Blog - Piano tuning repairs regulation voicing in Kitchener-Waterloo Cambridge, Guelph & Stratford
519-884-8118 | 1-800-788-0095
[email protected]


Grubby in Ayr wrote: "What is the best way to clean the keys on our piano?"


Dear G in A: The first thing you need to determine is whether your keys are ivory or plastic. If you are unsure, your piano technician should be able to help you. Regardless of whether the keys are ivory or plastic, please refrain from spraying anything directly onto the keys. Arm yourself with a really soft cloth - an old t-shirt or old flannel pjs will be fine. To prevent the key from going down as you clean push lightly on the front of the key and that should stop the key from moving. For plastic keys I have had success with the blue stuff in the squirty bottle that you might use to clean a mirror. Also, there are key cleaning fluids you can purchase at most music stores. Spray a small amount of your chosen cleaner onto the soft cloth (less is more in this operation), and gently rub the key. Most grunge should come off. Have a dry soft cloth available to give the keys a final polish. For ivory keys - toothpaste! You will need the aforementioned soft cloth and an old toothbrush - what my Dad used to call a "mush brush". Gel toothpastes are not such a good idea, because they have green or orange colouring that will not stain the ivory but could make the sides of your keys green or orange if some should get in between the keys. Just your garden variety, ordinary white toothpaste will work fine. Again, less is more. Put a small amount onto the key with your finger and rub it around with the "mush brush". Dampen your soft cloth - it should be almost dry - and remove the toothpaste. Take another soft cloth and give the key a final polish. Now sit back and admire your handywork. From bitter experience, I suggest that you do one key at a time. If the toothpaste dries it is a lot more difficult to get off the key. This is a very satisfying job - almost zen-like. It is the kind of thing that you can do when all is quiet; you can put some of your favourite tunes on the stereo (I guess MP-3 player would be the modern equivalent) and just think aboutanything that puts a smile on your face.


add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn

How often should I tune my piano?

Dear Piano Lady — how often should I tune my piano?  Out of tune in New Hamburg


Dear Out of Tune: The answer is once a year is good; twice a year is better.  The piano is, in a way, a “living” thing.  It reacts to changing relative humidity conditions and temperature fluctuations.  A much more experienced technician answered this question, rather glibly — “daily”.  Think of your piano tuning as the oil change.  It is something you do on a regular basis and the person doing the regular maintenance may see something minor (that could turn into something major) and can “catch” it, so to speak, before it becomes a bigger problem.  Good piano technicians will make minor adjustments to the action of the piano while doing a regular tuning that will keep your piano in top working condition.


The corollary to this question is should I tune the piano if it is moved.  If you are moving the piano across the room, and you do it carefully, the answer is probably not.  If however, you cart the piano out your door, put it on a truck an drive it around town, then most certainly the piano will required a tuning.  Pianos are amazingly finicky things given how heavy they are.  Remember that you should wait 2 to 3 weeks when the piano is in its new location before tuning.  It needs to acclimate to its new home.


add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn

Mary A. wrote: "I usually use regular furniture polish to shine up my piano. Is that doing any thing bad to it? And is there anything I can do to make the scratches less noticeable?"


Dear Mary A: Using a good quality furniture polish to shine up your piano will not affect the sound of your piano. Unlike violins, violas, cellos and double basses, the finish on the case of a piano imparts no acoustic properties. The piano's cabinet provides protection for all of the internal moving parts of the instrument. In fact, over the many years that I have been a piano technician, I have seen lots of different treatments for piano cases: pianos painted most colours of the rainbow; a piano that was completely covered in mirrors; pianos with plexiglas inserts; and - my personal fave - a piano that someone had painstakingly covered with "naugahyde" complete with carefully positioned matching tacks! None of these pianos suffered any sound-related deficits. As for masking minor scratches, you can obtain pigmented pens or wax sticks from most stores that sell wood and wood related stains and finishes. Just follow the directions on the tube. For deeper scratches or veneer damage you may want to ask your piano technician to recommend a furniture refinisher that is experienced with pianos. Some refinishers will even do in-home touch-ups. If you have a piano with a high polish (very, very shiny) finish you probably already know that it can get scratched just by looking at it. I would not recommend that anyone attempt any kind of scratch repair themselves on high polish finishes. Please ask your piano technician for a referral to someone who specializes in polyester finishes.


Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn

Curious in Cambridge wrote: "I don't have a piano but here's something I've wondered for a long time: why do some pianos have two pedals and other pianos have three? What do the pedals do?"


Dear Curious: The modern piano, which has been around since about 1850, originally had only two pedals. The one on the right is the damper lift pedal or the "loud pedal" and the one on the left is the "una corda" or soft pedal. The dampers are blocks of felt that normally sit on the piano strings to stop them from making noise. In music it is just as important to stop the sound as it is to start it. When an individual piano key is played there is a tab or "spoon" that lifts the damper for each string and then it goes back into place (resting on the string) when your finger is lifted off the key. The damper pedal, usually activated by the right foot, lifts all of the dampers at once allowing a pleasant wash of sound to spill forth from the piano. It makes the piano seem louder. The "una corda" or soft pedal on a grand piano actually moves the entire keyboard to the right so that the hammers are realigned to hit only 2 of the 3 strings thus making a softer sound. On an upright piano the keyboard does not shift, but the left pedal actually moves the entire set of hammers closer to the strings so that the hammers travel a shorter distance to the string, not picking up as much speed as normal, thus producing a softer sound. The third pedal (in the middle) is largely something that was added by North American piano manufacturers. Many European pianos still have only 2 pedals. Traditionally, the middle pedal on a grand piano (and some uprights) is called the "sostenuto" which means sustaining. The sostenuto pedal, when depressed, will hold up only one or a few dampers, as indicated by the music, while other notes can be played and will not be sustained. It is like a "dim sum" damper pedal - you can choose which of the notes will be sustained and which not. (I have played the piano most of my life and have only ever used the sostenuto in one piece by Rachmaninoff because my hands are not big enough to span the notes he wrote.) Throughout its evolution the piano has had as many as eight pedals all producing some kind of special effect: some were used to activate percussion instruments that were added to the piano; on other instruments the third pedal lowered leather strips with little metallic buttons so that the piano would sound like a “honky-tonk”.


Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn

New Arrival wrote: "Next week my mother's piano is being moved to our house. We are trying to figure out the best place to put the piano when it arrives. Is it true that you cannot put a piano on an outside wall?"


Dear New Arrival: Congratulations! It is exciting to be getting your first piano. In the past, when homes were not as well insulated as they are today, it was not a very good idea to put an upright piano on an outside wall. With homes constructed and renovated to current "R values", you may put a piano on an outside wall. However, please keep in mind that pianos, on the whole, prefer to be cooler and damper rather than hotter and dryer. So, try not to put your piano beside or over a heating vent or cold air return grate. Also, remember that glass is not a very good insulator, so putting your piano with the back facing the window will ensure that your piano technician has plenty of work. The direct sunlight will also affect the finish on your piano. So, if you must put the piano in or near a window, consider good window coverings to provide some protection for your piano. Whenever I go into a house where the piano is beside the fireplace, I am reminded of a song frequently heard at Christmas time: "Pianos roasting by an open fire". Enjoy your "new to you" piano. Remember to let the piano settle into its new home for three or four weeks before having your technician tune it.


Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn

Morris C. wrote: "Three years ago we purchased a Morris Cabinet Grand piano from family friends who purchased it from "a little old lady" whom we think may have been the original owner. Although it is not the Steinway Grand piano our son thought he really needed, it is a lovely piano and looks wonderful in our family room. We wonder if you are able to find out any information regarding the company or about the piano itself."


