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Trouble finding good pianos #2316693
08/17/14 07:29 PM
08/17/14 07:29 PM
Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 452
F
Francisco Scalco Offline OP
Full Member
Francisco Scalco  Offline OP
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Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 452
This is out of curiosity, for the performing pianists out there.
Is this an issue for you, where you live?
I already heard this was a real problem when I started performing more seriously, but this is becoming a very big issue: you spend countless hours on a repertoire, only to arrive in front of a horrible instrument, unable to do what you practiced. When the piano is not downright atrocious, it is not well maintained.
But I live in Brazil.
How is this issue where you live?

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Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: Francisco Scalco] #2316734
08/17/14 09:01 PM
08/17/14 09:01 PM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 2,090
TwoSnowflakes Offline
2000 Post Club Member
TwoSnowflakes  Offline
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Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 2,090
APP (Advanced Pianist Problems)

Anyhoo, no, not me. I don't have this problem personally, but I did have to deal with it this past week. My teacher was performing at a venue where they either put out the wrong piano or somehow horribly maintain their pianos. Three hours before performance, she comes to rehearse on it and it is unplayable.

The venue threw up its hands and said the best they could do at this point was get a stage keyboard hooked into the sound system.** Um. What? She was due to perform a Beethoven sonata, and then later accompany a voice performance.

So she calls her tuner/tech in a panic. He does not answer the phone and she leaves a message. She calls me (we have the same tuner/tech) at work hoping I have a super secret second phone number for him, which unfortunately I do not. I do, however, have the phone number of my old tuner, and I call him. And....he's also not picking up the phone.

In a total panic, I call the place where I bought my piano. I explain the problem. They had a tech standing in front of that piano, from way across town, in less than thirty minutes. No joke.

He did what he could, but there were other performers rehearsing at the same time so he had to squeeze the piano triage between other things. It was a total salvage operation.

I showed up later after work for dress rehearsal and turned pages on stage. In the recording I made the piano is noticeably but not horribly out of tune. It's got hammers like rocks however, and even sports a bit of a honky-tonk feel. Tragic. My poor teacher was really disconnected from the piano, and I could tell she was having trouble finding her way. Several fairly obvious errors on just the first page. She took through the first repeat to settle into it. I gave her the recording but I think she is going to hate hearing it. She played it the day before on my grand piano like a dream.

This is a concert grand Baldwin that, while not new, was not some kind of cruddy old antique, by appearances. It otherwise looked in normal working order. They keep it under strict lock and key in a huge cage backstage. I don't know why. Nobody is stealing that piano, nor is there very much else anybody could do to it to make it sound much worse.

**It's true that this was not billed as a piano recital (it was a ballet performance), but at the same time it was made clear to them that there would be a variety of performances, all classical, and that several of them would be with live acoustic piano, which required several phone calls back and forth to arrange. Why anybody would think someone would want a piano for a classical art performance, and yet not want this piano to be playable is kind of beyond me.

Last edited by TwoSnowflakes; 08/17/14 09:26 PM.
Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: Francisco Scalco] #2316739
08/17/14 09:27 PM
08/17/14 09:27 PM
Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 452
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Francisco Scalco Offline OP
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Francisco Scalco  Offline OP
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Joined: Sep 2012
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Wow, what a horrible story twosnowflakes! This is really disrespectful to pianists. The worst part is, most of the crowd thinks it's the pianists problem. They don't have the notion that the instrument heavily influences the performance. I heard stories of people quitting their musical careers because of such problems.
On the other side, Richter once said some of his best concerts were on uprights in russian small towns. This intrigues me. But Richter is known to be 'different' about pianos.

Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: TwoSnowflakes] #2316751
08/17/14 09:56 PM
08/17/14 09:56 PM
Joined: Aug 2013
Posts: 146
Lacey WA
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leel Offline
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leel  Offline
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Lacey WA
That was what is known as a piano-shaped object ha

Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: Francisco Scalco] #2316815
08/18/14 04:00 AM
08/18/14 04:00 AM
Joined: Jul 2013
Posts: 529
India
N
noobpianist90 Offline
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India
I remember reading somewhere that in baroque period, the performer would tune his own instrument since sometimes the harpsichord (for example), would go out of tune while performing and would need re-tuning to continue the concert. So why don't pianists learn to tune their own instruments? Is it a really difficult thing to learn how to do?

Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: noobpianist90] #2316817
08/18/14 04:14 AM
08/18/14 04:14 AM
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 1,075
New York
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trigalg693 Offline
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Originally Posted by noobpianist90
So why don't pianists learn to tune their own instruments? Is it a really difficult thing to learn how to do?


First of all a piano has way more strings to tune than a harpsichord. But more importantly, tuning is usually the least of the problems when it comes to subpar instruments.

Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: trigalg693] #2316821
08/18/14 04:37 AM
08/18/14 04:37 AM
Joined: Jul 2013
Posts: 529
India
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noobpianist90 Offline
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Joined: Jul 2013
Posts: 529
India
Originally Posted by trigalg693
Originally Posted by noobpianist90
So why don't pianists learn to tune their own instruments? Is it a really difficult thing to learn how to do?
First of all a piano has way more strings to tune than a harpsichord. But more importantly, tuning is usually the least of the problems when it comes to subpar instruments.
I see. I wouldn't really know about such things.

Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: noobpianist90] #2316890
08/18/14 09:45 AM
08/18/14 09:45 AM
Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 305
Texas
S
Steve Peterson Offline

Bronze Level Supporter until October 5 2014
Steve Peterson  Offline

Bronze Level Supporter until October 5 2014

S

Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 305
Texas
Originally Posted by noobpianist90
I remember reading somewhere that in baroque period, the performer would tune his own instrument since sometimes the harpsichord (for example), would go out of tune while performing and would need re-tuning to continue the concert. So why don't pianists learn to tune their own instruments? Is it a really difficult thing to learn how to do?


Tuning is not hard to do. Tuning well is quite another thing. I think we all have seen the impact of good and bad tuners on the sound of our pianos. Tuning a piano is not nearly as straightforward as most people would believe, and it can take years to get really good. I think most serious pianists would be well-advised to spend that time working on their piano playing.

And, as trigalg693 put it, being in tune is just one of the issues you'll deal with. If you really want to be able to survive without an available tech, then you need to learn how to regulate your action, voice the hammers, adjust the dampers, etc etc. No thank you!


Cello, Piano, Electric Bass

1967 Baldwin SD-10 | Kawai MP11
Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: Steve Peterson] #2316938
08/18/14 12:02 PM
08/18/14 12:02 PM
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 10,959
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bennevis Offline
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Back when I had just started work and living in the provided accommodation - basically a room - there was an ancient 6-foot grand in the communal lounge. As far as I could ascertain, nobody had played it for years, and it hadn't been tuned (much less regulated) for probably a few decades. There were two missing strings, presumably broken and then pulled off.

I bought myself a tuning fork A=440 and a tuning spanner (is that what it's called?) and set to work, tuning the strings myself into something passable. I soon discovered that if I tuned B flat=440, it would hold its tuning for longer, so I ended up playing a piano that was tuned at something closer to HIP pitch, before such a thing existed grin. No one taught me, and I didn't read up any books on it. Every week, I'd have to do some re-tuning of the most recalcitrant strings.

But it looked like a piano, sounded (almost) like a piano, and played (almost) like a piano, so for my purposes, it was a piano. I even played Beethoven and Mozart violin sonatas with a colleague who called himself a failed musician and realized (like me) that his métier lay elsewhere. Luckily, he too didn't have perfect pitch, though detuning his violin down a semitone made its strings a little lax.

That was a portent of what lay ahead for me in the coming decades - I kept the spanner in my bag containing the music scores and volumes that I played most often, and when I came across any piano, in any condition, that would sound almost like a piano after some tuning, I'd put in some elbow grease first, so that I could play it.

That spanner is still in my bag, though I no longer carry it around now that I have my own piano, and have taken to memorizing most of the music that I play.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: Steve Peterson] #2317020
08/18/14 04:21 PM
08/18/14 04:21 PM
Joined: Aug 2011
Posts: 5,566
Reseda, California
J
JohnSprung Offline
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Reseda, California
Originally Posted by Steve Peterson
Tuning is not hard to do. Tuning well is quite another thing. ... If you really want to be able to survive without an available tech, then you need to learn how to regulate your action, voice the hammers, adjust the dampers, etc etc.


Touching up the lost motion, letoff, and back checks can do a lot to help. Lost motion and letoff aren't all that hard to learn -- not as hard as tuning. It just takes a while to do 88 of them. Back checks are tricky, though. But none of this is stuff that *you* should be doing in the hours before a performance.


-- J.S.

