What’s the Difference: Tuning vs. Repair/Restoration
Question: “I am considering purchasing an old piano I found online. The owner says it is in good shape, but it needs tuned. Do you think it will need more than that, or by tuning do they mean restoration or repairs as well?”
This is a question we hear quite a bit from people who have questions regarding the purchase of a piano. The term ‘tuning’ seems to have become a catch-all definition for work done on a piano. It often gets confused with work that would fall under restoration, basic maintenance, or repairs. Often, pianos that ‘just need tuning’ require much more work than that to even make them playable. To understand the difference between tuning and piano repair/restoration it is good to know the definitions.
What is Piano Tuning?
Piano tuning describes the process of altering string tension in a piano to subtly adjust the sound wave’s frequency. The end result of tuning a piano is to create an optimal playing experience, ensure the piano is at the correct pitch and eliminates unwanted ‘waves’ in the tone.
The act of tuning a piano relies on making small adjustments to individual string tension. This allows the tuner to align the intervals between the tones. This is usually done around the universal pitch of A440. Utilizing a tuning wrench/hammer, a tuner skillfully adjusts each string. Attached to hitch pins near the tail of the piano and finely threaded tuning pins at the front, there are over 200 individually strung strings inside each grand piano. It is important to note that tuning a piano does not repair any mechanical or structural issues your piano may have, so if the piano refuses to stay in tune or there are other mechanical or structural issues, repair or restoration work would need to be done to correct that.
The number of times a piano should be tuned each year can vary on the amount the instrument is played and the environment the piano lives in. [Humidity control devices such as the Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver System can extend the tuning stability of a piano.] The dawn of piano tuning as a career coincided with the increasing popularity of pianos during the mid-1800s. The ‘golden age’ of piano building saw the piano industry become one of the highest tech manufacturing industries in the world. [It is important to note that not every person who can tune, is qualified as a piano technician.]
Indiana pianist selects vintage Mason & Hamlin Grand from Chupp’s Pianos
We recently provided Lois from Richmond, Indiana with a restored vintage Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Piano. She was very happy with her newly restored instrument and was kind enough to send in the following letter of recommendation.
Dennis and Crew,
Thank you so much for making my Mason & Hamlin dream become a reality. Your talent for restoring pianos is overwhelming. I never thought this kind of talent existed. There are too many pianos out there just waiting to be helped. My gratitude to everyone, thank you again…
December 2016 | Christmas Music Video Highlights
The holiday season is here! Below are a number of videos we have produced, featuring Christmas music. Enjoy!
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” played on a vintage Steinway Model O Grand Piano by Benjamin Rogers. This classic Christmas song was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. The piano was built in 1918 at the New York Steinway Factory and features a figured African Flame Mahogany cabinet. It is currently awaiting purchase or restoration at our New Paris, IN. Rebuilding Facility.
Philip performing ‘Carol of the Bells’ on an Art Case 1917 Steinway & Sons Model B Grand Piano. [George Winston arrangement.] Carol of the Bells was written by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1914. The piano was built during the height of the golden age of piano manufacturing and features a rich, Circassian Walnut cabinet in a Louis XV style. Art Case pianos like this represent the very finest in piano craftsmanship.
Three Main Steps of Steinway Grand Piano Restoration
The art of piano restoration is more than simply swapping parts. The definition of rebuilt (amount of work actually done on the piano and the associated quality) varies a lot in the industry. Premium brands like Steinway and Mason & Hamlin are among the pianos most likely to warrant an extensive restoration. This infographic touches on some of the basics that go into a full, Steinway piano restoration. Scroll through the handy infographic to learn more about the rich history and work that goes into the restoration of vintage pianos. [Click the infographic to expand.]
From Mason & Hamlin’s Aeolian Days
While digging through some old paperwork, we found an old Mason & Hamlin product brochure from their days as a division of Aeolian in East Rochester, New York. Mason & Hamlin remains as one of the only ‘golden era’ piano makers still in business today. Along with Steinway & Sons, they represent the very finest in American piano craftsmanship. Below is a scan of the front cover.
Free Desktop Backgrounds from Chupp’s Pianos | Winter 2016
We’ve designed a few computer desktop backgrounds for our use here at the shop and thought we would share some of them with you. All of these are 1920 x 1080. You can click on either the download link or the photo itself to open a larger version of the desktop background. After doing this right click, and save to your computer.
The Elkhart Truth Features the Work of Chupp’s Piano Service
NEW PARIS — Tucked away in a corner of Elkhart County, a special brand of vintage music is being made – well, actually remade.
