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#2105549 - 06/21/13 02:36 AM Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos  
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electone2007 Offline
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I'm a DIY tuner as there are no tuners in our area. However, there are a lot of upright pianos around here - in schools, churches, private homes - that have not been tuned in a long time. Most are 70 to 100 cents flat.

I am called to tune one of these pianos once in a while. I do realize the great shift in tension if I would pull them up to A=440. Most of these pianos have been locally made (brands are Trebel, Lyric, Weinstein. There is the occasional used Yamaha, Young Chang, Apollo, or Diapason that have been imported.

Now, on to my question: What should I look for so that I will know if it is safe to do pitch raise? How do I detect pin block separation, etc? Also, has anyone been seriously injured as a result of doing a pitch raise in a crappy piano?

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#2105554 - 06/21/13 03:27 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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Maximillyan Offline
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Originally Posted by electone2007
What should I look for so that I will know if it is safe to do pitch raise? How do I detect pin block separation, etc? Also, has anyone been seriously injured as a result of doing a pitch raise in a crappy piano?

If a pinblock is qualitative (new) then it can not injure from yours raising of a pitch. But if there it's have break of wooden layers that a your tuning will quickly lose stability. Also on the old piano will lost strong tight between a pin and hole of a pinblock. Therefore if a piano have the lower pitch , for example, A = 420, it will keep longer than piano where A = 440-445
In each case, you need to find sensible step for piano. If the client understands this, then you have to explain it to him why you need doing that so

#2105608 - 06/21/13 08:05 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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David Jenson Offline
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I've never heard of anyone being injured in a pitch raising process. If the client is warned that there might be some string breakage and that the work of raising the pitch takes a little longer and (should) cost more, I don't see any reason not to crank 'em up. The pianos were designed (or should have been designed) to be at A-440.


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
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#2105629 - 06/21/13 08:46 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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Loren D Offline
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Consider: new pianos in the factory go from 0 to 100% tension in a matter of minutes.

I check the condition of the tuning pins and strings for rust, and then have a look at the bridges to check for splitting, cracking, or loose bridge pins.

If all that checks out, I go for it. Those old uprights are tanks.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
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#2105631 - 06/21/13 08:52 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Loren D]  
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Maximillyan Offline
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Originally Posted by Loren D
hose old uprights are tanks.

is it shoot strings? laugh

#2105633 - 06/21/13 08:59 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Maximillyan]  
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Originally Posted by Maximillyan
Originally Posted by Loren D
hose old uprights are tanks.

is it shoot strings? laugh


Ha! I hope not!


DiGiorgi Piano Service
http://www.digiorgipiano.com
#2105641 - 06/21/13 09:09 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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Mark R. Offline
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Originally Posted by electone2007
What should I look for so that I will know if it is safe to do pitch raise? How do I detect pin block separation, etc?


Professional tuners will hopefully be able to add points to this list.

What I check for, before a pitch raise, is the following:
* indications of previously replaced strings
* plate cracks (an absolute no-go for me)
* tight plate screws
* rust on strings, bearing points and tuning pins
* bridges (serious cracks along the pin line, loose pins, condition of glue joint with apron/soundboard)
* as far as possible, indications of pinblock or back separation

I find the last point the most challenging one to determine definitively. I inspect the top and the back, but often they are covered by boards or felt. For what it's worth, I check whether the top of the action posts can be pulled from their bolts without undue force. If the action is seriously jammed-in by the bolts, I become cautious.

Again, the list is probably not exhaustive. I myself would appreciate if professionals could add to it.
[Edit: I see only now I've cross-posted with Loren, who's already given his check-points.]

Last edited by Mark R.; 06/21/13 09:14 AM. Reason: given in post

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#2105644 - 06/21/13 09:12 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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Silverwood Pianos Offline
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Originally Posted by electone2007

Now, on to my question: What should I look for so that I will know if it is safe to do pitch raise? How do I detect pin block separation, etc? Also, has anyone been seriously injured as a result of doing a pitch raise in a crappy piano?


There are several tell-tale signs of structural failure; one is the ¾ plate assembly and the tuning pins are pointing slightly down when you put the hammer on them. In the ¾ assembly the block is sitting on top of the plate, and could break away.

Another thing to look for is if the distance between the top of the block and the front edge of the side panel is less that the distance from the bottom of the block to the front edge of the same panel then you have trouble.

Another way is the action will not come out from under the threaded stems that bolt the action to the piano.

Tuning pins that spin back when you let go of the tuning hammer is another way to locate separations.

I would agree with the statement that new instruments go from 0 to 100 percent of tension in a matter of minutes. However new instruments do not have a century old framework, string work or sounding board/bridgework.


Dan Silverwood
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#2105651 - 06/21/13 09:26 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Mark R.]  
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Maximillyan Offline
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Originally Posted by Mark R.
Originally Posted by electone2007
What should I look for so that I will know if it is safe to do pitch raise? How do I detect pin block separation, etc?

If the action is seriously jammed-in by the bolts, I become cautious.

