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Common Problems with Pianos

Did you hear about the vampire who used to torture his victims with his piano playing?

His Bach was worse than his bite!

Did you hear about the pianist who kept banging his head against the keys?

He was playing by ear!

What happens when you play Beethoven backwards?

He decomposes!

These jokes are so bad, I can’t HANDEL them!

Piano Talk

These jokes represent the kind of torture you’d be in for if we tried to produce our own piano technician version of the beloved radio program “Car Talk.” But wouldn’t it be nice if there was a program where you could call in and speak to two friendly piano technicians who would listen to your piano problems and carefully guide you to a solution while also making fun of your attempts to describe and mimic the sounds coming out of your piano?!? In absence of that option, we thought we’d provide a short explanation of some of the most common repairs we find are needed in the pianos we service.

grand piano pedals

Problem #1: Pedal regulation

The pedal on a grand isn’t regulated properly.

Symptoms: The pedal feels loose and/or has a clunking sound or the pedal doesn't work/engage.

Fix: The technician will regulate the pedal according to the specifications of the make and model.

failing glue joint on hammer

Problem #2: Failing glue joints

This usually happens in the hammers.

Symptoms: Instead of hearing a note when hitting the key, you may hear a click or a click sound may accompany the note.

Fix: The technician will pop off the hammer’s head and reglue it to the shank using special wood glues (not superglue, as the glue needs to be reversible, if needed).

walking centerpins

Problem #3: Walking centerpins

Most moving components on a piano pivot on a pin called a centerpin. Centerpins rotate inside a cloth bushing. As humidity increases, the hole in the bushing shrinks and causes the components to become sluggish. As humidity drops, the hole becomes larger, and the pins start to wobble (or walk) their way out.

Symptoms: The hammers may start to hit neighboring notes or feel sloppy or loose. The hammer could even fall off and jam other notes, making them unplayable.

Fix: The technician can perform a temporary fix and put the pins back in. They can also replace the pins with bigger sizes, though this can lead to other issues, as the humidity changes. To avoid this issue, a technician can install a climate system in the piano, which stabilizes the humidity and prevents swelling and contracting of the parts.

Problem #4: Verdigris

This is more common in humid climates (so generally less of a concern in Alaska). Oxidation forms on centerpins after exposure to high humidity, which gums up the centerpin bushings.

Symptoms: Extremely sluggish action parts (ex: If you play a note and the key doesn’t come back up, you may have verdigris, though this can also be caused by other issues).

Fix: The technician can replace the flanges for a more long-term solution. A short-term fix would be applying a lubricant or tested solution effective against reducing verdigris.


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