One of the most common problems I find with pianos is sticking keys (I have had two Sheffield customers with this problem is the last week alone). There are multiple things that can cause a sticking key, but it tends to be due to the key bushings (the felt inside the keys resting on balance pin and the guide pin) swelling due to changes in humidity. Even a small amout of moisture can cause them to swell, putting too much pressure on the pins.
There are a several things you can try yourself before calling a piano tuner. Firstly, take the key out and clean any dust or exceess dirt lying under and round it. Put the key back on and try and again. If it still sticks, press the key down and gently move it back and forth (be careful on the black keys as the wood is thinner and too much pressure could crack the wood).
If you’ve tried these steps and none have worked then a piano tuner can help you. First off I will check the piano action to see if there are any problems with it that are causing the keys to stick. If the action is fine and the problem is indentified as swollen bushings, I have a special tool that compresses the felt in the bushing allowing it to move more freely on the balance pin and the rest pin. If I have tried this and the key is still sticking, then you need to have the key bushings replaced. Replacing key bushings is a fairly quick and easy job but I’d advise calling a piano tuner/technician rather than attempting it yourself.
Here are the times I’m available for piano tuning bookings next week (give or take one hour). Some of these might not be possible if you live too far out of Sheffield as the travel times may coincide with other piano tuning jobs (this can be discussed on the phone or via email).
Finally, a blog post not related to piano tuning! A local Sheffield/Barnsley band Harmony of Spheres (which I play guitar in) is looking for a new keyboard player. We’re a progressive rock band in the style of Genesis, Rush, Yes, Pink Floyd and Marillion, and while we’re planning on introducing originals into the set, at the moment we’re predominantley playing covers of said bands (and others). The only requirements are a good level of technical skill (we’re trying to play the songs as they are on the album) and a love of the genre. Practices are usually held at the Back to Black studios in Barnsely, which I’ve found is easy enough to drive to after a day piano tuning in Sheffield.
Please email me or send a message to the Harmony of Spheres facebook page if you or anyone you know is interested.
I’ve just noticed that I haven’t written anything about pitch raising pianos that are well below concert pitch (thanks to a Sheffield piano tuning customer for reminding me). Usually I’ll do a pitch raise if the piano is more than 5 cents below concert pitch, which involves tuning the piano twice. This is the most common scenario, and so far in my piano tuning career I have dealt with pianos that are a semitone below concert pitch by tuning it to itself. However, if the whole piano is more than 30 cents below concert pitch, and you want a pitch raise rather than a standard piano tuning, it will require 3 tunings to get it to stay at concert pitch. Two of them will be pitch corrections to get it up to pitch, both of which will be rough tunings taking an hour each. The third tuning will be a fine tuning to make sure every note on the piano is nicely in tune and at concert pitch. I haven’t mentioned anything so far on this website as I hadn’t made any huge pitch raises when I first starting piano tuning around Sheffield. Most pianos over 30 cents below concert pitch are old pianos well past their prime that most often haven’t been looked after, so I usually suggested tuning it to itself or tuning the piano a little bit sharper each time so that it remains stable. All of these customers seemed happy with the results as the piano sounded much better than it did before and at least was in tune with itself.
I’d been meaning to film myself piano tuning for a while, thinking it would be something a bit more interesting to put on this website. After piano tuning for a living, keeping my own piano in tune can sometimes seem like a chore (seeing as I’m doing it for free). I tuned the piano in my own house here in Sheffield last week, but forgot to film myself first time round. There were one or two unisons that were close but not 100% in tune, so I went round the piano again and filmed myself tuning one of them. There’s something strangely satisfying about an out of tune string sliding in tune! I’m sure piano tuners will agree…
I was piano tuning in Handsworth, Sheffield earlier this week and a customer requested that the piano be tuned differently to accomodate other instruments. He had an electric organ that was almost half a semitone above A440, and would like the piano to be tuned to that pitch. My own view is that it’s ok to tune a piano to itself when its flat (this is the advisable route when the piano hasn’t been tuned in years and is too flat for a standard pitch raise) but I’d never want to risk tuning a piano so far above A440 as it would put too much pressure on the soundboard. A piano is designed to be at concert pitch and sounds best at concert pitch. Practicing in different tunings can hinder a student’s musicality as they get used to playing pieces outside the pitch they were intended to be played in. Not only that, but pianos that are in tune with themselves but flat, tend to sound dull and lifeless compared to ones kept at A440.
As many people know, A440 is what’s known as ‘standard pitch’ or ‘concert pitch’, which simply means that the first A (known as A4 to or middle A to keyboard players) above middle C is tuned to 400 Hz. Before the baroque era, there was no standard pitch that all instruments were tuned to, so tunings differed as widely as A-392 to A-465. The vast majority of music today will be tuned to A400, but some orchestras playing traditional renaissance and baroque music will use earlier tunings (however the piano wasn’t invented until the early 19th century, so that’s not an issue for us), and there are some modern classical composers such as Terry Riley have experimented with different piano tunings.