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#2074814 - 05/01/13 07:59 AM A word to the wise  
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Loren D Online embarrased
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All of you who are tuning full time and doing a significant number of tunings per day, beware of repetitive stress injury! Take steps now before it's too late.

I've been tuning full time for around thirty years, and about a month ago I noticed my tuning hand giving me problems. After about the first or second tuning on a given day, the hand would start to ache and the "test blow" fingers would go numb at the fingertips. I'll be getting it checked out soon, but in the meantime I've cut back on the amount of tunings I'll do in a day.

Be careful.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
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#2074838 - 05/01/13 08:42 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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All the best for a speedy resolution to your problem.

For what it's worth, I have been concerned about hearing loss and repetative stress since I began tuning 14 years ago. I use an open double unison, slow pull, soft blow technique with no test blows. I have passed the RPT stability exam with no test blows and had my hearing tested 10 years ago and this year; no significant change.

I highly recommend a slow pull, soft blow, open double unison technique for increased stability, precision, quicker tuning time, and less strain on muscles and hearing.


Mark Cerisano, RPT, B.Sc.(Mech.Eng), Dip.Ed.(Music)
www.howtotunepianos.com
#2074866 - 05/01/13 09:32 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Originally Posted by Loren D
the hand would start to ache and the "test blow" fingers would go numb at the fingertips. I'll be getting it checked out soon, but in the meantime

Loren D,I wish you a speedy recovery.
Regards, maxim_tuner

#2074981 - 05/01/13 11:54 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Loren,

Consider having a competent chiropractor look at you as well as an MD. Over the years, I've had similar issues and the occasional chiropractic visit has helped me.

Best wishes smile
-Joe


Joe Gumbosky
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#2075010 - 05/01/13 12:55 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Agreed on the chirocraptic suggestion - it really helps to keep the spine aligned, it frees up the nerves and the muscles in the shoulder. Except I visit an osteopath - rougly the same idea but far more pragmatic in their approach, and usually a bit cheaper. They don't pretend to be able to cure all your problems, just the skeletomuscular!

#2075051 - 05/01/13 02:15 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Loren, best wishes for a full recovery.

Mark, I'd be interested to read what you mean by "open double unison". Could you elaborate? (PM by all means, if it's too far off-topic here.) Thanks!



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#2075148 - 05/01/13 04:50 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Mark R.]  
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Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. Weird, considering I was never a "pounder." I seldom got above mf, but I always used the same two fingers for unisons. Thirty years of it took a toll, I guess.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
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#2075205 - 05/01/13 06:31 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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I've been doing my tunings with both left and right hand the last few years just to spread out the stress and strain more evenly. This is good insurance against completely shutting down if you blow out a shoulder, get tennis elbow or something related. I'm very tall and there are some other issues related to this with tuning. 10 minutes of Tae Chi in the morning helps me prepare for the work really well also.


Piano Technician
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Niagara Region
#2075218 - 05/01/13 06:56 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Chiro can help to fix you (usually temporarily - that is why most people go back again and again), but if your habits persist, so will your injury. We all need to become aware of our bad working/posture habits and change them.

If you plan to attend the PTG convention in Chicago, check out the seminars on the Alexander Technique.

#2075270 - 05/01/13 08:42 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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I've used a key banger for unisons and test blows for many years. It's an old bass hammer glued to the end of a short dowel rod. Sometimes a change in tuning hammer helps. Mine have a ball end so I can change my wrist position. I use an extension hammer so I can vary the length to match the tightness of the pins.

At different times I've had shoulder, back, elbow, wrist, and finger pain, but none of it has lasted.

Loren, try changing your tuning hammer, and use a key banger for those test blows. Hope you heal fast. Make sure the arm rest in your car supports your arm as well. (that was an issue for me once)

Heal fast!

#2075275 - 05/01/13 09:02 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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I have been tuning even longer, but I found early-on that I had to vary my methods, trying to use the lever with both hands, so as to reduce the abuse. In addition, however, I had to start using some stretching techniques to eliminate tenderness in my forearms and wrists.

