FAQ-General Topics

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Isako Hoshino

Mar 18, 2004, 4:12:27 AM3/18/04
Archive-name: music/piano/general-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 17 Oct 1997
Version: 1.7b

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[1] About
[1.1] What is
[1.2] Who reads this group?
[1.3] What kind of topics are discussed in RMMP?
[1.4] FAQ lists maintained by this newsgroup

[2] On Piano Playing
[2.1] Am I too old to start learning how to play piano?
[2.2] How do you improve sight-reading?
[2.3] Playing from memory?
[2.4] Ouch! My arm hurts!!
[2.4.1] Repetitive stress injuries
[2.4.2] What's a carpal tunnel syndrome?
[2.5] Is practicing scales, arpeggios, exercises, etc. useful?
[2.6] 101 ways to play Hanon exercises

[3] Teaching! What about teaching piano playing?
[3.1] Checklist for transfer or new students

[4] Digital Pianos

[5] Player Pianos
[5.1] How old are they?
[5.2] What are their values today?
[5.3] Definitions of parts
[5.4] How do they work?
[5.5] Restoring player pianos?
[5.6] Books on player restoration
[5.7] Where can I get Player piano parts?
[5.8] Where can I get new and used music rolls?
[5.9] Any player piano associations?
[5.10] Mailing list?

[6] Harpsichords
[6.1] Where can I purchase a harpsichord?
[6.2] Harpsichord mailing list

[7] How Do I Represent Notes Using "Text" Characters?
[7.1] The "General" notation method
[7.2] The "Piano Technician" notation method
[7.3] The "MIDI file" notation method
[7.4] On sharps and flats

[8] Miscellaneous, Random Tidbits
[8.1] What books discuss the piano literature?
[8.2] Interval nomenclatures?
[8.3] Octave spans of various pianos and harpsichords
[8.3.1] Harpsichord octave spans
[8.3.2] Piano octave spans
[8.5] What's a standard height of a piano keyboard?
[8.6] Klavarscribo?
[8.7] Printing staff lines using postscript codes?

[9] On Copyright Laws
[9.1] Where do I get the information on copyright laws?
[9.2] Copyright Status
[9.3] Duration of Copyright Status
[9.4] International Protection
[9.5] Derivative Works and Editions
[9.6] Fair Use

[10] Books and Magazines on Pianos
[10.1] Magazines on pianos
[10.2] Random recommended readings on piano playing
[10.3] Some books on jazz playing
[10.4] What books discuss the piano literature?
[10.5] Random miscellaneous reference books

[11] Other Mail Order Companies
[11.1] Music score companies
[11.2] Digital Piano Mail-Order
[11.3] Specialized recordings

[12] Other Sources of Information
[12.1] RMMP Piano Internet Resources List
[12.2] Piano Technicians Guild


[1] About

[1.1] What is (RMMP) is an unmoderated newsgroup
created February 1994, initiated by Tim MacEachern as a
newsgroup dedicated for discussions related to pianos. The
group's initial intention was to pull together amateurs and
professionals interested in piano playing or maintenance
without creating prejudice as to whether they play in the
classical, folk, jazz, popular or other musical styles.

[1.2] Who reads this group?

The newsgroup subscribers range from beginning piano students
and people thinking about starting to professional players
and teachers; professional piano technicians to casual do-it-
yourselfers -- all share a common interest in the piano.

[1.3] What kind of topics are discussed in RMMP? is an international forum for the
dissemination of information and discussion of all topics
related to pianos, piano playing, piano study and piano
music. Articles posted include, but not necessarily be
limited to topics such as:

- makes and models of pianos
- piano tuning
- mechanics and maintenance of pianos
- techniques used in playing the piano
- the technical or artistic merit of pieces
- techniques applicable to different musical styles:
classical, folk, jazz, etc.
- difficulty of mastery of pieces
- creating electronic accompaniment to piano playing
- non-acoustic piano-like instruments: digital pianos,
electric pianos, etc.
- composing music for piano
- compositions with a major piano component,
e.g. piano concertos or piano/violin sonatas
- teaching styles and techniques

[1.4] FAQ lists maintained by this newsgroup

There are currently three official and three draft FAQ lists
maintained by RMMP:

General Topics FAQ (general-faq)
Playing From Memory FAQ (memory-playing-faq)
Piano Maintenance and Purchasing FAQ (maint-and-buy-faq)
Digital Pianos FAQ (digital-pianos-faq)
Digital Pianos Hardware List (digital-pianos-list)
Piano Internet Resources List (internet-resources)

All official RMMP FAQ lists can be retrieved from via anonymous FTP under the directory:


If you do not have access to anonymous FTP, you can get a
copy by sending e-mail to with the
message (leave the subject line blank, and replace the "*"
with the name written within the parenthesis above):

SEND usenet/news.answers/music/piano/*

You also have access to RMMP FAQs on WWW. Here, both the
official and draft documents are available:


[2] On Piano Playing

[2.1] Am I too old to start learning how to play piano?

The answer to this question is an emphatic "No! One is never
too old to start!" All you need is love of music, love of
the piano, interest, perseverance and enthusiasm!! (well...
and an access to a keyboard of some sort) As an "older"
student, you actually may have the advantage of quicker
understanding of the concepts, and better motivation since
you know why you want to play. Also since you are the one
initiating the learning process, you have a better chance of
succeeding in your goals of becoming a piano player (some
kids just start playing because their "parents told them so,"
and that won't get them too far in the long run).

Piano playing does wonderful things to the human mind and
body. There have been reports where an 80 year old person
started to learn to play the piano, and in so doing, improved
his motor skills, mental agility and overall well-being, and
went ahead and became an excellent player! So don't let
those 5-year-old seemingly prodigious kids discourage you!
Just go ahead and start learning!

[2.2] How do you improve sight-reading?

*** still under construction :-) ***

[2.3] Playing from memory?

Please read "Playing from Memory FAQ" available from
anonymous ftp at under


...or whatever similar method you used to get hold of this
"RMMP General Topics FAQ".

[2.4] Ouch! My arm hurts!!

[2.4.1] Repetitive stress injuries

Concurrent with the increased use of computer keyboards and
mice in the work world at large, there is an increasing
incidence of computer related repetitive stress injuries
(RSI). Such an injury can interfere with piano playing or
even render it impossible. Because of this possibility, here
we introduce some sources of information available on the
Internet and beyond, containing information on the nature,
causes, prevention and treatment of RSIs.

The Typing Injury FAQ.
Available periodically from newsgroups, news.answers,,
comp.human-factors, and via anonymous ftp from the
newsgroup archives at in directory
A five-part document, Part 5 of which contains copious
references to other information sources.

SOREHAND listserv
RSI discussions by victims and therapy practitioners.
To subscribe, send a message to
containing as the text SUBSRIBE SOREHAND your name., under directory pub/typing-injury/
An extensive anonymous ftp resource.

Emil Pascarelli, "Repetitive Stress Injury: A Computer
Users Guide," John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1994.

Gyorgy Sandor, "On Piano Playing," Schirmer Books -
A division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1981.

Richard Norris, M.D. publications
Dr. Norris is the Director of the National Arts Medicine
Center & Center for Repetitive Motion Disorders at the
National Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethesda, Md.

"The Musician's Survival Manual: a guide to preventing and
treating injuries in instrumentalists," 1993,
International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians.
ISBN 0-918812-74-7 $16.95.

This book describes types of injuries, and how to
recognize, treat and prevent them. Other topics covered
are therapeutic exercises and returning to playing after
an injury. A list of performing arts clinics is given in
an appendix.

