Soundboard Cleaning

Soundboard Cleaning

The soundboard of my grand piano is covered with a thick layer of dust. Can you clean this for me? Of course. Cleaning the soundboard is quite tricky as it involves getting a cleaning pad underneath the strings. Trying to clean it using a vacuum cleaner just won’t work – you can try blowing the dust towards the bass end and wiping up what accumulates there which will get some of the looser material out, but the heavier, greasy dust will stick. I carry some specialist cleaning rods which are perfect for wiping the soundboard over its entire area but please ask me to do this before I tune your piano! Some of the strings are likely to get knocked which will put them out of tune...
Missing string

Missing string

My tuner broke a string when he last tuned my piano. He didn’t replace the string yet the note still sounds! First things first, your tuner didn’t break a string. Unless he was annoyed that you didn’t bring him a cup of tea, it would be more accurate to say that a string broke while the tuner was tuning your piano. If you look at how the strings are arranged on your piano you will most probably find that the bottom octave or so has only one string per note, the upper bass (up to about the C below middle C) has two strings and the treble has three strings per note. Put quite simply, if a single string breaks in the bass you will lose that note completely. If one of the bichords breaks then the note will still sound albeit with only half the power as only one of the two strings is being struck. Often, on a poorer quality piano, this difference can be quite subtle although on a good piano it will sound odd. If one of the trichords breaks and the other two strings are saveable, the difference, even on a good quality instrument, can be minimal and hard to detect, particularly in the top treble. Obviously, if you have a fine piano, broken strings will need to be replaced but practically speaking it is sometimes better to not replace the string and avoid the cost and inconvenience of the inevitable return visits by the tuner to tighten the new string as it settles and slips out...
Clicking notes

Clicking notes

I have a clicking sound on several notes of my piano; I think some of the felts are missing. Is this a major problem? Will my tuner be able to repair this in a normal tuning session? If you listen very carefully, you’ll be able to tell whether the click occurs before or after the note is sounded. If the clicking sounds like wood hitting wood and doesn’t appear to be the actual key itself, then your action is likely to be either very worn or to have been attacked by moths. An important component of the piano action is the hammer notch. This is where the energy of the key is transferred to the hammer via a lever which sits under the notch, protected by a small piece of leather and a pad of cushion felt. Moth larvae love this felt which is often partially or wholly eaten by this wretched pest, particularly in older pianos, leaving the connecting lever (the jack) to slap loudly against the bare wood of the notch slightly after the note has been played. If the action is very worn (or you are the owner of a piano with synthetic leather covering the notch) and the notch leather, which is actually doeskin, has worn completely away, there will be a clicking noise just before the note is sounded. Whether your tuner will able to repair either of these problems depends on how many notes are affected and the degree to which the action has worn or how far the infestation has taken...
Scratched casework

Scratched casework

I own a relatively new, Asian make, baby grand piano. Its formerly black glossy surface now has plenty of scratches and small dents, mainly, I have to admit, due to my young children playing on and around it. Is there anything I can do restore the surface of the piano? Scratches and dents are two separate and quite distinct problems. The dents in your polyester finish will be the hardest to repair invisibly; these will inevitably require a repair followed by a re-spray of the entire panel, particularly difficult on most Asian pianos as the polyester is usually quite thin. Scratches, if not too deep, can be masked with some degree of success using a black car polish (Colour Magic or the like). Simply apply a very small amount with a soft cloth and buff off with another. Good, old fashioned pink Windowlene will remove small scratches and built up dirt leaving a good shiny finish – try on an inconspicuous corner before launching into a full on assault. For a showroom finish the only course would be to re-spray the whole piano at a cost of £1500 –...
Broken Hammer

Broken Hammer

My sister just had a hammer snap off on her piano and doesn’t know what to do. Can you advise? The best advice is to call in your piano tuner / technician. This is not something that can be successfully repaired with enthusiastic DIY. The broken hammer shank has to be carefully drilled or drawn out of the hammer head and butt portions and a new shank inserted and glued at the correct rake angle and alignment to the string. If you have retrieved the old shank with the hammer head still attached from the bottom of the piano, please do not throw it away or lose it! If a head from a different set has to be used there will be a noticeable difference in tone between it and the other hammers. Hammer shanks used to be made from cedar which gets brittle with age, and is possibly why your hammer broke. Modern shanks (what yours will be replaced with) are sycamore which has a good straight grain and is much...
Grand legs

Grand legs

My grand piano now has wobbly legs from having been moved around a lot. Is that normal? Or bad construction? Can something be done about it? When a grand piano is moved, the lyre (pedal assembly) and the legs are removed and the body of the piano is put onto its side on a specially constructed padded ‘shoe’ for ease of transport. With the piano in its new position, the legs are then re-attached with coach bolts. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that the removal men are less than efficient at performing this task and mistakes are made in placing the legs in the wrong positions or using the wrong coach bolts for each particular leg (the bolts can vary in length by half an inch) which then has disastrous effects on the functioning of the soft pedal and the stability of the whole piano. Sometimes the solution to wobbly legs is to simply tighten the bolts; a large socket wrench or a car’s wheel brace is usually about the right size. There are three basic types of grand piano leg; turned octagonal, double gate leg, and square. If your piano has the gate leg type – two thin square legs at each corner – then these are prone to wobbling over time, not exactly bad construction but less stable than the more solid turned octagonal or square, just don’t put anything valuable...