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Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity #2846600 05/08/19 10:31 PM
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Hello! I found this forum very helpful and your advice well-measured. I read through many threads on humidity but not all, so I am sorry if this a repeat. Today I had a technician come and assess my G2 Yamaha baby grand piano. I was hoping he’d tune it, of course, but upon inspection he said that my piano was untunable! He said the pin block wasn’t holding my treble clef pins very tightly and so he was reticent to tune the piano because it would very quickly slip out of tune. He left without tuning. He recommended the Dampp Chaser system and is a qualified installer and quoted me at $470 for installation of the system.

Does the Dampp Chaser system help “repair” the pin block? Or is it more helpful for the sound board? My technician said that he really believes and has seen ample evidence that installing such a system will make the piano tunable and fix the pin block/loose pin situation.
Should the technician have still tuned the piano nonetheless (which is what I had hoped) to maybe find a “baseline” for how quickly it might go out of tune with the current pin block situation?
Could I just use a room humidifier for a year and “see how things go” by measuring the room humidity changes with a hygrometer?
Will most technicians refuse to tune a piano if they find my pins are loose? I have an untrained ear and the piano doesn’t really sound out of tune to me, but... I assume I need it tuned! And of course the technician says it is out of tune.
And is the Dampp Chaser system really something that can REPAIR the problems on my piano or is it more of a preventive system?

For a little more context, we live in Colorado Springs, but the piano was made and refurbished in Japan, about 10 minutes from the ocean in a fairly humid location of northern Honshu island. The piano was refurbished and then immediately (well, 2-3 months on a boat) moved from Japan to Colorado (it was never played or “in place” in Japan at all after the refurbish). It is pretty dry here with the altitude. This is the first time the piano has been tuned; nine months from when I purchased it and it made the move overseas and was set up in my home. This is my first acoustic piano and I want to take care of it for years and years to come, but I worry if the humidifying system will fix the pin block problems. There are no cracks in any parts of the piano.

Thanks!

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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846626 05/09/19 12:12 AM
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Are you sure he said the pin block was broken ?The Damp-Chaser may help to control humidty ranges and help to keep the piano in tune but cannot mend a broken pin block.
Perhaps a technician will help.

Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846631 05/09/19 12:38 AM
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It makes sense to me - having mostly experience with acoustic guitars.
Holes in dry wood expand and shrink when more humidity.
So in principle it sounds correct to me.

But if Damp Chaser is better than a general room humidifier is another story.

This is one system I found on quick search
https://www.pianolifesaver.com/english

But the full piano will expand with more moist - so it has to be constant.

For acoustic guitars general recommendation by manufacturers is relative humidity between 45-55% and also seen 40-60%. At over 100% relative humidity for a given temperature you basically get water dropping. So it varies over temperature how much water air holds.

I've had constant reading on this over long periods through a weather station with satelites in cases and inside guitars as well as in room. And I found that 45-50% in room is not enough - it seems wood still loose some moist getting dry tendensies. So a little over in the room is my experience.

So absolute humidity and relative humidity - I think absolute humidity is more relevant since relative depend on temperature. How damp does an item become seems more to depend how much water is in the air each volume unit - rather than how much relative air can hold in that particular temperature given a percentage.

This is strictly my unprofessional opinion I must emphasize - but handling Martin/Taylor acoustic guitars in good condition over decades.

I would certainly learn everything about humidity and see how the system I choose works in terms of humidity - absolute or relative.

Here is a graf absolute humidity in centigrades each cubic meters how much water air holds
https://www.smhi.se/polopoly_fs/1.34697.1490012520!/image/absolutfukt-temp-mattnad.png_gen/derivatives/Original_1256px/image/absolutfukt-temp-mattnad.png

From common sense I feel the amount of water in air is more relevant - than relative humidity showing how large part of what air can hold at given temperature. It makes more sense to me.

So ask sales persons of systems how they reason and tell them to explain.

The market is flooded with relative humidity meters - and I am recalculating manually how much water is in the air - like from the graf linked to above.

Example

20-22 degrees centigrade is common room temperature.
That means air can hold about 20g water each cubic meter.
If relative humidity is 50% - this means air holds 10g each cubic meter.

But if temperature is 18 degrees centigrade it is max 17g/m3.
So to keep 10g/m3 in this temperature relative should show 59% on meters.

I find this works better than only go by relative humidity.


Kawai MP7SE - Hammond XK3c - Synthesizers
Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846638 05/09/19 01:01 AM
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...continued - please note

My guitars are mahogany and spruce mostly - and this works for them.
What wood piano mostly consist of matters.