One that particularly helps me is to grasp two fingers with the opposing hand and stretch them gently backwards - any combination of two fingers, then the next, etc., then do the other hand. Another is to hold out one hand, relaxed with palm up. Grasp that hand and twist the wrist slightly in one direction and then slightly in the other, while keeping the hand/wrist which is being twisted in a relaxed state. Do the same switching to the other hand.

My theory is that it helps circulate synovial fluid and keep tendons and ligaments from deformation. (But, hey, I'm just a quack on this.) These things helped. They became and ongoing habit, possibly because these therapeutic moves feel good to me.

You are right to immediately pay attention to your symptoms, but I do believe that some adjustments to your technique which shift the stress to other fingers and to the other side of your body will do the trick. Older bones and joints just don't take the pounding the way they once could.

Reedoose the Abyoose.
wink
Spread the strain, reduce the pain.

Finally, Glucosamine/Chondroitin supposedly can really help finger joints and knees. My digestive system doesn't seem to like the pills, though.


Lavender Piano Services
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#2075282 - 05/01/13 09:23 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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Originally Posted by Mark Cerisano, RPT
I use an open double unison

Mark,

What do you mean by an open double unison?

Jim Ialeggio


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#2076069 - 05/02/13 05:38 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Loren, which hand/arm are you having trouble with? I've recently started having a little pain in my left arm and shoulder which is my key-striking arm. I think of the tuning hand as my right side - the lever arm. Don't most people have shoulder problems on the tuning-lever side?

I thought my pain was non-tuning related but maybe not.


Tuner-Technician


#2076088 - 05/02/13 06:26 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Jbyron]  
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Originally Posted by Jbyron
Loren, which hand/arm are you having trouble with? I've recently started having a little pain in my left arm and shoulder which is my key-striking arm. I think of the tuning hand as my right side - the lever arm. Don't most people have shoulder problems on the tuning-lever side?

I thought my pain was non-tuning related but maybe not.


The key striking arm and hand, particularly the hand and fingers. Think of the repetitive motion of striking the keys, especially if you do a lot of tunings in a given day. I'm hoping with some therapy and stretching, it improves!


DiGiorgi Piano Service
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#2076100 - 05/02/13 06:47 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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I've had some hand pain, and wondered whether it would get better simply by tuning aurally most of the time. For one thing, the machines enable us to do more tunings. I'm fairly confident that I would be doing less tuning without an ETD. I don't use it all the time, but enough. The other thing is that you end up striking single notes over and over. The hand is in basically the same position. Tuning aurally, you stretch out the hand to tune intervals. Just something to think about.


Roy Peters, RPT
Cincinnati, Ohio
www.cincypiano.com
#2076114 - 05/02/13 07:19 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: RoyP]  
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Originally Posted by RoyP
I've had some hand pain, and wondered whether it would get better simply by tuning aurally most of the time. For one thing, the machines enable us to do more tunings. I'm fairly confident that I would be doing less tuning without an ETD. I don't use it all the time, but enough. The other thing is that you end up striking single notes over and over. The hand is in basically the same position. Tuning aurally, you stretch out the hand to tune intervals. Just something to think about.


It's interesting that you said that, because what happened to me is just the opposite. An aural tuner all of my career, I now resort to using an ETD so I can tune using a hammer to strike the keys without playing intervals. Stretching my hand and actually using my fingers to play the keys really aggravates whatever's going on.


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#2076131 - 05/02/13 08:04 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Interesting. We must have pain in different places. It sounds like you are already using a striker. I've tried one, and we don't get along that well. My discomfort is more in the right shoulder, neck, and elbow. The left side is less bothersome, but there. The best prescription is probably to just stop tuning for a while. But that's tough to do.

Can we go on sabbatical?


Roy Peters, RPT
Cincinnati, Ohio
www.cincypiano.com
#2076147 - 05/02/13 08:25 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: RoyP]  
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Originally Posted by RoyP
Interesting. We must have pain in different places. It sounds like you are already using a striker. I've tried one, and we don't get along that well. My discomfort is more in the right shoulder, neck, and elbow. The left side is less bothersome, but there. The best prescription is probably to just stop tuning for a while. But that's tough to do.

