Archive for June, 2011
So… over the years there have been many terms bantered about with regards to pianos – terms like “upright grand” or “baby grand”. In this blog we’re going to discuss what a “full size” grand is. First of all, i would just like to point out that there is no official guide to piano sizes. These names have evolved and so their usage is also vague at best. For what it’s worth, however i’ll give you the ‘insider scoop’ on how retail stores and piano dealers categorize grands.
First of all, let’s set a few ground rules shall we? Full size seems to imply that smaller grands are somehow missing something – as if there is such a thing as a half size or 3/4 size piano… not so. All pianos have the same amount of keys. All pianos have roughly the same amount of strings. So what exactly is changing then from one size to another? It’s the length. The term ‘baby grand’ in my mind is anything 5’5″ and under. Today we see modern manufacturers producing really small pianos at 4’9″, 4’11″… 5’0″, 5’1″ etc. In the olden golden days Steinway (among others) consolidated sizes to 5’2″, 5’7″, 6’1″, 6’10”, 7’4″ and 9′. Yamaha has had huge success with a 6’6″ piano as opposed to Steinway’s 6’10”. Regardless, pianos under the 5’7″ mark have usually been considered baby. Full size refers more than anything to string length. Once you surpass the baby grand size in strings, the piano blossoms. More so even on the 6’1″ grand. Now at the extreme other end, the term ‘concert grand’ has been reserved for 9′ pianos while semi-concert is the 7’4″ – 7’6″ range. So if a baby grand goes up to 5’5″ and the semi-concert is at 7’4″, then the term ‘full size’ would fit in the middle there. So the way i define full size is a piano between 5’7″ and 7′ in length. Hope this gives you an idea about what we’re talking about. Just FYI, you won’t magically step over the threshold from one piano size to another, you’ll just hear the difference that length makes when you gradually increase the size. Take a look at the pics below and see how the rim (the curved end part on the piano) is quite different. Pictured: Yamaha A1 (4’11”), Yamaha C5 (6’7″), and Yamaha CF (9′).
Alright listen up… literally. Listen for clicks when you play each note on your piano. The cause? Well… kinda like the last post of Cause & Effect, there are many many things in a piano that could make noise but the most common – 2 things: Loose flange screws and loose flange pins.
Ok calm down… i know you don’t know what a flange is so i’ve conveniently uploaded a pic for you. Shown here are the hammer, shank and flange. The flange is the jointed piece at the bottom that is attached to the hammer rail. When the hammer strikes the string, believe it or not, the force will go running down the shank and into the flange. If the flange screw is loose, you’ll hear a click. After you tighten the flange screw, if it still makes noise, dollars to donuts it’s the flange pin itself. The flange pin is a small little steel pin. When it gets worn out and the joint is too loose, it’ll manifest that looseness by clicking. There you have it! The most common source of ‘clicks’ in pianos. And like the other post on Cause & Effect… better to ask the technician to remedy the situation.
On a recent flight home from Toronto, i decided to take a few days in Winnipeg and visit my parents. They’re still living in the same house i was raised in. It’s quaint and everything seems much smaller (as i grew to be the tallest in the family)… even my parents are shorter than ever! hahaa… Anyway, i had forgotten about the conversations that happened not during dinner but after. In this hustle bustle world of instant everythings, i presently throw all the dishes in the dishwasher, press start and walk away. Not so in my parent’s house where they’ve never owned a dishwasher. Post-dinner conversation led into doing-the-dishes conversation. As we laughed and reminisced, i finally said to them “Y’know why i play the piano today right? Well… after dinner as a teenager Dad would always say ‘Who’s practicing piano and who’s doing the dishes?'” Hahaaaa as a teenager, if you have a choice between cleaning up or playing the piano, my vote was always practicing. I’d like to think that i somewhat enjoyed the piano when i was growing up but truth be told, it was part of the daily regimen… the fabric of our lives back then. And without the technology of the dishwasher in our house, i learned escapism at the piano. SMILES.
This post speaks to the problem of sticking piano keys. There are usually about 6 spots to check on any piano if a note is not returning to normal playing position. But before we get into the mechanical, think of the obvious… is it getting blocked? I mean… believe me when i say i’ve seen LOTS of things inside pianos. Here’s my list thus far: pencils & pens, toys, hair pins and bands, sheet music, tools, rubber bands, paper clips, coins of various sizes, ladies press on nails (ewww… that kinda creeped me out finding that one… especially since i got the piano from a home where she had died), believe it or not metronomes and decorative piano blankets. Hmmm have i missed anything? So make sure it’s not getting blocked.
Once you’ve determined that it’s not blocked or broken, however, there’s a REAAAALLY good chance friction is to blame. Usually the hammer FLANGE is the culprit – it’s the joint connected to the hammer. About 80% of the time there’s wayyy too much friction on that joint and the centre pins need replacing. Two other joints – the action flange (flange is just another word for joint BTW) and the whippen (repetition lever) also have jointed parts. Any time you introduce a joint, you also have potential for problems. So that makes up 3 of the problem areas. Then the key stick has two bushings – each of which could also have too much friction. And finally, the key slip – the rail in front of the key sometimes catches on the front of the key. Invariably it’s one of the 6 parts. How do you go about fixing it? Hahaaaa… i didn’t mention i would give the solution… only the cause of the problem. MOST problems can’t be fixed without a technician. Sure you can look down inside and see if there’s something obvious but if it’s not… you need to get an expert in to address the problem.
Go ahead… ask me. Ask how many different products i’ve used over the years trying to find the best polish and cleaner for pianos. Well the answer would be about 15. Generally there are 2 types of finishes on pianos – lacquer and polyester. Polyester is usually the mirror finish on grands and uprights. Although lacquer can achieve the sheen, polyester resin is by far the product of choice to obtain that look due to its intrinsic properties. While lacquer is somewhat hard, it also is thin and brittle. Poly (as they say in the biz) is thick and durable. I usually tell people that is has similar properties to glass – looks beautiful for a very long time. Chip it and it doesn’t really repair well. Lacquer however can be easily touched up but doesn’t have the same long term durability. I’ve seen 20 and 30 year old poly pianos that look showroom condition but i can’t honestly say that about lacquer. Regardless, the do-all product that seems to work well for both is Cory Polish. It cleans, it polishes and most important, it doesn’t leave a greasy residual film. Keep rubbing with a soft cloth and it can even burnish the top layer to rub out superficial scratches. To boot, it smells nice. Now if you have a satin piano… Cory also makes a polish for that as well. Give it a go… it’s the best i’ve found over the last 14 years.