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#2703446 01/09/18 01:35 PM
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My church has a Chickering parlour grand. I'm starting to suspect that it's failing.

I was subbing in for our regular Organist/pianist this past Sunday. After the 1st service, I decided to grab my tuning wrench and touch up the unisons in the hour before the second service. I managed to improve it a bit, discovering it was tuned to A435 like it said to on the plate. A couple of notes were very difficult to pull into unison, but it was definitely better than when I started. My prelude, voluntary, and 1st hymn were all on the organ, so I didn't get back to the piano until almost an hour after I had finished my touch-up. Many of the notes were right back to where they started. In general, I had found that the third string was flat - so always the pin that was closest to the keyboard.

So here are my questions:
Could the consistently low humidity cause these kind of issues? The church's temperature is fairly constant (AC summer, heat winter) but it is very dry. There are a couple of good sized cracks in the soundboard as well.

Is the pin block failing?

What can be done to improve the situation? It's not a great instrument by any stretch, but the church has put some money into this instrument in the past and I don't think they would want to replace it.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me.


Peter
1949 Baldwin M
currently working on Brahms op. 10 Ballades, f-minor sonata and 2nd concerto
Mendelssohn Songs Without Words and E minor Prelude and Fugue
whatever strikes my fancy today.
P3T3R #2703449 01/09/18 01:40 PM
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You need a tech to tell you for certain, but it sounds like it may be time for a cyanoacrylate treatment -- fortunately an inexpensive job that can buy you many more years from an old pin block.


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P3T3R #2703455 01/09/18 02:01 PM
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If the loose pins are in a line, as you describe, there could be a crack forming.


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P3T3R #2703465 01/09/18 02:26 PM
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I forgot to mention that I think the pins have been doped already.


Peter
1949 Baldwin M
currently working on Brahms op. 10 Ballades, f-minor sonata and 2nd concerto
Mendelssohn Songs Without Words and E minor Prelude and Fugue
whatever strikes my fancy today.
P3T3R #2703625 01/10/18 07:56 AM
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Hopefully not with WD-40 !!

Ian


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P3T3R #2703628 01/10/18 08:11 AM
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To be perfectly honest it sounds like the piano is probably just too old. There are things you can do to buy time with an old piano, as John Sprung has suggested, but my suspicion is that between the soundboard and the tuning plank, there are probably other issues with the piano and it might be time for your church to start a fundraiser for a new piano.


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I was afraid of that. The church, unlike many, is not struggling financially, but they were talked into restoring this Chickering by someone with a vested interest. It's not that we can't, it's just that I'm afraid the church council will regret the investment already put in to this instrument and will want to throw good money after bad.

I bought my instrument less than a year ago, so I know they are better options out there. There's not a huge space for a piano unless we move the organ console, but I think we can fit a 6-7 foot instrument in fairly easily.

Incidentally, the church's piano technician recently tuned mine. It's amazing what an experienced tuner/tech can do. It's been incredibly stable, and It just sounds more pleasant.


Peter
1949 Baldwin M
currently working on Brahms op. 10 Ballades, f-minor sonata and 2nd concerto
Mendelssohn Songs Without Words and E minor Prelude and Fugue
whatever strikes my fancy today.
P3T3R #2703680 01/10/18 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by P3T3R
I was afraid of that. The church, unlike many, is not struggling financially, but they were talked into restoring this Chickering by someone with a vested interest. It's not that we can't, it's just that I'm afraid the church council will regret the investment already put in to this instrument and will want to throw good money after bad.

I bought my instrument less than a year ago, so I know they are better options out there. There's not a huge space for a piano unless we move the organ console, but I think we can fit a 6-7 foot instrument in fairly easily.

Incidentally, the church's piano technician recently tuned mine. It's amazing what an experienced tuner/tech can do. It's been incredibly stable, and It just sounds more pleasant.


Church situations get sticky when someone with pull has a vested interest. The person who plays it normally probably doesn't notice the issues.

Since you were impressed with the churches technician, maybe you could discuss it with him/her. If they have it restore it they will have an extended downtime without a piano.

I wonder if they would be open to trying out another instrument for a while (renting??) and then making a decision about restoring or replacing. I just saw where Steinway itself was promoting this during the holidays. The rental $ is credited to the purchase price. I don't know if anyone else does it or not. Maybe the older piano could be used in another area of the church.

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Those are good ideas. I know the regular musician is not very fond of this piano either. I don't see anyplace in the church where they could use this instrument. They already have two uprights in a back room that are not maintained, but perhaps renting for a while would show the powers that be what is possible as a better instrument in the sanctuary. I wonder if a digital piano with its lower maintenance costs would be the way to go so the constant low humidity doesn't do the damage to another piano.
I suppose at this point I just need to talk to the Organist/pianist and the pastor.


