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J. SQUEAK, THUMP, RATTLE, AND TWANG
There are many strange noises which can come from a piano other than the nice sound of well tuned wires. Since they differ extremely in both source and cure, we will number each one separately:
1. Severe rattle-
This is usually caused by a broken wire. The wire could have broken when no one was around, and you didn't know about it. The rattle will usually be over several notes. In a grand, the wire will be laying out across the middle of the piano. You can take this rattle away until the tuner gets there. Go to the far end of the piano, and remove the wire from the bridge and fish it through the felt, if any, which is running through the wires. Pull the wire up to the top end near the tuning pins, coil up the wire, and park it under the desk in a piece of cloth or in a Baggy. This will let you play the piano, though a note or two may sound subdued. As you do this, be warned that piano wire can cut badly, so wear gloves and glasses or goggles.
As to an Upright: Lift the top, and dismantle the desk as in Chapter Five.
Look down behind the hammers into the wire area. You should be able to see a wire that is broken, especially in the unwound wire section across the middle and up to the treble end. If it was a wound bass wire, it probably fell part or part of the way into the bottom of the piano.
When a bass wire breaks, simply open the bottom and pull the wire down into the bottom, and lay it in the bottom of the piano. WARNING: The broken end of the wire is sharp, and the springy nature of piano wire makes it deadly. Be sure you have the wire under control all the time. Many a Rambo type has been cut nicely because he thought he could jerk hard and solve all of life's problems. DO NOT throw the wound wire away. Your tuner will need it to know which new wire to install.
So, your tuner may be able to re-use the wire later. In any case, he will need it to measure for a replacement if he installs a new one. You may decide to put in a new one yourself. It is necessary to roll up the bass wire (read warning above again please) and mail it to me for an exact replacement. You may also check our Piano Wire page in the Catalog if you wish to replace it yourself. See Chapter Seven, sub-title Wire- Replacement of a Broken One.
If the wire is an unwound or plain one, you should still save it so that the tuner can gauge it for replacement. Roll it up, and lay it in the bottom of the piano. If you put some other "safe place," you will never find it again. So, do what I tell you, OK? Wrap it in a piece of cloth if you like to keep it from setting up a buzz when certain notes are hit.
Again, if you want to replace it yourself, see the section noted above in Chapter Seven. Also, to order a piece of new wire, read carefully the instructions for ordering wire in the online Catalog under the Piano Wire page. You MUST follow the instructions or I cannot help you. You will also need the Touch Up Tool Kit. If you try to replace a wire without the right tools, you WILL trash tuning pins.
2. Buzz Buzz-
I'll tell you what friend, it ain't bees. A buzz in a piano is one of the most mysterious things that can happen. It can drive the best tuner bananas.
With uprights, the first place to look is into the wire area at the top. Has something foreign, a pencil, a piece of paper, etc, fallen into the wire or action area? Open the bottom of the upright piano. Are there Legos or crayons rolling around down there? Look behind the upright piano. There are wells formed by the wood frame at the bottom. Johnny may have used this area to hide his precious junk collection.
In a Grand piano, the junk can roll under the metal harp. Fish around in there with your hand or a long blunt tool. See if you can knock anything rolling. If so, go fishing. If you hear a low pitch vibration with only certain notes, or perhaps two or three together, you have a piece of the piano structure vibrating. Usually, the lower the pitch of the sound, the bigger the piece of wood making the sound. First, on the grand, check the cross braces on the top of the piano. The most guilty is the brace on the front piece of the top which hinges over and covers the desk area. If the screws loosen, that bar becomes a fantastic sympathetic vibrator. Tighten the screws. While you are at it, tighten ALL the screws which hold bits and pieces on the piano, grand or upright.
Concert grands are vulnerable since they have heavy tops which flex every time they are opened and closed. Next, check the desk end runners on the grand, then the board in front of the keys and the end blocks. Finally, if the vibration persists, crawl under the piano and, with a friend thumping the offending note, push and shove on all the lyre and pedal braces. If the noise stops, tighten any screws, or make arrangements to stop the noise. As with uprights, check the bridge also by pushing on it in various places with a screwdriver as you play vibrating notes.
