Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 64 –Sunday, November 28 – Bad planning

Goals: Work on the keys

Music: Chris Connor’s “Chris Connor”; Ben Webster’s “Music for Loving” (both discs); Earl Hines’ “Plays Ellington Vol. 2”.

I had a notion that if I focused, worked hard, and was careful, I would be able to finish the key assembly on Sunday. Unlike the day before, however, I felt I would need a little more time, so I started moving things into the sunroom just before lunch. The first thing I did was put the keys back onto the key rack. Some of them were pretty sticky, mainly on the front end where the lateral slide pads had expanded or slipped out and were sticking on the alignment pins. Some of them I just took out the pad on one side, some of them I widened by shoving a screwdriver in between them. Out of 85 keys, only one needed to be height adjusted, and that was a lowering that was easy to do by removing one punching. No problems there.

I cut five pieces of felt to replace missing backcheck felt, and I trimmed 85 leather strips which I had cut out some months ago. I used my trusty contact cement to attached the felt and leather strips to the backchecks, not very concerned with appearance, though they turn out okay, anyway. (See below.)
While working on the keys, many of the felt pieces that I had attached with double-sided adhesive tape were coming loose, due to the tape sticking to fibers but pulling the fibers away from the actual felt pieces. Double-sided tape was a quick, easy solution, but ultimately ineffective, I decided. Bad planning part one. So, I took them all up and re-glued them. That took about two hours, which is the max drying time on the contact cement, so I brought that in just under the time limit. Then I realized, I was going to have a hard time getting the assembly out of the sunroom and into the dining room, due to the arrangement of doors and temporary walls to contain our ill cat. Bad planning part two. With Mrs. S’s help, I was able to navigate the doors and put the assembly back into the dining room on the work table I have set up in there. Everything looks pretty good:

In the middle of the night last night, I woke up and started thinking about things – as I often due on nights before work after extended periods of time off – and I suddenly realized that in order to attach the hammers properly, the keys have to be slid in under the hammers (I think). That means I’m going to have to take them all off the assembly again anyway. (I might be wrong about the reassembly order. I hope so.) Bad planning part three.

I have to say, however, I feel good about the progress made this past weekend. I’m getting close to major steps in the piano’s reassembly, not the least of which is reattaching the soft arm, which will allow me to finish restringing the piano. (Have to buy some new screws for the arm before I can do that.) I’m hoping, therefore, that the majority of the bad planning issues are out of my system and the remainder of the work will go quickly and smoothly. Time will tell.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Days 62 and 63 – Friday and Saturday, November 26 and 27 – Anybody have the phone number for China?

Goals: Just get back to working on the piano, damn it!

Music: Mary Lou Williams’ “Free Spirits”; Eddie Condon’s “1927 - 1943”; Benny Carter’s “Further Definitions”; Clark Terry’s “Memories of Duke”; fight songs of Alabama and Auburn University. (Yes, I worked while watching football. And no, I didn’t skip a bunch of CD’s when I was working my way through the C’s in my collection; I got some new recordings and that’s what I listened to.)

Well, finally, I stopped making excuses or not making excuses and I just got back to work. On Friday, I worked on cutting little pieces of felt and leather to the right size to make the soft tabs for the soft board. I was a little dismayed at how hard it was to get my eyes to focus at a distance and then focus back up close while watching the football, and that made it go a little slower. By the time I had finished four tabs (eighty one more to go!), I was starting to think what a good idea outsourcing really is. I was not looking forward to Saturday at all.

And of course, on Saturday, Mrs. S’s first question to me was, are you going to work on that piano or not? (She said it a little differently.) So, I moved everything into the sunroom to take advantage of the better light, and I got down to it. I measured off and cut the felt and leather in three stages. As I cut each piece of felt, I also had to trim it to attach to the leather. Then, I cut the leather in matching sections, the same way I had removed the original ones from the soft board. When I had twenty or thirty ready to go, I brushed contact cement on the felt and then on the leather, then after attaching them, brushed the other end of the leather tab and then the marked spots on the soft board and attached them, going by the approximate number of the tabs that I matched the sizes to and compensating for slightly smaller or slightly larger ones by moving them a spot or two left or right. After two batches, I just had two sections not yet covered and I had original tabs from both the short and long ends of those sections, so I scaled my cuttings to match, repeated the gluing process, and four hours later, I forgot all about sending my piano to China. Here’s the end result:

Today, I’m going to do some heavy lifting, including felt and leather on the keys, reassembling the action, and moving the lid panels into the dining room to get them out of the bedroom before we have the carpet in there cleaned. Got to order some hinges for the panels, too.