A perfect humidifier system would have tables for each type of wood - and what humidity in air should be to keep wood constant in how damp it is. Or even sensors in wood in piano measuring how damp it is.

There is so much weight in wood in piano - and it takes much longer to adjust than a guitar. A piano is in the range 100 times more heavy.


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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846650 05/09/19 02:49 AM
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I suggest that you post would get more informed responses if it was in the tuner and technicians section here.

Ian


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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846670 05/09/19 05:36 AM
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Hello Natol,

The Dampp-chaser is a climate control system. This system will regulate the Rh (relative humidity) in and around the piano. Your technician feels that there is extreme dryness in the environment and it is the dryness that is causing the loose tuning pins. He feels that introducing moisture into your room will help the treble end of your block hold a bit better. This might be true, and without actually seeing and spending time with your piano, I could not verify this, but typically this would also mean that the strength of your pin block is not very robust to begin with.

My suggestion - purchase an inexpensive hygrometer like THIS ONE. . I have several of these and occasionally leave one at a customer's home so I know what type of issues they are dealing with. This one will display the current Rh, but also record the low and high of the Rh in your room. That fluctuation can also be a source of tuning instability. But this machine could help us verify if Rh is a factor. I think all homes with pianos should have one anyway.

Can you tell me how old the piano is and what exactly was done in it's "restoration"? Do you have a work summary of some kind? This will also help us help you.


Rich Galassini
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Phila, Pa.
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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Nip] #2846672 05/09/19 05:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Nip
From common sense I feel the amount of water in air is more relevant - than relative humidity showing how large part of what air can hold at given temperature. It makes more sense to me.

No, this is incorrect. It is the Relative Humidity (RH) that is important, as Rich Galassini says.

Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846675 05/09/19 05:52 AM
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Yes. FYI, Rich is a piano technician.

I also have some doubts with that story. Usually wood is dried to the extreme before procesing it, so it should all work even in dry conditions. But it might help to fix a bit worn-out block.

If you want to go for humidification, I would also consider whole-room humidifiers. They are cheaper than a damp-chaser and also treat your whole room/house instead of just the piano.

Finally, there are also other methods to fix slipping pins, for instance to use slightly bigger pins.


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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: David-G] #2846677 05/09/19 05:54 AM
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Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by Nip
From common sense I feel the amount of water in air is more relevant - than relative humidity showing how large part of what air can hold at given temperature. It makes more sense to me.

No, this is incorrect. It is the Relative Humidity (RH) that is important, as Rich Galassini says.



Nip - I am assuming that Natol's home is not fluctuating in temperature tremendously. The hygrometer I recommended will also measure that and that COULD be an issue. Rh does fluctuate along with temperature. However, most homes with humidity issues have a small fluctuation in temperature but are either consistently too dry, or have fluctuating Rh, both of which can cause piano issues.


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846683 05/09/19 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Natol

Could I just use a room humidifier for a year and “see how things go” by measuring the room humidity changes with a hygrometer?

You live in a good climate for either a room humidifier or a central humidifier assuming you have forced air heat. A central humidifier would make it more comfortable for humans as well as pianos. You could probably set it manually for 45% and forget about it. It doesn't often get really cold there, but if you notice any condensation you could turn it down for a few days. Or if the piano is in it's own room you could use a room humidifier but given how dry it is there, you will probably get tired of adding water.


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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: David-G] #2846689 05/09/19 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by Nip
From common sense I feel the amount of water in air is more relevant - than relative humidity showing how large part of what air can hold at given temperature. It makes more sense to me.

No, this is incorrect. It is the Relative Humidity (RH) that is important, as Rich Galassini says.



If the wood piano is made of has the same characteristics as air that is self evident.
I have found on my guitars at least - that is not so.

I had my Martin in 50% safe relative humidity and felt it was time for reset neck and sent to Martin Service center. They said it was on the virge of being dried out.

So I started to learn more about this - absolute and relative humidity.

Wood, each type, has it's own characteristics how much moist it absorb at different temperatures. These two - air and wood - most probably should be matched and a deviation curve be presented - that a really good humidifier can calculate and see how wood is doing. So humidity in the wood is constant.

If you mean not so - still - please explain how that is?
At least I tried to explain why I think relative humidity for air is not so sure to be relevant for wood.


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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Rich Galassini] #2846698 05/09/19 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini

Nip - I am assuming that Natol's home is not fluctuating in temperature tremendously. The hygrometer I recommended will also measure that and that COULD be an issue. Rh does fluctuate along with temperature. However, most homes with humidity issues have a small fluctuation in temperature but are either consistently too dry, or have fluctuating Rh, both of which can cause piano issues.


