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The absolute worst piano #626719
02/13/09 06:13 AM
02/13/09 06:13 AM
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 88
Illinois
Magz Offline OP
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Magz  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2008
Posts: 88
Illinois
Hey everybody

Thanks for replying to my post about things we do for customers. Some of the stories I read led me to ponder another question. What, based on your experiences, is the absolute worst piano
you've ever worked on and why?

Now, no more bantering boyz. Let's all play nice.

Thanks

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Re: The absolute worst piano #626720
02/13/09 06:37 AM
02/13/09 06:37 AM
Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,598
Strong, Maine
David Jenson Offline
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Strong, Maine
Hmmm. 'Nice? How do I do that?

_____________

A nondescript square back in my young-and-stupid days comes to mind. 'Nearly got sued over that one.

Everything I touched on the thing broke. I quickly learned to refine disclaimers, and relegated square pianos to the "Do not service" list. 'Hate the things to this day!


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----
Re: The absolute worst piano #626721
02/13/09 08:35 AM
02/13/09 08:35 AM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,930
El Cajon, CA
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
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El Cajon, CA
Ok... I'd actually like to know what is / was the absolute WORST piano EVER produced... and I mean worst even when brand new AND fully prepped to its maximum potential (by prepped I mean same attention to detail that a 1A concert grand would get in preparation for a concert).

I'v heard / read various horror stories about several brands, but when I go and play some of those, they're not nearly as bad as I expect them to be. For example, the Kincaid spinets - while they don't have the quality of tone I'd be looking for in a piano, compared to some other spinets they're not nearly half bad to my ear. (Sure a Baldwin Acrosonic would beat them by a mile, but I've played worse - an older Cable spinet and Kimball (but not the Whitney - I've played a couple of those and expected much worse) spinet come to mind. Before I had ever played a Kincaid spinet, I had basically expected its tone to be so bad that by comparison, even with a well trained ear (which I'm still working on) a Baldwin Acrosonic spinet would sound just about as good as a Bosendorfer 290 grand.


So has there ever been any truly horrible piano, that no amount of prep or rebuilding, even if cost was no factor, would even make it come CLOSE to the next piano up the quality chain? Or has no one ever made a piano that had such scaling deficiencies as running plain trichords down to D2 (or wound bichords up past A4) on a spinet, putting the bass bridge on the WRONG side of the cutoff bar AND so close to the edge of the soundboard that the maker actually had to cut away the cabinet side (and/or bottom) to make it fit, having the backscale length so short that the extra wire from forming the hitch pin loop actually reached into the speaking length, having winding extending past the upper termination, an A0 speaking length under 24 inches (with all the bad scaling just previously described), an overall tone so bad as to make the next worst piano sound like a 9-foot Tier 1A piano, a horrible action that no amount of servicing or rebuilding could make it perform even close to the next worst piano..... and anything else that comes to mind..... as in so bad that even if you spent > US$500,000 (in 1933 $) JUST for the parts to fix the piano up, it still would be much worse than an acoustic piano that, if sold brand new in early 2008, would cost $100?

Has there ever been a piano that was so absolutely horrible.... that even before its production was finished (and somehow it still made it out to the marketplace) the makers (who themselves were the epitome (sp?) of carelessness in making piano-shaped objects) realized it was horrible even by their low standards and pulled it back? So bad that it makes their next worst spinet, by comparison, be worthy of comparison with Tier 1A concert grands?

Or is there actually a limit to how bad a piano can be? (I'm not talking about an older piano that's been neglected, I'm only talking about ones that were awful even when they were new.)


Associate Member - Piano Technicians Guild
1950 (#144211) Baldwin Hamilton
1956 (#167714) Baldwin Hamilton
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Re: The absolute worst piano #626722
02/13/09 08:46 AM
02/13/09 08:46 AM
Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,598
Strong, Maine
David Jenson Offline
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Strong, Maine
The Currier "Grand" spinets were pretty bad. They qualify in my book as a thoroughly unpleasant piano shaped object.


