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#1808955 - 12/20/11 12:45 AM How often..  
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Emmery Offline
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..do any of the techs here service or tune the old square grands?

Any of you stay away from them completely because of the likelyhood of much going wrong in the process?


Piano Technician
George Brown College /85
Niagara Region
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#1809061 - 12/20/11 07:11 AM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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wayne walker Offline
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Originally Posted by Emmery
..do any of the techs here service or tune the old square grands?

Any of you stay away from them completely because of the likelyhood of much going wrong in the process?


In 30 years tuning pianos I have never tuned a square grand and I don't plan to tune a square. There was a story that all of the square grands were gathered up in a central location in Canada and burnt. Too bad some got missed.


Wayne Walker
Walker's Piano Service
http://www.walkerpiano.ca/
#1809071 - 12/20/11 08:04 AM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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I tuned one about 30 years ago. If I was asked to tune one now I would have to get the correct tip, but yeah, I'd tune it. I'd wear some kind of arm protection, though.


Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?
#1809096 - 12/20/11 09:28 AM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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rXd Offline
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Some of those old overbuilt squares are alright if they have no history of neglect.

I have a history of being up for anything interesting. The last time I was asked to tune a square, I declined.


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


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#1809113 - 12/20/11 10:32 AM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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I've only ever seen a few - in museums, historical stately homes, or - in one case, a customers house who was an avid collector of all things Victorian (& earlier).

I explained that if I were to start working on this piano, there was no telling where it would end!

ALL the parts were completely unique (& very brittle) the work could have gone on forever.

I politely declined.


John Schofield. NTC Dip. , C.G.L.I.
Professional piano tuner/technician since 1982.
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#1809118 - 12/20/11 10:43 AM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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I restrung one and replaced the hammers as well about 26 years ago. The hammers were a bit challenging.

I would say it was a real "learning experience." But, I'm still glad I did it. smile


Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.morethanpianos.com
(semi-retired)
#1809124 - 12/20/11 10:56 AM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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A year or two back I was in a large piano store that had a Knabe square grand for sale. The story is that the owner had the store re-build it. (I have a feeling it was sent to Poland for rebuild...) Then after a time the owner asked the store to sell it for him, for something like $30,000! It was beautiful to look at but difficult to listen to and ridiculous to play. I could not get ANY expression out of it. The action was so awkward and uneven. The store had been encouraging the owner to donate it to a museum or something because they could not sell it.


Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?
#1809160 - 12/20/11 12:04 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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I have the rare request to tune such instruments .... mainly if an artist is performing and wishes to be totally authentic with Early keyboard music. I can only do the best I can with the tuning as they are normally so false! I carry oblong tuning levers as a matter of course ... but thankfully rarely have to use them.

This surely begs a question though! If these early instruments were used as the norm by the past masters, how then, can people of today maintain that particular pieces of music should be played in a certain way .... as the master intended .... when the instruments were so bad by comparison to todays pianos ? I bet the musical greats of old would give their right hand to be able to play concert grands of today ... although perhaps playing one handed would be just as bad smile !!
LOL


Concert Tuner & Technician for the past 52 years in the United Kingdom
www.jphillipspianoservices.freeindex.co.uk : E-mail jophillips06@aol.com
#1809171 - 12/20/11 12:18 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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That is one of the things I wonder about some of the unequal temperaments that people tout. If the old instruments had such sloppy tuning, it seems much more likely that any given temperament was used because it was easy to tune, rather than for any musical reason.

I moved one once in a previous life, a job much more awkward than tuning, and I could not tune one once. As I recall, it had oblong pins, and I did not have the adapter with me.


Semipro Tech
#1809186 - 12/20/11 12:34 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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Of course, it's easier to remove the dampers to tune them. So, your ear has to filter out all the overtones resonating from the other strings.


Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.morethanpianos.com
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#1809192 - 12/20/11 12:43 PM Re: How often.. [Re: daniokeeper]  
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Hey Emmery,

Which old square grand? The smaller 7 leg versions such as the John Tallman square or the larger 4 legged square popular in North America?

Either way these instruments all suffer from diagonal distortion; do not attempt to pull one of them up to A440.When tuning these you are vulnerable to injury in the tuning arm from breaking wire.

I think Rick Davies(RPD) does restorative work on these. You might want to email him. If you need his direct email send me one and I will copy you to him...


Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
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"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
#1809238 - 12/20/11 02:03 PM Re: How often.. [Re: BDB]  
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Originally Posted by BDB
That is one of the things I wonder about some of the unequal temperaments that people tout. If the old instruments had such sloppy tuning, it seems much more likely that any given temperament was used because it was easy to tune, rather than for any musical reason.

I moved one once in a previous life, a job much more awkward than tuning, and I could not tune one once. As I recall, it had oblong pins, and I did not have the adapter with me.


And a heavily advertised UT is recommend for this same reason...


Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?
#1809444 - 12/20/11 06:13 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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Jerry Groot RPT Offline
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I get calls often to tune the old square grands. I have refused them all. My dad just told me never to accept tuning them because they are a PITA to tune and work on... So, I have always just said no. smile


Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.
#1809561 - 12/20/11 09:49 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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Emmery Offline
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I can easily agree with anyones point here. We have no-one who touches these here so I occasionally do it, (if it can be reasonably safely done) and charge appropriatly for the PITA factor. I rarely run into these here in my parts but two recently reared their heads at the same time. One I walked from after inspecting it, it was just too far gone.

The other one I did some some ivory work, West epoxied the soundboard in two places, filled a light crack on the bridge, prepped the string contact points with CLP, and returned the next morning to tune. Customer was happy even though its tuned a semitone low. I had to explain to him that what he thought was UT on it, was actually the tubby sounding iron wound strings. Customer plays ET music on it (like 99.9% of people out there)so it got an ET tuning. It had been re-pinned fairly decently maybe 40 years ago with modern pins and I am lucky to have big long gorilla arms to reach them comfortably. I wear my archers' arm guard on my tuning forearm. Took my time carefully tuning it and broke no strings. Heres a pic of it (Heintzman & Co. Toronto/ numbers indicate it was one of the last years they were making them).
[Linked Image]

I am thankful for Dan and several other techs input on these in some consultations I had. It is one of the benefits of keeping associations with like minded people who share their passion for breathing new life into pianos and are forthright in their opinions.




Piano Technician
George Brown College /85
Niagara Region
#1809594 - 12/20/11 10:41 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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Jerry Groot RPT Offline
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Well, good for you Emmery for being a person that does tune them. We need someone out there that is willing to do so. That way, some of them will get tuned anyway! Nice!


Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.
#1809650 - 12/20/11 11:50 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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Now if he only vacuumed them out... whome

#1809810 - 12/21/11 08:01 AM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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I was obliged to tune one from the late 1700's a couple of years ago for a lecture demonstration at a festival where I was the resident tuner. It took a harpsichord oblong T-hammer.
The lecture was about how serarated bass and treble dampers affected composition styles. (this piano had 2 sustain pedals, one for treble dampers and another for the bass. The break was between middle b and c).
This was common in grands of the day so this instrument was convenient for the demonstration because he could transport it in the back of a station waggon. Since the occasion was not about tuning or pitch I was asked to just make it sound reasonable, it never stays in tune anyway.

Always up for a challenge I tuned it as solidly as such a flimsy construction would allow. Did it stay in tune? .... No. ....the tuning started to disintegrate as soon as the lights hit it just as he said it would but the lecture was fascinating.

To shed light on an earlier question, The great masters probably never used these pianos unless there was nothing else. Squares coexisted along with the grand pianos of the day, rather like the uprights of today coexist with modern grands. The introduction of the superior upright (including the birdcage!!!!) was responsible for the gradual demise of the square.

We know that the really great greats, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, etc. were given the personal use of grand pianos by Broadwood, Pleyel, Stein, Érard, etc. who would compete for attention just like present day product placement.
The aristocracy and patrons for whom they worked had some of the most opulent grands by prominent makers but this is the subject of another thread.



Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


#1809813 - 12/21/11 08:18 AM Re: How often.. [Re: rXd]  
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Originally Posted by rxd
It took a harpsichord oblong T-hammer.

Why Your used such a hammer? If possible a link to the photo hammer. Sincerely,maxim_tuner

Last edited by Maximillyan; 12/21/11 08:18 AM.
#1809839 - 12/21/11 09:45 AM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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This is a harpsichord tool Max, because this very old piano had very lightweight harpsichord-like stringing. There was a previous thread about 12 months ago that had a picture.

Look in an online catalog of specialist harpsichord tools the handle is about 3" and the stem about 4" with an oblong stot, not square or starshaped. It is all metal and traditionally held delicately betrween the thumb and the litte finger at oposite ends of the crossbar. The tuning pins this tool is intended for are harpsichord size with oblong heads (basically like a piece ot stout wire with one end hammered flat) except the stem that goes into the pinblock is ever so slightly cone-shaped. If one was loose it could be used like hammer to very lightly tap the pin in. Hence the term tuning hammer still used even for the lever shaped ones that cannot be used as a hammer. (well, they can if you really really want to).

Thanks for the question.

I think that It was through the necessity to also learn harpsichord tuning as part of my first professional piano tuning job that I really learned the technique to set pins.
In a piano it takes greater strength or a lever but the levels of delicacy, control and feel are no different.


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


#1809848 - 12/21/11 10:20 AM Re: How often.. [Re: rXd]  
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Originally Posted by rxd
...If one was loose it could be used like hammer to very lightly tap the pin in. Hence the term tuning hammer still used even for the lever shaped ones that cannot be used as a hammer. (well, they can if you really really want to)...


I've always wondered why that term "hammer". Thanks for answering that.

#1809949 - 12/21/11 01:08 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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rXd Offline
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Another interesting thing about early tuning pins is that they had no becket holes. Instead, the wire had a 90 degree bent that was laid on the pin and the initial 10-12 coils were to hold the string tight to the pin. Then the pin was inserted and the remainder of the wire wound on. That's the original reason for the stylistic configuration of tuning pin coils on restored and reproduction early harpsichords some early pianos,


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


#1809959 - 12/21/11 01:22 PM Re: How often.. [Re: ChickGrand]  
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'Hammer'?

