In the past two weeks we have gone to service/pitch-raise/tune twenty three pianos at The University of Pretoria (UP), and today I went alone with myself and shadow to the Musaion practice rooms.
I learnt that I can be confident in who I am, by being honest and to the point. Also that music students come and go like butterflies – their whereabouts are unpredictable. I went upstairs to the offices to ask the Professor to let me into the practice rooms and then when we came down there were several students hanging around! His name is not coming through my brain to my fingers…
I had four and possibly five pianos to get to today – another professor said his piano had a sticky key if I could have a look at it once I was done. Telling him I was just an apprentice didn’t stop him from asking for my help if I finished before the end of the day, Four O’Clock. On Wednesday Paulo and I managed to get to four pianos, so my ability to get to three pianos was stellar to say the least. I had two hands and needed four. I had two plastic grips and needed a vice grip.
The first piano had a few bass string replacements and two samples. The first sample was easy enough to put back, but the second sample had a kink in the coil, which made it quite challenging to put the string back.
See the kink at the top where the string makes a coil? It almost kinks to make an e.
I had to straighten that out before I could put it back onto the pin. This was clearly not taken off the pin carefully – I’m not even sure how that was bent like that. Reminds me of a flying bird.
This piano also had twelve broken treble strings – six lengths of string to be replaced. I had brought along some string with me, but both reels were ironically of the same diameter and there was a 0.10mm difference between all six lengths and their wannabe replacements. I could not even re-use the string or make a knot, because the strings were broken within their speaking lengths.
After a lunch break, where I met up with Heinrich who was in the MDT team with me last year, I went to one of the more busier rooms. I was clever to take a break before the music student took his break :P
That room was quite warm, so I didn’t need to put my jersey on. These strings were somehow more simpler to replace. The only real challenge was to get the clamp to hold the bottom of the string onto the frame, but I made a plan with a piece of wood as you can see in the picture at the top.
I packed up and decided to attend to the Kawai K3, because a student left the room – I think I startled her when she came out. Guess I should try be more human when I wait outside rooms…
There was a challenge: three strings of different lengths, side-by-side. I should have gone with my gut feeling, because after comparing, moving, measuring, moving, moving and moving, I had effectively replaced nine strings. Next time I’ll go with my initial thoughts, but it was fun because I had to deal with unruly coils more than I felt like trying, trying and trying and then trying some more. I won’t say I’m very good at recycling coils or making fresh bass coils yet, but I had good practice.
I swapped the order of the two center strings (in the picture below) cause the one on the left’s copper was too long – I had to castrate my OCD/perfectionism…the copper is just coiled further down – it was a good guess, especially since there was no sample for those two strings except the one above (higher in the scale)!
As for the challenge to learn how to tune an octave by ear with one known A-440 note, I’m just getting to grips with how M[ajor]4[ths] and M[ajor]5[ths] are meant to sound like. I tried to learn the tests and order of doing the scale, but two weeks did not do justice to the challenge. I still get lost between which note to tune next and what test to use. I progressed as much as I could fit. I’m still a slow learner when it comes to brand new theory and order, and no challenge is going to make me speed up. Yes I pick up IT much faster, but IT is just mental. Pianos are more than just mental. Pianos demand physical memory and hectic listening skills.
I find both the tuning and the technical side of the apprenticeship challenging and interesting. I still become drowsy during tuning, but who doesn’t get tired after gyming their ears? I hear details in sound and having to concentrate on one set of sounds and block out the rest is real tiring. The technical side is brilliant because I work with my hands on simple small mechanical parts that become complex mechanisms once all fitted together. The best part? All pianos are different, unless they are the same model [and brand]!
Gonna go sleep with some white noise to see if I sleep better…