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
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Re: The absolute worst piano #626723
02/13/09 08:49 AM
02/13/09 08:49 AM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,930
El Cajon, CA
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
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El Cajon, CA
Currier? I thought the "grand" was made by Kincaid / Marantz? So Currier made those?
I should say, though, that I don't remember playing any Currier pianos. What was so bad about them?


Associate Member - Piano Technicians Guild
1950 (#144211) Baldwin Hamilton
1956 (#167714) Baldwin Hamilton
You can right-click my avatar for an option to view a larger version.
Re: The absolute worst piano #626724
02/13/09 08:51 AM
02/13/09 08:51 AM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 283
Grimsby ON Canada
Thomson Lawrie Offline
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Grimsby ON Canada
Quote
Or is there actually a limit to how bad a piano can be? (I'm not talking about an older piano that's been neglected, I'm only talking about ones that were awful even when they were new.)
No there is no limit to how bad they can be. My vote for the worst piano ever made would be Lindner, Owned by the dutch company Rippen. They were made in northern Ireland. The keys were solid plastic and instead of flanges they had flexible plastic that the hammer butts pivoted on. Once the plastic broke that was it. I've only seen one. That was enough.

The second worst piano I ever saw was a piano that was smuggled out of the old Soviet Union, couldn't tell you the name because it was in their crazy Russian alphabet.

Not to be out done our own Canadian Mason & Risch "Century II" gets honorable mention. It was produced under the loving care of the Aeolian corporation and they really outdid themselves with this one. They were some times dubbed Mason & Risk for their famous exploding bass strings. It took me years to figure out how to pitch raise one without breaking bass strings. I once broke 6 in one sitting.


Piano Technician
www.pianotech.ca
Piano tuners make the world a better place, one string at a time.
Re: The absolute worst piano #626725
02/13/09 09:06 AM
02/13/09 09:06 AM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 4,263
Vancouver B. C. Canada
Silverwood Pianos Offline
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Vancouver B. C. Canada
The Lindner. It wins hands down over any other instrument I have ever seen. This thing had a complete plastic key lever; really the whole key lever was white plastic including the key top.

Also included for your enjoyment was almost a complete plastic action. The hammer rail was aluminum and had a small double –ended spring loaded tab that held the hammer stem and flange in place. Once the tab broke there was absolutely NO WAY to fit the parts back in.

The key bed wasn’t there. I mean there wasn’t a key bed. Just a couple of rails to keep the whole box straight that was it.

The cabinet was finished (if you could call it that) in what was called Mac Tac. Do you remember this stuff? It was fake plastic wood grain glued onto particle board. A really nice inclusion to the entire mess that was created.
I encountered one of these instruments once, and tried to tune the darn thing. Had about a dozen or so hammers break off the rail. I mixed up some 5-ton epoxy and glued the things right to the aluminum rail and then finished the tuning and ran like stink.

Things are better now. I think I am down to about one nightmare a month. [Linked Image]

Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com


Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
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"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
Re: The absolute worst piano #626726
02/13/09 09:25 AM
02/13/09 09:25 AM
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 1,645
D
Dave Stahl Offline
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The Lindner would also get my vote as the worst piano ever made. Hideous beasts indeed.

Many birdcages that I've seen would get the runner up award.

Then there are the numerous spinets from the 60s and 70s. One of my personal least-favorites were Kohler and Campbell. The cases looked okay, they were assembled better than some, but they had more "false" beating strings than any piano I've tuned since. Yeeeeccch.


Promote Harmony in the Universe...Tune your piano!

Dave Stahl, RPT
Piano Technician's Guild
San Jose, CA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAniw3m7L2I
http://dstahlpiano.net
Re: The absolute worst piano #626727
02/13/09 09:59 AM
02/13/09 09:59 AM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 4,263
Vancouver B. C. Canada
Silverwood Pianos Offline
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Vancouver B. C. Canada
Yes the Lindner. I think Peter Sumner threw one into the bay once in England and it floated………

There was another manufacturing disaster that I know of. This one was called the Minx, a 36” high 85-note instrument built in England; the rights for the Canadian market were obtained in 1937 by Caryl Draper of Sherlock Manning Pianos. At the time Caryl was one of the most talented men in the piano building field and was largely responsible for the development of the drop action.