Peter
1949 Baldwin M
currently working on Brahms op. 10 Ballades, f-minor sonata and 2nd concerto
Mendelssohn Songs Without Words and E minor Prelude and Fugue
whatever strikes my fancy today.
P3T3R #2703737 01/10/18 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by P3T3R
Those are good ideas. I know the regular musician is not very fond of this piano either. I don't see anyplace in the church where they could use this instrument. They already have two uprights in a back room that are not maintained, but perhaps renting for a while would show the powers that be what is possible as a better instrument in the sanctuary. I wonder if a digital piano with its lower maintenance costs would be the way to go so the constant low humidity doesn't do the damage to another piano.
I suppose at this point I just need to talk to the Organist/pianist and the pastor.


Maybe they could swing a Dampp-Chaser system with a new piano to help with that.

I play a digital every Sunday and have for years. The cost of them is much less, and they are always in tune. One challenge is that the quality of the sound system (amp, speakers) and the capabilities of the sound engineer then completely control the sound of the instrument. We have a higher-end digital that is used by many professional musicians for live performances and recitals. The onboard speakers sound amazing. It's not nearly as expressive as an acoustic, but I do enjoy it. However, when I hear it thru the house sound system I cringe. I'm so glad I'm hearing the onboard speakers as my primary sound source.
Also, in my experience they do wear out every few years, and there's no regulation of the action. Just some thoughts.

Personally, if given the choice I'd go for a nice acoustic over digital any day (stressing the word NICE). A good digital is always better than a bad acoustic in my opinion.

Last edited by GC13; 01/10/18 04:55 PM.
GC13 #2703827 01/10/18 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by GC13


I play a digital every Sunday and have for years. The cost of them is much less, and they are always in tune. One challenge is that the quality of the sound system (amp, speakers) and the capabilities of the sound engineer then completely control the sound of the instrument. We have a higher-end digital that is used by many professional musicians for live performances and recitals. The onboard speakers sound amazing. It's not nearly as expressive as an acoustic, but I do enjoy it. However, when I hear it thru the house sound system I cringe. I'm so glad I'm hearing the onboard speakers as my primary sound source.
Also, in my experience they do wear out every few years, and there's no regulation of the action. Just some thoughts.

Personally, if given the choice I'd go for a nice acoustic over digital any day (stressing the word NICE). A good digital is always better than a bad acoustic in my opinion.


I hadn't thought about the action regulation. I've used a digital, very meh. I agree about preferring an acoustic. It's just that the church needs to maintain a very large and expensive acoustic instrument already - the pipe organ. I think the organ is being detrimentally affected by the constant low humidity as well. The wooden pipe stops are falling out of tune quickly, and many of the reeds are sounding like they are splitting. Maybe that's the instrument that should go electronic. grin I do love playing the full organ though; unfortunately the entire swell cabinet needs to be reworked as it's virtually unusable.

But back to the piano, I think I'm going to start advocating for replacing it. I may offer to pay for the technician to give it a thorough examination and evaluation. I know he is not very fond of this instrument either - he's not the one who did the work on it last time - but he has a reputation of impeccable impartiality. He's also the tuner/tech for the Buffalo Philharmonic so I think it's safe to assume that he knows his stuff. I'm just lucky that he lives less than a mile from me.


Peter
1949 Baldwin M
currently working on Brahms op. 10 Ballades, f-minor sonata and 2nd concerto
Mendelssohn Songs Without Words and E minor Prelude and Fugue
whatever strikes my fancy today.
P3T3R #2703846 01/11/18 01:07 AM
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Originally Posted by P3T3R
... technician recently tuned mine. ... It's been incredibly stable, and It just sounds more pleasant.

I have a 1950 M, and it's unbelievably stable! Frankly, I've never felt like it "needed" to be tuned (although it has been, of course).


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Retsacnal #2703928 01/11/18 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal

I have a 1950 M, and it's unbelievably stable! Frankly, I've never felt like it "needed" to be tuned (although it has been, of course).


Yes, mine has been quite stable, but even more so this last time. I was touching up unisons within a week before; it's almost a month and I haven't done it yet. It also just sounds better to my ear - slightly less brilliant, but much more pleasing and harmonious.


Peter
1949 Baldwin M
currently working on Brahms op. 10 Ballades, f-minor sonata and 2nd concerto
Mendelssohn Songs Without Words and E minor Prelude and Fugue
whatever strikes my fancy today.
P3T3R #2707016 01/21/18 12:07 PM
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I looked at the serial number on this Chickering. It's 118094, which would put it about 1912. I talked to the regular pianist, and she said she would talk to the church council about what to do after she had the tech look at it. I played it again today for a minute or two - I think that I've decided that it's just not a pleasant instrument. I hope they decide to replace it.


Peter
1949 Baldwin M
currently working on Brahms op. 10 Ballades, f-minor sonata and 2nd concerto
Mendelssohn Songs Without Words and E minor Prelude and Fugue
whatever strikes my fancy today.

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