Not when you bring tools on a flight, folks! Always refer to the tuning tool as a 'tuning lever'. Trust me on this.

Square grands? Sure, I'll tune them, when called upon to do so, if the thing is in any kind of reasonable condition. And that is very very rarely. I'd say that out of 15 calls to tune square grands, only one of them is even capable of being tuned. If it is in all original condition, and has never been re-strung, chances are excellent that it can't be tuned. I've written more 'death certificates' for square grands than receipts for tuning them. I use an extension-hammer, remove the dampers (...usually a simple thing to do; one thumbscrew and they lift out easily), and tune away. Yes, I have long arms! I also concur with tuning below A-440. Generally at least 20-cents flat (roughly A-435), and if the piano is already horribly flat, I'll level it out with mebbe a 10-cent raise maximum. Mostly, the people just want it usable, which is all they can get from these creatures.

And that story about burning the squares? True. I think it was the 1905 American Piano Retailers convention. They asked their members to bring along any squares left in their inventory built a pyramid 50-feet tall, and burned them to the ground to signify the 'end' of the square grand. No great loss. I've seen some desks, some planters, and a bookshelf (turned on end, vertical) made from the excellent looking cabinets. The legs have also been turned into tables and lamps that are quite distinctive...they are out there!


Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com
#1809973 - 12/21/11 01:41 PM Re: How often.. [Re: TunerJeff]  
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Here! I went searching....
-Jeff

We are almost upon the anniversary of a unique American musical event. On the evening of May 24, 1904, piano dealers piled a heap of the older-style square grand pianos on an abandoned beach near Atlantic City, New Jersey and set them on fire. The Great Square Piano Bonfire, front page news in the New York Times and hundreds of other newspapers, had been seven months in the making.



Professor William E. Hettrick of Hofstra has written extensively about the event, and composer Wajid Yaseen contributes this pithy summary based on his work:

“. . . one of the most notorious incidents of wholesale destruction of musical instruments was the burning of a large number of old square pianos at Atlantic City [actually Chelsea Heights], New Jersey, on the evening of May 24, 1904. The event was entirely the creation of Harry Edward Freund, the editor of The Musical Age, a New York trade journal aimed chiefly at piano dealers and among the many concerns that Freund raised in his weekly periodical, was the claim that dealers were suffering losses by having to give trade-in allowances on their old, outmoded square pianos. His solution to the problem was to stage a public demonstration of the worthlessness of the squares in a way that would generate maximum publicity and his campaign began in The Musical Age on November 7, 1903, with his editorial “Burn the Old Squares at the Atlantic City Convention.” Freund made sure that the bonfire ceremony was described in detail, especially the point at which he set his torch to the pile of kerosene-soaked pianos, reported to number one thousand.”

Many piano dealers offered credit terms, another factor in the economic mix underlying the stunt ostensibly about obsolescence.

Those of us who live in homes of 1904ish vintage can understand the popularity of square grand pianos even after their manufacture ceased: they fit in modest parlors and leave room for sofas, settees, whatnots, and the odd aspidistra. The modern grand piano may be easier to tune and louder, but it is so, well, piano-shaped, and rooms are not.

So this holiday weekend, take a minute from commemorating our military heroes and remember this uniquely American musical event, the Great Square Grand Piano Bonfire.

Jerry Lee Lewis, eat your heart out.

For the complete story, see Hettrick, William. Harry Edward Freund’s Great Square – Piano Bonfire: A Tale Told in the Press, .Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society 30 (2004): 57-97,


Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com
#1809979 - 12/21/11 01:50 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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It had precedents. The French Conservatory burned most of their harpsichords at one time, which makes old French harpsichords precious and rare today, as during the French Revolution, harpsichords were confiscated and sent to the Conservatory.


Semipro Tech
#1810151 - 12/21/11 06:54 PM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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Ah yes, the PITA factor. I took on a few in my younger-and-dummer years. I learned quickly that many of the old wooden action parts could not hold a reliable glue repair. 'Came near to getting sued on one old nightmare, and decided that life was just too short.

I did have one dear old lady who had a sense of humor as large as her bank account, and I approximated some sort of tuning for her on her huge old four-legger for several years, but have done none of them since.


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----
#1810935 - 12/23/11 02:28 AM Re: How often.. [Re: rXd]  
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Originally Posted by rxd
If one was loose it could be used like hammer to very lightly tap the pin in. Hence the term tuning hammer still used even for the lever shaped ones that cannot be used as a hammer.Thanks for the question.

Dear rxd , I really grasped the concept for a "hammer", thank you for the clarification. In Russian, it sounds like a hammer. I was not clear why the key adjustment named if it's don't nailed. Now it is clear that, initially, for harpsicord it's literally acted as a tool for fixing damaged and needed fixing pins nailed it's, In Russian, the tuning hammer: "настроечный ключ"

Last edited by Maximillyan; 12/23/11 02:30 AM.
#1810993 - 12/23/11 07:36 AM Re: How often.. [Re: Emmery]  
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Nailed it!!


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.



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