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#2006172 - 12/29/12 07:27 PM Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ...  
Joined: Mar 2011
Posts: 251
PNO40 Offline
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A North Atlantic Island former...
It is a commonplace of piano wisdom that all new or rebuilt pianos must undergo a period of "settling-in" before they are properly "settled" or at home in their new environment.

However, it is rarely stated what precisely this "settling-in" consists in, or how long the "settling-in period" may be, with anything from a couple of months to a couple of years being bandied about as rough indicators of the period in question, and tuning (in)stability typically identified as the main (if not sole) issue involved.

As a result, I suspect that many piano owners have very different stories to tell of the "settling-in" of their pianos, and that a considerable number of these stories turn out to be "tales of the unexpected".

I am therefore interested in hearing any such "settling-in stories" as PW members may be willing to tell, and I suspect such stories may well be of interest and value to future PW members and piano owners curious to know what is in store for them and what may reasonable be expected as a legitimate "settling-in" issue as opposed to a problem to be genuinely concerned about.

To start the ball rolling, I thought I would list my own story of the first 5 months of my rebuilt piano (a 1932 Bluthner Model A upright). The list of "settling-in" problems runs as follows, from receipt of the piano in July 2012:

1. Severe tuning instability (5 tunings in 5 months (and it is still/again out of tune));
2. Two dampers falling off;
3. Music desk coming loose;
4. One non-damping note courtesy of a poorly-fitted damper felt;
5. Severe bass/tenor break;
6. Unpleasant metallic 'zinging' noises immediately after a (fourth) full tuning;
7. Squeaking keys;
8. Creaking dampers;
9. Loose hammers;
10. Warped damper back-slap rail;
11. Loose hammer-butt flanges;
12. Damaged hammer-head felt (x1).

Perhaps the worst thing is that I expect more to follow and the tonal problems of the piano identified early on have not only not been resolved but have gotten worse, but either way, and though I expect a good number of these issues are reasonable enough issues/problems to expect to occur over the course of few years with any piano, I am curious to hear other peoples tales, whether of woe or wonder, if only to have some kind of yardstick to compare with. More importantly, as "settling-in" is a category commonly used by dealers/sellers to respond to queries and/or complaints of recent buyers, it would be interesting to hear what most people think is an acceptable catalogue of "settling-in" 'events' in a short period such as 6 or 12 months.

With thanks in anticipation,

P.




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#2006183 - 12/29/12 07:43 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Wow, that sounds like a nightmare. I hope everything gets resolved.

All I can think of by way of comparison is the first Kawai I ever saw, back in 1969. I was in high school at the time and have no idea what model it was, but this brand-new piano was breaking several bass strings a week. I hope the dealer got it sorted out eventually.

#2006188 - 12/29/12 07:59 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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I am expecting my rebuilt 1939 Steinway S to return home on January 3rd. I am expecting that the hammers will need to play in, that there may be some voicing and tweaks to the regulation, and of course extra tunings as the strings stretch. I'll keep you posted on what happens!


Anne'sson
El Paso, TX
#2006189 - 12/29/12 08:02 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Bob Offline
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The tuning instability you are experiencing is partially due to newly replaced strings still stretching out and likely the "North Atlantic Island" environment you live in. A rebuilt piano needs about 7 tunings before the stretching of the strings slows down. The other issues really are not that unusual if there is a major change in environment. It sounds like your Island Paradise is a much different environment than the piano is used to. Wood will expand and contract with large changes in humidity which will loosen parts and glue joints. Humidity will change bearing on the sound board, and hardness of hammer felt, resulting in tonal changes. Over time, a piano will get used to large humidity changes, and become more stable, but in severe cases such as Island living - that could take years.


We moved 40 pianos from one music building to another, and it took 2-3 tunings over 6 months for the pianos to settle in and regain the prior stability. The move took place in August. There were no other issues out of the ordinary, but the environments were fairly similar. In fact, I was surprised the break in period was 6 months - I expected less.




