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Topic Options
#1968278 - 10/03/12 03:30 PM What does a tech inspection include?
scepticalforumguy Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/08
Posts: 1475
Loc: Lower Mainland, BC
Hello esteemed Piano Technicians,

I am going to get an inspection done on a piano tonight, and was wondering what is usually included in this inspection.

I'd imagine pulling the action is one thing, looking for cracks in the soundboard, and probably testing the pinblock/tuning pins for torque.
Is there a list of things that I can ask? This isn't my usual tech, so I don't feel comfortable assuming things with him. I'm sure he'll have his own way of doing things, but I want to ensure the piano has no hidden (to the player) things that will make me regret purchase later.

The piano is a Mason BB, eight years old, one owner, but history otherwise not disclosed to me.
_________________________
Recordings of my recent solo piano and piano/keyboard trio jazz standards.



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#1968304 - 10/03/12 04:40 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3360

Grand Piano Evaluation Checklist:


Date: __________ Client’s name: ________________ Address: ______________________
Brand: ______________ Model: _________ Serial #: _____________ Age: _______



1) How does the piano look?:
a. Harp
b. Case
c. Keytops
d. Case parts fit
e. Legs

2) Condition of belly:
a. Soundboard cracks
b. Rib separation
c. Bridge cracks
d. Soundboard crown
e. Downbearing
f. Plate
g. Rim
h. Other

3) How does it sound?:
a. Bass
b. Tenor
c. Treble
d. Notes 80-88
e. Pitch @ A-440?

4) Damper shut off?

5) Treble string pluck test

6) Pinblock/strings:
a. Tuning pin tightness
b. Strings:
i. Rust, spills, etc.
ii. Coils
iii. Spacing
iv. Broken/replaced
v. Dead bass
vi. Rendering
vii. Other

7) Noises:
a. General buzzing, etc.
b. Agraffe buzz
c. Capo bar noise
d. Buzzing bass strings
e. Other

8) False beats:
a. Treble sections
b. Tenor
c. Bass
d. Bridge pin tightness
e. Bridge notching

9) Pedals:
a. Lost motion (sustain)
b. Shift
c. Sostenuto
d. Loose?
e. Noises?
f. General

10) Feel of action (heavy, etc.):

11) Feel of keys:
a. Wobble (needs bushings)
b. Pulley (balance hole trouble)
c. Other

12) Aftertouch (quick look at following):
a. Dip (10mm)
b. Letoff (1.5mm)
c. Drop (1mm)
d. Checking (12mm)

13) Hammer spacing to strings
14) Repetition spring strength
15) Damper timing
16) Damper up-stop setting:
Two dampers per section
Compared to sustain lift

17) Key level
18) Front rail knocking
19) Glide bolt knocking
20) Action easy to remove?
21) Hammer condition
22) Hammer heads loose?
23) Hammer angles (burn-in, etc.)
24) Shank flange centers
25) Shank travel
26) Knuckles
27) Jacks OK, or broken?
28) Moth/felt/wood deterioration
29) Verdigris, Steinway sludge, stickiness
30) Action parts alignment
31) Keypins, rust/corrosion
32) Damper lift felt

33) Damper undersystem:
a. Tray
b. Underlevers
c. Wires/screws
d. Misc. springs
e. Noises
f. Other
34) Bench
35) Dampp-Chaser recommended?

If possible, humidity reading at time of inspection: _______%
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#1968308 - 10/03/12 04:44 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Etc.............................. smile
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1968333 - 10/03/12 05:20 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2181
Loc: Maine
It can be anything from Beethoven 968s' list to ...

Do most of the keys play most of the time?
Is it reasonably well in tune?
Are there any unwanted critters living in it?
Any important parts missing?
Is it a square?

(Let's see. I think that about covers it.)
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#1968341 - 10/03/12 05:34 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: David Jenson]
kpembrook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/10
Posts: 1317
Loc: Michigan
All good replies. I also usually ask a context question or two because whether a piano is "good" depends on what it is supposed to be good "for". . .

"Who will play the piano, what kind of music and how much?" is what I usually ask.

Also, determining where the piano will be located might keep it from potential exposure to 6 inches of water or getting stuck halfway down a stairway.
_________________________
Keith Akins, RPT
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair

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#1968342 - 10/03/12 05:37 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4226
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

I am going to get an inspection done on a piano tonight, and was wondering what is usually included in this inspection.


Every technician will have a list similar to the one posted with variations in the syntax and wording.

Some appraisers provide only a written document. Some also provide supporting photos to back up the written assessment of the present mechanical condition or lack thereof.

For a thorough appraisal/ inspection in this area the cost should be between $2-300 dollars.

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy

The piano is a Mason BB, eight years old, one owner, but history otherwise not disclosed to me.


