Miracle of 1646 Park Avenue

We lost 3 of customers’ pianos back in March 2014. I sent message to each customer that their pianos were destroyed… Thankfully, they were very sympathetic and understanding.

Last week, the last replacement chapter ended.


This particular piano was a Steinway 1098 model which belonged to the composer who passed away. His sister, Irene decided to donate it to a Synagogue that she goes to. She used our services to move and overhaul it for new home on her at cost. We picked it up and worked on. We were just about planning to deliver it.


                It was in our technician’s living room and it saved his life. He was protected between the pianos and was able to escape from many tons of rubbish that collapsed on him. He is a person who only worked on pianos all his life and nothing else. He admires pianos like his children. He can do wonders on any piano.  It was unbelievable that “the piano man” was saved by pianos. (It seems like pianos had their own mind and really wanted to save his life for other pianos. “You have saved so many of us, we finally return the favor”)


All those pianos were bulldozed and sent to Randal’s Island. Over 60 pianos mixed with rubbish. We were never given the chance to see them.


The Rabbi and the pianist from the Synagogue came along with Irene who owned her brother’s piano. The pianist fell in love with a piano he played the first. It was a Steinway console which is another miracle story.  It came from one of our clients, Richard. He had started piano lessons four years ago, since his wife passed away and needed to occupy his time and feelings. He started with a rental piano first then purchased the one he was renting. He called me up every 6 month or so chatted about pianos, lessons, his teacher and his progress. Two years later he dropped into our shop and wanted a Steinway piano that was similar as his teacher has. That was this Steinway.


After we announced that we re-open he called us up with condolence and he passed on his piano to us. He said because he is going to a home for elderly and he is not able to bring it. And he thought we needed more pianos and would not harm one extra. Even we opened our store we were lacking inventories and looking for more pianos. He was sure that we could find good new home for it. (I believe 

Piano Tuning Pins Story Part 1

A piano has over 20,000 parts and is a very complicated invention of the 16th Century (Italy, circa 1600 AD) but it is a long journey from there to the modern piano which we see today.

Do you know how many tuning pins are in one piano? Tuning pins tie piano strings to pin blocks which are connected to the sound board.

Did you guess 88 pins, since there are 88 keys in a piano?

Wrong answer!

There is just a single string on some notes but most notes have two to three strings per note. There are some slight variations in the number between different manufactures,  but on average a piano has around 220 strings in total!

When your tuner comes to tune your piano, they have to adjust the tension of each pin/string. If the note has more than two strings, they need to mute the others to hear the string that they are tuning. It is a very delicate job, so the next time your tuner comes to tune your piano, try to be as quiet as possible or just leave the tuner alone with the piano!

When the piano has been tuned, the tuning pins are twisted by the tuning hammer to get the correct pitch. If they’ve been twisted enough times, the holes get slightly bigger, and when the holes get bigger the tuning pins won’t be able to hold their position due to the high tension of the strings. At first the tuner will be able to tap the pins into the pin block. This is a temporary fix. But soon enough, you may need to get bigger pins installed.

Pins come in many sizes, ranging from size 0 to size 5, (smallest to biggest). Depending on how loose the current pins are, new pins should be two to three sizes bigger. After installing new pins, you may need several extra tunings. Also, when pins are replaced, they are always at a slight angle, never simply 90 degrees, and coiled a specific way. Believe it or not, there are many more tricks and rules in this process!

Piano moving In NYC

Last year I got a call from Fred who was looking at his dream apartment on the upper upper west side in a twelve story building with two smallish elevators.

Fred is a serious musician: he has a Yamaha baby grand and it has to move where he does.

For the really serious cases I carry a cardboard cutout of the piano to check if the piano will fit.

The elevators were too small to fit the piano and the stairs were extremely  difficult if not impossible to negotiate.

The elevator looked brand spanking new and the super did confirm that the old one was slightly bigger.

This particular building is a half block long and has other entrances down the block and a light bulb came on in my head (it is pretty dim these days) I asked the super if the elevator in the other part was still original.

It was and my cardboard piano did fit, the only problem was that the buildings only shared access on the roof. The elevator brought us to the top floor but not to the roof  the road to the roof went through a particularly nasty double flight of stairs up and once we were on the other side the same ugly stairs down. So what! The customer was happy and we got to swear like men while looking at the George Washington Bridge a stone throw away.

The reason why I write this now is because Fred just called me and said that he was moving out because he hated the apartment and could we move it again.

You would think that this time it would be easier. I am here to tell you it was not!

But again we got our aggressions out and had that lovely view.


Things not to Lose in a Piano!

This story is from a while back. It was the late 80s, disco was king, and we got a call at 7:30 in the evening from an excited gentleman, complaining that he had dropped something inside his grand piano, and needed a technician to retrieve it right away. The only technician left that night was Janet (a former flower girl from Woodstock) and she said that she would go do this job for 75 bucks, as the last call of the day.

The next day, Janet walked over to me and gave me some details of the previous night’s ‘repair’. After she arrived at the customer’s apartment, she had discovered what the customer had dropped in the piano, and why he was so eager to retrieve it so late in the evening. Apparently he had dropped his bag of cocaine into the piano and, needing a high at that moment, wanted a technician over right away. Janet could understand that, of course, and retrieved most of the spilled cocaine from the piano. She didn’t tell me whether or not she got a good ‘tip’ too. Needless to say, this story ended on a high note!


"Just Needs Tuning"!

We were called to move a piano for an elderly man just a few days ago. Gus had just retired from a florist’s job and sounded very exited as he told us about the piano he found on Craigslist. The seller told him that all the piano needed was a good tuning. Gus wanted to get the piano picked up and delivered so he could start practicing right away. I asked him if he had hired a technician to inspect the piano to which he replied that he had checked the piano out and it was fine, “just needed a tuning”.

Old pianos are never fine, they need to be inspected thoroughly for any defects. How does one became an “Expert” by just looking at the piano? We recently moved a Baldwin Hamilton upright for a client who had also “inspected the piano himself”. Late at night some noises came out of the piano, and t0 his wife’s horror, he discovered a mouse living inside it.”Just tuning” turned into taking out the mechanism and all the keys to vacuum and scrub inside the piano, adding a pitch raise, and tightening all the hammer flange screws. The bill was quite hefty. Back to Gus and his piano, once I had a good look at the piano we were picking up the situation looked pretty sad. We were standing next to a 20 odd year old Spinet piano with several problems: 1) Three broken plastic elbows (they connect the key to the hammer for strike). 2) Pin block that was dried out (the piano would not hold a tuning for more than 3 seconds). 3) The hammers were unglued from the inner core (no sound) . Needless to say a piano like this is toast.

This is like the old guy method of kicking the tires on a car to see if it is good! Don’t do it get a technician to check it out!