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#2006193 - 12/29/12 08:10 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted by PNO40
It is a commonplace of piano wisdom that all new or rebuilt pianos must undergo a period of "settling-in" before they are properly "settled" or at home in their new environment.

However, it is rarely stated what precisely this "settling-in" consists in, or how long the "settling-in period" may be, with anything from a couple of months to a couple of years being bandied about as rough indicators of the period in question, and tuning (in)stability typically identified as the main (if not sole) issue involved.

As a result, I suspect that many piano owners have very different stories to tell of the "settling-in" of their pianos, and that a considerable number of these stories turn out to be "tales of the unexpected".

I am therefore interested in hearing any such "settling-in stories" as PW members may be willing to tell, and I suspect such stories may well be of interest and value to future PW members and piano owners curious to know what is in store for them and what may reasonable be expected as a legitimate "settling-in" issue as opposed to a problem to be genuinely concerned about.

To start the ball rolling, I thought I would list my own story of the first 5 months of my rebuilt piano (a 1932 Bluthner Model A upright). The list of "settling-in" problems runs as follows, from receipt of the piano in July 2012:

1. Severe tuning instability (5 tunings in 5 months (and it is still/again out of tune));
2. Two dampers falling off;
3. Music desk coming loose;
4. One non-damping note courtesy of a poorly-fitted damper felt;
5. Severe bass/tenor break;
6. Unpleasant metallic 'zinging' noises immediately after a (fourth) full tuning;
7. Squeaking keys;
8. Creaking dampers;
9. Loose hammers;
10. Warped damper back-slap rail;
11. Loose hammer-butt flanges;
12. Damaged hammer-head felt (x1).

Perhaps the worst thing is that I expect more to follow and the tonal problems of the piano identified early on have not only not been resolved but have gotten worse, but either way, and though I expect a good number of these issues are reasonable enough issues/problems to expect to occur over the course of few years with any piano, I am curious to hear other peoples tales, whether of woe or wonder, if only to have some kind of yardstick to compare with. More importantly, as "settling-in" is a category commonly used by dealers/sellers to respond to queries and/or complaints of recent buyers, it would be interesting to hear what most people think is an acceptable catalogue of "settling-in" 'events' in a short period such as 6 or 12 months.

With thanks in anticipation,

P.
Why do you think the above are settling in problems and not just problems caused by poor rebuilding?
When I think of the term "settling in" I definitely don't think of anything nearly as serious as any of the problems on your list. I would call almost all of the items on the list just problems with the piano that the rebuilder should fix.

Has the rebuilder taken care of any of those problems?

Where do you live and has there been any attempt to control the inside of the house humidity?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 12/29/12 08:20 PM.
#2006195 - 12/29/12 08:13 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Furtwangler Offline
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Yeah.

"Settling in"???


Sounds more like "Falling apart" to me.


#2006205 - 12/29/12 08:36 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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I agree with PLU. When I read that list of problems with a newly "rebuilt" piano, my thoughts turned to the "quality" of the rebuild. How extensive was the rebuild, or was it a rejuvenation project? That list is certainly not typical of simple "settling in."

Settling in is generally accomplished in a year or two. It is evidenced by tuning stability and the hammers being "played in."

Some refer to the first 2-3 weeks after delivery as settling in. I think of it as acclimatization. The piano is adjusting to new temp and RH.

Having had two pianos totally rebuilt - case, guts, & belly - I have never experienced anything other than a squeeky pedal and a loose bushing pin in a whippen.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#2006227 - 12/29/12 09:13 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by PNO40
It is a commonplace of piano wisdom that all new or rebuilt pianos must undergo a period of "settling-in" before they are properly "settled" or at home in their new environment.

However, it is rarely stated what precisely this "settling-in" consists in, or how long the "settling-in period" may be, with anything from a couple of months to a couple of years being bandied about as rough indicators of the period in question, and tuning (in)stability typically identified as the main (if not sole) issue involved.

As a result, I suspect that many piano owners have very different stories to tell of the "settling-in" of their pianos, and that a considerable number of these stories turn out to be "tales of the unexpected".

