Covid-19 Further Update

I am making preparation to start back later in July (having not worked since 20th March). During lockdown I have received a mixed response from customers – some ringing up very keen to have their pianos tuned and others wishing to cancel, or postpone prearranged appointments. Initially I will be catching up on the backlog of customers who have expressed an interest in getting their pianos tuned. This is all provided the Covid stats continue to show an improved picture. The problem is still out there and there are considerable hygiene issues to give thought to.

Because of this I regret I will not be providing a full service for some time yet and will not be taking on new customers for the foreseeable future. For those I do visit, my new working regime will be limited to the following:

  1. Only straightforward tuning jobs – no repair work.
  2. Only customers within a close radius of Harrogate.
  3. Only jobs where all in the household are well, not self-isolating, or shielding.
  4. Only jobs where socially distanced entry and access to the piano can be achieved and the piano is in a well ventilated unconfined space and the job does not require customer contact.
  5. Payment is made by bank transfer.

I plan initially to only do one or two tunings per day and close to Harrogate so I can return home and clean up properly between visits.

There are quite a number of hygiene concerns which have been highlighted by the Pianoforte Tuners’ Association and others. I reproduce some of their general guidance below. I will try to adhere to these procedures and have ordered supplies of wipes, sanitiser, gloves, masks etc. to this end:

Piano Tuning

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Work in people’s homes can continue under the following conditions:

  • The tradesperson is well AND
  • All Public Health advice including the social distancing rule is adhered to at all times AND
  • The household where the work is taking place is not self-isolating

Tuners should be respectful of the current situation and contact customers first to ensure it is OK. Social distancing is imperative and might be a challenge particularly as children are at home.

If the customer doesn’t want their piano tuned because of the current situation, be understanding and accept their position.

Each case is unique and only you with your customer can decide if you should tune or not.

Wear disposable latex gloves whilst in their house and make sure you thoroughly clean keys etc. after you have finished; demonstrating the fact that you are taking the situation seriously and taking precautions.

You must make a risk assessment of your work and identify sensible measures to control the risks associated with COVID-19. This is nothing complicated and does not have to be written down (unless you employ more than 5 people). Just think about your work and possible risks, for example how can I maintain social distancing?

Basic points to note:

  • You should not work in a household which is self-isolating.
  • You should only work if you are fit and not clinically vulnerable
  • When working in a household where somebody is clinically vulnerable but has not been asked to shield, for example someone over 70, make prior arrangements.
  • Avoid face to face contact, step back when the customer answers the door and let them move away before you enter etc. Be particularly strict about hand washing and hygiene especially after you have finished your work – make sure you clean the keyboard.
  • Maintain social distance as far as possible. Where not possible you can still work but take mitigating actions to reduce physical contact and protect your eyes, mouth and nose if someone is coughing/sneezing and of course use a tissue if you do! And dispose of it sensibly.
  • Discuss with your client in advance how you can carry out the work safely. For example leave doors open so you don’t have to touch door handles.
  • Carry and use hand sanitiser (if soap and water is not available). Make sure you have some with you.
  • Clean the piano keyboard before and after you finish your work. Remember to also clean your tools before you place them back in your case.
  • Accept bank transfer or contactless as payment rather than cash or cheque

At the moment, there is no legal requirement and government is not recommending using PPE face covering unless you would do so normally.

Key Cleaning

The virus can survive for several days on certain surfaces. Touching the piano keyboard is a daily activity for piano tuners. Some of the advice on key cleaning is conflicting. Makers have had to refer to their keyboard manufacturers to establish best practice. The most widely accepted recommendation for plastic (nitrocellulose) key coverings is diluted alcohol-based disinfectant wipes or sprays – avoiding bleach, or citrus based products. Others suggest solutions with quaternary ammonium chloride. Standard isopropyl alcohol wipes and sprays are convenient and safe for most plastics and evaporate quickly. Use products with 60 – 70% alcohol and if using a spray, apply using a disposable cloth which should be binned after use. Follow up with a dry cloth and wash hands for 30 seconds before and after the process (but see * below).

The above solutions however would not be suitable for ivory, or pre 1950s plastics. Some older ebony key-sets were finished in stain and lacquer which may be dissolved by a harsh cleaner. A soapy water mix may be the best substance here. Soap is effective and is without the risk of long-term damage, but should be applied very sparingly with only a slightly moistened cloth. Testing an unobtrusive area first would be wise.