The book can be ordered from:
MMB Music Inc.
Tel: 314 531-9635
800 543-3771 (USA/Canada)

For people who are unable to locate a proper source of
treatment Dr. Norris has also created a VHS tape titled
"Treatment Options for Repetitive Motion Disorders",
available for $65 directly from him at

National Rehabilitation Hospital
3 Bethesda Metro Ctr. Suite 950
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 654-9160

[2.4.2] What's a carpal tunnel syndrome?

Here's an excerpt from "The Complete Canadian Health Guide":

"...Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is an easily treatable wrist
and hand disorder, more frequent in women than in men. The
problem arises through compression of the median (arm) nerve
in its narrow passageway through the wrist, often starts up
in mid-life to old age and generally affects both hands, the
dominant (most-used) more severely. CTS can arise from
certain jobs or hobbies where repeated movements or
vibrations inflame the wrist tissues - for instance,
knitting, computer keyboard work, driving or operating
certain hand held tools such as drills, hammers, chain saws.
The disorder is frequently seen among miners, roadmenders and
others whose jobs involve use of hand-held tools that

"The first hint of CTS is a sensation of numbness or pain,
usually on first awakening - as if parts of the hand had
'gone to sleep' - typically felt in the thumb and index
finger, but sometimes all the fingers tingle. The tingling
sensation worsens on flexing or extension of the wrist,
subsiding when the hand is bent inwards or at rest (in a
'neutral' position).

"Numbness from carpal tunnel syndrome may appear after any
movement that keeps the wrist overexerted for long periods:
stitching, painting, doing manicures or giving a massage.
Besides being annoying, the loss may lead to burns (due to
lessened sensation of heat, pain, pressure), and the muscle-
wasting can make wrist movements clumsy. As CTS progresses,
wrist and thumb strength may seriously decline. The reduced
grip may make it difficult to grasp even light objects.

"The tingling can be set off or worsened by anything that
makes the wrist tissues swell and compress the median nerve.
Fluid accumulation during pregnancy or before a menstrual
period, a Colles' (wrist-bone) fracture, gout, rheumatic
(arthritic) swelling, and adrenal or thyroid disease are
typical causes.

"Diagnosis of CTS is relatively easy by the typical night-
time or early-morning hand tingling, use of Phalen's test
(flexing the hands at a 90-degree angle to see if and when
tingling occurs) and Tinel's test (tapping the median nerve
at the wrist to see if and how strongly it produces
tingling). The sooner the tingling appears, the more serious
the condition. Confirmation is with a nerve-conduction study
and electromyogram (EMG), in which small electric shocks are
applied at different spots along the median nerve and the
muscle twitch is charted to show whether, and to what extent,
the hand muscle has retained or lost its nerve supply.

"Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome can be conservative:
wearing a light plastic wrist splint at night, taking anti-
inflammatory medication by mouth or injection into the wrist,
altering sleep positions and avoiding movements that worsen
the disorder. With correct therapy, time and patience, the
loss of nerve conduction can often be reversed. Sometimes
operating tools in a better, more neutral wrist position
helps to alleviate the problem. Modern designers are working
on vibration dampers, shock absorbers and other ways to
lessen the damaging vibrations of hand-held tools.

"If other methods fail to correct CTS, surgery to decompress
the nerve may be suggested - a simple procedure done under
general or local anesthetic that frees the trapped nerve and
usually provides rapid relief. After a few days, stitches are
removed, but splints may be needed until the wounds heals..."

[2.5] Is practicing scales, arpeggios, exercises, etc. useful?

You will find differing opinions on this matter, but most
pianists will agree that practicing these exercises can help
your technique if you approach it with the correct attitude.

Don't simply race through all the notes; treat the exercises
as if they were real compositions, and give them just as much
attention to phrasing and dynamics. Also, try to find
exercises which pertain to the repertoire you are learning.
If you are studying a Bach fugue in E minor, for example,
careful practice of the E minor, G major, and neighboring
scales will help you much more than practicing the A flat
major scale. With Hanon exercises, you can increase the
difficulty by transposing the studies into different keys,
playing them backwards, playing one hand legato and the other
staccato, playing them in canon, etc. Be creative!

[2.6] 101 ways to play Hanon exercises

***I'm still compiling this part! Any suggestions would be
most appreciated!!!***


[3] Teaching! What about teaching piano playing?

[3.1] Checklist for transfer or new students

This is a list compiled by Martha Beth Lewis, presented here
with her permission. She likes to send a complete report of
the student when the student is transferring to another
teacher, or vice-versa. If you are a teacher, this would be
a good guideline on what to look for when learning about a
new student. She does not keep this list confidential - and
will share with the student, parent and the teacher involved.
It is also suggested to keep a record of the report for
future reference.

1. general - when student began study and at what level
(beginner or transfer.; parental attitudes), precis
of personality, mental acuity, cooperative spirit
last recital piece(s) and date(s), any other
instruments played or desired to be played;
other music activities

2. note-reading skills (does student read sharps and flats?
key signatures?)

3. counting skills (eighth-notes yet? sixteenths?)

4. technique studied; include exercises student would have
started with me within the next 6-12 mos.; sight-reading

5. articulation skills (can student play accents? staccato?
sfz? portato? feminine endings? phrase lifts? motif

6. fingering (how much does student do on own?)

7. pedaling skills (damper? sostenuto? half-pedal?)

8. literature studied

9. ornamentation (which ornaments student can play; general
knowledge of performance practice)

10. form and analysis skills, including keyboard harmony

11. ear-training skills

12. composition and improvisation (how much we have done;
whether student seems interested in these areas more than
the norm)

13. memory (how easily and securely student memorizes; how he
feels about memory playing; my recommendation for memory

14. competitions and adjudicated exams (how student reacts
to these; or how I think he might)

15. motivation (how well student motivates himself; what
external motivators help or hinder)

16. poise (primarily stage presence)

17. summary (general recommendations for teaching strategies
with this particular student; long-term prospects)


[4] Digital Pianos

Please read "Digital Pianos FAQ" and "Digital Pianos Hardware
List" available from anonymous ftp at under:


...or whatever similar method you used to get hold of this
"RMMP General Topics FAQ".


[5] Player Pianos

The general subject of player pianos is far too great to try
and cover entirely here. Therefore, this list is limited to
those instruments most likely to be found at the average
estate sale, grandma's basement, or in an old dusty corner of
a garage.

This section of the FAQ was contributed by Rick Pargeter. If
you have any questions regarding player pianos, please
contact Rick at If you have
corrections, etc., please e-mail the FAQ maintainer at the
end of this FAQ.

[5.1] How old are they?

Most common players were manufactured between 1915 - 1929

[5.2] What are their values today?

Generally, an unrestored, average, run-of-the-mill, complete,
70-year-old player is perhaps worth 10% - 20% more than the
same vintage non-player. However, it is always best to have
it professionally appraised. Some players bring very high
values. Player pianos which are grand pianos, original
"nickelodeons" (coin-operated commercial units), and
reproducing players are usually considered high-value player

[5.3] Definitions of parts

Bellows - A component usually consisting of two like-pieces
of wood with a cloth hinge at one end, and covered with
a rubberized cloth. One side of the bellows will have
an opening, so that when vacuum is applied, a mechanical
action occurs. Conversely, when connected to pedals and
a check valve is added, they act as a pump, lowering the
pressure in the stack.

Stack - The upper part of the player. This is the part that
plays the piano, and contains the valves, bellows,
spoolbox, and wind motor.

Spool Box - This is the area where the piano roll is
inserted, and is usually behind a set of doors.

Tracker bar - The brass bar in the middle of the spool box
that has all those holes in it. Each hole represents a
note on the keyboard. They are sequential (i.e., C C# D
D# E F F# G G# A A# B). Tubes, usually made of lead,
are connected from the back of the tracker and to the
stack. Each tube is connected to a channel in the stack
that controls a valve connected to the main vacuum
supply from the pump.

