Robert Callaghan is the resident keyboard technician for the Department of Music at University of Nevada, Reno. Mr. Callaghan is responsible for the care of the many campus pianos, including the three stage pianos at Nightingale Concert Hall.
Robert Callaghan, Registered Piano Technician, is available for a variety of piano care services in Reno, Sparks, Carson City and surrounding areas of northern Nevada and northeastern California, including northern Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Sierraville and Portola.
Piano Tuning Services
This includes tuning a previously maintained piano to standard pitch of A-440, spacing the hammers for proper striking of the strings, eliminating easily repaired noises such as clicks or squeaks, adjusting the pedals, and generally tidying up around the tuning pins and keys.
Other Piano Services Available:
Focus is on getting the piano back up to standard pitch of A-440 after years of neglect or being moved here from a more humid climate. I make several passes over the piano, carefully tightening the strings to pull them up to pitch without overly stressing them. This can take longer than a routine tuning, and a follow-up visit sooner than the usual 6 month interval of routine tunings is strongly recommended.
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This involves working on the moving parts of the piano, called the "action", the goal being to give the piano a consistent and predictable feel or "touch". This helps to eliminate mechanical distractions that divert your attention away from the music. A complete regulation would involved resetting the key height and dip, the hammer shape and distance from the strings, adjusting repetition spring tensions, damper lift, and many other details too numerous to mention now. A basic regulation utilizes the existing parts in the piano.
It is possible that merely one aspect of the regulation will cure a number of problems. For example, simply adjusting the hammer's distance from the strings can make the action feel much more free and responsive. Since it is best to have the piano at hand to do the best and most efficient work, I like to do as much as possible on site, which could take up to several hours or a large part of the day, depending on how much needs to be done.
Incidental replacement of parts that might have broken, such as a hammer shank, can be replaced on site. Larger scale work such as replacing all the hammers or other moving parts, would require special ordering, and their replacement would necessarily involve regulation to get them working properly. A follow-up visit is strongly recommended in order to make sure the new parts are working properly.
Individual keytops can be reglued if they are available. Sometimes they can be found somewhere inside the piano, but not always. While I can replace a full set of keytops myself on an extensively damaged keyboard with chipped fronts or many missing keytops, such as on an old piano, for the highest quality pianos I think it would be best for the keys to be boxed and shipped to a keytop replacement specialist who can machine them to perfection. All new replacement keytops are now plastic. Sometimes individual ivory keytops can be replaced with used ivory left over from another key covering job, but it is nearly impossible to get a perfect match to the old ivory.
There are many things you can do yourself to determine if a piano is right for you. The piano has very little tolerance for something being wrong, so if it sounds good and up to pitch, it is probably OK. You could take an "A" tuning fork with you to see how close the piano is to being in tune, and play intervals such as double or triple octaves, and arpeggios to get a impression of the overall sound of the piano. I recommend this technique over playing music because it helps to reveal irregularities in the tone and touch that playing a piece of music might miss or disguise. Once you have found a piano that "speaks to you", we can look at it together and plan what kind of service it might need.
Refinishing a piano is very labor intensive and the best finishes are sprayed on. Because of environmental concerns this kind of refinishing requires an oil-bath spray booth because of vapors. Water-based brush on finishes are available but they don't have the quality of a sprayed finish. It would be best to send the piano to a spray finish specialist experienced with pianos for this type of work.
Reconditioning would be the same as regulation, except that you replace as many parts as necessary. Often times the under key felt has been moth eaten, especially if the piano has been in a humid, wooded area, or they could just be worn down through use and age. Other parts might need to be replaced as well, such as the cloth key bushings that keep the keys from rattling, or the damper felt that stops the strings from ringing might have become hard and noisy. The amount of work needed can be determined upon inspection.
Restoration can be thought of as all of the above, but including replacing the plank the tuning pins are driven into (the "pinblock"), repairing and refinishing the soundboard with brush-on varnish, and replacing the strings. Bass strings need to be special ordered for each specific piano. Plain wire strings are replaced in the piano's existing pattern or slightly updated if necessary, such as on a piano from the late 1800s.
While I don't move pianos personally, I can make some recommendations about how to do it or who to call.
I highly recommend purchasing a piano from a local piano dealer rather than online. This way you have someone local to call in case there is a problem. Small problems are common in new pianos. As the new parts are being broken in by playing, some adjustments might be needed. This is considered warrantee work by dealers, and buying a piano on-line is risky because you don't have someone to call if you need to. A piano technician not associated with the seller will need to bill you for any follow-up work.
I recommend selling your piano on consignment through a local dealer. You might not get as much as you would like selling it yourself, but you have the convenience of someone else moving it, and you don't have strangers coming to your home to look at it. It might take a little more time, too, but this can be helpful, especially if you have a deadline, such as moving away.
Robert Callaghan is a Registered Piano Technician with the Piano Technicians Guild, Inc.
© Robert Callaghan, harmonicity.com