Thank, Mark R.I'm afraid that this remark does not fully apply to the abandonment of rasing of a pitch. However, I share your concerns about this. Do you think that the screws (jammed-in by the bolts) were it's much deformed moving a plate?

#2105658 - 06/21/13 09:40 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Silverwood Pianos]  
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Originally Posted by Silverwood Pianos


I would agree with the statement that new instruments go from 0 to 100 percent of tension in a matter of minutes. However new instruments do not have a century old framework, string work or sounding board/bridgework.


Absolutely fair point and observation. Definitely one needs to check for structural problems.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
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#2105666 - 06/21/13 10:01 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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electone2007 Offline
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Thank you, all, for the responses. I have learned a lot.

I am just worried that locally made pianos' plates would suddenly snap due to poor metallurgy.

#2105669 - 06/21/13 10:04 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Maximillyan]  
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Originally Posted by Maximillyan
Originally Posted by Mark R.
Originally Posted by electone2007
What should I look for so that I will know if it is safe to do pitch raise? How do I detect pin block separation, etc?

If the action is seriously jammed-in by the bolts, I become cautious.

Thank, Mark R.I'm afraid that this remark does not fully apply to the abandonment of rasing of a pitch.


I think it does. Dan Silverwood has confirmed the point (although he was referring primarily to ¾ plate pianos).

Originally Posted by Maximillyan
However, I share your concerns about this. Do you think that the screws (jammed-in by the bolts) were it's much deformed moving a plate?


The lower ends of the action posts stand on the keybed, and their upper ends are fixed to the bolts. Those bolts are seated in the pinblock. So, if the action is severely jammed, this tells me that the pinblock has moved forward, and downward, relative to the keybed. For me, this is a warning sign.


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1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.
#2105705 - 06/21/13 11:34 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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Silverwood Pianos Offline
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I should have added that full plates without bolting through to the back also can fail structurally.

I have come across many full plates not bolted through to the back that have separated.

Regarding plate fracture, this can happen if the plate has come forward un- diagnosed and is slightly bent over years of being that way. Tuning a piano in that condition will cause the plate to bend further forward and possibly cause a fracture.

Bolting the instrument back together can also cause the same problem if not completed correctly.

For the OP if you are not sure of an old instrument then bring it up half the distance first. See what happens over a couple of weeks. Then try the rest of the way up.

Just go slow and watch points.


Dan Silverwood
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#2105830 - 06/21/13 03:38 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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I have been hit in the face by a broken string! But it wasn't during a pitch raise, the piano/strings were just ancient.

On top of all the good points mentioned, make sure that you'll be able to tune the piano fairly often (every 3-6 months) until the piano is stable at the new pitch. Depending on the piano, it may be stable right away, or it may need a few tunings. Otherwise, you're just stressing the piano for no long-term results. Churches and schools especially tend to have unstable pianos because of how much they mess with the thermostat. You may not be able to do a pitch raise in some schools and churches. I tuned for one small church that simply didn't turn the heat on during the week. And the piano was over the heat vent. I can't say I was sorry when somebody donated a digital.


Piano Technician, 3 years experience

And why yes, I know I'm a girl!
#2105860 - 06/21/13 04:43 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Mark R.]  
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Originally Posted by Mark R.
Originally Posted by electone2007
What should I look for so that I will know if it is safe to do pitch raise? How do I detect pin block separation, etc?


Professional tuners will hopefully be able to add points to this list.

What I check for, before a pitch raise, is the following:
* indications of previously replaced strings
* plate cracks (an absolute no-go for me)
* tight plate screws
* rust on strings, bearing points and tuning pins
* bridges (serious cracks along the pin line, loose pins, condition of glue joint with apron/soundboard)
* as far as possible, indications of pinblock or back separation

I find the last point the most challenging one to determine definitively. I inspect the top and the back, but often they are covered by boards or felt. For what it's worth, I check whether the top of the action posts can be pulled from their bolts without undue force. If the action is seriously jammed-in by the bolts, I become cautious.

Again, the list is probably not exhaustive. I myself would appreciate if professionals could add to it.
[Edit: I see only now I've cross-posted with Loren, who's already given his check-points.]


A great list. Initially checked only older instruments prior to PR but eventually checked all: Once, at some point between factory and store, a new Baldwin Classic console suffered a broken bass bridge. Not a split along the pin-line, mind you. Looked like a train wreck. Don't presume warranty protection for client or tech. Manufacturers have been known to "disappear" and the warranty with them. Pays to be cautious...

Last edited by bkw58; 06/21/13 06:52 PM. Reason: clarity

Bob W.
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#2105913 - 06/21/13 06:49 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: bkw58]  
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I too look at the various things Dan and others mentioned on an old piano that needs a pitch raise. Additionaly I will check the levered bass bridge extentions integrity, split bridges especially at end points, downbearing in several spots and then stretch a string across the back of the soundboard. Most of the older Canadian uprights at the turn of the last century (Victorian era) were built massive in comparison to pianos that came later. On these I will pull a few of the upper treble strings to proper pitch and note if any break due to age/rust etc.. They are easy to replace and give a good indication of trouble in this regards without sacrificing the wound strings.