I am therefore interested in hearing any such "settling-in stories" as PW members may be willing to tell, and I suspect such stories may well be of interest and value to future PW members and piano owners curious to know what is in store for them and what may reasonable be expected as a legitimate "settling-in" issue as opposed to a problem to be genuinely concerned about.

To start the ball rolling, I thought I would list my own story of the first 5 months of my rebuilt piano (a 1932 Bluthner Model A upright). The list of "settling-in" problems runs as follows, from receipt of the piano in July 2012:

1. Severe tuning instability (5 tunings in 5 months (and it is still/again out of tune));
2. Two dampers falling off;
3. Music desk coming loose;
4. One non-damping note courtesy of a poorly-fitted damper felt;
5. Severe bass/tenor break;
6. Unpleasant metallic 'zinging' noises immediately after a (fourth) full tuning;
7. Squeaking keys;
8. Creaking dampers;
9. Loose hammers;
10. Warped damper back-slap rail;
11. Loose hammer-butt flanges;
12. Damaged hammer-head felt (x1).

Perhaps the worst thing is that I expect more to follow and the tonal problems of the piano identified early on have not only not been resolved but have gotten worse, but either way, and though I expect a good number of these issues are reasonable enough issues/problems to expect to occur over the course of few years with any piano, I am curious to hear other peoples tales, whether of woe or wonder, if only to have some kind of yardstick to compare with. More importantly, as "settling-in" is a category commonly used by dealers/sellers to respond to queries and/or complaints of recent buyers, it would be interesting to hear what most people think is an acceptable catalogue of "settling-in" 'events' in a short period such as 6 or 12 months.

With thanks in anticipation,

P.
Why do you think the above are settling in problems and not just problems caused by poor rebuilding?
When I think of the term "settling in" I definitely don't think of anything nearly as serious as any of the problems on your list. I would call almost all of the items on the list just problems with the piano that the rebuilder should fix.


I'm inclined to agree. My piano is over 100 years old, was purchased freshly rebuilt about 10-11 years ago, and it never had such extensive problems.

#2006262 - 12/29/12 10:42 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: pianoloverus]  
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DanS Offline
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Why do you think the above are settling in problems and not just problems caused by poor rebuilding?


Yeah, exactly. Those sound like some serious problems.

#2006265 - 12/29/12 10:52 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Jerry Groot RPT Offline
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Grand Rapids Michigan
Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
I agree with PLU. When I read that list of problems with a newly "rebuilt" piano, my thoughts turned to the "quality" of the rebuild. How extensive was the rebuild, or was it a rejuvenation project? That list is certainly not typical of simple "settling in."

Settling in is generally accomplished in a year or two. It is evidenced by tuning stability and the hammers being "played in."

Some refer to the first 2-3 weeks after delivery as settling in. I think of it as acclimatization. The piano is adjusting to new temp and RH.

Having had two pianos totally rebuilt - case, guts, & belly - I have never experienced anything other than a squeeky pedal and a loose bushing pin in a whippen.


I have to agree as well. A "properly rebuilt piano" should not have this many issues going on outside of tuning instability and perhaps some, settling of felts which is normal. I would contact another source, that one being, a good technician and don't go by price alone. Get a 2nd opinion in writing and present the findings back to the person who did the work on your piano and move forward from there.


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

We love to play BF2.
#2006654 - 12/30/12 06:21 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]  
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PNO40 Offline
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A North Atlantic Island former...
Thanks to all for the feedback and forgive my irony regarding the term "settling-in"--"falling apart" is what it actually feels like. I did, however, want to identify what generally counts as "settling-in" and your comments have all helped.

Regarding humidity fluctuations, I have two hygrometers, one of which records daily maxima and minima, and since I received the piano in July the all-time high recording (only once) was 71%RH and the absolute minimum (again only once) was 38%RH, the high being in early August and the low in late November. Daily fluctuations rarely vary by more than 3 or 4% in any 24 hour period, and the decline in RH from July-August has been steady: mid 60s in July and August, mid-50s in September and steady at the mid-40s through October, November and December. This seems to me a very modest and moderate fluctuation in RH (though I am open to correction on this) yet still wonder how much effect such (small?) swings might have on some of the above problems.