I may have found a source for some of the parts I’m missing, too. I’ve started an email exchange and I’ll let you know how it goes...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No, not Thanksgiving either.

Okay. Here’s the deal.  No excuses. I didn’t work on the piano this past weekend because I didn’t feel like it. Instead, I worked out in the yard trimming the front bushes, crepe myrtles, and roses on Saturday, and putting up Christmas lights on Sunday. That was a lot of work. That came after working until 1:30 in the morning Friday night/Saturday morning on a server upgrade at work. (Let’s face it, I was not going to get anything constructive done in the tired state I was in on Saturday.) Sunday, I actually had a bit of spare time and thought I might get to the piano, but I practiced my minor modes of the scales for two hours instead. Monday, I had to go in to work at 5AM, so I was in bed by 9:15 anyway. That’s the bad news for the piano.

The good news is that I’m off today through Sunday, so I plan to crank up the music and get back to work in a big way. I’m going to start by cutting pieces of felt and leather for the soft arm so I can get back to restringing. I have to buy some hinges, and then we should be ready to put everything back together. I should be able to play some Christmas carols on my piano, no matter what.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The way things go, sometimes

It was another lost weekend for me. I got started cleaning and organizing my room and just really never got out of it. I spent a good amount of time practicing my modes of the melodic minor scales and a tune or two, and, well, that was it. We’re still dealing with a sick cat and after the late night coming back from the jazz concert in Birmingham on Friday, I wasn’t very energetic. I pulled out some Christmas lights and started planning this year’s display, messed around on Facebook some, and never worked on my piano for even a minute. I’m thinking that if I don’t finish it around Thanksgiving break, it will be Christmas before I do finish it. It rained Sunday, I drank absinthe for the first time, and there are no other excuses. The weekend just slowly passed me by.

Speaking of the concert, Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Orchestra was Friday night, and honestly, it sucked. Their music was uninspired, their set short, and they kept exhorting the crowd to dance by playing an endless series of nameless salsa tunes. They didn’t do any really big hits, they did only one encore and yeah, some of the rhythm riffs they did with some unusual instruments were mildly interesting, and the horn section was tight, but I couldn’t shake the feeling they were more or less sleepwalking through the evening. They just showed up, played a few tunes, and left. It was disappointing.

Going into the “season” of concerts in Birmingham, I was most excited about Poncho, somewhat enthused about Bill Frisell, and basically unenthusiastic for Pat Metheny. But when the concerts were all over, I liked Pat Metheny the best, Bill Frisell second, and Poncho finished dead last. Funny how that happened.

Lost weekend = boring blog entry. Sorry about that, but that’s the way things go, sometimes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bill Frisell Review

Last Friday Mrs. S and I drove down to Birmingham to hear Bill Frisell and his “Beautiful Dreamers” trio. With Frisell, one never really knows what to expect. Some of his work is way out there, and some isn’t. And while I consider myself a fan, I’m not what one would call a “big fan”, more of a casual fan. But I have to say, the Beautiful Dreamers music and trio (guitar, drums and viola) is very approachable. The songs are recognizable, the execution is original and exhilarating, and the musicianship on display is unsurpassed. Tea for Two was a knockout and for my money, Goin’ Out of My Head was just stunning. There were a couple of songs where Bill put a music box thingy against the strings of his guitar, getting some confusing but stimulating feedback and interference loop noise going, which they then proceeded to work into the foundation of whatever song they were playing next. In addition to working extensively with feedback and reverb from the guitar, viola and their various pedals and amplifiers, Bill also did a good job of playing bass and rhythm parts when support was needed for the viola. Another trademark of Frisell’s group was their use of repeated patterns – patterns that once they are set up, can be returned to or not, varied or not, transposed or not, soloed over or not, and then, you can go right back to it and it all sounds fine. I was actually more intrigued by that than anything else. (Let’s face it: holding a music box on the strings of a guitar just isn’t all that exciting for someone who’s only recently seen Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion concert.)

