Category Archives: Piano Regulation

Why do notes on my piano sustain when the sustain pedal is off?

Here’s something I’m often asked on my Sheffield piano tuning ventures, particularly when a piano has moved from one place to another and the movers haven’t shown due caution, or if a piano has not been tuned/serviced in many years. Dampers don’t damp. Notes ring out when the sustain pedal is lifted. This issue has many causes and several solutions:

  1. The action is not seated properly in the piano. If every key sustains even when the sustain pedal is off, then this is probably the case (commonly occurring after a move). It takes 10 seconds to fix this, assuming nothing is broken and the action is simply loose or unscrewed. Overdamped pianos have a middle screw that allows one to move the whole action closer to the strings (this can be used prudently in order to improve the effectiveness of the dampers, although even altering it by less than a mm will have an effect on the pianos touch).
  2. The damper felt is worn or missing. Depending on the severity I might suggest a full replacement of damper felt – however, a quicker solution on a piano with more pressing concerns could be to move the damper so that a new section of the felt is now touching the string (giving it new life). I have many different sized felts in stock for uprights, grands, spinets and console pianos.
  3. Damper springs have lost tension – if it’s only one or two notes ringing out this can be a common issue on an older piano. In this case I replace the springs (I have a full set of upright and spinet upright damper springs in stock). I’ve never been asked for a full replacement of damper springs as a piano in such a state would likely not be worth such extensive repair. Occasionally springs can be re-tensioned manually by pulling them, but I usually err on the side of replacement.
  4. On Grand Pianos only: the damper wire is stuck in the damper guide rail. Bushings can be compressed, replaced or lubricated with PTFE depending on the severity.
  5. On Grand Pianos only: The damper lever or damper wire block needs repair or adjustment.
  6. The damper spoons are out of regulation. This is the least common reason for a damper not working properly, as typically damper soon regulation is a task usually related to touch or how the key ‘feels’ rather than the effectiveness of the damper. In  my piano tuner’s tool case I carry a special tool for regulating the damper spoons which is often a preliminary step in a piano regulation procedure.

On many of my travels tuning and repairing pianos is Sheffield and elsewhere, I may have encountered other reasons for dampers not working, but these are the most common that come to mind.

Common causes of a piano ‘clicking’

Noises of various kinds (clicks, rattles, buzzes and squeaks) can be one of the most unbearable annoyances for the pianist and must be fixed. If a piano has been stored in a very dry environment (next to a fire place for example), the felts in the action and keys can dry out and disintegrate over time. This not only causes regulation problems but can also lead to annoying clicks that make playing the piano unbearable.

If you’re piano clicks loudly on every note, it’s possible that hammer butt felts in the action have disintegrated. The causes the jack to slam against the wood of the hammer butt rather than felt after a note after a note has been played. This can be an intensive job to fix due to the time consuming nature of re-felting 88 hammer butts. If it’s the only issue with an otherwise good quality piano it’s very much worth doing – with the price of felt included I would charge £250 for a full replacement of every hammer butt felt (although it would be much cheaper if only a few have disintegrated)

However, If the hammer butt felts have dried out and disintegrated it’s very likely that the balance rail punchings and the back rail cloth have also dried out and crumbled away to various degrees. If the keys are different heights then this is likely to be the case. Replacing the balance rail punchings/washers and the back rail cloth – and cleaning the entire key bed – is also important as any dry crumbs from the disintegrated felts can be catastrophic to the pianos performace and cause different key heights and sticking keys. In the case of the back rail cloth, if you can imagine the very back of the key resting on a collection of cloth debris rather than a clean, even strip of cloth you can see why even a slight difference in how the back of the key sits can cause the front of a key to be raised or lowered.

Another possibility for clicks on every note is that the hammer rest rail is either loose or has come off. This would cause the hammer shanks to click against the wood of the rail (rather than felt) after a key is player and the hammer falls back into resting position.

In the key bed, a cause for clicks is the key bushings being worn out causing the loose key to rattle against the front and balance rail pins, although this is lesson common cause of clicking.

One issue I’ve occasionally seen on older uprights, is the capstan screw being exposed and clicking against the wippen when a key is played – this is an easy fix as a thin layer of felt (with minor re-regulation) over the capstan can fix the issue within minutes.

The common theme here is of wood hitting wood where it should be hitting felt or cloth. If the humidity of the room is kept at reasonable levels (40-50% is the sweet spot) this can be avoided long term as of the felts and cloths in the piano action are designed to withstand years of aggressive piano playing. I’ve seen instances of pianos kept next to fires where the felts dried out on the side that was closest to the fire and the other side was fine. Very dry air destroys pianos, so please be careful where you keep your piano!

