The Curious Case of a Grand Piano

My first real post is the story of a newly arrived soviet piano tuner and the curious case of a piano that he could not tune.

This story takes place some years ago and is absolutely true.

The day started pretty much like any other day, assigning the tuners with their daily assignment to go about New York City tuning various instruments. Sasha, the new guy, fresh from having played the Tuba at some Russian circus orchestra, was sent to tune a grand piano in Astoria, Queens. According to the customer the piano had not been tuned in a few years and was sounding a bit off. The customer asked me if the tuner was experienced with all kinds of pianos and I assured him that his grand would be no problem (or so I thought).

Sasha called me an hour later and with his somewhat limited vocabulary skills tried his best to explain why he could not tune the piano, he repeated “no pin, no pin” to me. Great, I thought, the guy has a Mason Hamlin “Screwstringer” grand a piano that had no tuning pins and needed a tiny little square wrench to tune it. I told him to leave and come back to the store.

Sasha got back and dragged me to the nearest grand piano, wildly gesticulating with the words “no pin, no pin” again, to which I thought, the poor guy, he had probably never seen the M&H Screwstringer behind the iron curtain.

I was dead wrong! Now that the story started to unfold,  it was becoming clear what the real problem was with the tuning pins .

It seems that the customer was a well to do concrete and cement contractor and he was also tired of paying the tuner to come twice a year at the tune of $80 (pardon the pun) to tune his piano. So he had come up with a brilliant plan a couple of years ago! Bring in the tuner and have him tune the piano for the last time. As the piano was being tuned, the customer’s men were hard at work in the backyard mixing the strongest batch of concrete (ahh this one is a classic). Apparently the men then poured and smoothed the concrete over the tuning pins thus preserving the A 440 pitch for generations to come. And like any decent contractor the job was finished  with matching gold paint like the rest of the piano harp. I did get a call from the gentleman in question a few days later inquiring when the tuner would come back. My reply: Is not really printable on a family forum.

The moral of the story: If you have a piano you should be able to pay for two tunings a year (nowadays $ 100-125 a pop). 

M

Posted on January 30, 2011 .