As far as I can tell, they played all or almost all of the songs off the Beautiful Dreamers CD, which kept the session short and sweet and got us home at a reasonable hour thanks to the 7:30 start time. There were big chunks of seats in the middle of the theater that were unused, so we got to move over and have a little better view too. (It was an intimate setting to begin with – just 300 seats – and very comfortable.)
Tonight is going to be a bit more dynamic and a lot later night, with Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Orchestra playing in the big hall and starting a half hour later than Frisell’s trio did. But I plan to absorb all the energy I can. You might not recognize me come Saturday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 61 –Sunday, November 7 – Close call:

Goals: Continue restringing; get some felt work done..

Music: Dexter Gordon’s “Our Man In Paris” and “Go!”; John McLaughlin’s “Extrapolation”; theme and background music from Iron Man II.

On Saturday, I elected to take advantage of the weather to get some yard work done, and that pretty much kept me away from the piano. I was not, however, willing to let the work slide for a second weekend in a row, so on Sunday, I set myself to continue with the restringing. When I finished with the first size wire, I decided I had better make sure I had a clear delineation of the remaining wires so that if I had made a mistake in the first phase, it wouldn’t affect any of the later stages. I counted the wire gauges and quantities, counted the holes, lined everything up, and amazingly, everything matched. I was ready to continue with the stringing, and all I had to do was check one picture to see exactly where the strings run to on harp support frame.

It’s a good thing I decided to check the pictures, because not only did I notice I forgot to put in one piece of felt (which I corrected by loosening the wires and pushing the felt underneath), I also noticed that the “soft” board goes under the strings, and guess what? When I tried to fit it in, it doesn’t fit. I’m thinking it might be possible to run it below the strings through the hole where the hammers project, but that will be a pain and I’m not entirely sure it is even possible. So, that put an end to the restringing project until I can at least put the soft board in place.

Man, I shudder to think how crushed I would have been to finish the restringing only to find I left out the soft board and there was no way to insert. I’m sure I would have cried. (For real.)

No longer able to continue the stringing, I cut some felt pieces, punched some holes in one and finished reattaching felt to the key except for the backchecks. I’ve got a lot of the leather for the back checks cut, so I just have to replace a few pieces of felt and then glue the leather over them. It shouldn’t take long, and this week, I really am going to work on that when I watch TV during the evenings. I also have to cut the leather and felt for the soft board so I can put that back in and start stringing again.

I will say this: if I ever get depressed about my lack of progress on the piano or how not all the repair jobs are living up to my expectations, all I have to do is look at pictures of the piano from before I brought it home and as I started working on it. Seriously, it doesn’t even look like the same piano. When I finish, I’m going to post a bunch of before and after shots. Those will be one of the best sales tools for when I’m ready to part with the piano.

Next entry will be about the Bill Frisell concert last Friday. I’m not going to write an awful lot about the felt work…

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Zombies Attack My Piano

After getting all psyched up and bragging about how I would work on my piano during some weeknights, not only did I not do any work during the week, but I skipped working on the piano this past weekend as well. My only two excuses were, my back was still sore from the stringing job the week before, and, I didn’t feel like it. I did, however, practice a good bit, as long as my back would let me sit on a piano bench, but the minor ii-V-I cadences are doing me in, so I didn’t practice nearly as much as I should have.

Then this morning, after a rugged night of passing out candy, and not enough sleep due to staying up to watch “The Walking Dead” and waking up early with a stomach ache because of too much licorice, my back is a throbbing ball of pain, and now I’m in worse shape than ever. So, I’m going to keep it simple this week:
·         Eat less (we passed out all the candy to the 98 trick-or-treaters we had, so that one’s easy)
·         Exercise every morning (expecting good temperatures for this as well)
·         Enjoy dinner and the Bill Frisell concert on Friday night
·         Work hard on my piano over the weekend, and
·         Practice

I’m targeting the Sunday after Thanksgiving to finish the piano. It must happen.