Can we go on sabbatical?


Roy, if you haven't already, consult an osteopath or a chiropractor. They won't be able to stop the pain and discomfort permanently, but they work they do does wonders to relieve it. I think treatment once or twice a month is definitely worth it, and can prevent more serious damage over time. They can also give advice about exercises to strengthen the necessary muscles to support your shoulder.

#2076148 - 05/02/13 08:28 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: RoyP]  
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Loren D Online embarrased
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Originally Posted by RoyP
The best prescription is probably to just stop tuning for a while. But that's tough to do.

Can we go on sabbatical?


Works for me! smile


DiGiorgi Piano Service
http://www.digiorgipiano.com
#2076176 - 05/02/13 09:06 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Sabbatical? - The Dolge Mansion awaits your arrival.


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It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#2076227 - 05/02/13 10:06 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Phil D]  
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Originally Posted by Phil D
Roy, if you haven't already, consult an osteopath or a chiropractor.


Thanks Phil. I do go to a chiropractor once a month. I also see a massage therapist every other week. It definitely helps. But, it never really goes away, either.

Right now I have lots of shop work backed up, and will try to shift gears. I take care of two universities, and they are both out of classes after this week. So tuning obligations will lighten up. I will try to spend more time in the shop. I have thought about just not doing any tunings for a couple months. Somehow, that never works out. When I block off days, or even a week at a time, I don't stick to it and end up tuning half the time. It's just hard to say no.


Roy Peters, RPT
Cincinnati, Ohio
www.cincypiano.com
#2076348 - 05/03/13 12:07 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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There is a folk remedy for medical treatment of hand. Need to comb out the dog's wool and make of it's a woolen yarn. The yarn can not be washed. Then knit dog's wool stocking. To wearing this stocking on his injured hand at night.
Be all healthy

#2076368 - 05/03/13 12:47 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Because the symptoms only show in piano tuning doesn't necessarily mean that the condition was caused by piano tuning. Some of the symptoms described here can be the result of a whole range of bodily conditions that are not caused by the presenting symptoms.

It is important to get a thorough checkup.

It would help to demonstrate to a chiropractor, osteopath or Alexander teacher the postures we choose to adopt in tuning various pianos. They can help with minor changes (in foot position, for example). Standing at uprights without shoes can help as can something as simple as not putting a wallet in a back trouser pocket when sitting. SittIng on even the edge of a wallet for extended periods will distort the spine.


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.


#2076451 - 05/03/13 06:41 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: rXd]  
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Originally Posted by rxd
Because the symptoms only show in piano tuning doesn't necessarily mean that the condition was caused by piano tuning. Some of the symptoms described here can be the result of a whole range of bodily conditions that are not caused by the presenting symptoms. (cut)




Yes of course that could very well be true, but the condition definitely improves over the weekend when I'm not tuning. I usually take Fridays off, so by the time Sunday night rolls around, the hand is feeling pretty good. By about the second tuning on Monday, that's when it starts flaring up again. When it's at its worst, my middle fingertip feels numb even when just playing the piano. Anyway, I'm confident I'll get it improved and healed with the right course of action and treatment. smile

In the meantime though, I did want to make others in the trade aware and give them some food for thought, so they don't wind up in the same boat.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
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#2076463 - 05/03/13 07:55 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: rXd]  
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RoyP Offline
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Originally Posted by rxd
Standing at uprights without shoes can help as can something as simple as not putting a wallet in a back trouser pocket when sitting. Sitting on even the edge of a wallet for extended periods will distort the spine.


You're right. My chiropractor warned me about sitting on a wallet some years ago. I never keep a wallet in my back pocket now. It makes sense. You end up sitting crooked all the time, especially all those miles we drive in a car.


Roy Peters, RPT
Cincinnati, Ohio
www.cincypiano.com
#2076478 - 05/03/13 08:16 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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Loren,

Hope you get well soon. A couple of months ago I was experiencing debilitating pain in my right hand - the thumb tendon specifically. It was scary, and I had to stop tuning for several days. Tuning with both hands, taking Ibuprofen, stretching, and changing tuning techniques alleviated the problem. I also think a lot of the problem was my heavy wheeled toolcase which was like pulling a freight train - the wheels were too small and they wore out on NYC sidewalks, Now I have a lighter wheeled case with bigger wheels and I use my left hand much more to drag it around.