The restoration of famed Steinway & Sons pianos – the most famous name in pianos – has become the specialty of Chupp’s Piano Service, a New Paris business founded in 1975 by Dennis Chupp, a master piano technician.
Chupp, who learned his trade of restoring and prepping Steinways, has sold more than 2,000 models. The business not only restores and repairs, they tune, locate, move and set up pianos.
“A local concert technician, Walter Boshart, helped me through my journey of becoming a piano technician and it took me 10 years to get used to the job,” Dennis Chupp said. “We had arranged training at the Steinway factory and had trained with the head Steinway service rep. (Fred Drasche)”
Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Piano #21946 | Photos
Along with Steinway & Sons, the Mason & Hamlin piano company continues to be one of the few golden era piano makers still in the business today. New and used Mason & Hamlin instruments are favorites of many pianists and continue in popularity around the world. We recently rebuilt Mason & Hamlin Model A #21946 for a private client in Richmond, Indiana. Completed in 1913 at the Boston, MA factory, this piano is a great example of historic Mason & Hamlin quality. Historic Mason & Hamlin Model A Grand Pianos measure 5’8″ in length and are considiered to be one of the finest pianos ever made under 6′. The client visited our shop and selected Model A #21946 for restoration.
The Restoration Process | Before & After
Once selected for restoration, our team of piano technicians and rebuilders went to work. The belly of the piano was fully restored. The cast iron plate’s original finish was removed and it was sanded, puttied and re-bronzed. Raised lettering on the plate was hand detailed. Made of solid spruce, the original soundboard and bridges were repaired and refinished and a new soundboard logo was affixed to the center. New copper wound bass strings along with high quality music wire was installed to new, blued tuning pins. Proper bearing was set which allows for optimum soundboard efficiency. A new custom fitted pinblock was fabricated and installed. Dozens of plate screws and bolts were re-plated and the aliquots were polished.
Deb & Rob On Their New Kawai GX Series Grand Piano
Recently we were happy to provide a Kawai GX-2 Blak Series Grand Piano to Deb and Rob in LaGrange, Indiana. We also installed a new QRS PNOmation3 Player Piano System on the instrument. They were kind enough to send in a testimonial about our service, which we have included below.
“I am so very thankful for Chupp Pianos! When my house burned down, Tim got me a replacement estimate very promptly, so I could send it to the insurance company (at their request).
And even though it was almost two years until I was moving into a new house, they remembered and took very good care of us, meeting us at their showroom twice and giving us a tour of their impressive rebuilding facility in New Paris.
Steinway Model D Grand Piano #52626 | A Beautiful Past For A Beautiful Piano
There’s an old saying, “If these walls could talk, they’d tell you a story or two.” A concert grand piano from Steinway & Sons will last for generations and over time they accumulate a rich and beautiful history. As one of the greatest piano manufacturers in the world, Steinway pianos are used in venues and by musicians across the globe. Over time, these pianos will see their fair share of usage, and pass through many hands. At Chupp’s Piano Service, we specialize in restoring these beautiful pianos back to playing perfection, and today, we want to shine a little spotlight on a beautiful piano that we are proud to feature – Steinway Model D Grand Piano #52626.
The Origin of the Modern Concert Grand
In 1884, a major step forward occurred in the development of the mature concert grand piano- the Model D. The then new Model D was designed and created by incredibly talented craftsman C.F. Theodore Steinway. This new design was the first Steinway Grand to feature a double cupola plate. It featured a 20 note bass section, was overstrung, had a continuous soundboard bridge, and a bent rim case construction. These pianos featured agraffes from notes 1-35 and a capo d’astro bar from notes 36-88. Measuring 8’10” in length with 7 ¼ octaves, these pianos are an essential piece of the piano development puzzle.
“Style D has an entirely new interior construction with double cupola steel frame and continuous ring bridge. The improvement in power and sonority of tone is simply marvelous.” – William Steinway, September 1, 1884.
Refinished vs. Refurbished vs. Restored Pianos | What’s the Difference?
Question: “I am looking to purchase a piano. As I’ve gone through various websites I’ve noticed the terms ‘restored’, ‘refurbished’ and ‘refinished.’ What is the difference between these terms?”
With numerous individuals and businesses within the worldwide piano industry, the terms ‘restored’ or ‘refurbished’ gets thrown around quite a bit. This can lead to a bit of confusion over the actual condition of the piano in question and what each term actually means. We can’t speak for other businesses or piano technicians, however below you will find the definitions we use for these various terms.
