the repair. An experienced technician should be able to estimate the time involved before starting the repairs.

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