Any liquid introduced to the keyboard can cause problems; disturbing glue joints and loosening the key coverings. Old, thin ivories are porous and are particularly susceptible. Always use discretion.

Make sure that you clean all the surfaces you have touched along with your tools and then dry them with a dry cloth. Do not leave them wet. Make sure you dispose of the used wipes, maybe have a small polythene bag you can put them in to take away with you and dispose of at the end of the day in your household waste.

There is no easy way to clean a keyboard, and a 100% virus-free result cannot be guaranteed.

Customers should be advised to wash their hands before and after they play the piano and to keep the lid closed when not in use.

*Some piano makers and shops do not recommend any kind of disinfecting agents on piano keys, stating: Piano key-tops are made from various types of materials, including wood, plastic, ivory, wood composites, phenol resins, acrylic, and manufacturer’s proprietary compounds. Many of these materials can be damaged or permanently discoloured by ingredients such as alcohol, chlorine, ethanol, peroxide, and salts that are commonly found in disinfectants.

Cleaning work should only be undertaken after discussion with the customer. Basically it all comes down to common sense. The main thing is to talk to the customer in advance and be sensible.

As you can see from the above diatribe, cleaning piano keys is a bit of a minefield and even not advisable. I propose a modest cleanup with an alcohol wipe, but cannot guarantee a Covid-free result. There are other issues – anything from toilets, to where I should hang my coat; but hopefully no problems are insurmountable.

I will post a further update when anything changes.

Covid-19 Update

Please note for health and safety reasons I regret I am still not taking bookings or carrying out tunings until working issues relating to the coronavirus pandemic have been resolved. I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

As lockdown eases I hope some degree of normal service will be resumed. Please watch this space for further updates, or visit my website at: http://www.yorkshirepianos.co.uk

In the meantime please do stay safe.

 

Coronavirus

Please note for health and safety purposes and in line with current government guidance I regret I will not be booking or carrying out tunings until restrictions regarding the coronavirus pandemic have been lifted. I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause – and hope normal service will be resumed very soon!

If you would like to register as a tuning customer in the meantime, please drop me an email.

 

Piano Tuning

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I’m Mike Butterworth, a piano tuner based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England. I cover Harrogate, Wetherby and surrounding districts.

My tuning work includes concert halls, local festivals, schools, hotels, churches and domestic homes.

Please contact me if you would like to arrange a tuning.

I qualified at the City of Leeds College of Music gaining a National Diploma in musical instrument technology and a City and Guilds of the London Institute in piano repair and tuning. Later I passed for membership of the Pianoforte Tuners’ Association, so I can justly add the letters MPTA after my name. Past experience includes working for the Harrogate Piano Centre and then Woods of Bradford at their Harrogate branch.


iabt_logo1

I am skilled in all aspects of piano restoration and have membership of the International Association of Piano Builders and Technicians. However, the main emphasis of my business is tuning and on-site minor repairs.

Call or text me on 07946 517384

or send an email to: mikethetuner@outlook.com

Mike the Tuner

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The run up to Christmas is a busy time generally, but is a particularly busy time for piano tuners. Dark, cold nights mean people stay indoors and pianists turn more to the piano for entertainment. It’s a season of concerts and performances; music examinations; a time when children return to the family home and the old piano will be getting an airing. And amazing though it may seem, pianos are even bought as presents!

I would just like to say thank you to all my customers for keeping me busy and for your continued support and to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy 2020.

Mike

Mike the Tuner

pta_logo1

I’m Mike Butterworth, a piano tuner based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England. I cover Harrogate, Wetherby and surrounding districts.

My tuning work includes concert halls, local festivals, schools, hotels, churches and domestic homes.

Please contact me if you would like to arrange a tuning.

I qualified at the City of Leeds College of Music gaining a National Diploma in musical instrument technology and a City and Guilds of the London Institute in piano repair and tuning. Later I passed for membership of the Pianoforte Tuners’ Association, so I can justly add the letters MPTA after my name. Past experience includes working for the Harrogate Piano Centre and then Woods of Bradford at their Harrogate branch.


iabt_logo1

I am skilled in all aspects of piano restoration and have membership of the International Association of Piano Builders and Technicians. However, the main emphasis of my business is tuning and on-site minor repairs.