  • – Richard Lidster, Sheffield Piano Tuner

Piano tuning tools used in the each job

Each morning as I leave my Sheffield home for a day of piano tuning, I have to pack my car with everything I need. This usually involves a case of piano tuning and repairing tools, but also many spare actions parts that can be used for repairs. In the winter when it snows and I can’t get my car off the drive for piano tuning, I sometimes work locally in Sheffield by walking to each job if it’s close enough. In these instances I can use a few essentials:

  1. My Fujan Carbon Piano Tuning Hammer – the worlds most advanced tuning hammer that allows me to feel every little movement in the wrest pins (or tuning pins) as they turn. Piano tuning became much easier for me when I began using this around 2017 or 2018.
  2. My Keyes Impact Tuning Hammer – another excellent tuning hammer, this one uses a weight to move the tuning pins. I’m slowly introducing more of this hammer into my tunings as its much easier on the wrists and elbows, and moves the wrest pin deeper in the wrest plank (better stability than one could manage with a regular piano tuning hammer)
  3. A variety of screwdrivers for tightening or loosening loose screws in the action, or for removing broken action parts
  4. PTFE – both powdered and liquid for lubricating various felts in the piano action and piano keys. Or can be used to fix squeaky pedals and the like.
  5. Two mutes for muting the strings – piano tuning is achieved by tuning the middle strings in equal temperament and then tuning the adjacent strings in unison with its neighbor.
  6. A bag of jack springs – a very common issue for notes jamming is that the jack springs have lost tensions (particularly true if the piano is older than 50 years)
  7. Several types of glue (different glue for different needs)
  8. A variety of washers – these are needed to set the key height for an even touch and the best play-ability
  9. A set off regulating tool – another very common problem with pianos. If the note is dead, the hammers bobble against the strings or the hammer won’t repeat properly there’s most likely an issue with how the set-off buttons are regulated
  10. A pair of pliers – many, many different uses in regulating a piano

Many piano tuning and repair jobs could be achieved with just these essentials, although I’m always glad to have much more than this backed up in the car and at home.

The death of the Sheffield Piano Tuner blog

Ever since beginning my informed Sheffield piano tuner blog positing in 2015, I’ve steadily ran out of topics relating to Sheffield pianos and piano tuning. While initially successful, it soon became too difficult to write posts about the inner workings of a piano that aren’t steeped in technical jargon. If any of my piano tuning clientele would like me to discuss something on this blog I would happily make another post about Sheffield piano tuning, repairs and regulation. All helps the traffic to the site. On occasion I have been told during piano tuning that this website has been illuminating and has taught many a pianist about the inner workings of their piano. So all has not been in vain.

New prices for the Sheffield Piano Tuner

Due to an influx of new inqueries and a costly new marketing campaign, the Sheffield piano tuner has raised his prices £5. £45 for a piano tuning is still very modest compared to similar services in the UK. Don’t forget that this also includes many repair and regulation jobs that other piano tuner’s will charge extra for. I generally do as much as I can within two hours to make sure your piano sounds and plays the best it can. If the work needed takes more than two hours I charge £25 per hour plus the price of any replacement parts (worn felts and bushings are sometimes replaced during the regulation process). Keeping the customer satisfied is in both our interests – my working hours are flexible and I can always work around your busy schedule.

– Richard, Piano Tuner Sheffield.

New page added for North Yorkshire customers

I have created a new page on this website – – specifically for piano tuning customers in Whitby and the district of Scarborough. I have also created a Facebook page to relocate interested parties to this website (where information on my piano tuning/repair/maintenance services and availability is more thorough). I am not planning to relocate there permanently, but I do make regular trips (at least once every fortnight) to tune for piano owners in North Yorkshire and Teesside. For those living in the region I will next be in your area on the following days:

  • Friday 24th of February
  • Saturday 25th of February
  • Sunday 26th of February

Please contact me for any queries. I am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding your piano!

Richard – Piano Tuner Sheffield.

Weekly Update: 17/09/16

I’m glad it’s September – I’ve had more and more piano tuning work booked in, which, after how slow July and August were (they always are, as it’s a time when people are away on their holidays). I’ve had at least one new enquiry a day this week, a huge increase from the Summer.

Of the many jobs I had booked this week, I will tell you about some of the more interesting ones:

On Tuesday I had a slightly more high profile piano tuning than usual; a tuning for wedding in Wortley, at the eponymous Wortley Hall, located just south of Barnsley. A large stately home which is now used for weddings, which contained a grand piano which had henceforth been displayed for show rather than for playing. A customer had wanted the piano tuning for her wedding, and since the venue hadn’t been receiving regular visists from a piano tuner, she called me. Since I had a piano tuning job in Barnsley later that day, fitting another piano tuning job in Wortley that morning was perfect. The worst thing about the piano I noticed upon immediate inspection was that the keys were filthy with brown muck and horribly sticky as if a child had spilt juice over them during a wedding ceremony (which wouldn’t surpise me). A had some cleaning equipment with me so I cleaned the keys with a lightly damp cloth and a special cleaning solution I carry with me. While tuning I had three customers take down my details (one assumes piano tuners are hard to come by in that area), which was a pleasant surprise! Presumably they liked what they heard!