Dear Morris C.: I think it is just great that you want to know about your Morris Piano. In the late 19th century and the early 20th century many towns and cities had their own piano factories. Guelph had the Bell Piano Company, Windsor had Grinell Bros., Bowmanville had the Dominion Piano Company, Montreal had the Willis Piano Company (the faded paint on the side of the old factory can still be seen when driving into the city on Hwy 20) and Kitchener (then named Berlin) had the Berlin Piano Company. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, of course, there was no electricity and the phonograph was in its infancy. As such, the piano was the primary form of entertainment for many families. In fact, in lots of towns and cities you would find the cabinet maker, the funeral home, and the piano works beside each other on the main street. The cabinet maker was useful to both the undertaker and the piano builders! Morris Pianos Ltd. was established in 1892 by three Listowel businessmen to make use of a Listowel furniture factory that had recently closed. The factory had been a major employer in the town and the town fathers came up with the plan to make use of the existing facility to manufacture pianos. The company even received a bronze medal at the 1900 Paris Exhibition. After the factory burned to the ground in late 1908 the company was reformed in partnership with the D.W. Karn Piano Company of Woodstock. In 1909 it became the Karn Morris Piano and Organ Co., with its head office in Woodstock. By then the company had made over 10,000 pianos. In 1920 the company separated from Karn and was re-organized as Morris Pianos Ltd., with its head office in Toronto while the factory remained in Listowel. The company ceased all operations in 1924. As for the history of your piano, about the only thing that can be determined is the year of manufacture. Every piano has a serial number by which it is tracked throughout the manufacturing process. If you flip open the lid of your piano you may see a number stencilled onto the metal or stamped into the pin block. A qualified piano technician will be glad to look up the number in the Pierce Piano Atlas so that you can hold a birthday celebration for your piano.


add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn

Mail Order Steinway

Dear Piano Lady — My mother, who hails from Winnipeg, said her parents ordered their Steinway piano through the Eaton’s Catalogue in 1948.  Do you think this was possible?  Skeptical in Baden


Dear Skeptical:


In 1948 Winnipeg there were few, if any, piano dealerships around the city.  So, like many Canadians, what did one use when you wanted to purchase something -- anything -- the trusty Eaton's catalogue.


I remember the excitement that ensued in our household when the catalogue arrived, especially the one preceding the Christmas season. Many hours were spent perusing the pages of the catalogue whether looking for pretty dresses to wear to church or birthday parties, toys that may show up under the Christmas tree, major and minor appliances for the home, and my personal favourite -- the women's lingerie section. The various drawings of brassieres and girdles and the all contraptions that women used to have to squeeze themselves into were a huge fascination to me.  The girdles were made of latex and often came in pale pink or pale green, with little holes punched in the front and back so that the girdles could "breathe". I am so glad that growing up in the sixties that I avoided all of those bizarre undergarments. By the time I was old enough to wear a bra, all the feminists were burning theirs.


Many families had an Eaton's Charge Account.  After having done some research, I discovered that you could, in fact, order a Steinway piano through Eaton’s and it was shipped from a warehouse in Toronto.  The price listed in the catalogue in 1948 was $2,500.00.


I have an Eaton's catalogue from 1958 and sadly the only piano one could order from the catalogue in 1958 was "The Kreisler Piano" -- a spinet sized piano made by "Canada's largest piano manufacturer". This piano could be purchased for $589.00 cash or $10.00 down; 23 monthly payments of $28.00 and a final payment of $25.00. The matching bench could be had for $23.50. This information, to my mind, makes the purchase of Steinway for $2,500.00 all the more extraordinary.


In 1948 a loaf of bread cost 14 cents and a gallon of milk was 86 cents. In 1958 a loaf of bread cost 19 cents and a gallon of milk cost $1.01. In 2020 a loaf of bread costs around $3.00, a gallon of milk about $3.80 and a Steinway piano costs around $40,000.


add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on LinkedIn

Fun Fact

A piano professor at the University of South Florida uses a working grand piano as a kitchen table!

Tune it now!

We'd love to hear from you about your piano.

Contact Us Today