Just sharing this since I fooled myself thinking that the humidity in the air (RH) is that same as the instrument get and my guitars were safe

That's all.

From sept-even now may - I have in the morning about 18 centrigrade, and at end of day and evening 20-22 centrigrade. RH 45-50%. So I stay at having about RH 60% in guitar cases to be safe now - and they don't even need adjustment when I take them out.

Same RH in the wood all the time - means same expansion of wood all the time. Same RH as air all the time - could mean wood is moving more.

I summer RH is costantly around 65-70%, and temp maybe 22-27 over 24 hours. So use dehumidifier in cases then, a bit.

RH give a hint - but don't take the numbers too seriously - is my drift.


Kawai MP7SE - Hammond XK3c - Synthesizers
Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846713 05/09/19 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Natol
This is the first time the piano has been tuned; nine months from when I purchased it and it made the move overseas and was set up in my home.

Hi Natol, and welcome to Piano World!

The quote above is what bothers me the most about what the piano tech is telling you, that the only way to tune your piano is by selling you a damp-chaser system. If it hasn't been tuned in 9 months or so since you purchased, surely it has held a tuning for a while, perhaps? Did the piano tech use a special tool/torque wrench to check the tightness of the treble tuning pins? How long did he/she spend trying to tune the piano? Did he check the RH% in the room while he was there?

As the others have said, it is possible the wood tuning block could be so dried out the tuning pins have loosened a good bit. If it were me, I think I'd try another piano tuner in your area and get a second opinion, while monitoring the RH% in the room where the piano is located. It may be that the damp-chaser system, which the first tech conveniently sells, is the answer to your problem. Or, it might be possible you could purchase a lesser expensive, whole-room humidifier to help control the relative humidity surrounding the piano. It sounds to me that you don't need the heating part of the damp-chaser system, just the humidifying part.

Good luck and keep us informed!

Rick


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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846715 05/09/19 08:43 AM
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No we are concerned with just relative humidity. That's what hygrometers measure. Of course there is a relationship between temperature and RH. If you were to heat the room to a higher temperature you will find that the RH drops a little. We don't need to be concerned with that. Just looking at the hygrometer reading tells us all that we need to know.
As for your guitar. Sorry but there's simply no two ways about it. If your guitar was constructed at 50% RH then that's where it's happiest at although one shouldn't worry unduly if the RH varies by up to 10%. The danger isn't so much high RH but low RH readings. There's much greater chance of soundboard cracks happening if it drops too low, especially if it's for a long period of time. Guitar and violin makers use RH readings to construct their instruments in and not absolute humidity. Anyway your neck reset is very likely to be from string tension deforming the instrument and not for anything related to humidity. Over time guitars distort, bellying up behind the bridge and hollowing out in front of it.

Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846717 05/09/19 08:44 AM
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When I bought my first Grand, the technician recommended by the dealer rang me before he came to see the piano and said "It will need a DamppChaser". Which I believed, and paid, I think $1500 when he came to service it a few weeks later. It was when I went to trade up a few years later that I was told that he was a Tech (who had since ... left this earth) who had made a grab for money. And when it was traded, they didn't want to keep the DamppChaser on my old piano - but, seeing I had it, I got them to put it on my new piano, so I've still got it. Not sure if it does any good.

Not sure if this is the same sort of thing - but to have not attempted to tune sounds fishy to me. Is there another technician you could get for a 2nd opinion?


Alan from Queensland, Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert & Allen Organ (CF-17a)).
Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846868 05/09/19 05:55 PM
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We feel your pain...

Regarding your technician visit: you haven't described what was involved in the "inspection" that caused him to diagnose a loose pin block. If he is an experienced technician, AND he tuned a few (say 2 or 3) notes in the upper end of the piano, he could certainly have diagnosed loose tuning pins based on how they felt to him as well as how well the strings he test tuned stayed stable. Yes, a torque wrench would be more accurate, but a skilled craftsmen's hand should suffice.

+1 (maybe) for your technician

Installing Damp Chaser systems, now known as "Piano Life Saver" systems is a profit center for technicians. $470 for an installed system is, in my opinion, an entirely reasonable price. People here on PW have reported paying multiples of that amount.