On Wednesday morning I had a piano tuning at a school on the other side of Sheffield, near Attercliffe. Unfortunately I was booked in during both assembly and a PE lesson ( these mistakes sometimes happen from time to time), so trying to tune a piano in a hall full of screaming kids proved quite difficult. Luckily I had some repair jobs I had to do first (glueing a plastic hammer flange back in place, replacing three or four center pins and replacing some worn out bridle tapes), so I could get on with that those tasks while the kids took assembly, and then got most of the tuning done while the kids were out of the hall.

I got the job done in time to get to my next job, which was in a suburb in Sheffield near to Silverdale school (Millhouses I think), to assess a piano given to the customer for free by a friend. This customer had kept the piano in the garage which she wasn’t sure was worth keeping, as it had been given to her for free by a friend, and she wanted to start playing again as she hadn’t played much since childhood. It was true that the piano was very old (another overdamper) and not in the best condition, but I agreed to see what I could do in terms of fixing three of the notes which weren’t working, which I managed to do within twenty minutes or so. I then did an extremely rough tuning on the piano, doing the whole thing as fast as I could, finishing it in half an hour. This was just to give her an idea of what it would sound like if it was in tune and to prepare it for a proper piano tuning later on once it had been moved into the house. Obviously it stil sounded rough after tuning in that amount of time – I don’t believe any piano tuner can tune a piano in under an hour and have it sounding as excellent as it should do (on average it takes me around 90 minutes to perform a proper piano tuning).

Friday morning I tuned an old piano on the other side of Sheffield, past Woodseats and near Grave’s Park and Bishop’s House. The customer had kept his piano in the conservatory for a few years (always a bad idea, but thankfully he had moved it into the corner of his Kitchen, away from radiators and the hot stoves). Before the piano tuning I had to perform some customary repair jobs (applying teflon powder to the key bushings; lubricating the jack and hammer flange center pins with Protek CLP; gluing sticker cloth and damper felts back on to the action), which took about half an hour in total but which were necessary in order to fix keys which weren’t working and to restore the piano into its proper condition. Then came the tuning which took a good 90 minutes but completely transformed the sound of piano from something you’d hear in an old western film to something resembling a musical instrument (a very nice sounding one at that, in all seriousness). It is always satisfying to restore a piano which is in such an awful state as the customer usually seems ecstatic at how much better the piano sounds/plays afterwards and is more appreciative of the hard work put in to improve it.

On Friday afternoon I had a lovely drive to Bradwell, a village in Derbyshire that I’d driven through in the past but had never been there for work. Hopefully more people in that area will call me when they need a piano tuner, I certainly enjoyed the drive from Sheffield into Derbyshire, through Bamford, past Castleton… a much more pleasant drive than the usual ones across the city. During my life as a piano tuner I’d driven that way for work in Castleton, Hathersage and Glossop, but never in such nice weather. The piano tuning job was an enjoyable one. The piano was a straight-strung overdamper which the customer had an inherited from an elderly relative, and judging by the design I’d have put the piano as at least 80 years old, although it had clearly been kept in reasonable condition by its previous owner and had had some restoration done on it in the not so distant past. In terms of repair work, there wasn’t a lot for me to do. The piano tuning took about 90 minutes to tune and, again, the improvement in its overall sound was noticable after the tuning. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring the piano up to concern pitch due it’s age and how flat it was (70 cents flat of A440), but I got a good tuning out of it by tuning the piano to middle C.

I had other jobs that week but they were usual run of the mill tuning in customers homes and not very interesting to write about. If you’d like to book a piano tuning please get a touch, there are still plenty of available times in my diary for this next upcoming week.

– Richard, Piano Tuner Sheffield.

Weekly Update: 26th of of May

The last two weeks have been busier than usual. Aside from the usual piano tuning jobs scattered across Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and other parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, I’ve had six seperate bookings at the Lyceum and Cruicible Theaters to tune their pianos for rehearsals and for the premire of the play Flowers For Mrs Harris (a musical based on the novel by Paul Gallico). Yesterday evening I caught the bus into town to tune the grand piano in between performances. If anyone has seen the play on its current run, I hope the piano sounded lovely.

On Tuesday I purchased a whole new set of tools for replacing the centre pins (a job I’m required to perform for a Sheffield customer next week). Centre pins are the pins found inside the hammer flange that allows the hammer to move when a key is hit. The bushings holding the pins can become too loose or two tight, which can be remedied by adjusting the action parts (which is usually ill-advised as too much alteration will create an uneven touch across the piano – as a quick fix, however, minor adjustments can be made to the capstan screw, the let-off button or the back checks). In my two years of piano tuning professionally I have thus far been able to get by without replacing centre pins. I think this is mainly because in Sheffield (and the north of England generally) the cold and damp climate tends to swell the flange bushings (and the key bushings for that matter) making them grip the pin too firmly – when this is occurs, I apply some protek lubrication which loosens the grip (this has worked every time so far). In hotter climates the reverse is true: the dryness causes the bushings to loosen their grip. The good news is that I’m at the stage now where I’ve got all the tools I need for piano tuning and for the vast majority of repair and regulation work required on the job.


– Richard, Piano Tuner Sheffield.