Pump - The lower part of the player. The pumping pedals are
connected to the pump. The pump usually contains the
wind motor regulation, and controls to divert the vacuum
to the stack, wind motor, and expression pneumatics.

Expression pneumatic - Since the piano's usual expression
pedals are covered up by the pump pedals, it looks as if
you cannot access them. However, there is a way to
duplicate these pedals through the use of expression
pneumatics. The piano controls are usually located
underneath the hinged key slip. Usually, there is a
button which will control the equivalent pedal function
also. In order to operate the loud pedal, simply push a
button on the control rail, and the loud expression
pneumatic will operate exactly like the loud pedal. In
addition to the loud pedal, there are usually two soft
pedal expression pneumatics.

[5.4] How do they work?

Player pianos use suction, not pressure, to work. As the
pedals are operated, air is pulled from the pump and the
entire stack is placed under a slight vacuum. This vacuum
operates a motor that turns the rolls in the spool box. The
piano roll has holes cut in them that when they pass over the
tracker bar, the tracker bar's holes are uncovered. A valve
is operated when the holes are uncovered that applies vacuum
to the striking pneumatic, which plays the note on the piano.

[5.5] Restoring player pianos?

As with any pianos, a key to safely restoring old instrument
is patience and time. It is best to have restoration done by
a professional; however, anyone with a reasonable mechanical
aptitude and patience can restore a player.

The materials used in restoring player pianos are very
specialized, and are generally unavailable at your average
local stores. Vinyl covering (naugehide) will crack to
pieces in a matter of days when used to recover pneumatics.
Common rubber hoses (fish tank and automotive style) will
collapse and turn brittle in a matter of months, rendering an
irreplaceable antique musical instrument useless. Also,
white glue, silicone sealers, body filler, tape, etc., have
no place in player pianos. The tried and true methods and
materials as used when manufactured are to be used in the

[5.6] Books on player restoration

The main book for player restoration is:

PLAYER PIANO - Servicing and Rebuilding,
by Arthur Reblitz
Published by The Vestal Press
Vestal, NY 13850
ISBN 0-911572-40-6 (pbk.)

For advanced rebuilders:

PNEUMATICS HANDBOOK & Orchestrion Builder's Handbook
By Craig Brougher

[5.7] Where can I get Player piano parts?

The main source for player piano parts is:

Player Piano Co.
704 East Douglas
Wichita, Kansas, 67202
Tel. (316) 263-3241

[5.8] Where can I get new and used music rolls?

New Piano rolls are being produced today. Some of the
manufacturers and suppliers are:

Upright & Grand
Eric D. Bernhoft
P.O. Box 421101
San Francisco, CA 94142

QRS Music Rolls, Inc.
1026 Niagara Street
Buffalo, NY 14213-2099
Tel: (716) 885-4600
Fax: (716) 885-7510
AOL Keyword: QRS

QRS Pianomation Center
Solenoid player piano division
(similar to PianoDisc system)
2011 Seward Ave
Naples, FL 33942
Tel: (941) 597-5888
Fax: (941) 597-3936

Play-Rite Music Rolls
401 S. Broadway
Turlock, CA 95380

Bluestone Music Rolls
485 Gatewood Lane
Grayslake, IL 60030

Piano Roll Center
108 Southcreek Circle
Folsom, CA 95630

Collector's Classics
163 Main St.
Thomaston, ME 04861

Pianola Institute
c/o Denis A Hall
6 Southbourne
Hayes, Kent England

Bam-Bam Piano Rolls
1750 Karg Drive
Akron OH 44313-5504
source of collectible player piano rolls

[5.9] Any player piano associations?

Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA)
Suppliers of specialty items are also advertise here. For
membership information contact:

Mike Barnhart
919 Lantern Glow Trail
Dayton, Ohio 45431

[5.10] Mailing list?

There exists a group called Mechanical Music Digest, formerly
called Automatic Musical Instruments, which has a mailing
list maintained by Jody Kravitz. If you want to subscribe,
send your request to:


[6] Harpsichords

[6.1] Where can I purchase a harpsichord?

Here's where you can get a harpsichord:

Harpsichord Clearing House
Glenn Giuttari
9 Chestnut Street
Rehoboth, MA 02769
tel: (800) 252-4304

[6.2] Harpsichord mailing list

Send e-mail to with a message (leave
subject line blank):



[7] How Do I Represent Notes Using "Text" Characters?

There are three major notation systems being used rather
frequently today. When you see a notation on your screen,
you will have to judge for yourself which system is being
used. In most cases, that shouldn't be too difficult. For
instance if you see "RPT" written after the poster's name,
you can probably assume they are using the "piano technician"
notation (RPT = Registered Piano Technician). And if you
start seeing numbers higher than "7" being used after the
pitch, you probably can assume the "MIDI" notation system is
being used.

[7.1] The "General" notation method

There is a simple alpha-numeric notation system which has
been in existence for some time and which may be used in
postings on the Internet. It is as follows:

Going up starting at middle C: c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 a1 b1
Continuing up the next octave: c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 a2 b2
And the octaves above that: c3 etc.

...and so on...

First octave below middle C: c d e f g a b
Next octave lower: C D E F G A B
Next octave lower: C1 D1 E1 F1 G1 A1 B1

...and so on...

However, if you decide to print this out in hard-copy,
publications rules change. On hard-copy, the numerals in
the upper octaves are written as superscripts, and those
below middle-C are written as subscripts.

Source: Baker, Theodore, Ed., "Pronouncing Pocket-Manual
of Musical Terms", G. Schirmer, Inc., New York, 1947.

[7.2] The "Piano Technician" notation method

Some piano technicians seem to prefer a different system,
which starts with A0 at the bottom and ends with C8 at the

A0 B0
C1 D1 E1 F1 G1 A1 B1
C2 D2 E2 etc.

...and so on, until you reach C8

[7.3] The "MIDI file" notation method

The MIDI files sequentially number keys from 1 at the bottom
to 88 at the top:

A1 A#2 B3 C4 ... B87 C88

[7.4] On sharps and flats

The computer keyboard imposes a few limitations on the use of
this notation system. There is a sharp sign (# -- use the
"pound" sign) on the computer keyboard, but no flat sign.
The lower-case "B" (b) will have to suffice The accidental
is written one position to the right of the letter which
indicates the note, makes it unambiguous. For example, B#
for B-sharp-second-octave-below-middle-C, b1b for b-flat-
first-octave-above-middle-C, etc.


[8] Miscellaneous Tidbits

[8.2] Interval nomenclatures?

Here's a crash course on interval nomenclatures.

perfect unison: 2 notes on same pitch
minor second: 1/2 step
major second: 1 step
minor third: 1-1/2 steps
major third: 2 steps
perfect fourth: 2-1/2 steps
augmented fourth: 3 steps (see enharmonic intervals)
diminished fifth: 3 steps (see enharmonic intervals)
perfect fifth: 3-1/2 steps
minor sixth: 4 steps
major sixth: 4-1/2 steps
minor seventh: 5 steps
major seventh: 5-1/2 steps
perfect octave: 6 steps

perfect consonances: unisons (or primes), fourths, fifths,
and octave are only perfect, diminished or augmented.

imperfect consonances: thirds and sixths intervals

dissonances: seconds and sevenths intervals. only major,
minor, diminished or augmented

Major intervals: 1/2 step larger than minor intervals. only
major, minor, diminished or augmented

Augmented intervals: 1/2 step larger than perfect or major

Diminished intervals: 1/2 step lower than perfect or minor

Enharmonic intervals: intervals that use the same pitches but
are spelled differently (and thus function differently).

