Dr Piano Tells All 



Piano Repairs for the Do It Yourselfer


Another issue I’d like to address is that of small repairs to the case or keys that a competent do-it-yourselfer will want to tackle.  There are transient buzzes that are really caused by loose screws in the piano case.  They don’t have to be all that loose for the piano to sound terrible with unknown and howling “wolfs”.  Now while it is true that some of those buzzes are caused by a crack or cracks in the soundboard which would require a technician to repair it, most of them are caused by a loose screw or screws.  The vibration from the soundboard then sets the screw(s) to vibrating and that is what you are hearing.


First, tighten every screw you can see on the case.  That includes the long hinge, the side hinges for the lid, the hinges for the music desk (remove it from the piano and turn it upside down on a rug or a towel and you'll see them).  Sometimes these screws are in unobvious places.  Have a tall strong buddy (or two of them) hold the lid straight up.  You will see several screws on the side hinges that weren't available to you before.  Tighten them.  Another place to check is under the piano.  Some pianos are constructed with something called soundboard buttons.  I recently spent almost two hours on a service call tightening all the case screws and still not tracking down the source of a nasty buzz on 4 of the B#'s and three of the B's in the middle of the piano.  This was a new piano and the owner didn't believe me when I said the problem was caused by loose screws.  Finally, I went under the piano, in desperation.  Sure enough, it had soundboard buttons which were loose, and tightening them solved the problem.  The other screws needed to be tightened, so I didn't feel bad that I had gone through the whole rigamarole, but it was just another reminder that troubleshooting piano repairs can sometimes be a lengthy search and destroy mission. 


The reason you are going through all this is because when a technician does it, he will charge by the hour.  If it takes him two hours, you will pay for it, even though all that's involved is tightening a few screws!  Occasionally, you will come across screws that spin when you try to tighten them.  They have become stripped because of the expansion and contraction of the wood fibers during the normal course of humidity changes over the years.  Tightening these screws usually involves no more than using the good old toothpick and white glue method of plugging the hole, then reinserting the screw and voila, you're good to go. 


Another problem that is common to all pianos, whether they are grand pianos of any size or uprights (including spinets and consoles), is having some object or objects fall into the action of the piano. You will start hearing clicks, and maybe some of the notes will seem “stuck.” I have a useful YouTube video for removing the fallboard of a Yamaha grand piano which shows the basic procedure for the lift-off type of fallboard.  Unfortunately, Steinways, Baldwins, Mason and Hamlins, and other fine makers do not have a lift-off fallboard.  If you have a German piano, or a Japanese or Chinese piano which is modelled on the German case style, you will be able to use this method: http://youtu.be/tf09pzUZcyw