A buzz can develop in the room where the piano is. Some object in the room is in perfect resonance with one note of the piano, and the object is buzzing. You will usually find this object on the wall or a shelf near the piano, but don't rule out the whole room. The object will be smaller for higher pitched buzzes, and larger for low pitched buzzes. You will need the help of a friend or the customer to help by plunking as objects are lifted or pressed to stop any vibration. I know this sounds weird, but I have seen it happen.
Pack rats, field mice, and chipmunks frequently get into uprights and even grands. When they do, they hide their acorns, dog food, and so on, under the keys. Open the upright piano (Chapter Five), and lift out a few keys. If there are signs of mice, take the keys out (number them first), and evict the varmints and their collection. For more on varmints, see Varmints in Chapter Seven.
You still have the buzz? If it only comes up on certain notes, hit the offending note hard with one hand, and start around the piano with the other hand pushing on anything that looks like it could vibrate. Include other wires, action parts, the bass bridge at the bottom (push it hard against the sound board with the bit of a screwdriver), and the sound board. Do the same against all bridges at several points. If there is a crack in the sound board, push on the crack area pretty hard, from the rear, as your friend plunks away on the offending note. If the buzz goes away, you have to repair the sound board. It is not hard work if you follow instructions carefully in Chapter Seven, sub-title, Sound Board- Repairing Cracks.
Get under the grand piano, or behind the upright, and have a friend thump the vibrating key. Wedge the flat end of a screwdriver into the cervices of the massive wood frame. Do this along the ribs of the sound board.
If you don't feel sure of yourself to repair the sound board, I can live with that. Just run a screw of moderate size into the crack right where you pushed on it. If the buzz goes away, you may get away with it for several months. Of course the sound board will continue to separate all that time, so you figure it out. At least call a tuner and have him repair it soon.
To check the strings at the bass bridge, use a blunt tool, and push on every wire right between the bridge pins holding the wire hard against the bridge. If the buzz goes away, you must temporarily repair the area. See Chapter Seven, Sub-title Bridge Repair.
If the buzz goes away no matter where you push on the bridge, then your bridge has come loose from the sound board. You may also notice that the volume goes up when you press on the bass bridge. See Bridge Repair in Chapter Seven.
The copper (old pianos have iron) winding on the wire may have come loose. The best thing to do is to go to Chapter Seven, sub-topic Wires- Turning to brighten. Though turning bass wires is usually to brighten them, turning a buzzing wire can tighten the windings and get the buzz out-- sometimes. It won't hurt to try, right?
Another possible solution is to put a small screw driver against the top of the copper winding, and tap it lightly down with a small hammer. Of course, you can also over stress the wire, and it will snap. It's a dangerous world out there friend. If it breaks, well I suppose you got rid of your buzz, right? If you enjoy the philosophical aspects of trouble like this, look up Entropy in your Encyclopedia of Science.
This is usually only when you use one of the pedals, right? Open the bottom of the upright, and see where the pedal levers are rubbing on each other. It may be the stick going up to the action above. It may be rubbing on the frame of the piano. The hinge pin in the pedal may be squeaking in the wood or metal hinge point. Three treatments are possible:
A. tack a piece of felt or leather into place so that the two wood pieces no longer make contact.
B. Reset the hardware to force it out of contact. It may be as simple as just tightening the existing screws which have come loose.
C. Make a mixture of graphite and light oil. Rub this on the wood parts where they make contact. WARNING: Do not get this stuff on the carpet, OK?
If you have a squeaking grand, you may have to remove the lyre and lubricate the hinge pins in the pedal box. Take the bottom of the box off to access the pedal hinge points. First though, check the levers under the key bed which operate the sustain and quiet works. Spray all moving points with aerosol silicone. You may need to purchase some powdered graphite of Teflon powder and rub it into the leather or felt parts between moving points. This we sell in the Catalog, bottom of the page.
You would benefit now by reading Chapter Seven, sub-title Pedal and Trap Repair. That mess of hardware in the bottom of the piano is called the Trap by piano technicians. Can you guess why?