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Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: trigalg693] #2317021
08/18/14 04:24 PM
08/18/14 04:24 PM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 2,090
TwoSnowflakes Offline
2000 Post Club Member
TwoSnowflakes  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 2,090
Originally Posted by trigalg693
Originally Posted by noobpianist90
So why don't pianists learn to tune their own instruments? Is it a really difficult thing to learn how to do?


First of all a piano has way more strings to tune than a harpsichord. But more importantly, tuning is usually the least of the problems when it comes to subpar instruments.


I'll confirm this! Once the tuner was done tuning the piano on stage, there was just SO much left to do. But they had passed the threshold of minimal playability, so he had to wrap it up and get on his way.

Last edited by TwoSnowflakes; 08/19/14 04:51 PM.
Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: leel] #2317032
08/18/14 04:54 PM
08/18/14 04:54 PM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 2,090
TwoSnowflakes Offline
2000 Post Club Member
TwoSnowflakes  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 2,090
Originally Posted by leel
That was what is known as a piano-shaped object ha


Haha. Yup, that's what it was.

Last edited by TwoSnowflakes; 08/19/14 04:50 PM.
Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: Francisco Scalco] #2317050
08/18/14 05:42 PM
08/18/14 05:42 PM
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 863
L
Louis Podesta Offline
500 Post Club Member
Louis Podesta  Offline
500 Post Club Member
L

Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 863
Originally Posted by Francisco Scalco
This is out of curiosity, for the performing pianists out there.
Is this an issue for you, where you live?
I already heard this was a real problem when I started performing more seriously, but this is becoming a very big issue: you spend countless hours on a repertoire, only to arrive in front of a horrible instrument, unable to do what you practiced. When the piano is not downright atrocious, it is not well maintained.
But I live in Brazil.
How is this issue where you live?

As I said in another post, do you think Eric Clapton just shows up and plays any old guitar they have at hand? He has an "Army" of guitar techs and sound people who test everything out not one, but two days ahead of time. Then, there is the sound check, the morning of the gig.

Anybody ever hear Ivan Moravec? Well, he don't take no junk off any promoter or concert booker.

Not only does he specify what he wants in an instrument, he also takes is own tools with him on tour, if some last minor adjustments need to be made.

So, my specific recommendation to you in Brazil is twofold:

First, you find the best piano tuner/technician you can find, and then you follow him/her around forever until you can learn enough basics to make the same kind of adjustments Ivan Moravec makes for EVERY SINGLE PERFORMANCE!!

Secondly, if you don't want to do that (and, I learned this from Moravec) then you pull the action from your piano, and have the host tuner pull the action from the piano you are going to play on (assuming same make and model).

Then, you insert your own action into the piano you will be performing on. If you can loosen and tighten five screws with a medium large screwdriver, then you can do this.

The bottom line is that Eddie Van Halen makes his own guitars. It is high time that pianists learn the basics about pianos in regards preparation for a performance.

If you will search the recent posts about Horowitz (on the Tuner Technicians Forum) regarding his personal Steinway technician, then you might be able to relate to the validity of what I am saying.

AND!! you will understand that many a famous concert pianist has experienced exactly what you have, including one named Beethoven.

Accordingly, at the end of his life, Brahms used to insist that his piano concertos be performed on Hamburg Steinways or Bosendorfers.

I hope this helps, and thanks for having the insight to broach the question.

Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: Louis Podesta] #2317097
08/18/14 08:15 PM
08/18/14 08:15 PM
Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 452
F
Francisco Scalco Offline OP
Full Member
Francisco Scalco  Offline OP
Full Member
F

Joined: Sep 2012
Posts: 452
Originally Posted by Louis Podesta
Originally Posted by Francisco Scalco
This is out of curiosity, for the performing pianists out there.
Is this an issue for you, where you live?
I already heard this was a real problem when I started performing more seriously, but this is becoming a very big issue: you spend countless hours on a repertoire, only to arrive in front of a horrible instrument, unable to do what you practiced. When the piano is not downright atrocious, it is not well maintained.
But I live in Brazil.
How is this issue where you live?

As I said in another post, do you think Eric Clapton just shows up and plays any old guitar they have at hand? He has an "Army" of guitar techs and sound people who test everything out not one, but two days ahead of time. Then, there is the sound check, the morning of the gig.

Anybody ever hear Ivan Moravec? Well, he don't take no junk off any promoter or concert booker.

Not only does he specify what he wants in an instrument, he also takes is own tools with him on tour, if some last minor adjustments need to be made.