+1 (maybe) for your technician. The fact that he was referring the install business "out" and not doing it himself could be a plus (yes, he might get a referral fee, but the basic price was reasonable). More importantly, would a Damp Chaser "fix" the problem of loose pins in the block? In my own, somewhat limited experience, I don't think so --- not in a grand piano. The system provides humidity by evaporation from wicks saturated in water in draped over a heated bar in a bucket which is usually mounted towards the tail (the part furthest from the keys) of a grand piano, underneath it. It's a LONG way to the pin block, though not so far on your G2 as on a larger grand. There have been scads of arguments here on PW over whether or not Damp Chasers work, so I'm not going to step into that swamp, other than to say I have them installed on my grand and my upright piano, and the tunings are more stable with them installed.

As to the refurbishing work in Japan, I think it matters whether or not the piano was being prepared for the export market, specifically to the USA, where we tend to have forced air heating and cooling systems, and the swings of relative humidity vary from what is common in Japan. If the piano was newly refurbished for our market, I am at least a little dubious that the pin block is not gripping the pins adequately.

WHAT TO DO NOW?

Were I in your situation, I would hire another technician and get a second opinion. If you have a university nearby, that might be a place to ask. Ditto if there is a concert venue, or even if any of your local churches have good pianos that are well maintained. And check references. Can't hurt.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846913 05/09/19 10:59 PM
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I have been on tours of the Bösendorfer factory outside of Vienna where I asked about damp chasers. More than one individual there said absolutely NEVER install one in your piano. Many technicians on this forum disagree with this.

Room humidifiers and a handy humidistat serve my piano's needs just fine.

As for your pinblock, it is too late for a damp chaser to do anything because it is already damaged. There is some type of chemical a technician can put in the pin block holes that can sometimes help the pins hold. Didn't your technician mention that? Did he just want to sell you a damp chaser? The pinblock can be replaced for a significant amount of money! If you are really interested in piano you may want to start looking for a replacement if that chemical doesn't help.

Good luck to you. Steve

Last edited by Lakeviewsteve; 05/09/19 11:02 PM.

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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846925 05/10/19 12:52 AM
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I concur with the 2nd opinion suggestion.
Also getting a hygrometer (I keep one on my piano and one in my bedroom).

I'm going to sidestep the argument on whether or not lifesavers are effective, but if your pin block is loose because of consistently low humidity, then any inexpensive humidifier increasing humidity in the room should improve the pin block's tightness. You'll want a hygrometer to know that the Rh is actually increasing.

I'm in the "whole house" camp. That will benefit not only your piano, but you, your family members, your furnture, your other piano, guitar, etc.

Along with the others, I'm curious to know how the technician measured or assessed the tightness of the pins. Checking them would look an awful lot like tuning the treble strings.




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P E R F O R M A N C E over p r o v e n a n c e

Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846929 05/10/19 01:34 AM
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My quick check for pinblock problems is whether there are a lot of really bad unisons, or any notes that are badly out of tune with the rest of the piano. Pins which slip tend to do so individually, or in groups in a certain area.

If not, even if some pins are very loose, I can usually get them to stay in tune for a reasonably long period of time.

Of course, the biggest indicator of pinblock problems is when I pull up a string, let go of the tuning hammer, and watch the handle go round!


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Re: Unable to tune piano, tech cites pinblock/humidity [Re: Natol] #2846993 05/10/19 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
My quick check for pinblock problems is whether there are a lot of really bad unisons, or any notes that are badly out of tune with the rest of the piano. Pins which slip tend to do so individually, or in groups in a certain area.

If not, even if some pins are very loose, I can usually get them to stay in tune for a reasonably long period of time.

Of course, the biggest indicator of pinblock problems is when I pull up a string, let go of the tuning hammer, and watch the handle go round!

I suppose this is why a lot of the old upright pianos sound like old saloon pianos; the tuning pins just don't hold like they used to. smile

I know what you mean about the tuning hammer moving on it's own BDB. I've had a couple of old upright pianos that did that and I've tuned a couple of pianos for others (for free) that had a few tuning pins that slipped that way. Yes, that's when you can say the tuning pins are too loose.

Some of the tuning pins on my older Kawai K48A upright seem a bit loose to me (easy to turn with the tuning hammer) but it still holds a tuning like a rock. It belonged to a piano teacher and was tuned regularly during its life. That's evidence that frequent tunings contribute to good tuning stability.

I'm still curious how and why the tech was so adamant and sure about the tuning pins being too loose to tune but a damp-chaser would fix the problem. Seems to me if that's the case, the piano is beyond the point of no return, or close.

I have used the CA glue method to help tighten up a loose pinblock. But if I had a nice piano I really liked that had tuning pins that were too loose, I believe I'd go with the larger size tuning pins first before other drastic and more expensive methods. But I'm no pro; just a dabbler.

A second opinion (and a humidistat and humidifier:-) do seem to be a good next move for the OP...

Rick



Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
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