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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- On Grand Pianos only: The damper lever or damper wire block needs repair or adjustment.
- 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.
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
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:
- 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.
- 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)
- A variety of screwdrivers for tightening or loosening loose screws in the action, or for removing broken action parts
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- Several types of glue (different glue for different needs)
- A variety of washers – these are needed to set the key height for an even touch and the best play-ability
- 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
- 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.
I know what you’re thinking. £45 for a piano tuning in Sheffield seems under-priced, so there must be hidden charges included. Well, the only time a ‘hidden’ charge might apply is if I were to turn up and find that the piano needs a pitch raise rather than a standard piano tuning to tune it to concert pitch – in those instances I charge £45 for the first tuning, and then £20 for a second two weeks after the first. That isn’t just me; every piano tuner will charge extra for a pitch raise (every piano tuner I’ve heard of at least), and most like to break it up into two visits two weeks apart to ensure the best result in terms of tuning stability.
For the £45 you get two hours of my labour – which includes a full piano tuning and any minor piano repairs that can be done within that time. This is usually enough to ensure a piano is fully functional/operational. It’s then up to the customer to decide if they’d like to spend more on extra action parts or on some of the finer points of piano regulation that might take it up a level in terms of its performance (not so much its sound – that will have been taken care of during the piano tuning).
I hope I’ve done my 10,000 hours of piano tuning and repairs by now. From what I’ve observed, a good tuning and a basic set up of the action will leave the majority of piano tuning customers very happy indeed. There are certain players (usually in possession of high-end pianos) who may desire something a little more extensive, such as voicing/toning the hammers to achieve a certain sound (typically a brighter or a warmer tone). Generally speaking, if someone has looked after their piano and had it tuned & serviced regularly, I’ll spend about an hour to an hour and a half on the piano tuning plus a little time making any adjustments to compensate for one or two worn action parts. If it’s an older piano and the action is showing more severe signs of wear, I’ll suggest replacing action parts if it’s cost effective to do so and if such a decision would greatly improve its playability and performance.
I’m glad that, even with rising living costs, I can continue to give people in the Sheffield area a good deal on piano tuning. It’s a business model that has worked quite well over the years, and helps me get a few new customers each week, plus my round of regulars. I work in other cities and towns, as mentioned across this website, but travel costs have to be taken into consideration on those trips (although my prices are still competitive even then). If a customer can book me in with a neighbour at the same time I’ll sometimes offer a discount as well, depending on the location.
- Richard, Sheffield Piano Tuner.
For my available times for piano tuning bookings, see the bullet point lists below. The first one is for South Yorkshire customers and the second for piano tuning in North Yorkshire (as far south as Bridlington) and Teesside (as far north as Middlesborough). I update this blog with my weekly availability every Monday and later dates are always available on request!
For customers in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire (Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster, Barnsley, Chesterfield, etc), I am free at the following times:
- Monday the 1st of May @ 6 PM
- Monday the 1st of May @ 8 PM
- Tuesday the 2nd @ 10 AM
- Tuesday the 2nd @ 5 PM
- Tuesday the 2nd @ 7 PM
- Wednesday the 3rd @ 10 AM
- Wednesday the 3rd @ 12 PM
- Wednesday the 3rd @ 2 PM
- Wednesday the 3rd @ 4 PM
- Wednesday the 3rd @ 6 PM
- Wednesday the 3rd @ 8 PM
- Thursday the 4th @ 10 AM
- Thursday the 4th @ 12 PM
- Thursday the 4th @ 7 PM
For North Yorkshire & Teesside Customers (Whitby, Scarborough, Ravenscar, Guisborough, Pickering, Bridlington, Brotton, Ruswick Bay, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Staithes, Redcar, Thornaby, Stokesly, Middlesbrough, etc) I am available at the following times this week:
- Friday the 5th of May @ 7 PM
- Saturday the 6th @ 1 PM
- Saturday the 6th @ 4 PM
- Saturday the 6th @ 7 PM
- Sunday the 7th @ 10 AM
- Sunday the 7th @ 2 PM
- Sunday the 7th @ 4 PM
- Sunday the 7th @ 6 PM
- Sunday the 7th @ 8 PM
I still have plenty of available slots in my diary for piano tuning & repair jobs later this week. I can’t manage any bookings tomorrow (Tuesday the 28th) as I’m spending the whole day tuning a selection of pianos at a secondary school in Totley, Sheffield. However, I’m still looking for new (or old) customers for later in the week, and have the following times free:
- Wednesday the 29th @ 4 PM
- Wednesday the 29 @ 6 PM
- Thursday the 30th @ 2 PM
- Thursday the 30th @ 4 PM
- Thursday the 30th @ 6 PM
- Friday the 31st @ 10 AM
- Friday the 31st @ 12 PM
- Friday the 31st @ 2 PM
- Saturday the 1st of April @ 2 PM
- Sunday the 2nd of April @ 12 PM
- Sunday the 2nd of April @ 4 PM
If anyone in North Yorkshire (especially Whitby, Scarborough and nearby areas) or Teesside is reading this wondering when I’ll next be tuning pianos in your area, I will be making two mid-week visits on the 4th of April and the 11th of April respectively, for piano tuning and repair work. If you contact me via phone (0754 266 7040) or by email (Richard@pianotunersheffield.co.uk) I will be happy to book you in at a time best suited to you.