Tritone: augmented fourths and diminished fifths are
enharmonic, and both are commonly referred to as the
tritone. (for example, C to F# and C to Gb are not the
same interval, but they are enharmonically the same)

Other intervals:
compound intervals...larger than an octave
inverted intervals...major becomes minor, etc., but note
that perfect inverts to perfect,
imperfect to imperfect, and dissonant
to dissonant

Sources of this information:

Benjamin, Horvit, and Nelson, "Techniques and Materials of
Tonal Music" (Houghton Mifflin, 1975):

[8.3] Octave spans of various pianos and harpsichords

[8.3.1] Harpsichord octave spans

Pisaurensis (1533) = 169mm
Ruckers = 167mm
Pratensis (1612) = 166mm
J. Mayer (1619) = 168mm
Giusti (1676) = 174mm
Italian (1695) = 163mm
Kirkman (1767) = 162mm
Graebner (1774) = 156mm
Schmahl (1794) = 158mm

[8.3.2] Piano octave spans (All grands unless otherwise noted)

Cristofori (1726) = 164mm
Pohlman (square, 1770) = 178mm
Stein (1780s) = 156, 158, 160mm
Schiedmeyer (1780) = 156mm
Schiedmeyer (1785) = 180mm
Longman & Broderip
(square, 1790) = 169mm
Schantz (1790, 1805) = 160mm
Schmid (1794) = 158mm
Clementi (1805) = 163mm
Erard (Beethoven's
piano, 1803) = 162mm
Walter (1795) = 159mm
Walter (1803) = 153mm
Walter (1815) = 160mm
Streicher (1816) = 158mm
Kirckman (1820) = 162mm
Broadwood (Beethoven's
piano, 1817) = 166mm
Broadwood (1819) = 164mm
Boehm (6 oct) = 158mm
Fritz (c1825 in workshop
of Paul Poletti) = 167mm
Graf (1826, similar to
Beethoven's Graf) = 161mm
J.B. Streicher (1841) = 158mm
Pleyel (1852, cf Chopin's
Pleyel of 1839) = 164mm
Steinway (Hamburg, 1937,
modern range) = 165mm
Bluethner (modern range) = 165mm

[8.5] What's a standard height of a piano keyboard?


[8.6] Klavarscribo?

Klavar Music Foundation
171 Yarborough Road
Lincoln LN1 3NQ
tel: +44 (0) 1522-523117

[8.7] Printing staff lines using postscript codes?

(courtesy of anonymous someone on the net)
Try creating a file with the following postscript command
lines, and print it out on a postscript printer.

% blank page of 12-line music paper
0 setlinewidth
/staffline{newpath dup 75 exch moveto 480 0 rlineto stroke} def
/staff{dup 5 exch 20 add {staffline} for} def
95 53 678 {staff} for


[9] On Copyright Laws

The following is a rather simplified summary of materials
(Circulars) published by the U. S. Copyright Office, a
department of the Library of Congress. Also take a look at
the Copyright Office web pages at:

This section not intended to be legal advice, nor is it
necessarily error-free. It is included here to give people
some basic knowledge pertaining to copyrighted materials.

[9.1] Where do I get the information on copyright laws?

U. S. Copyright Office, a department of the Library of
Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, S. E., Washington, DC
20559. Phone (202) 707-3000. The source materials may be
obtained on the Internet by gopher or telnet to the Library
of Congress at address For telnet log in as
marvel. Select the copyright option from the main Library of
Congress menu.

[9.2] Copyright Status

Title 17, U.S. Code provides copyright protection for both
published and unpublished works, granting the owner of the
copyright exclusive rights over reproduction, creation of
derivative works, distribution of copies for sale or rent,
and public performance and display.

Copyright protects "original works of authorship" that are
"fixed in a tangible form of expression," such as scores or
sound recordings of musical works. Works that have not been
"fixed in a tangible form of expression," such as
improvisational performances that have not been written or
recorded, are not protected by copyright. Works for which
the copyright has expired are no longer protected; they are
in the public domain and cannot again receive copyright

Currently copyright is automatically secured upon the
creation of a work (as "fixed in a tangible form...");
publication or registration with the Copyright Office is not
required. Before 1978, copyright was generally secured by
means of publication with a copyright notice (e.g. Copyright
MCMXX by John Doe) or, for unpublished works, registration
with the Copyright Office. After March 1, 1989 the copyright
notice was no longer mandatory on copyrighted works.

[9.3] Duration of Copyright Status

A work created on or after January 1, 1978 is automatically
protected from the moment of its creation, and protection
ordinarily lasts for the author's life plus an additional 50
years thereafter.

For works published or registered before January 1, 1978 a
first term copyright of 28 years starting on the date it was
secured (published or registered as unpublished) was
provided. During the last (28th) year of the first term, the
copyright was eligible for renewal for another 28 years. For
copyrights in effect January 1, 1978 the current copyright
law extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years, giving
works with renewed copyrights a total term of protection of
75 years. For copyrights secured January 1, 1964 through
December 31, 1977, the 47 year extension is automatic.

This means that as of 1995 all works published during or
before 1920 are now in the public domain, as are works
published before 1964 for which a copyright extension was not

Circulars 15, 15a, and 15t contain further information on
copyright terms. Circular 22 describes how to search the
Copyright Office records concerning the copyright status of a

[9.4] International Protection

The United States is a founding member of the Universal
Copyright Convention (UCC) since September 16, 1955 and a
member of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary
and Artistic Works. A work by a national or resident of a
member country of the UCC or a work first published in a UCC
country may claim protection under the UCC.

The U.S. joined the Berne Convention on March 1, 1989.
Members of the Berne Union agree to treat nationals of other
member countries like their own nationals for purposes of

For further information on international copyrights see
Circulars 38a and 93.

[9.5] Derivative Works and Editions

Regarding derivative versions of previous works, including
musical arrangements, adaptations, revised or newly edited
editions: the derivative works are independently copyright-
able, and the copyrights of such works do not affect or
extend the protection, if any, of the underlying work.

I would presume that the concept of a derivative work applies
to a musical work which has been edited, and that any
additions or changes due to editing is what is being
copyrighted, but I have not run across specifics in this
regard. other words...

If you want to make a simplified edition of something--you
have to use music in the public domain or you have to get
permission from the copyright holder. It is sometimes quite
a search to find out and to secure permission. But it must
be done.

[9.6] Fair Use

The "fair use" of a copyrighted work, including reproduction
as copies or recordings for purposes such as criticism,
comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies
for classroom use), scholarship, research, or parody, is not
an infringement of copyright. Fair use is covered in Section
107 of title 17. There is no real definition of fair use,
and in court cases each situation is decided based on its own
facts. However, four yardsticks have come to be used, which
are expressed in section 107 as:

"(1) the purpose and character of the use, including
whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for
non-profit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in
relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for
or value of the copyrighted work."

Most of the applications of the "fair use" concept have to do
with books and articles as used in teaching. a nutshell...

Fair use includes:
a) reviews/criticism (including parody),
b) scholarly use (photocopying one section only--
not a complete perform-able portion such as a movement
or an aria; and for study purposes only, not for
"using"--such as photocopying a copy for each student
to use for a form & analysis exercise or test).
c) Copying a page to avoid a page turn is generally
considered fair use.

Fair use does not include:
a) copying to avoid buying the book
b) because it's out of print
c) because there's not enough time to order and receive
another copy,
d) because you can't find who holds the copyright
e) because you need one for your duet partner.

[9.6] More...?

