I have compiled more than a year’s worth of articles and tips which are being readied for future newsletters.
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Hello subscribers! Finally, the first monthly newsletter is here, and I hope you’ll enjoy what I’ll be sending you in this, and in future editions. I have compiled more than a year’s worth of articles and tips which are being readied for future newsletters. The first eBooks from the Piano Technician Tutorials (PTT) have been slow in the making, but I am gaining momentum and several more are being edited for publication. Thanks for your patience and support!

Please send me suggestions and feedback that will help me make these newsletters useful for you. What works, and what doesn’t? What would you like to see? As I compile tips I try to include items that are less known, but things that I have found very useful in my own work.

Note: Links to videos are included in this newsletter that only you can access. Next month, I am starting a YouTube channel and will post the videos to the public, but you will have the first look at them. This month’s newsletter has three videos, but in the following months there will only be one, or sometimes two. Once again, if you have ideas for short videos you’d like to see, please email me at


Boulder, CO. April, All-Day Seminar: In April I taught an all-day seminar in Boulder, CO for the PTG chapter there. What a great group of technicians! There was a lot of positive feedback, so I hope they enjoyed some of the tips, tricks, and tools that I brought. I have taught similar classes at Anchorage, AK, Boston, MA, and at dozens of PTG and MPT conventions, conferences and local chapter meetings. I’d love to visit your area! Text me if you are interested.
Scheduled Classes: I will be teaching at the PTG Annual Convention in St Louis, MO, July 12 - 15. There is always “free time” at conventions, so if you’d like some free tutoring, or if you’d simply like to “hang out”, I’d love to meet you! I will have a PTT booth that I will be at much of the time. I hope to see you there!  Two weeks later (July 27 - 29) I’ll be teaching all day (my teaching day is the 29th) at the Master Piano Technician’s Annual Convention, in Liberty, MO. At both conventions I will be focussing on “Tone Building”, but those of you who know me know that I always bring others things, as well as some tool “Giveaways”. 

Tools and Tips

The Moondog String Prepping Tool, the Richard Davenport Tool, and the Terry Otake String Lifter.

“String prepping” is so very important for good piano tone, as well as tuning stability, but what is the very best way to do it? After so many years, and so many different methods I’ve tried, I think I’ve found a way that does it quickly, and easily.
String Prepping

Hammer Shaping in 10 Minutes (or so)

The shape of the piano hammer is so very important to piano tone, and it has been my contention for many years that this can be accomplished in far less time than it takes most people. Maybe “10 minutes” is unrealistic to most people, but I have done it (while being timed) in front of several classes of piano technicians, so I know it can be done. My point is not that you should achieve such speed, but that it should not take you hours either! In a nutshell, gang filing is the method, and filing a group of hammers in basically the same manner you would file one singly is the technique. (Note: Angled hammers are still filed singly.) The key is to first rough file to achieve the proper shape, leaving 1/3 of the string cuts in the middle of the crown. Then, using a lighter touch, finish the hammers up and over the crown, but still leaving a hint of the string cuts. Lastly, the hammers are mated to the string and the “tiny hint” of the string mark can be removed as needed to properly mate the hammer. This “hint” of string cut is crucial in this system, and ensures that you are not unnecessarily removing viable felt that does NOT need to be removed. Using this method you can frequently “re-surface” hammers to maintain near perfect hammer shape, and thus achieve the best hammer tone.
Hammer Shaping

The Dale Erwin “Under the Hammer Dip Tool” (Also called the “Brass Busby”)

I’ll never (or at least rarely) use conventional dip blocks again! Dale’s dip tool sets dip so much more accurately (especially for beginning techs) that I’ve actually have snuck behind some top technicians and exposed some fairly big discrepancies in dip. My method of regulation starts with an extremely even dip on all 88, then after all is done, I will vary this “perfect dip” +/- one green punching (.005” or about 0.13mm) to achieve the best aftertouch/dip for that piano. As always, set C4 as a sample to determine the very best “specs” for the piano, then use the “Brass Busby” to set your dip. Remember, dip can vary slightly (I try to stay close to 10mm) so your sample will reveal what your piano needs.

Your Questions Answered

Q: This month’s question about “string splicing” comes from David Baugess, of Grand Junction, CO. He asks: When can you splice a string and when should it be replaced? Also, is it bad to splice in the speaking length of a string?

A: Occasionally, strings will break. We try not to say “I broke a string” to a client, but say “a string broke” instead. Inform them that strings sometimes break even on brand new pianos when nobody is around! With some 230 strings, each at around 160 lbs (or so) of tension, it’s bound to happen. It’s no big deal. (It shouldn't be a “big deal” to you because you should have everything you need, and you should be competent at string replacement. Ease their mind! Don’t make a big deal out of it!)

Is it better to splice or replace? In general it’s better to replace a broken string, but there are occasions when a splice is unavoidable:

  1. If a bass string breaks, a splice will have to suffice until a new string can be obtained.
  2. When the bass strings are older, a spliced original string may sound better than a new string. Well, maybe not “better”, but it will probably match the tone of the older bass strings better than a brand new string will. (Really, the whole bass probably needs replacing so splicing is just buying more time.)
  3. If you are far away from home and know you will not be back soon, a splice, done correctly, is more stable.

Note: It’s nearly always better to replace plain wire strings. New plain wire doesn’t sound that much different than old wire, unlike the wrapped (bass) strings.

Can you ever splice in the speaking length of a string? In short, yes. Never splice in the speaking length of a plain wire, but it can be done on a bass string in an emergency. The extra “mass” of the knot will almost always put the spliced plain wire string “out of phase” with its unison mates, but in a bass string, mass can be reduced. The key is this: you should remove enough of the copper winding so that it compensates for the extra mass of the knot of the splice. The “proof is in the pudding” because after you pull the string up to pitch (especially a bass bi-chord) it should match the unison it’s paired with. Most of the time this will work, but I only do this as a “stop-gap” until I can replace it with a new string, or should I say TWO new strings, as it’s best to order and replace both bi-chords of a unison. New pianos with spliced strings send up a “red flag” even though they may function just fine, so never leave a splice in a new piano.

In a few months I plan on releasing an eBook on stringing, in which I will answer the “how to” more thoroughly, with video and pictures.

Updates/New books

My eBook “Vertical Piano Regulation and an Introduction to Piano Maintenance” was updated in April, so I hope you’ve all received the notice and updated your eBook. One person informed me that he had to reboot his device to get it to work, so let me know if you have any problems.

Keith Kopp’s book “Tuning Basics and Fundamentals” is soon to undergo some upgrades. Though short, it is packed full of important information from one of our leaders in tuning.

Scheduled release dates

  • Voicing – July 1
  • Tuning – July 15
  • Dampers – July 1
  • Touchweight – July 1
  • Future: Repairs – October 1

The mission of the Piano Technician Tutorials is to bring accurate information to technicians in a way that is: 

Affordable: We keep our prices low.
Portable: Carry it on your iPhone or iPad.
Dynamic: Continually being updated, and updates are sent out for free!

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