Over the weekend, I spent a full day at a client's house regulating his beautiful Bösendorfer grand piano.
What the heck IS regulation, do you ask? To be honest, when writing the copy for this very website, I struggled coming up with a definition for regulation more than any of my other services.
Part of that is because although it is a critical part of what allows a piano to feel and sound its best, regulation is just not something most people have heard of, kind of like my sister's former job title of "actuarial analyst". But it's also because there's way more to it than what my distilled one sentence definition of "adjusting the many parts of the playing mechanism, called the action, in order to make the touch consistent and optimally responsive" implies.
Back in June of 2004, I moved 2,782 miles from Ithaca, NY to the Portland, OR area to attend School of Piano Technology for the Blind (formerly the Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning and Technology), colloquially known as the Piano Hospital, in Vancouver, WA.
A year later in 2005, in what is to this day one of the wackiest coincidences of my life, Casey Harris made the same journey from Ithaca, NY and joined me as a fellow piano tech student.
In a time when arts education is being affected by budget cuts in schools nationwide, the Snowman Foundation is dedicated to bringing access to music education to the Portland, OR community and beyond. As someone greatly shaped by having had ample access to music education, via private lessons in piano, voice, clarinet, as well as summer music camp attendance and participation in school choirs, I am a firm believer in the value of learning music and the Snowman Foundation’s mission.
Therefore, I could not have been more excited and enthusiastic about being the designated piano tuner for the foundation’s annual preeminent event, in which ten gorgeous Steinway grand pianos are situated on one stage for a concert featuring a variety of local artists, ranging from ridiculously talented middle-school guitarists to renowned recording artists such as Tom Grant.
As a piano technician, my concerns and expertise regarding the instrument are primarily focused on how they feel and how they sound. However, as an instrument that is also considered furniture and tends to draw the eye wherever it is placed, the condition of the case also tends to be a priority.
To address such concerns, similar to how a mechanic would refer auto body work to a separate technician, the expertise of a master finish and/or touch-up specialist is required.
In Portland, OR, the go-to person for any of the cosmetic needs of a piano, whether they be small repairs to fix chips and scratches or complete refinishing jobs, is Arno Arrak.
Note: Piano Adventures is a regular feature highlighting the quirky aspects of my daily life as a piano technician, from the paradoxical challenges of working with inanimate objects to the characters I meet.
A couple of weeks ago, I was tasked with teaching someone how to replace a broken piano string.
Piano wire is quite stretchy, a fact a lot of people are not aware of because most people never have a reason to experiment with stretching steel. When a piano is at its designated tension, a piano wire is generally at 60% of its tensile strength. So, theoretically, if a piano is well-maintained at the proper pitch, a string should never reach the 100% point at which it will break. However, “should not break” and “will not break” are not the same thing.