– Richard, Piano Tuner Sheffield.
If anyone is looking to book a piano tuner this week, I have a few slots available in my diary for both customer bases (South Yorkshire in the week and North Yorkshire on the weekend). I have some piano tuning and repair work at a local Church in Sheffield on Friday morning, after which I will set off on the 2 hour drive to Robin Hood’s Bay for a weekend of piano tuning in Whitby, Scarborough and beyond. I will be back in Sheffield on Sunday evening and am available to book a piano tuning later on in the day. My availability this week is as follows:
Sheffield (Includes South Yorkshire & Derbyshire: Rotherham, Chesterfield, Edale, Hathersage, Bakewell, Barnsley, Doncaster, Worksop, Retford, Holmfirth, Wakefield, Huddersfield, Glossop, etc):
- Tuesday 21st @ 10 AM
- Tuesday 21st @ 5 PM
- Tuesday 21st @ 7 PM
- Wednesday 22nd @ 12 PM
- Thursday 23rd @ 12 PM
- Thursday 23rd @ 2 PM
- Thursday 23rd @ 6 PM
- Sunday 26th @ 7 PM
Whitby & the District of Scarborough (Includes North Yorkshire & Teesside: Ravenscar, Robin Hood’s Bay, Guisborough, Pickering, Brotton, Ruswick Bay, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Staithes, Redcar, Thornaby, Stokesly, Middlesbrough, etc):
- Friday 24th @ 6 PM
- Saturday 25th @ 2 PM
- Saturday 25th @ 5 PM
- Sunday 26th @ 10 AM
- Sunday 26th @ 12 PM
- Sunday 26th @ 2 PM
Later dates are available by arrangement.
– Richard, Piano Tuner Sheffield.
I have created a new page on this website – pianotunersheffield.co.uk/piano-tuning-in-scarborough – 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.
Over the last two weeks I’ve been called out to some high profile piano tuning jobs, including a last minute booking at the Cruicible Theater in Sheffield to fix a sustain pedal on a John Broadwood upright, as well as a fine tune to ensure it was ready for a theatre production of Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Such pianos tend to be tuned so regularly that they are approximately at concert pitch already, but the delivery between venues tends to knock them slightly out of tune requiring a piano tuning before every peformance.
Yesterday I was called out to a recording studio near Sheffield city centre to tune a Yamaha C7 grand piano for an advert by a dutch software company. This was a big step for me, and a great experience that taught me about working in that industry and working under pressure in such situations. Needless to say the piano sounded excellent (even before it was tuned), but after it was tuned you could hear the full clarity and resonance of its tone. Pianos of that quality tend to be so well-made that tuning them isn’t actually as difficult as tuning an older, worn-out piano, for reasons I’ve described in previous blog posts.
That week I had an interesting experience fixing up an Eavestaff mini piano in Doncaster, tuning it twice in one afternoon in order to get it into shape so that it stays in tune (this was necessary as the piano had not been tuned in over twenty years, so the strings slipped back out of tune during the initial tuning). In such situations I’m glad I have an electronic tuning device as this makes the first rough tuning so much quicker, giving me a bit more time to spend on the second, more rigorous fine tune. Eavestaff pianos are incredibly difficult to tune not because of how they sound, but because of where the tuning pins are – either behind the keys and above the action, or underneath the keybed behind the bottom panel, requiring the piano tuner to neal down in order to tune them. They actually tend to be fairly good pianos when they’re well-maintained, but they’re a nightmare for piano tuners!
At other points over the last two weeks I’ve had piano tuning jobs in the usual places in Sheffield – Sharrow, Crookes, Hillsborough Heeley, Woodseats, Sheffield city centre, Attercliffe, Tinsley and so on. Usual tuning and maintenance, repairs and regulation. Occasional jobs in Rotherham, Doncaster and Chesterfield are always appreciated, and I don’t mind travelling further (although when I’m piano tuning outside of Sheffield there’s a very tiny extra charge for travel costs). I’m still trying to reach out to new customers so that I can broaden my customer base. I’m currently in talk with piano company in Manchester who have a few jobs for me to do over on that side on of the pennines. Strangely enough most of my long journeys outside Sheffield have tended to be to the east, from I can tell they already have a large number of piano tuners in the area. That said, I’m always happy to get more bookings over that side of the country and don’t mind making a car journey and chances are I will be able to fit you in an some point in the immediate future.
– Richard, Piano Tuner Sheffield