replacing or splicing string

Posted by: nsd

replacing or splicing string - 05/13/03 06:50 AM


I wrote a few months ago re: getting a start on piano tuning. I followed the advice of several of you here and dove in. I am now enrolled in the Randy Potter course and have also purchased the pocket RCT program to help me learn and get going faster.

My question is this: When practicing tuning on my Baldwin grand (model R built in 1975), I broke the right G2 string after applying what seemed like a small amount of pressure to the tuning lever. I don't think I did anything different than I have been doing but it broke near the pin. I have read that the strings can be spliced and this may be preferred in order to keep the string sounding like the others in the bass. Could you give me some advice re: this? Also, if I either do need to replace the string or need to splice it, do you have any suggestions where I should purchase the supplies? I have the Reblitz book which has addresses the issue of string repair and also the info in the Potter course so I hope to be able to do the repairs myself if possible.

I am feeling a bit leery about breaking another string as it seemed as though I was not raising the pitch very much at all. Could it be that this string was destined to break because of its age? I have tuned the bass notes on the piano many times now as I practice. Why didn't this happen to me sooner when I was less experienced?

Thanks much for any advice you might be able to offer.

Posted by: PNO2NER

Re: replacing or splicing string - 05/13/03 08:07 AM

Hi Nancy:
You have encountered the inevitable! Sooner or later every technician will break a string, but not to worry. After repairing or replacing the first one, they become easier to work with. Strings can break with no rhyme or reason. I have tuned old upright pianos that were nothing but rust, raising the pitch a third (4 semitones) without a problem, and the next piano, a nearly new grand will break a string by barely moving the pin. Its not your fault, it would happen whoever did the tuning.
You can approach this 4 ways: 1. Take the broken string off and leave the remaining one in place. Not recommended as some volume is lost and it is hard on the action parts as the hammer is constantly being "twisted" as it hits only one string. 2. Replace the broken string with a "universal" string. OK in a pinch, but will likely result in a poor sound because of slight mismatching. 3. Order 2 new strings and replace both. Results in a good sound, but takes time and expense and will need retuning more than once. 4. SPLICE. Lots of benefits here. Can be done on the spot, no cost except time, less call back to retune because of string stretch, and original sound as you are using the original string over.
You can tell I'm a believer in splicing. You will need a short piece of piano wire the same size as the core diameter of the existing one, a pair of round needle nose pliers (the kind jewelers use), wire cutters and practice. The Reblitz method is good, you might want to practice with some soft copper wire first to get the hang of it, then with piano wire, then on to the piano.
Takes some practice, but once you get familiar with the process, you will find it very helpful. Two final items: Some strings are brittle along its length, and may break again as you tighten the string up to pitch. I've found one in about 20 will do this. No choice but to replace the string. Also, you will have to retune at some future point as the short section of new wire will stretch. My usual procedure is to raise the pitch of the spliced wire to the next note and mute it off with a piece of felt along with its neighboring string so it makes no sound. Then at a future visit, I'll remove the mute and retune it properly. Hope this helps......
Posted by: Rick Clark

Re: replacing or splicing string - 05/13/03 10:47 AM

The string was destined to break. If it didn't happen to you then, it would have happened to whomever tuned it next, or it could have happened while playing it, or sometimes they will break just sitting there. For every string that breaks, just know that there is always a period of time when it is just sitting there very weak and almost ready to break. Whomever adds a little stress at that time breaks it-- be it a tuner or a player.

A professional tuner needs to be good at splicing with a tuner's knot *and* replacing the string altogether. I have worked in professional venues where up to 8 strings get broken biweekly by the piano player. The tuner must be up to dealing with these stituations. I assume your course materials give instructions on both splicing and replacing. So it might be a good idea to go ahead and do the splice and get a feel for it. Live with it a little while, then replace the string altogether. That way you get practice in both operations, and if it comes out bad you've only done it to your own piano, not a customer's.

For supplies I would normally suggest Pianotek's schraffed strings. Schaff is also a good supplier but until you understand the difference in the quality of the various parts and tools offered by the different suppliers, I would suggest defaulting to Pianotek's best string. Too often a cheap bass string will prove defective in the long run.


Rick Clark
Posted by: pianoseed

Re: replacing or splicing string - 05/21/03 12:54 AM

I have never broken a string. Several times strings have given away and broken while I was tuning but it was NEVER MY FAULT!
Posted by: TomtheTuner

Re: replacing or splicing string - 05/21/03 11:52 PM

You might try just a little dab of WD-40 on a paint brush to either side for the termination point nearest the tuning pins. Then always make the first move otf the tuning hammer be DOWN. Just a little, enough to hear the click of the rusty spot go thruogh the agraffe or vbar. You will break a lot fewer strings this way. But still learn to splice \:\)