I am fortunate to be the caretaker of a piano, one that my sister inherited at the age of four. It has remained in the family home, and a few years ago, when I moved into mum and dad’s unit the discussion arose about the piano. My sister lives in Wellington and the piano is very old. We figured it would cost an awful lot getting it across Cook Strait and could be the death of the old thing! My sister went and bought an electric piano and told me to keep it.
It is old, the soft pedal no longer works and the last time it was tuned in …ahem 1986… the piano tuner told mum it was on its last legs.
I had stopped learning and whether due to the information mum was given, or due to cost, the poor thing never was tuned again! It managed another house move from the big house to their unit when they downsized, and it went into storage and back again for EQC repairs.
On a whim I was on the web and looking at trade in options for the piano and happened on a website where the piano tuners also restored pianos. I sent off an email and booked the fellow in to come and look at the piano and advise if there was anything we can do.
So last Monday a piano tuner came along, took the old dear apart and had a look. It was mixed news. She’s very old c.1880. The build of pianos changed about three or four years later, so unfortunately he couldn’t repair the pedal or do much from a restoration point of view. However he was astonished at the good condition it was in and said he could tune it, albeit at a slightly lower pitch … The beginning of the end, apparently …. But that’s what I recall mum was told 28 years ago!
I learned some interesting facts that day, like pianos have an average life of 60 years, that the Japanese modern pianos are actually worth looking at, even if they have no “furniture value” and that the piano I have in my possession is worth absolutely nothing.
However, post tuning, there was a significant difference to the sound. It sounded softer because it was tuned, so the sustain pedal actually sounded like it did something due to the enhanced sound of the keys. Some of the keys, the top octave had had very little pitch – not dead but barely breathing. Post tune, there are only two keys like that – the last two!
So the beloved piano has been given a reprieve and is on another last life. It might be time to consider turning it into a bookcase or liquor cabinet next time around, but for now, I’ve had the pleasure of tickling her ivories once again and not scaring the cat out of the room. The minute the keys start sounding tinny I’ll acknowledge it is the end (they hadn’t got there but were close). For now though, I’m listening to … Me! Playing Les Miserables, Dvorak, Pachebal, Bach, Irish tunes from Phik Coulter and the odd Coldplay piece – and I’m LOVING it!