Cosmetic Restoration: The refinishing of a piano is purely cosmetic. This is done to refresh the instrument and return a like new look and feel to the exterior of the piano cabinet. When we refinish a piano we utilize the finest materials and workmanship to ensure a premium, like new finish. We utilize closed pore, hand rubbed lacquer finishes over the quicker sprayed-only method. This ensures a finish with optimum clarity and one that is more easily repairable in the future.
[Read more about the piano refinishing process.]
Refinishing the piano cabinet is a normal part of our extensive piano restoration process. We may also refinish a piano that is in very good mechanical and interior condition but needs to be cosmetically refreshed to make it retail ready. Often refinishing will also be coupled with the refurbishing of a piano. Although it does not affect the actual mechanical function of the piano, obviously aesthetics count toward your overall enjoyment and the value of the piano.
Chupp’s Piano Service regularly gets the opportunity to work with top University music programs and faculty. We recently completed delivery of several premium, fully restored Steinway Grand Pianos to Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. This included a rare Steinway Model C, a Steinway Model L and a concert level Steinway Model D Grand Piano for the University’s performance hall. [Which appropriately enough, features a soundboard made of unique Western Red Cedar.]
Dr. John Mortensen oversees the over 60 pianos utilized by the music department. An incredibly accomplished pianist, academic and overall musician, Dr. Mortensen is also an official International Steinway Artist. His writings appear in International Piano, Clavier, College Music Symposium, Piano Pedagogy Forum, and American Music Teacher. He was kind enough to write the following testimonial about his experience working with us to secure top quality instruments for the university.
The Steinway is the finest piano in the world, deserving not only elite artists to play it but also elite technicians to care for it. Dennis Chupp is just such a craftsman. A Master Technician trained at the Steinway Factory in New York, he received personal coaching from former Steinway head Service Technician Fred Drasche and has collaborated with the nation’s leaders in the field of piano technology. His company, Chupp’s Piano Service, specializes in re-manufacturing and repair of vintage pianos, bringing glorious new life to instruments which had fallen silent through the ravages of age, damage and neglect.
Vintage Mason & Hamlin Grand Piano Rebuilding Project | Delaminated Pinblock
As you can see in the photo, it is time for a new pinblock. The original pinblock inside of this Mason & Hamlin Model AA Grand Piano has definitely seen better days. The wood lamimations have begun to separate and crack which results in very loose tuning pins and a lack of stability. The tuning pin holes have become enlarged from decades of stress. At this point, a new pinblock is very much needed. When this part of the piano restoration process is required, we custom fit the new pinblock to the specific piano. This is essential for both the structual and tuning stability of the instrument. The good news is that the piano overall is in very good condition and we look forward to completing this fine, golden era instrument. [Vintage Mason AA Grands measure 6’2″ in length and are considered some of the finest pianos under 7′ that were ever built.]
Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Purchase a Restored Steinway Grand Piano
Question: “I have read a lot about vintage Steinways vs. new. Why should I consider purchasing a restored Steinway over a new one?”
Here at Chupp’s Pianos, we often receive questions related to the differences between new and restored Steinway & Sons Pianos. After talking to our clients about the benefits and drawbacks of each type of piano, these conversations often lead up to the ultimate question: “Should I buy a new Steinway, or a vintage restored Steinway piano?”
At the end of the day, we often find that finding a second home to a restored piano is the best way to go. Restored pianos are excellent musical investments that are often superior to brand new pianos. The workmanship during the ‘golden era’ of piano manufacturing was truly standard setting. Below you’ll find the top 3 reasons considering a restored Steinway & Sons piano might be in your best interest over a new one.
Kevin Vietmeier On His Golden Era Restored Steinway
Recently we were able to fully restore a golden era Steinway & Sons Model M Grand Piano for pianist Kevin Vietmeier. We were all very pleased with the tone and touch of the finished instrument. He was kind enough to leave a five star Google Review for us which we have reprinted below.
“After searching for a grand piano in Pennsylvania and Ohio (including official Steinway stores), I stumbled across Chupp’s and drove out to play a Model M they had on sale. The owner, Dennis, was extremely patient and walked me through his restoration facility explaining the entire process of restoring a vintage Steinway. After playing some of their fully restored pianos, I was greatly impressed and decided to purchase a 1923 Model M and have them do a complete restoration.
Dennis and Tim were both upfront and honest with me throughout the entire process, and in the end I got a beautifully restored Steinway with the gorgeous tone I was expecting and unfortunately not hearing when playing brand new Steinways at other stores. I have had two technicians play the piano, and both were astounded at the excellent workmanship put into this instrument.