Oh, and just for your amusement, the right hand wooden column on the top panel/door decided today was the day to come loose: probably tomorrow it will decide to fall off entirely.

Wishing you all the best in the New Year!

P.

#2007258 - 12/31/12 11:13 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Do you know the history of this piano before the rebuild? I wonder if it got wet. Moisture damage to pianos can be hidden during the rebuild, only to manifest itself later with issues like you are having. I've seen bridge caps come loose, and veneer peel off, after the "rebuilt" piano is delivered to it's new home.

Also, what exactly has been replaced? The term "rebuilding" is used very loosely in this industry.

#2007342 - 01/01/13 06:56 AM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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I dealt with a Steinway "M" rebuilt by Steinway NY that I was ready to throw in the towel after two years of an overly tight pin block, tuning instability, and weird string zings coming and going. The owner, who had more patience than I did, said that he really likes the piano for the few days the tuning holds and suggested we give it a little more time. Within the next six months it 'settled in' to become the nicest "M" I've ever played.

Is it worth waiting 2 yrs for? Should we expect a quick turnaround time from our rebuilders?


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
#2008185 - 01/02/13 09:01 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Originally Posted by PNO40
Regarding humidity fluctuations, I have two hygrometers, one of which records daily maxima and minima, and since I received the piano in July the all-time high recording (only once) was 71%RH and the absolute minimum (again only once) was 38%RH,


Some pianos are bothered by humidity more than others. I've measured humidity from under 5% (the lowest the digital hygrometer goes) up to the high 70's. But my tuner talked me out of a damp chaser, because the Knabe seems to be handling it just fine. Given that your low is 38%, you might want to go with the dehumidification only version, which is much less expensive than the one that does both.

Mine was bought used as-is from a warehouse about 20 miles away, and in substantially the same climate. I had nearly no problems, it arrived in quite good tune, and has held very well since. Three tunings a year are plenty.


-- J.S.

[Linked Image] [Linked Image]

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690
#2008869 - 01/04/13 08:17 AM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: JohnSprung]  
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A North Atlantic Island former...
UPDATE: The Bothersome Bluthner is going back to the rebuilder's shop for a refund.

So thanks to all who have helped me out over recent weeks with diagnosing and suggesting remedies for the various problems it has thrown up.

Piano Hunt (Take 2) now begins ...

#2008927 - 01/04/13 11:52 AM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Good luck on piano hunt no. 2.


Anne'sson
El Paso, TX
#2008928 - 01/04/13 11:55 AM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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ando Offline
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I'm glad you were able to negotiate a refund. It's certainly a better outcome than the anguish that was likely to follow trying to sort out a dozen different issues - and probably never get to where you want it to be. Now you can start over and try to find a piano that responds exactly how you want it - right now! At least you now know what issues a piano can have and what to look for! Was the rebuilder difficult to persuade for the refund? Apologetic?

#2008986 - 01/04/13 03:36 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: Anne'sson]  
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PNO40 Offline
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A North Atlantic Island former...
Originally Posted by Anne'sson
Good luck on piano hunt no. 2.


Thanks Anne'sson. And wishing you all the best with your rebuilt Steinway.

#2008992 - 01/04/13 03:42 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: ando]  
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A North Atlantic Island former...
Originally Posted by ando
I'm glad you were able to negotiate a refund. It's certainly a better outcome than the anguish that was likely to follow trying to sort out a dozen different issues - and probably never get to where you want it to be. Now you can start over and try to find a piano that responds exactly how you want it - right now! At least you now know what issues a piano can have and what to look for! Was the rebuilder difficult to persuade for the refund? Apologetic?