Martha Beth Lewis has written up a section on commonly asked
questions regarding music copyrights. The URL is

Also, check out Copyright FAQ at


[10] Books and Magazines on Pianos

[10.1] Magazines on pianos

Clavier Magazine
200 Northfield Rd
Northfield, Ill 60093

Keyboard Companion
PO Box 24-C-54
Los Angeles, CA 90024
focus on teaching at early levels

Piano & Keyboard
PO Box 767
San Anselmo, CA 94979-0767
(415) 485-6946

Piano Explorer
200 Northfield Rd
Northfield, Ill 60093
primarily for piano students (young ones)

Piano Today (formerly Keyboard Classics & Piano Stylist)
223 Katonah Avenue
Katonah, NY 10536
Misc. articles and music both classical & pop/jazz

Sheet Music
PO Box 58629
Boulder, CO 80321-8629
(800) 759-3036

Musical Success Resource Guide
tel: (314) 773-3466
(800) 527-ROCK
This is a free newsletter/catalog which features tips and
tools on how to make money and succeed with your career in
music. Also it contains many promotional listings, it
regularly features tips. You can also ask to be put on
their e-mail list to get regular e-mail updates.

[10.2] Random recommended readings on piano playing

Ward Cannel & Fred Marx, "How to Play the Piano Despite Years
of Lessons: What Music Is & How to Make It at Home", Hal
Leonard Corp. ISBN 0-385-14263-3, $17.95, (Video: $39.95,
Useful especially for someone just beginning to play by
ear (assumes knowledge of basic musical notation, melodies

Hal Leonard Corp.
7777 W. Bluemound Rd.
P.O.Box 13819
Milwaukee, WI 53213

James Friskin and Irwin Freundlich, "Music for the Piano,"
Dover Publishing. ISBN 0-486-22918-1, ~$10
Book on piano repertoire

[10.3] Some books on jazz playing

Scott D. Reeves, "Creative Jazz Improvisation"
A very thorough book on the application of various scales,
modes, and techniques to jazz chord progressions, and it's
chock full of exercises to boot.

Mark Levine, "The Jazz Piano Book," Chuck Sher Publishing
This book will give you a nice complete introduction to
scale theory, and it contains information on chord voicing
and how to approach different progressions.

Mark Levine, "The Jazz Theory Book," Chuch Sher Publishing

Stephen Nachmanovich, "Free Play: Creativity in Life
and in the Arts."
This book covers improvisation, creativity in jazz playing

[10.4] What books discuss the piano literature?

There are two books reported so far. The definitive classic
is "The Literature of the Piano" by Ernest Hutchison, which
was written in the early part of this century. For the most
part, this book sticks to the traditional Classical and
Romantic repertoire, though there is also an interesting
discussion of Bach and the pre-Baroque composers. The
revised edition, updated by Rudolph Ganz, adds useful
sections on more modern composers, as well as commentary on
the older material. There are even a few places where Ganz
takes Hutchison to task! The two also make recommendations
for selection of repertoire. Overall, it is a wonderful
book which is not just for reference, but can also be read
cover to cover.

A more recent book is "The Art of the Piano", by [???]. This
book is more encyclopedic in nature than "The Literature of
the Piano", and it does not try to recommend particular
works, as "The Literature of the Piano" does. Therefore, it
is strictly a reference work, but it is more complete. In
particular, there is detailed information on modern
compositions written after the publication of "The Literature
of the Piano". Unfortunately, nothing before Bach and
Scarlatti is listed. There is also an encyclopedic listing
of pianists in this book.

[10.5] Random miscellaneous reference books

Paul Cooper "Perspectives in Music Theory", Harper & Row, 1973.
book on music theory

Benjamin, Horvit, and Nelson, "Techniques and Materials of
Tonal Music", Houghton Mifflin, 1975.
more book on music theory

John Clough and Joyce Conley, "Scales Intervals Keys Triads
Rhythm and Meter", Norton. ISBN 0-393-95189-8, ~$24
programmed text for introductory theory

Dorothy Priesing and Libbie Techlin, "Language of the Piano:
A Workbook in Theory and Keyboard Harmony", Carl Fischer
focuses on theathing theory in a way that is useful to
keyboard players. Covers theory and some keyboard


[11] Other Mail Order Companies

[11.1] Music score companies has a FAQ containing extensive
list of mail-order companies. Please check their FAQ list if
you want more.

Dover Publications
31 East 2nd Street
Mineola, NY 11501

Eble Music Company
P.O. Box 2570
Iowa City, Iowa 52240
tel: (319) 338-0313
fast, dependable source for classical music scores.
will help special search for hard-to-get music

Musica Obscura
17 Ebbet Avenue
Wallaston, MA 02170
tel: (617) 773-1947
a source for unusual piano music from classical and
romantic periods. (photocopies, so obviously no recent
music included)

tel: (212) 582-5840
classical music

Patti Music
414 State Street
PO Box 1514
Madison, WI 53701-1514
tel: (800) 777-2884

RBC Music Company, Inc.
4410 Piedras Drive West
San Antonio, TX 78228
tel: (800) 548-0917
(210) 736-6902
fax: (210) 736-2919
has huge inventory of all types of piano music.
specializes in educational print music
Order on-line, or be added to e-mail list to receive
promotional flyers or mail outs, send e-mail.

Wadler-Kaplan Music Shop
3907 S. Main
Houston, TX 77002
tel: (713) 529-2676
(800) 952-7526
fax: (713) 529-2844
Sheet music

Yesterday Music Service
1972 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140
tel: (617) 547-8263
Extensive selection of scores of all kinds, in any
quantity. They will take special orders of any scores
they don't carry. They also have a walk-in service on
the 4th floor of 1972 Mass. Ave building (near Porter
Square, on Red Line "T" station). Offers student
discounts for walk-in service.

[11.2] Digital Piano Mail-Order

Please see "Digital Pianos Hardware List" maintained by this
newsgroup. See section [4] for how to get hold of a copy.

[11.3] Specialized recordings

A company called Academy Records specializes in publishing
CD's and cassettes of piano music that one tends to play as a
beginning/intermediate/early advanced student. Their
offerings include:

Bach "18 Little Preludes"
Bach "Anna Magdalena" w/ "Two-Part Inventions"
Beethoven "Selected Works" (Bagatelles, Fur Elise, etc.)
Burgmuller "25 Easy & Progressive Studies, Op.100"
Clementi "Six Sonatinas, Op.36"
Kabalevsky "30 Children's Pieces, Op.27"
w/ "24 Little Pieces, Op.39"
Schumann "Album for the Young, Op.68"

20th Century Literature (Copland "Cat and Mouse",
Turina "The Circus, etc.)

Music from Jane Bastien's PIANO LITERATURE series, Vol.1-4

For more info. call contact

Academy Records
PO Box 10805
Burbank, CA 91510-0805
tel: (800) 858-1469


[12] Other sources of information

[12.1] RMMP Piano Internet Resources List

This document is in its draft stage, scheduled to be released
as its own FAQ soon. The draft document is currently
available through the RMMP FAQ Locator Page (see beginning of
this document for URL). This list is a compilation of
resources available on the Internet (WWW, Gopher, FTP) which
are piano-related or may be of interest to pianists.

[12.2] Piano Technicians Guild

The home office of the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) is
located in Kansas City, MO, and apparently keep the usual 9-5
business hours. Here are some methods to contact them. The
PTG's www home page has many interesting and useful
information. I highly recommend you to go check it out, if
you haven't done so yet!

3930 Washington
Kansas City, MO 64111
tel: (816) 753-7747

end RMMP General Topics FAQ

I would like to extend my thanks to many in the RMMP
newsgroup for bits and pieces of information contained in
this FAQ: Martha Beth Lewis, Tim MacEachern, Guy Klose, Larry
Fine, Tom Sheehan, John Musselwhite, Ron Torrella, Achim
Gratz, (Carolyn), Duncan Vinson, Stephen
Birkett, and Virginia Marks for directly contributing to this
FAQ. Special thanks goes to Phil Tompkins, for his countless
suggestions, proof-reading, contributions, etc. This is what
happens when you "volunteer" to help me write this FAQ! :-)
If I missed anyone, please let me know! This is really a
collective effort of the entire newsgroup.