There is a 2004 L for sale in Point Grey. Unusual sound from this one as the hammer set is in a completely raw state. An opportunity there to take the tone anywhere you would like.
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#1968378 - 10/03/12 07:07 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Good list, I agree. How to limit the things to look at is a good question. While it can be time consuming to get involved in checking every small detail which might be easily fixable, such as regulation, one main area on the list seems to be underrepresented:
Quote:
10) Feel of action (heavy, etc.):
A piano such as this warrants a good look at action geometry and inertia.
As sub-points under 10) I would add:
a. up and downweights of samples in every octave
b. strikeweights of those notes
c. number of key leads (especially in bass)

This data will help to ascertain how well the piano can be expected to play after regulation etc has been looked after.

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy
... This isn't my usual tech, so I don't feel comfortable assuming things with him.
I would not make a multi-thousand dollar purchase decision without the input of your trusted technician, even if that delays things for a bit.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#1968387 - 10/03/12 07:34 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1974
Loc: Philadelphia area
Just be clear on what you want out of the piano. Is your tech familiar with M&H pianos?

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#1968391 - 10/03/12 07:41 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: Silverwood Pianos]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3360
Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos
For a thorough appraisal/ inspection in this area the cost should be between $2-300 dollars.


I'm not sure that I could get away with this in Chicago. Just out of curiosity, what's the going rate for tuning in your area?
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#1968392 - 10/03/12 07:46 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: Dave B]
scepticalforumguy Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/08
Posts: 1475
Loc: Lower Mainland, BC
Originally Posted By: Dave B
Just be clear on what you want out of the piano. Is your tech familiar with M&H pianos?


No one here is familiar with Masons. They've only been reintroduced into the city in the last year or so.

So the tech I'm about to bring out there is only going to help with seeing if the tonal range can be expanded. I don't think, from what I understand of our conversation, that anything else will take place. I'll hopefully be able to convince him of something more thorough though.

Thanks everyone for your input so far, and especially Beethoven for the list. I'll check those things myself tonight (the ones that I can do, anyways...)
_________________________
Recordings of my recent solo piano and piano/keyboard trio jazz standards.



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#1968393 - 10/03/12 07:52 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: Supply]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3360
Originally Posted By: Supply
Good list, I agree. How to limit the things to look at is a good question. While it can be time consuming to get involved in checking every small detail which might be easily fixable, such as regulation, one main area on the list seems to be underrepresented:
Quote:
10) Feel of action (heavy, etc.):
A piano such as this warrants a good look at action geometry and inertia.
As sub-points under 10) I would add:
a. up and downweights of samples in every octave
b. strikeweights of those notes
c. number of key leads (especially in bass)

This data will help to ascertain how well the piano can be expected to play after regulation etc has been looked after.


These are good points. Diagnosing inertia problems is something I plan to add to my took kit in the near future.... Fandrich/Rhodes Weight Bench with Inertial calculator, once I have the money to do so!

Originally Posted By: Supply
Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy
... This isn't my usual tech, so I don't feel comfortable assuming things with him.
I would not make a multi-thousand dollar purchase decision without the input of your trusted technician, even if that delays things for a bit.


I agree in principle, however, my family kinda got nailed with my purchase when my normal technician did a pre purchase inspection on my current piano 10 years ago. Knowing what I know about this piano now, we would not have purchased it.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#1968486 - 10/04/12 12:46 AM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
scepticalforumguy Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/08
Posts: 1475
Loc: Lower Mainland, BC
Update:

The tech came tonight, did some voicing, and checked out the action for regulation, wear, and such.

He said the piano looked in good condition, but the hammers had been reshaped a bit, and were smaller as a result, but the regulation was very good.

He also said that I probably wouldn't be happy with the piano because he also felt the tonal range was limited. He was surprised that it sounded the way it did. I asked if this could be changed with hammers and his response, like many other techs I've talked to, was maybe--but maybe not, and that it would be risky to base a purchase of this price on a risk.

He also suggested I get my own tech (whom he highly recommends) to see if he can do some deep needling to change the tonal range. The one that came tonight simply was unable to do this due to his limited strength. I was unaware that he couldn't do this before I hired him, so that was my fault to a degree.

In any event, it was a pleasure getting to know him, and to hear his stories about some of the people he's tuned for (Claudia Arrau, Pavarrati--well not directly), and to hear his gut feeling about the piano. A great gentleman that I did not mind paying for at all. But I will still need to get my tech in to finish the job if I continue to pursue this piano.
_________________________
Recordings of my recent solo piano and piano/keyboard trio jazz standards.