I maintained goodwill with the rebuilder throughout, and that made matters much easier. It's not the ideal outcome for either of us, but it is the simplest and cleanest resolution. He still thinks the problems are on my end (environmental conditions), but no matter: my 'Bluethner Blues' will soon be over .. smile

#2009018 - 01/04/13 04:39 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Anne'sson Offline
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Thanks-- the Steinway's delivery has been delayed because of a snowstorm but I did get see and play it a bit when I settled the bill last week. I will be posting how it breaks in.


Anne'sson
El Paso, TX
#2009019 - 01/04/13 04:39 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Originally Posted by PNO40
my 'Bluethner Blues' will soon be over .. smile

Sounds like a good title for a new blues tune... smile

Glad you are on your way to getting things resolved and moving on.

Wishing you all the best in your new search for a fine piano (without all the unpleasant issues).

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
#2009121 - 01/04/13 08:42 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Originally Posted by PNO40


He still thinks the problems are on my end (environmental conditions), but no matter: my 'Bluethner Blues' will soon be over .. smile


Well, it's clear at some point the piano suffered at some point, or is suffering now, climate related issues. Good luck with the next one!

#2009327 - 01/05/13 09:14 AM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: Bob]  
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A North Atlantic Island former...
Originally Posted by Bob
Well, it's clear at some point the piano suffered at some point, or is suffering now, climate related issues. Good luck with the next one!


Thanks Bob. Though the rebuilder claimed that the piano is slowly drying out in my room, I find it hard to credit that a seasonal swing of c. 25%RH, from mid 60s in July to mid 40s in December could account for such an array of problems on its own. Or am I mistaken?

#2009328 - 01/05/13 09:17 AM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: Rickster]  
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A North Atlantic Island former...
Originally Posted by Rickster
Originally Posted by PNO40
my 'Bluethner Blues' will soon be over .. smile

Sounds like a good title for a new blues tune... smile

Glad you are on your way to getting things resolved and moving on.

Wishing you all the best in your new search for a fine piano (without all the unpleasant issues).

Rick


Thanks Rick. Judging by your Blueberry Hill rendition on your project, you could probably bang out a 'Bluethner Blues' ditty in a few minutes ... Here, let me get you started:

"Woke up this morning ... " smile

#2009406 - 01/05/13 12:37 PM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: PNO40]  
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Rickster Offline
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Originally Posted by PNO40
Thanks Rick. Judging by your Blueberry Hill rendition on your project, you could probably bang out a 'Bluethner Blues' ditty in a few minutes ... Here, let me get you started:

"Woke up this morning ... " smile

"Woke up this morning with music on my mind… My freshly rebuild Bluthner, well, I thought she was so fine. But when I sat down to play, you know I got a surprise… the awful things I heard brought tears to my eyes.

I got the Bluthner blues, baby; something just ain’t right.
I got the Bluthner blues, baby; somebody help me with my plight".

Of course, no offence to satisfied Bluthner owners… they are super-fine instruments (as a general rule smile ).

Disclaimer: this is all in jest. smile

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
#2013224 - 01/12/13 06:35 AM Re: Tales of the Unexpected: 'Settling-In' Stories ... [Re: Rickster]  
Joined: Mar 2011
Posts: 251
PNO40 Offline
Full Member
PNO40  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Mar 2011
Posts: 251
A North Atlantic Island former...
Originally Posted by Rickster
Originally Posted by PNO40
Thanks Rick. Judging by your Blueberry Hill rendition on your project, you could probably bang out a 'Bluethner Blues' ditty in a few minutes ... Here, let me get you started:

"Woke up this morning ... " smile

"Woke up this morning with music on my mind… My freshly rebuild Bluthner, well, I thought she was so fine. But when I sat down to play, you know I got a surprise… the awful things I heard brought tears to my eyes.

I got the Bluthner blues, baby; something just ain’t right.
I got the Bluthner blues, baby; somebody help me with my plight".

Of course, no offence to satisfied Bluthner owners… they are super-fine instruments (as a general rule smile ).

Disclaimer: this is all in jest. smile

Rick


Nice one Rick! When is the album (sorry, iTunes mp3 collection) coming out? wink


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