This document is copyright (c) 1995-1997 by Isako Hoshino. It may
be freely distributed in its entirety provided that this
copyright notice is not removed. It may not be sold for
profit nor incorporated in commercial documents without the
author's permission.

This article is provided "as is" without express or implied
warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the
accuracy of the information contained in this article, the
maintainer assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions,
or for damages resulting from the use of the information
contained herein.

Isako Hoshino

Isako Hoshino

Mar 18, 2004, 4:12:51 AM3/18/04
Archive-name: music/piano/maint-and-buy-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 7 April 1997
Version: 1.3a

This is the Piano Purchasing and Maintenance FAQ (Frequently

Asked Questions) list for the newsgroup

This FAQ list is intended to present information regarding
purchasing new or used pianos, and general maintenance issues
which are frequently raised in It is

posted every month. Updates, additions, suggestions and
corrections are always welcome: send e-mail to the address at
the end of this FAQ. However, it has become increasingly
difficult to keep up with the demand, so response, if any,
may be very delayed.

This FAQ is periodically posted to,

rec.answers and news.answers. This FAQ is available from via anonymous FTP under:


If you do not have access to anonymous FTP, you may retrieve
it by sending e-mail to with the
message (leave the subject line blank):

SEND usenet/news.answers/music/piano/maint-and-buy-faq

You also have access to rmmp FAQs on WWW:

Changes since version 1.3

update RMMP FAQ site address

Piano Purchasing and Maintenance FAQ

You may run a search using the pattern [#.#] where "#.#" is
the topic number.


[1] Piano Technicians Guild

[2] On Piano Purchasing
[2.1] I want to buy a piano. Where do I start?
[2.2] I want to buy "The Piano Book". Where do I find it?
[2.3] What is new in the "The Piano Book", Third Edition?
[2.4] Buying digital pianos
[2.5] Word of advice

[3] Recommended Things To Do After Piano Purchase
[3.1] I bought it from a dealer
[3.2] I bought it used from someone

[4] Piano Placement Considerations
[4.1] Where should I put my piano?
[4.2] What atmospheric environment does piano like?

[5] What Do I Need to Know or Do About Maintenance?
[5.1] Can I Tune or Repair the Piano Myself?
[5.2] Maintenance reference books
[5.2.1] The Arthur Reblitz books
[5.2.2] "The Piano Book"

[6] How Often Do I Have to Tune the Piano?

[7] My Piano Goes Out of Tune Often. Is Something Wrong?
[7.1] New pianos
[7.2] All pianos in general

[8] Is There a Special Polish to Polish My Piano?

[9] Tuning Methods
[9.1] Why use an electronic pitch device instead of the
traditional A-440 tuning fork?
[9.2] What is aural tuning?
[9.3] What is electronically assisted, "electronic" tuning?
[9.4] What are the pros and cons of aural tuning?
[9.5] What are the pros and cons of electronic tuning?
[9.6] Which is better, aural or electronic tuning?

[10] I Need to Relocate! How Do I Deal With Piano Moving?
[10.1] Moving using professional movers
[10.1.1] Pre-move
[10.1.2] Moving contract
[10.1.3] Arrival
[10.2] Moving the piano yourself

[11] Where Can I Get Replacement Parts?
[11.1] Pianos
[11.2] Harpsichords


[1] Piano Technicians Guild

For more detailed information regarding any technical aspects
of piano ownership, there is no better place than the Piano
Technicians Guild (PTG). This FAQ is a very "brief" extract
of what is available from them, and should be treated as
such. If there are any discrepancies between what is said
here, and what is said by the PTG, PTG is probably correct.
:) If you can't find the information you're looking for in
here, or want to learn more, they will probably be able to
help you.

The home office of the PTG is located in Kansas City, MO, and
apparently keeps the usual 9-5 business hours. There are
also local PTG chapters located everywhere. Check in the
phone book for a PTG chapter nearest you.

Here are some methods to contact the home office. The PTG's
www home page has many interesting and useful materials. I
highly recommend that you take a look, if you haven't done so

3930 Washington
Kansas City, MO 64111
tel: (816) 753-7747


[2] On Piano Purchasing

[2.1] I want to buy a piano. Where do I start?

Most of the questions asked in this newsgroup about piano
purchase and maintenance, if they can be answered at all, are
answered in the book, "The Piano Book: Buying & Owning A New
Or Used Piano" (Third edition, 1994, Brookside Press).
People who are new to the field are strongly recommended to
get hold of this book and read it.

The author of the book, Larry Fine, with the input of at
least a hundred other technicians nationwide, has spent the
last ten years and three editions of the book refining the
advice so the book is really the best place to start for this
kind of information. After reading the book, then one is
ready to hear and evaluate what others have to say on the
subject. If there are any questions or if you need
additional information beyond what is covered in the book,
everybody is welcome to post to RMMP. There are many
newsgroup members who are Registered Piano Technicians (RPT),
who are most qualified to give this advice and who, in this
newsgroup, have given the best advice.

For those with web access, you can also look at the
Electronic Piano Buying Guide at URL for more information.

[2.2] I want to buy "The Piano Book". Where do I find it?

(1) If the book is not available through your local
bookstore or library, you may order it directly from the

Brookside Press
P.O. Box 178, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 USA.
Phone (800) 545-2022 or (617) 522-7182.

(2) Also see the following Web site for information
on the book.

(3) Some music stores and piano dealers or technicians also
have copies to sell.

[2.3] What is new in the "The Piano Book", third edition?

The third edition has all new brand reviews (at least to the
extent they need to be revised after four years) based on a
new survey of technicians and the pianos they service.
Baldwin is again included in the book. (They had been left
out of the second edition, because of potential legal

The section on shopping for a piano has been revised to
include information and advice on the all too prevalent piano
mega-sales, as well as more ideas on how to negotiate the
best price.

Prices (in the form of price ranges) have been included in
this edition as well as "ratings." The first edition had a
very detailed numerical rating system. Although the general
public loved it because it made buying a piano seem like a
science, it wasn't realistically a good idea and was much
abused by dealers. In reaction, ratings were left out of the
second edition entirely. In the third edition, a much looser
rating system is used that puts piano brands into broad

The list of older Steinway models has been revised and
refined quite extensively based on the ongoing historical
research by the list's creator, Roy Kehl.

Additionally, many small changes to technical descriptions of
piano parts, a couple of new illustrations (Fandrich piano
back and action), a little more information on electronic
player pianos, and some new miscellanies are included. Oh
yes -- and a green cover.

[2.4] Buying digital pianos

Please read "Digital Pianos FAQ" and "Digital Pianos Hardware
List" available from anonymous ftp at under:


...or whatever similar method you used to get hold of this
"RMMP General Topics FAQ".

[2.5] Word of advice

Whatever you do, take your time when you are shopping for a
piano. Don't let the words "on sale" or "great deal" push
you into a blind purchasing panic. There are many excellent
pianos at bargain prices out there, and at the same time
there are many lemons sold at some outrageous prices. The
only way you will be able to distinguish between the two is
through careful research, shopping around, and understanding
the key points mentioned in "The Piano Book".

Don't rush!


[3] Recommended Things To Do Immediately After Piano Purchase

First of all, congratulations! on becoming a piano owner!
Here are few things you might want to consider when you first
get your piano.