Call or text me on 07946 517384

or send an email to: mikethetuner@outlook.com

A New Twist

This picture shows tuning pins in the low bass on an old grand piano. Weirdly the very last string (top of picture) has been wound round the pin the opposite way to all the rest. You might think this would not be so unusual an occurrence, but in reality the strings are ever only wound one way – so the tuner knows which way to turn his tuning lever to raise or lower the pitch.

You might think it could be due to a dodgy workshop or a cowboy tuner, but this string along with the others looks as though it has been undisturbed since the piano was manufactured (not that there are such things as dodgy workshops or cowboy tuners in our highly reputable trade).

I can only conclude that it must be the only way that last note could be strung, given the limitations of the design of the frame. It certainly is unusual; I’ve never come across it before in all my years as a tuner.

The Future?

????nIt has been some months since I last wrote, but spurred on by a customer last week who said they liked my blog I thought I’d have another go. The picture here shows part of a Kawai upright piano action. On their older instruments the plastic parts used to be wood coloured. Now they make a feature of them, they’re black, but not just to make them stand out, but because they’re carbon fibre. The great thing about CF is that it’s lightweight, rigid, strong and not prone to warping, shrinking or swelling like conventional wooden parts. I read an article the other day about a whole piano that had been made from carbon fibre. There are good reasons for using this material. A CF soundboard won’t crack or lose its downbearing. A low friction climate resistant cf/composite felt-less action won’t suffer from the troubles humidity can cause to wood and felt. The CF piano (still at the experimental stage) weighs in at about a third the weight of a conventional piano. Still fairly hefty then, but not as costly to move and therefore more possible to take with you to a gig in a van. And it does sound like a piano.

So, for the piano, the future’s bright, but the future’s also… well, black!

Mike the Tuner

pta_logo1

I’m Mike Butterworth, a piano tuner based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England. I cover Harrogate, Wetherby and surrounding districts.

My tuning work includes concert halls, local festivals, schools, hotels, churches and domestic homes.

Please contact me if you would like to arrange a tuning.

I qualified at the City of Leeds College of Music gaining a National Diploma in musical instrument technology and a City and Guilds of the London Institute in piano repair and tuning. Later I passed for membership of the Pianoforte Tuners’ Association, so I can justly add the letters MPTA after my name. Past experience includes working for the Harrogate Piano Centre and then Woods of Bradford at their Harrogate branch.


iabt_logo1

I am skilled in all aspects of piano restoration and have membership of the International Association of Piano Builders and Technicians. However, the main emphasis of my business is tuning and on-site minor repairs.

Call or text me on 07946 517384

or send an email to: mikethetuner@outlook.com

More Hi-Tec Stuff

Talking about the carbon-fibre tuning lever (a subject I shall return to later, as I intend to review it) has made me think of other technology products in regular use by piano tuners that I might write a short article on.

One such product is Protek CLP. The CLP stands for cleaner, lubricant, protectant. Since its arrival some years ago, it has assisted greatly in the job of the piano tuner. I use it chiefly for its lubricating properties. It’s amazing at freeing up sluggish or seized up action parts such as hammers or keys without the need to dismantle them.

This saves huge amounts of time as the only alternative would be to take everything apart and then begin reaming out bushings, testing them, repinning them back together and finally, reassembling. If the problem was extensive, such process would cost a fortune. On old pianos, removing the hammers can mean the accidental, though inevitable breaking of the old and brittle bridle tapes along with other fatigued parts like springs and flanges; so the cost of such work can easily spiral out of control.

Protek CLP is similar in its effect to the familiar penetrating oil, WD40, but it has one distinct difference; it is not an oil. It is designed for the job and unlike oil, it is harmless to wood and felt. It is also harmless to plastic, metal or the piano finish. So, in theory you can splash it on all over. Though in practice, the use of a dropper, syringe or small brush is best. There’s harmless and harmless and as it contains flouropolymers in solvents, I think a degree of respect is called for!

Still, it has been a saviour for many an old piano and I never travel to a job without it.

More information from Protek Products Inc, Smithtown NY 11787