So, my specific recommendation to you in Brazil is twofold:

First, you find the best piano tuner/technician you can find, and then you follow him/her around forever until you can learn enough basics to make the same kind of adjustments Ivan Moravec makes for EVERY SINGLE PERFORMANCE!!

Secondly, if you don't want to do that (and, I learned this from Moravec) then you pull the action from your piano, and have the host tuner pull the action from the piano you are going to play on (assuming same make and model).

Then, you insert your own action into the piano you will be performing on. If you can loosen and tighten five screws with a medium large screwdriver, then you can do this.

The bottom line is that Eddie Van Halen makes his own guitars. It is high time that pianists learn the basics about pianos in regards preparation for a performance.

If you will search the recent posts about Horowitz (on the Tuner Technicians Forum) regarding his personal Steinway technician, then you might be able to relate to the validity of what I am saying.

AND!! you will understand that many a famous concert pianist has experienced exactly what you have, including one named Beethoven.

Accordingly, at the end of his life, Brahms used to insist that his piano concertos be performed on Hamburg Steinways or Bosendorfers.

I hope this helps, and thanks for having the insight to broach the question.


Thank you for the detailed response! Yes, I already thought about your first option, having heard about Michelangeli's extensive knowledge of the piano as an instrument. That's what I'll end up doing I guess. If not to adjust it myself, at least to know what to complain about, instead of just saying it doesn't work. Thank you again for the recommendations.
I just hope the technician agrees laugh

Last edited by Francisco Scalco; 08/18/14 08:19 PM.
Re: Trouble finding good pianos [Re: Francisco Scalco] #2317367
08/19/14 02:19 PM
08/19/14 02:19 PM
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 863
L
Louis Podesta Offline
500 Post Club Member
Louis Podesta  Offline
500 Post Club Member
L

Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 863
Originally Posted by Francisco Scalco
Originally Posted by Louis Podesta
Originally Posted by Francisco Scalco
This is out of curiosity, for the performing pianists out there.
Is this an issue for you, where you live?
I already heard this was a real problem when I started performing more seriously, but this is becoming a very big issue: you spend countless hours on a repertoire, only to arrive in front of a horrible instrument, unable to do what you practiced. When the piano is not downright atrocious, it is not well maintained.
But I live in Brazil.
How is this issue where you live?

As I said in another post, do you think Eric Clapton just shows up and plays any old guitar they have at hand? He has an "Army" of guitar techs and sound people who test everything out not one, but two days ahead of time. Then, there is the sound check, the morning of the gig.

Anybody ever hear Ivan Moravec? Well, he don't take no junk off any promoter or concert booker.

Not only does he specify what he wants in an instrument, he also takes is own tools with him on tour, if some last minor adjustments need to be made.

So, my specific recommendation to you in Brazil is twofold:

First, you find the best piano tuner/technician you can find, and then you follow him/her around forever until you can learn enough basics to make the same kind of adjustments Ivan Moravec makes for EVERY SINGLE PERFORMANCE!!

Secondly, if you don't want to do that (and, I learned this from Moravec) then you pull the action from your piano, and have the host tuner pull the action from the piano you are going to play on (assuming same make and model).

Then, you insert your own action into the piano you will be performing on. If you can loosen and tighten five screws with a medium large screwdriver, then you can do this.

The bottom line is that Eddie Van Halen makes his own guitars. It is high time that pianists learn the basics about pianos in regards preparation for a performance.

If you will search the recent posts about Horowitz (on the Tuner Technicians Forum) regarding his personal Steinway technician, then you might be able to relate to the validity of what I am saying.

AND!! you will understand that many a famous concert pianist has experienced exactly what you have, including one named Beethoven.

Accordingly, at the end of his life, Brahms used to insist that his piano concertos be performed on Hamburg Steinways or Bosendorfers.

I hope this helps, and thanks for having the insight to broach the question.


Thank you for the detailed response! Yes, I already thought about your first option, having heard about Michelangeli's extensive knowledge of the piano as an instrument. That's what I'll end up doing I guess. If not to adjust it myself, at least to know what to complain about, instead of just saying it doesn't work. Thank you again for the recommendations.
I just hope the technician agrees laugh

Most high quality technician/tuners are not only flattered by the attention, they are also most eager to share their knowledge.

Congratulations, you are now well on your way to being a top flight pianist. The true test of any first rate intellect is to admit what you don't know, and then do something about it.


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