I learned how to tune left-handed three years ago and recently I have been tuning much more of the piano that way, not just the high treble. That has definitely helped. And, I recently started using the Charles Faulk key striker when I'm using an ETD:
http://www.faulkpiano.com/SpecialtyTools/ and I think it's amazing. Of course, when you tune aurally, it doesn't work. But you can use it when tuning outside strings of a unison, which adds up to a lot of strings. It also takes your stability to a new level. There's simply no way bare fingers can apply that much force to a key.

I also started using the Levitan C-shaped lever on a daily basis and that has been the true game changer. It has made a tremendous difference, especially on new pianos with tight tuning pins, using a completely different hand position and technique from the traditional lever. It does the work for you, and initial pin setting stability seems to be unmatched from using a traditional lever. I'll be writing more on that in the appropriate thread soon, after I've tuned 100 pianos with it.

When I studied piano at CalArts in the 80s I took a class in Alexander Technique and have applied those principles to my playing over the years with great success. rxd has a great point mentioning little things like sitting unevenly on a wallet. Alexander technique is all about nurturing that self-awareness - a reawakening of the kinetic sense of the human body to do what comes naturally for an infant. I never have pain from playing anymore, even if I'm woodshedding for 6 or 7 hours at a time. But this tech biz is a whole other thing - anything we can do to minimize impact, and distribute it more evenly, is essential. I don't think we realize the true extent of how hard this trade is on our bodies!


Keyboardist & Composer, Piano Technician
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#2076490 - 05/03/13 08:39 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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I thought that those impact levers did avoid any of those troubles.

Anyway, working is always a suffering for the body, I prefer to tune, repair and regulate pianos, it is quieter .

I hope you will be better and find ways that protect your body.

Btw a good chiropractor tunes your bone as we regulate a grand piano , point by point, ..very cool and really useful each ...month, 3 monthes, whatever.

Last edited by Olek; 05/03/13 10:51 AM.

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#2076495 - 05/03/13 08:43 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: James Carney]  
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Originally Posted by James Carney
I don't think we realize the true extent of how hard this trade is on our bodies!


And then, some of us DO !

Good ideas, James.


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#2076788 - 05/03/13 05:49 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Olek]  
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Originally Posted by Olek
I thought that those impact levers did avoid any of those troubles.



Isaac, it's the hand that plays the keys that is giving me trouble, not the one that manipulates the lever.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
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#2076790 - 05/03/13 05:52 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: James Carney]  
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Originally Posted by James Carney
Loren,

Hope you get well soon. A couple of months ago I was experiencing debilitating pain in my right hand - the thumb tendon specifically. It was scary, and I had to stop tuning for several days. Tuning with both hands, taking Ibuprofen, stretching, and changing tuning techniques alleviated the problem.

(cut)

I also started using the Levitan C-shaped lever on a daily basis and that has been the true game changer. It has made a tremendous difference, especially on new pianos with tight tuning pins, using a completely different hand position and technique from the traditional lever.


Thanks, James. Your comment on the Levitan C-lever is interesting. I thought that was for grand pianos only. Is it also usable on verticals?

On verticals I use a Cyberhammer, and I use a Fujan on grands.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
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#2076879 - 05/03/13 09:37 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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The Levitan C-lever is usable on verticals, and Dan actually demonstrates it in one of his videos. I believe he says that he uses it on all tunings.

That being said, the advantages of the C-lever seem like they would be lost on a vertical piano, and it seems to me it would be harder use it in a comfortable position. I almost bought the C-lever, but I got the Levitan classic instead since I do predominantly uprights in my service area.

Thanks for the thread, by the way - it's a good reminder to us younger technicians too!

Last edited by BenP; 05/03/13 09:39 PM.

