In one of my early posts I wrote about the mysterious double-strike problem that I was having with my Kawai K-8. When my regular piano tech couldn’t get to the bottom of the mystery I started to do my own research and self-education about the upright piano action. I also bought a basic set of regulation tools to get my hands on the one that allowed me to more easily adjust the let-off distance. It was this action plus asking on PW that led me to believe that I had a fundamental problem. Robert Piano could not discover the cause of the problem, despite calling in two more supposedly very experienced techs. RP eventually replaced the K-8 (still under warranty) with a new one. It was the only thing they could do.
The book that I started my investigations with was Arthur Reblitz’s book ‘Piano Servicing, Tuning & Rebuilding’. From this and other sources I learned that there are three major aspects to keeping a piano in good shape: tuning, regulation, and voicing. Which of these, and how much of them should you consider doing yourself?
The one thing that I believe you should seriously consider doing yourself is tuning. It can be self-taught and be done quite simply with the aid of an electronic tuning device (ETD) such as Verituner Pocket. But it is time consuming, and you must do some reading about temperaments, mute positioning, and tuning hammer manipulation techniques.
I started to tune the K-8 myself because I was reading about how any mild Well Temperament will sound much better than the Equal Temperament that the vast majority of tuners in Singapore give you. (Actually by using Verituner Pocket I got a much better ET than what my regular piano tuner was giving me.) An ETD in the hands of an amateur gives good results. An ETD in the hands of an expert aural tuner can give spectacular results.
Piano regulation is another ball game. Assuming that the action was well-regulated to begin with the two aspects that you can easily check yourself and adjust are let-off distance and lost motion. And that’s it. You can do more of course, but it starts to get more and more risky. Some adjustments require you to take the whole action stack out of the piano. Do this only if you can afford to mess things up!
However, regardless of whether or not you do any regulation work you absolutely must educate yourself about the piano action and regulation. This is so that you know the difference between a piano that is playing well to one that is having problems in one or more keys.
Finally there is voicing. This is absolutely one thing that you do not want to even think of doing. It involves string work and hammer work, and is something for the piano tech to do (assuming that yours knows how to do it and has the ear for it).