I just did an 90 y/o Willis (Alexander) that was 160 cents low which every other tuner always tuned to this pitch (where it was found). Tuned it to 50 cents flat on the first pass and broke 1 string in the treble. Did a second pass to A-440 (+2 cents). Came back a week later and it was a touch sharp of 440 and I just eased it right into perfect tune which it is now holding fine. The young pianist was starting to learn violin now and found it unbearable to be playing on a piano this much flat. Owner was aware of the slight risk but was going to ditch the piano if it couldn't be brought to pitch.

Last edited by Emmery; 06/21/13 06:57 PM.

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#2105931 - 06/21/13 07:27 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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I've been reading your responses. Thanks again.

#2105986 - 06/21/13 09:52 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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The only person who can be injured during a tuining is some spectator right at the back of the piano(an opened grand). When a bass string breaks, it could easily fly out the back and put someone's eye out!


Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2106006 - 06/21/13 11:15 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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Speaking of broken strings, do any of you wear safety glasses when putting in new strings? I think I'm going to start. After a couple of close calls with unruly piano wire it got me thinking.


Ryan G. Hassell
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#2106007 - 06/21/13 11:28 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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Use the safty glasses. Absolutely!


Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2106009 - 06/21/13 11:31 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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When restringing, you are often trying to do a fast job, and when uncoiling the steel strings, wire can sometimes be a bit unruly and smack you upside the face. Cover your eyes


Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2106012 - 06/21/13 11:39 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Ryan Hassell]  
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Originally Posted by Ryan Hassell
Speaking of broken strings, do any of you wear safety glasses when putting in new strings? I think I'm going to start. After a couple of close calls with unruly piano wire it got me thinking.


I wear them religiously when working with strings. It only takes a second to put them on but it would be a lot more inconvenient dealing with a custom fit glass eye.

I wear gloves when working with bass strings too.


Tuner-Technician


#2106047 - 06/22/13 01:28 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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The first time I replaced a broken treble string, I was handling a coil of string and the string seemed to have a mind of its own when it nearly hit me in the face.

#2106076 - 06/22/13 03:31 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Mark R.]  
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Originally Posted by Mark R.
Originally Posted by Maximillyan
Originally Posted by Mark R.
Originally Posted by electone2007
What should I look for so that I will know if it is safe to do pitch raise? How do I detect pin block separation, etc?

If the action is seriously jammed-in by the bolts, I become cautious.

Thank, Mark R.I'm afraid that this remark does not fully apply to the abandonment of rasing of a pitch.


I think it does. Dan Silverwood has confirmed the point (although he was referring primarily to ¾ plate pianos).

Originally Posted by Maximillyan
However, I share your concerns about this. Do you think that the screws (jammed-in by the bolts) were it's much deformed moving a plate?


The lower ends of the action posts stand on the keybed, and their upper ends are fixed to the bolts. Those bolts are seated in the pinblock. So, if the action is severely jammed, this tells me that the pinblock has moved forward, and downward, relative to the keybed. For me, this is a warning sign.

Thank,Mark R. For me, this is a warning sign, too now

#2106440 - 06/22/13 08:14 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: electone2007]  
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Hi electone,

A lot of the warning signs that people are listing generally occur mainly on old pianos. I would imagine most of those brands listed are recent, in the last half century at least. It's definitely important to give a thorough inspection, but in the vast majority of cases, a semitone pitch raise is absolutely fine.

I would think the main problem you will be faced with in your tropical environment is rust. Humid conditions can also cause bridge separations and other things, but rust is going to be the problem that can result in breakages.

A very important tip that has vastly reduced string breakages during pitch raises, is to start each string movement with a lowering of tension. So drop the string momentarily down another half semitone before pulling it up to pitch. This will release any rust attachments at the bearing points, thus allowing the string to freely move as you raise the pitch. It is generally this kind of attachment that causes strings to break, as the extra tension you put on the string cannot be distributed to the speaking length as the string is stuck on the pressure bar or the side of the tuning pin.

#2106449 - 06/22/13 09:06 PM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Phil D]  
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Thanks, Phil.

#2106564 - 06/23/13 04:23 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Emmery]  
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Maximillyan Offline
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Originally Posted by Emmery
Most of the older Canadian uprights at the turn of the last century (Victorian era) were built massive in comparison to pianos that came later.

Emmery,I've question.
Is Canadian piano built in this era really have still strong (massive) construction as a whole than a piano other countres ?
Is it possible to tuning a pinch painlessly A = 440?

Last edited by Maximillyan; 06/23/13 04:24 AM.
#2106599 - 06/23/13 07:02 AM Re: Safe pitch-raise on upright pianos [Re: Silverwood Pianos]  
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Originally Posted by Silverwood Pianos



I would agree with the statement that new instruments go from 0 to 100 percent of tension in a matter of minutes. However new instruments do not have a century old framework, string work or sounding board/bridgework.


Absolutely


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