Ben Patterson, RPT
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#2077030 - 05/04/13 07:18 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: BenP]  
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Originally Posted by BenP
The Levitan C-lever is usable on verticals, and Dan actually demonstrates it in one of his videos. I believe he says that he uses it on all tunings.

That being said, the advantages of the C-lever seem like they would be lost on a vertical piano, and it seems to me it would be harder use it in a comfortable position. I almost bought the C-lever, but I got the Levitan classic instead since I do predominantly uprights in my service area.

Thanks for the thread, by the way - it's a good reminder to us younger technicians too!


It works just as well on verticals as it does on grands, and I think the pin setting benefits apply equally to all pianos. Although, depending on the piano, I am sometimes holding it a little differently than Dan does in his demo video. I actually think it's easier to tune shorter and medium size consoles with the C-lever than a traditional lever, because it feels like there is less strain on your back. But I have yet to try it on a tall vertical like the Steingraeber 138 - in that case some of the tenor pins are positioned very high, and it may feel a little awkward. I will be tuning one of those soon and will report back.

It is also easier to switch tuning hands on a vertical using the C-lever than a trad lever, IMO.


Keyboardist & Composer, Piano Technician
www.jamescarney.net
http://jamescarneypianotuning.wordpress.com/
#2077039 - 05/04/13 07:57 AM Re: A word to the wise [Re: BenP]  
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Posts: 9,230
Olek Offline
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Olek  Offline
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Posts: 9,230
France
Originally Posted by BenP
The Levitan C-lever is usable on verticals, and Dan actually demonstrates it in one of his videos. I believe he says that he uses it on all tunings.

That being said, the advantages of the C-lever seem like they would be lost on a vertical piano, and it seems to me it would be harder use it in a comfortable position. I almost bought the C-lever, but I got the Levitan classic instead since I do predominantly uprights in my service area.

Thanks for the thread, by the way - it's a good reminder to us younger technicians too!


I was shown how to use the weight of my body in the lever , for uprights.

A slow pull is necessary then, but the stress is limited.

Raising the anckle also seem not natural, but allow to use the arm's weight, free the shoulder and keep the back more straight.
Keep the shoulders low in any case (mean "not raised")

The playing hand wear if you play non musically. Karate and too strong totally useless unless you have very poor give.


Professional of the profession.
Foo Foo specialist
I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#2077366 - 05/04/13 07:53 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: James Carney]  
Joined: Jan 2012
Posts: 184
BenP Offline
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BenP  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2012
Posts: 184
South Jersey
Originally Posted by James Carney
It works just as well on verticals as it does on grands, and I think the pin setting benefits apply equally to all pianos. Although, depending on the piano, I am sometimes holding it a little differently than Dan does in his demo video. I actually think it's easier to tune shorter and medium size consoles with the C-lever than a traditional lever, because it feels like there is less strain on your back. But I have yet to try it on a tall vertical like the Steingraeber 138 - in that case some of the tenor pins are positioned very high, and it may feel a little awkward. I will be tuning one of those soon and will report back.

It is also easier to switch tuning hands on a vertical using the C-lever than a trad lever, IMO.


Thanks for the info. I would very much like to try a C-lever on some verticals. I love Dan Levitan's tools (and his percussion compositions too!).


Ben Patterson, RPT
South Jersey Piano Service, LLC
www.sjpianoservice.com
#2090770 - 05/28/13 03:21 PM Re: A word to the wise [Re: Loren D]  
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daniokeeper Offline
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daniokeeper  Offline
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Posts: 1,412
PA
I've been thinking about this a bit more. We're all getting older, so you are right... this does concern all of us.

Have you also investigated nutritional help?

I mean the usual suspects... glucosamine, MSM, etc.

Though my health issues are different from your, I am recovering nicely from my heart problems last year... surprising well according to my MD.

One thing I do now is to add some whey protein powder to my diet every day to try to make sure my body has enough raw material to repair itself.

Though the following may seem really odd, I've been using something called Willard Water off and on for many years. I think is is making a difference. Your overall health will also influence your ability to recover from injury as well.

An old 60 Minutes broadcast about Willard Water:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpsBijaOouU


Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.morethanpianos.com
(semi-retired)
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