The Sherlock Manning Company manufactured more than 1000 of these instruments in the first year and 2 years into production there was a massive recall that approached more than 80% of the total production. At that time of history this was a financial disaster for the company being the mid 30’s.

Caryl Draper using some of the design features of the Minx, and with some of the experiments he tried in the 20’s came up with an acceptable 41” upright in the late 40’s.

All of the other major Canadian companies followed suit and made their own version of a small upright in the early 50’s.

Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com


Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
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"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
Re: The absolute worst piano #626728
02/13/09 10:33 AM
02/13/09 10:33 AM
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 36
Modesto,Calif.
ptuner Offline
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Modesto,Calif.
Kohler Campbell spinet... LOL. besides false beats, it had scale that was almost vertical. i started learning to tune in 1974 on this piano. As i look back, i'm amazed i still work on pianos. I must love it.


Modesto, Calif.

..."pret' near, but not plum"
Re: The absolute worst piano #626729
02/13/09 10:36 AM
02/13/09 10:36 AM
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 6,828
Grand Rapids Michigan
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
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Grand Rapids Michigan
How about square grands?

My all time least favorites to work on are, Kimball products. Whitney's and the like, Kincaids, Grand spinets.

Yeah, any piano can be make "playable" (sorta) but, many cannot be made "tuneable." Or, tuneable in the sense that it comes out decent or tunes decent.

Another are those with plastic actions. Touch, break...


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

We love to play BF2.
Re: The absolute worst piano #626730
02/13/09 10:38 AM
02/13/09 10:38 AM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 1,292
North Carolina
Ron Alexander Offline
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North Carolina
Dave is definitely right on the money when it comes to those false beating Kholer & Campbell spinets. Everyone one, and I have tuned quite a few of these beasts, have more false beats than anything else I remember.

But one that immediately comes to mind when I think of awful pianos, is a P.A. Stark spinet I tuned about 10 years ago. Cheap cabinet work, plastic key bushings, cheap everything. One of the worst sounds pianos I have ever encountered.

Give me a common barnyard variety Wurlitzer anyday!!!!


-----------------
Ron Alexander
Piano Tuner-Technician
Re: The absolute worst piano #626731
02/13/09 11:10 AM
02/13/09 11:10 AM
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,125
West Virginia
w_scott_iv@yahoo Offline
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Joined: Dec 2005
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West Virginia
I can't believe that no-one mentioned the brand 'Grand'. They were truly horrible spinets with maybe an octave less than a full keybd...

Re: The absolute worst piano #626732
02/13/09 12:00 PM
02/13/09 12:00 PM
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 1,645
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Dave Stahl Offline
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I just got a call from a customer I hadn't heard from in 6 years. A Winter spinet, Alcoa aluminum plate, plastic elbows(two broken ones, which was why she called).

Remarkably, the piano was not far off pitch. And there were only four of the older yellow elbows left in the piano. The rest were flesh colored or the newer clear plastic ones.

I was shocked. Fully expecting a disaster, I tuned it and it sounded better than it had any right to. Sometimes you get lucky.


Promote Harmony in the Universe...Tune your piano!

Dave Stahl, RPT
Piano Technician's Guild
San Jose, CA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAniw3m7L2I
http://dstahlpiano.net
Re: The absolute worst piano #626733
02/13/09 12:03 PM
02/13/09 12:03 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 386
Mexico
E
Erus Offline
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Mexico
Quote
Originally posted by Thomson Lawrie:
They were some times dubbed Mason & Risk for their famous exploding bass strings. It took me years to figure out how to pitch raise one without breaking bass strings. I once broke 6 in one sitting.
Interesting, could you share what worked for those? Why were those strings that "sensitive"?