Top
#1968490 - 10/04/12 12:58 AM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1820
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Excellent thread. Superb posts. One suggestion: In any inspection or appraisal, examine carefully for the unseen - especially if the instrument has been rebuilt. Sometimes a rebuild can hide a multitude of sins. Years ago a tech was called upon to service a Steinway grand rebuilt about a year earlier. During the tuning he noticed that various glue joints had given way. And he knew why. A couple of years earlier he had given an appraisal on this piano to an insurance company. It had been in a house fire and, consequently, was exposed to excessive heat and much water. He totaled it out - and rightly so. It was worthless. Nevertheless, the insurance company had sold the thing to an individual who, in turn, shipped it to ******* to be rebuilt. Those of you who have been at this for awhile know how devastating the long term affects of excessive heat and water can be. This is but one example of the unseen. There are others. In cases such as the one before us, the tech can look for water marks in the wood. The presence of paint or stain where it should not be, is also a clue that an attempt has been made to hide a problem.
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com/

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#1968511 - 10/04/12 01:47 AM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3360
Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy
He also said that I probably wouldn't be happy with the piano because he also felt the tonal range was limited. He was surprised that it sounded the way it did.


It doesn't matter if the tech likes the way it sounds. Do you like the way it sounds?

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy
I asked if this could be changed with hammers and his response, like many other techs I've talked to, was maybe--but maybe not, and that it would be risky to base a purchase of this price on a risk.


In the hands of a skilled voicer, any piano can be transformed. If the hammers have already been filed a lot, perhaps they could just be replaced, which is less risky than is often assumed.

Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy
He also suggested I get my own tech (whom he highly recommends) to see if he can do some deep needling to change the tonal range. The one that came tonight simply was unable to do this due to his limited strength. I was unaware that he couldn't do this before I hired him, so that was my fault to a degree.


Mason & Hamlin hammers tend to be on the firm side, so chances are good that deep needling will be beneficial. However, it fundamentally changes the tone of the hammers, and therefore, the piano. Unless you own the piano, it is not your prerogative to make this change, so if your tech does this, it could lead to a really pissed off seller. That, and doing the whole piano would take hours. I also find it curious that someone who tunes for a living isn't strong enough to do deep needling....
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#1968557 - 10/04/12 06:44 AM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
michelleyh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/08
Posts: 58
Loc: Malaysia
Check to see if it has crown :-)

Also, it will be great if you can ask a competent pianist to play the piano. If the piano is physically ok. Try playing those high end pieces.. Liszt hungarian rhapsodies, chopin ballads, to name a few... and then see if the dynamic range produce are wide enough, what about the touch.

The most important thing. Are you in love with the piano? Try to imagine yourself playing the piano in the next 10 years time, when perhaps, your level of playing has increase.. Will it cater your own personal taste?
_________________________
Michelle YH Toe, LLCM
Piano Technician, CSPT
Piano Teacher
Accompanist
www.facebook.com/MichelleYHToe

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#1968560 - 10/04/12 06:57 AM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
Jürgen and Michelleyh have put the most important points there,; for a fast check (not details but looking for the important points at large).

That said apparent crown is not always there to a large amount, while the soundboard can be in good condition.

If the crown is not so large but the bridge roll is not evident (the strings are still higher at the front of the bridge than at the back) , the piano can be in good condition.

A good pianist can also feel the possibilities of the piano, dynamics, saturation level.

Those sensations are noticed also under the fingers with the level of tactile feedback perceived, once the pianist is attentive to it.

Try to evaluate the slope of extinction of the tone, too. This relate to hammers, but not only.






Edited by Kamin (10/04/12 06:58 AM)
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#1968576 - 10/04/12 08:29 AM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: beethoven986]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1820
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: beethoven986
Originally Posted By: scepticalforumguy



He also suggested I get my own tech (whom he highly recommends) to see if he can do some deep needling to change the tonal range. The one that came tonight simply was unable to do this due to his limited strength. I was unaware that he couldn't do this before I hired him, so that was my fault to a degree.


Mason & Hamlin hammers tend to be on the firm side, so chances are good that deep needling will be beneficial. However, it fundamentally changes the tone of the hammers, and therefore, the piano. Unless you own the piano, it is not your prerogative to make this change, so if your tech does this, it could lead to a really pissed off seller. That, and doing the whole piano would take hours. I also find it curious that someone who tunes for a living isn't strong enough to do deep needling....



Yes, indeed. Moreover, voicing prior to a move to a new locale typically introduces a new acoustical dynamic, and is, therefore, not wise.
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com/

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#1968672 - 10/04/12 12:33 PM Re: What does a tech inspection include? [Re: scepticalforumguy]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7904
Loc: France
on a good brand , deep needling have been done enough yet, generally. It happens that the hammer loose its inner tension with time, then no more deep needling is efficient. Beside, there are so many sources for low dynamics that we only can guess.

often, a too percussive hammer due to regulation is needled to get rid of the hard impact, then there is a "hole" in the upper shoulder and having it packed is not always easy.

needling from bottom toward the underside of the shoulders sometime helps t open the tone without making it too plain.
Not something you can do on a piano which is not yours, by evidence.
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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