Piano Technician Q & A
Charl du Plessis in conversation with Steinway Concert Technician Garth Hammer
Over many years I have developed a very deep respect and fascination with the craft of skilled piano technicians. Pianists often overlook the importance of the skilled work these people do. If it were not for master craftsman all over the world I would not sound the way they enable me to sound. That is why I cannot understand why some pianists just discard the relationship with a technician as an unimportant one. They are the magicians that ensure the happiness of artists all across the globe.
Over the years I have spent hours and hours alongside some visiting technicians from Steinway’s Hamburg factory and have learned quite a bit about the work they do. One of my favourite piano technicians in South Africa is Garth Hammer from Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos is Cape Town. He travels all over the country to tune and service pianos and has agreed to participate in a Q & A about some piano myths. During the course of the next year I will try and answer the most common questions about taking care of your piano. Feel free to comment or send us your questions.
Myth: If I move my piano it will go out of tune.
Garth: If you drop a piano off the back of a truck yes, but moving pianos in a careful way will not affect tuning. The two biggest contributing factors to ensure tuning stability are humidity and temperature. People do not take these elements into consideration. The reason these factors have such a big impact is the severe reaction of the wood. Moisture makes the wood swell up and dry condition causes a tightening of the wood, which in turn affects the whole instrument from soundboard to pin block that has to give and respond to the reactions of the wood. It can have a severe impact on an instrument with the tension of a grand piano.
This proves that the myth is not true. You can carefully move your piano without it affecting the tuning.
Charl: What can I do to reduce the effects of changing humidity and temperature on my piano?
Garth: Installing a Piano Life Saver System (PLS) to your upright or grand will control the humidity and regulate the moisture in the soundboard area to reduce sudden changes, which could prevent cracks or even splits in the sound board. Keeping the room where the piano is kept at a constant temperature also makes a big difference.
For more information on PLS and other piano questions please contact Ian Burgess Simpson Pianos on +27 21 788 9389 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org.