Re: The absolute worst piano #626734
02/13/09 12:29 PM
02/13/09 12:29 PM
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 2,593
Maryland
markb Offline
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Maryland
Quote
Originally posted by w_scott@verizon.net:
I can't believe that no-one mentioned the brand 'Grand'. They were truly horrible spinets with maybe an octave less than a full keybd...
I beg your pardon! My Grand has all 88 freakin' keys, and the vast majority of them work!

And I know it's a Grand because of the red ink "Grand Piano Company" stamp on the soundboard.

So there!


markb--The Count of Casio
Re: The absolute worst piano #626735
02/13/09 01:04 PM
02/13/09 01:04 PM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 4,263
Vancouver B. C. Canada
Silverwood Pianos Offline
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Vancouver B. C. Canada
Erus,

It was not the string set that was the problem. There was too much angle at the top termination point below the tuning pin. The scale was pitched really wide to make the instrument as small in height as possible.

Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com


Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
Re: The absolute worst piano #626736
02/13/09 01:51 PM
02/13/09 01:51 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 386
Mexico
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Erus Offline
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Mexico
I see, thanks.

What can be done to avoid string breakage in that situation?

Re: The absolute worst piano #626737
02/13/09 05:56 PM
02/13/09 05:56 PM
Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,598
Strong, Maine
David Jenson Offline
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David Jenson  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 2,598
Strong, Maine
"How about square grands?" Jerry Groot

Jerry, there's nothing grand about a square. [Linked Image]


David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----
Re: The absolute worst piano #626738
02/13/09 06:34 PM
02/13/09 06:34 PM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,930
El Cajon, CA
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
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El Cajon, CA
Ok have I been spared from seeing the worst pianos ever? I have yet to find one that is so bad that...

even after spending $184,467,440,737,095,516,160 JUST for the naturally-occurring raw materials (and that price does not take into account the costs involved in getting those raw materials - it's JUST for the materials ONLY) to make the parts used to fix the piano up, it's still as much worse than the runner-up for worst piano ever made, as that runner-up is worse than the best concert grand (and I don't mean general brand and model, I mean one specific unit / serial numbered piano that rises far above the rest) piano that has ever been made.

OR...

its tone is SO horrible that.. even though your stomach is built like a tank and you weren't feeling nauseated at all before the hammer hit the string, just by playing ONE note, you, in the space of 1/4 second, lose your ENTIRE lunch, breakfast AND the previous day's dinner. I have yet to find any piano that I even felt like getting sick... although I've played some that came close.

The worst that I HAVE seen / heard, though, would include an older Cable spinet I played once. By comparison, the bass on a friend's Wurlitzer spinet blew it out of the country. A Kimball consolette would also have to be pretty bad. Also I didn't play it (or was too young to remember) but I have a recording of a piano that was used by my friends at some Christian camps over xmas weekend in the 1980s... and that piano is quite bad.


Associate Member - Piano Technicians Guild
1950 (#144211) Baldwin Hamilton
1956 (#167714) Baldwin Hamilton
You can right-click my avatar for an option to view a larger version.
Re: The absolute worst piano #626739
02/13/09 08:21 PM
02/13/09 08:21 PM
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,557
Sandy Eggo, California
O
OperaTenor Offline
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Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,557
Sandy Eggo, California
The aluminum plate Winter spinet gets my vote.


Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
Re: The absolute worst piano #626740
02/13/09 10:46 PM
02/13/09 10:46 PM
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 476
Angola, Indiana USA
Jeff A. Smith, RPT Offline
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Angola, Indiana USA
I hadn't really thought about how excessive the inharmonicity is on Kohler and Campbell spinets in particular, until that was mentioned on here sometime back.

Not long after, I had to tune one for a first-time customer. I don't remember why exactly, but I decided to try the SAT III with it. Based on its reading of the K&C's inharmonicity, it calculated C8 to be +60 cents, or maybe a few cents more (can't remember exactly now). That's pretty extreme for the SAT III, but the treble didn't end up sounding wild or excessively sharp.