[3.1] I bought it from a dealer

Some dealers will regulate and tune the piano before
delivery, but not all do. The best would be to talk the
dealer into having the piano regulated and tuned before
delivery (at the dealer's place) and then have it checked and
tuned once it is delivered to your place. If you can get
this service packaged with your delivery contract, that would
be the best thing to do.

Check for any visible damages on your piano. If you see any
scratches or bruises, make a note of it on the delivery
receipt and notify the dealer immediately.

[3.2] I bought it used from someone

Before delivery, if possible, make a thorough inspection of
the piano and make note of any damages prior to delivery
(take pictures, if you can). Once the piano is delivered,
check for any visible signs of damage. If you see any, make
a note of it on the delivery receipt if you had it
professionally delivered. If you moved it yourself, well...

Once you have put your piano in a semi-permanent position,
have the piano tuned.


[4] Piano Placement Considerations

[4.1] Where should I put my piano?

Pianos are very much like babies. Keep them out of drafts,
keep them out of direct sunlight. Basically, avoid any
extreme conditions (stay away from near the fire place,
etc.). It is also a good idea to keep sharp objects and wet
things (cups, potted plants) away as it can damage the
finish. Also keep them a couple of inches out from a wall to
prevent condensation behind it.

[4.2] What atmospheric environment does piano like?

Pianos can degrade rapidly if the environment is too humid or
too dry. The ideal humidity of the room where the piano is
kept is about 40-45%.


[5] What Do I Need to Know or Do About Maintenance?

[5.1] Can I Tune or Repair the Piano Myself?

The general consensus is, "If you don't know what you are
doing, leave it to the professionals." Piano is a very
delicate instrument. You do not want to mess with it unless
you know what you are dealing with. If you carelessly fiddle
around too much, you may do more damage and end up with
costly repairs, and the last thing you want on your hands is
your piano irreparably damaged.

But for those who understand the risks involved and still
choose to pursue tuning and repairs themselves, there are
several books available on the subject.

[5.2] Maintenance reference books

[5.2.1] The Arthur Reblitz books

If you want to know all the technical details of how piano
works, there are two books published by Arthur A. Reblitz.

Reblitz, Arthur A. "Piano Servicing, Tuning & Rebuilding",
Second Edition, Vestal Press, Vestal, N.Y. 1994. $29.95.

Reblitz, Arthur A. "Player Piano Servicing and Rebuilding"

Reblitz Restorations Inc.
PO Box 7392
Colorado Springs, CO 80933
(719) 598-2538
(719) 598-9581 (fax)

Reblitz writes that: "there's no reason why anyone willing to
take some time to study its [the piano's] mechanisms can't
learn to repair and tune it well," and states that hobbyists
have even done fine piano rebuilding jobs. You just need
"persistence, common sense, and a bit of mechanical
aptitude", the proper tools, and a book like this one. The
books cover: the history of piano styles and construction;
the internal workings; evaluating an old piano for purchase
or repairing; how to clean a piano and perform minor repairs;
adjusting the action and pedals (regulating); and tuning
theory and procedure; and provides a 70 page discussion of
rebuilding. (Regarding rebuilding, the author does not
minimize the difficulties or skill requirements of this

[5.2.2] "The Piano Book"

"The Piano Book" by Larry Fine, referred to above (see "[2]
On Piano Purchasing") regarding purchasing a piano, is also a
good source of information on maintenance. With the
information from this book a piano owner will be able to
conduct an informed discussion with a piano technician. The
book gives an overview of how the piano works, describes what
maintenance is required, and what to do in case you move or
have your piano stored.

While providing much that a piano owner needs to know about
maintenance, the author does not even raise the question of
whether to make repairs or do a tuning yourself, but rather
assumes that the technician will do it all -- and this suits
for most people.


[6] How Often Do I Have to Tune the Piano?

For a brand new piano, the general recommendation is to tune
it about four times during its first year and twice a year
thereafter. This is also a good rule-of-thumb for older
pianos which were moved into a different climate condition.
Most other pianos generally need to be tuned about twice a
year. However, some pianos may require more frequent tuning,
and some less. The frequency will vary depending on the age,
model and the environment of the piano.


[7] My Piano Goes Out of Tune Often. Is Something Wrong?

[7.1] New pianos

As the wood and strings settle in a new piano during its
"break-in" period, it requires a bit more maintenance during
its first year. Wood may shrink or swell a bit, changing the
tension on the strings; strings stretching; compacting of
cloth and felt throughout the action, etc. It is common to
have to call for maintenance more frequently than an older
piano. You can expect to have the new piano tuned about 4
times a year during its first year, and need regulating and
perhaps voicing more quickly than later on in the piano's
life. This is also true for older pianos which were moved
into a different climate condition.

Loosening of tuning pins is rarely a symptom of "settling".
It would instead be a symptom of a defective piano that needs
warranty repair. Tuning pins should not loosen appreciably
for many years.

[7.2] All pianos in general

The best way to find out if something is wrong with the piano
mechanically, is to have a piano technician evaluate the
problem. If mechanically nothing seems wrong, you may have
the "environment control" problem.

Pianos go out of tune primarily because of seasonal changes
in humidity that cause the soundboard to swell and shrink,
thus raising and lowering the tension on the strings. A
constant humidity level will reduce the amount of movement
that the sounding board will experience. This will then help
to keep the piano in tune.

If the piano is placed near a window or source of heat, it is
likely that humidity and temperature changes will have the
piano go out of tune. If the piano is placed against a non-
insulated exterior wall, that too could have a negative
effect on the tuning.


[8] Is There a Special Polish to Polish My Piano?

There are specific polishes for different finishes and pianos
are using many different finishes these days. The PTG WWW
page has a brochure on it you could read and download. See
section [1] for URL.


[9] Tuning Methods

Brief answers are given here for a general understanding of
this topic. If you wish to learn more, contact a local Piano
Technicians Guild chapter, or check out their www homepage
(URL and other conventional contact addresses given in
section [1]), or post your questions on the newsgroup and
have our friendly RPT's answer your questions!

[9.1] Why use an electronic pitch device instead of the
traditional A-440 tuning fork?

Electronic tuning forks are quite accurate and some piano
tuners use them to replace the old-style metal forks, which
are highly subject to temperature changes which make them
"drift" from the standard.

[9.2] What is aural tuning?

"Aural" tuning is how piano tuners have traditionally tuned
instruments -- tuning strictly "by ear." Usually after a
reference note is established, tuners adjust the pitches of
all the other notes based on the reference note without
relying on anything else other than their ears.

Sometimes, instead of setting pitch "A" to a reference,
tuners will simply set that "A" to whatever pitch it's at
(which may be too high or too low because of seasonal or
other factors) and then tune the rest of the piano relative
to that pitch. This avoids having to drag all the notes very
far up or down in pitch with each change of season, with
consequent tuning instability or, in the extreme (where the
pitch is very low), possible string breakage.

[9.3] What is electronically assisted, "electronic" tuning?

There are a few electronic tuning aid (ETA) devices on the
market which will assist a piano tuner in doing his or her
job. Typically, an ETA device will produce a series of
pitches to establish the "ideal" tuning of a given piano. A
piano tuner will then match the piano to the device. It is
inevitable to use some aural techniques as well to refine the
tuning. It does not replace the ear, but is an aid to it.

The level of the "idealness" produced by an ETA device is
highly dependent on what kind of device is used. The best
one, the Sanderson Accu-Tuner II (costs you a few thousand
dollars), allows a tuner to measure several parts of the
instrument and it will calculate a reasonable tuning for that
particular instrument. This machine also stores tunings so
they can be used at any time, which is particularly good for
recording studios and concerts as the tunings are consistent
and can be completed quickly.

[9.4] What are the pros and cons of aural tuning?