The very worst terror is to find that the squeak comes from the action when you push the pedal down. Borrow Dr. Von Wizzlebone's stethoscope, and listen to the metal braces as you push the pedal. Or place the bit of a large long screw driver on the metal action brace and the end of the handle in your ear (this is not a joke), and push the pedal down. Is the squeak very loud with this technique?
Try another test with uprights. Remove the sticks from the pedals down below by loosening the nuts on the rods at the pedals. Now get above the action, reach carefully down behind the action at its end, and operate the levers the sticks would push up on. Do you still have the squeak? Make a note of it on the lamp shade right now, and call the tuner.
If you insist in doing this yourself, there is something you can do, at least temporarily, which may last for years. Remove the action as in Chapter Five. Lay the action down Verrrrry carefully with the hammers and dampers UP. Now look at the damper lever which the pedal stick pushes up. It turns 90 degrees into the action and operates the dampers. Operate it so you can see how it works. It is virtually certain by now that this is the culprit. BE SURE THE ACTION IS LAYING ON A PIECE OF PAPER TO CATCH OVER SPRAY.
Spray the bar where it contacts the dampers, all along its length, AND in its mounting hinge points, with aerosol silicone spray (NO OIL). The hinge points are hard to find, but they have to be there, and this is the most likely point of the squeak. Spray all the damper hinges while you are at it. THIS MUST NOT BE ATTEMPTED WITH THE ACTION IN THE PIANO. WARNING: DO NOT GET THE SILICONE ON THE FLOOR OR CARPET. If you ignore this warning, you better have good home owner's insurance.
If this sounds dangerous, it ain't-- IF you do what I told you. If you don't, I'm gonna send one of the boys around to break your fingers, ya hear? :-)
The grand can squeak from the action moving back and forth on the key bed when using the quiet pedal. You can remove the action (Chapter Five), and find the points where the key bed rests on the wood shelf inside. There will be five or six wear points total, arranged in the front and the back of the cavity. Some grands have inserted round wood plugs of very hard wood so that they will not wear. These points should be well lubricated with powdered graphite. Add some if you are in doubt. This we sell in the Catalog, bottom of the page. While you have the action out of the grand, check the hardware at the left and right of the action which positions the action. It is often in the end blocks, or it is mounted to the key bed near the front. Give it plenty of silicone. Never use oil to lubricate anything on a piano.
4. Major "Clack" when you hit keys on a grand piano
This is most likely caused by a loose "Damper lever stop rail" inside the action cavity. See Chapter Five on how to open your grand piano. Go all the way through the process until you have taken the action out.
Now, go to the Diagram of the Grand Piano Damper Action on the Diagrams page. Now locate part number 14, "Damper lever stop rail." The Diagrams page is a very long load. Go get a cup of tea. You're going to need it.
Find that board in your piano. It will be held in the back of the action area behind the damper wires. There will be four or five screws holding it, and it will go all the way across the piano. The "Damper lever," part number 15, is supposed to bump up against the felt on the bottom edge of the wood bar. The "Damper lever stop rail" may have come loose, and the damper levers are hitting the frame of the piano.
Set the "Damper lever stop rail" again. Loosen the screws, leaving them just a bit snug-- just enough to push the "Damper lever stop rail" up and down. Lower the "Damper lever stop rail" just enough to keep the damper levers from hitting the frame-- between one sixteenth and one eighth of an inch clearance should be enough. Tighten all the screws that secure the "Damper lever stop rail."
Reassemble the action and parts you took off as instructed in Chapter Five.
5. There is one more very obscure squeak.
Once in maybe 3000 pianos, a squeak develops in the massive wood frame of the piano. When a heavy handed player rocks the piano around pounding out a forte to the fifth power, Bach comes the squeak. See if you can find it. I'll give you a couple of bucks for the squeak if you get it out of the piano and mail it to me. Actually, a very thin wood screw into the crack between the parts in the area of the squeak will probably stop it-- but only temporarily. You need your tuner's help to finally solve this one, and don't put it off.
I have pretty much exhausted my knowledge of squeakology. If you come up with something I missed, I would be delighted to put it in the next edition with full credits to you the inventor.
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