Jeff


Jeff A. Smith
Registered Piano Technician
Indiana, USA
Re: The absolute worst piano #626741
02/17/09 01:21 PM
02/17/09 01:21 PM
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,125
West Virginia
w_scott_iv@yahoo Offline
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West Virginia
Let's not forget the infamous Kimball La Petite

Re: The absolute worst piano #626742
02/17/09 02:31 PM
02/17/09 02:31 PM
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 2,604
Marty Flinn Offline
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New pianos from Belarus Russia about 10 years ago.
New Nieer pianos back in the early 1980's, some of the first from China.
Some of the lowest end stencil spinets from Aeolian back in the late 1970's.


Co-Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Buying A Piano. A "must read" before you shop.
Work for west coast dealer for Yamaha, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, Wm. Knabe.
Re: The absolute worst piano #626743
02/17/09 05:32 PM
02/17/09 05:32 PM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,930
El Cajon, CA
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
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El Cajon, CA
Oh yes the La Petite!! I played one at a retirement home my grandma lived in a few years ago. BBBLLLLEEEEEEEECCCCHHHH!!!! I'll take almost ANY spinet over that!!! (preferably a Wurlitzer or Baldwin.)


Associate Member - Piano Technicians Guild
1950 (#144211) Baldwin Hamilton
1956 (#167714) Baldwin Hamilton
You can right-click my avatar for an option to view a larger version.
Re: The absolute worst piano #626744
02/17/09 07:37 PM
02/17/09 07:37 PM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 67
Fayette City,PA. 15438
Jim Berna Offline
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Fayette City,PA. 15438
There were a few worse than a La petite, one was a spinet called the Kimbalette, when you tuned it, it took a few hours and if you tuned the bass and then the treble, the base would go out and vice-versa! As for hing end overtones, my vote would be the Lester Betsey Ross and if you had to do any action work, the plastic elbows were a nightmare, you have no idea how many sets of plastic elbows I've replaced on the Betsey Ross's! Lester made them as an afordable home piano, and I thinks all possible corners were cut in their making!


Nothin like a Good Piano!

Jim Berna
Tuner-Technician
Re: The absolute worst piano #626745
02/18/09 01:41 PM
02/18/09 01:41 PM
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Posts: 4,014
Madison, WI USA
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Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
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Madison, WI USA
My first inclination was to say I never met a piano I didn't like but I agree with Lawrie, the Lindner. I've seen a few and if they had broken parts, I just could not do a thing with it. They really should not have been made. I'll tune and service a Kimball anytime, even La Petites and Whitmores. At least they have some redeeming qualities to them. The Lindner had none at all.


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com
Re: The absolute worst piano #626746
02/18/09 08:36 PM
02/18/09 08:36 PM
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 4,787
USA
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Bob Offline
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USA
I'm not keen on Knights from London. Loose tuning pins and action issues. Today's model had jacks clicking against the un-felted let off rail.




Re: The absolute worst piano #626747
02/18/09 08:43 PM
02/18/09 08:43 PM
Joined: Feb 2006
Posts: 574
Toronto, ON
Anne Francis Offline
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Toronto, ON
Granted I have far less experience than most of you, but my current least-favourite is the Sherlock-Manning console. I've tuned two recently that had no keybed, just like the Lindner that Dan describes (I can hardly wait to meet one of those). I was startled to see the floor between the keys the first time I tuned one.

Second least-favourite is Mason & "Risk" Century II. Erus, we try applying a drop of Protek CLP at the termination point below the tuning pin, but it doesn't always work. I had two break on the last one I tuned, and it wasn't even a very old one. (I have occasionally tuned ones without having bass strings break, and those ones are just fine!)


Anne Francis
Piano Tuner-Technician

Check out my blog! www.annefrancis.ca/blog

1906 Heintzman upright (rebuilt)
Re: The absolute worst piano #626748
02/19/09 12:20 PM
02/19/09 12:20 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 386
Mexico
E
Erus Offline
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Erus  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 386
Mexico
Thanks, Anne.

Any preferred hammer technique for that situation? Karate-blow styled? Slow steady pull? Simple notch tuning?

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