One of the supposed disadvantages of aural tuning is really
one of the advantages -- that no tuners do the job alike, and
that the tuning may vary from time to time. One could as
easily insist that an advantage to player piano is that they
mechanically reproduce a given performance over and over.
Further, the ear remains the best judge of intonation.

A tuner who tunes without the aid of an electronic tuning
device occasionally will be decidedly disadvantaged due to
sinus congestion resulting from allergies and/or viruses.

Pianists generally like a good tuner's "touch of personality"
in a tuning. Aural tunings, because they require individual
judgments, vary from one tuner to the next. Any given tuner
may, at one time or another, be preferred over another
because of their particular "flavor" of tuning. Because
pianists have different tastes, it is sometimes necessary to
shop around before settling on a tuner whose tuning pleases
the pianist. The level of skill among technicians varies, as
well, and this, too, contributes to whether their particular
method or "flavor" of tuning is desirable.

[9.5] What are the pros and cons of electronic tuning?

For technicians who spend the majority of their time tuning
every day, ETA devices can give the tuner's ears a brief
respite from the negative effects of sharp, often loud sounds
emitted by the piano during the tuning process. It also
saves somewhat on the mental process of deciding aurally when
a note is in tune -- less mental fatigue. An electronic
tuning device can be extremely beneficial in institutional
settings where multiple tunings must be performed in rapid
succession. Since the pitches can be stored in some ETAs, it
is possible to have a given piano tuned identically over and
over. In other words, electronically assisted tuning is at
its best if it succeeds in reproducing some previous tuning.

The greatest pitfalls in electronically assisted tuning are
inexperience and in-attentiveness. Historically, "semi-
professional" tuners (a.k.a. "weekend warriors") are
notorious for purchasing electronic tuning devices and
attacking friends', neighbors', and relatives' pianos to
practice their hobby. Because these individuals do not have
a complete grasp of exactly what it is they are doing, they
are completely reliant on an electronic device that cannot
distinguish between pianos and therefore cannot make the
judgments of a skilled technician. Although the risk of a
non-professional ruining a piano is only slight, the
potential of the damage which may result can be costly to
repair (e.g.. twisted tuning pins that eventually shear off
at the plate, broken strings, mutilated dampers, etc.).

[9.6] Which is better, aural or electronic tuning?

There is a great misconception among the public that anyone
who uses a "machine" isn't a real tuner. By the same token,
someone who just buys a machine and a few tools don't
necessarily qualify as a "piano tuner." They are both valid
methods. Electronic tuning aid is just that -- an aid to
tuning. It doesn't replace an aural tuning, but is an
assistant -- a tool used by piano technicians to provide the
best service to customers.

Many technicians today use both methods to produce the best
possible tunings. To be a good tuner, aside from being able
to pitch a note, one must understand the overall effect of
the tunings. Technicians who perform electronically assisted
tunings usually do an aural check of the tuning to make
certain that the tuning is the best it can possibly be on
each instrument.


[10] I Need to Relocate! How Do I Deal With Piano Moving?

[10.1] Moving using professional movers

The most important thing, whether it is a cross-country move
or a local city-to-city move, is to find a mover who is
experienced in piano moving. Unlike furniture, a piano needs
special attention during a move, because of its delicate
moving parts, wood frame, environment sensitivity, etc. You
can pretty much kiss the possibility of receiving the piano
"in tune" good-bye, but you don't have to take more trauma
than necessary. The following guideline was written to give
you an idea of how to go about dealing with the move as
trouble-free as possible.

[10.1.1] Pre-move

Research the moving companies. For many local moves, there
are professional piano movers who specialize in piano moving.
Ask what kind of experience they have with piano moving, and
the methods they use to move the piano. Also see if they can
give you any references from other customers.

Take very detailed photos of the piano. You will need these
in case any damage was done to the piano during the move, you
have proof that it was okay before the move.

[10.1.2] Moving contract

For cross-country move, try having the following conditions
added to your moving contract.

(1) The piano will not be transferred at shipping
terminals across the country, and will not be
unloaded off the 18-wheeler trailer once it has been
initially loaded on

(2) The piano will be blanket wrapped, and strapped to
the side of the trailer

(3) The trailer will be one of the "computer air-ride"
trailers that maintain a constant/controlled air
environment. (There exists such trailers which are
designed to handle computer and other instruments)

(4) Insure the piano for its full replacement value

[10.1.3] Arrival

(1) Take the photo of the piano in the trailer as it
is being unloaded.

(2) Check the piano thoroughly for any visible damages.
If you see any, make sure you note it on the delivery
receipt before you sign it.

[10.2] Moving the piano yourself

Pianos are HEAVY. A small upright can easily weigh as much
as 400 lbs. Also, many of the older uprights are extremely
top-heavy (All the weight of the plate, action, and pinblock
are at the top of the piano, making it unstable when it is
moved on its casters). If you do need to maneuver more than
few steps of stairs, it is highly recommended that you use a
professional piano mover. However, if you still choose to
move the piano yourself, you will need a few people to help
you move the piano. It may not be such a bad idea to get a
back brace to protect yourself from over-straining.

Following are some tips to aid you, directed for upright,
console, spinet piano moving (you probably don't want to move
a grand piano yourself):

(1) You will need thick wrapping blankets to protect your
piano from being scratched. Don't use the thin blankets
usually supplied by U-Haul and other rental agents. Use
a lot of those plastic packaging tapes to secure the
blanket around the piano (don't tape the blanket onto
the piano... That may damage the finish. Just wrap the
blanket, and "mummify" it with the tape)

(2) If you chose not to carry the piano, you will need a big
cart (a heavy-weight flatbed with big casters on the
bottom) since the casters on the pianos are not made to
move it across the floor or on irregular ground, but
only to position it after it was moved close to its
final resting location.

(3) Get hold of a large, (preferably covered, but not a
necessity to move it just across town) truck or trailer.

(4) Once you get the piano in the truck, place some 2x4 or
4x4 wood planks under the piano, from back
to the front (parallel to the sides, perpendicular to
the front and back surfaces), lifting it off its
casters. Place a few to distribute the weight. This
will help stabilize the piano on the floor, and also
alleviate any strain to the casters caused by the
irregular floor of trucks. It also will help reducing
the "rolling-off" accidents.

(5) After you check that the piano is stable on the
wooden planks, secure it against the wall with
*moving straps*, not ropes. Moving straps
are usually thick, 1-2 inch wide nylon/acrylic tape,
and is much stronger than a rope, and doesn't stretch
out of place as much when the truck gets bumped around
over the potholes.

Above all, BE CAREFUL. You can easily hurt yourself if you
strain too much, and it's better to be over-kill in
protecting and securing the piano (the alternative can lead
to disasters... like a flying piano off or through the truck
cargo...) and having extra pairs of hands available.


[11] Where Can I Get Replacement Parts?

[11.1] Pianos

The piano supply outlet which deals with hobbyists is,

Player Piano Co.
704 East Douglas
Wichita, Kansas, 67202
Tel. (316) 263-3241

Just call and they will send you a free catalog. They also
sell the Arthur Reblitz books mentioned in section [5.2.1].

[11.2] Harpsichords

Gerald L. Self, Inc.
Early Keyboard Instruments
5119 St. Nicholas
San Antonio, TX 78228
(210) 434-2040

end RMMP General Topics FAQ

I would like to extend my thanks to many in the RMMP
newsgroup for bits and pieces of information contained in

this FAQ. Special recognition goes to Tim MacEachern, Guy
Klose, Larry Fine, Tom Sheehan, and John Musselwhite, for

directly contributing to this FAQ. Special thanks goes to
Phil Tompkins, for his countless suggestions, proof-reading,

contributions, etc. If I missed anyone, please let me know!

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