Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Days 78 and 79 – Saturday and Sunday, February 19 and 20 – Tuning in

Goals: Shim loose pins and continue rough tuning piano.

Music: Ornette Coleman’s “Beauty is a Rare Thing” discs 5 and 6; David Murray’s “Ming” (only for as long as I could stand).

Mrs. S. decided to go out on Saturday and she made it clear that she wanted to see some progress on the piano when she got home. So, I got busy and kept plugging away at the loose pins, badly wound strings, and other issues that are awaiting correction on my piano. The good thing is that now it is nothing more than a repetitious process of determining which strings are untunable because of loose pins, removing the pin, inserting a shim and/or a larger pin, tightening down the pin, rewinding the string and rough tuning it to make sure it will stay.

So that’s what I did, both Saturday and Sunday. I’d say about one third of all the pins require shimming, maybe even one half. I started at middle A and after two days of steady work, I’m up to the highest C on the keyboard, which leaves about seven or eight keys to go (remember: my square grand only goes up to A with its 85 keys) to have the upper half of the keyboard tuned and ready. Then I’ll be ready to do the fifteen keys leading down to the single-wound-string bass notes (33 of those) before moving to the hammers to finish up this project.

I’d be making better progress if not for two things: this re-doing the strings bit is really, really tedious. Just terribly boring, yet requiring full attention and awareness, not only to do the job right, but to keep from getting hurt as the strings are loosened and tightened over those 130 year old pin blocks. The other factor is that I reached all this avant-garde jazz crap at the same time as trying to tune the piano, which, for obvious reasons is basically impossible to do. No one can tell the difference between Bb3 above middle C and B3 with David Murray screeching some crap out of his sax. Turn off the music, work, turn on the music, work, turn off the music – that’s doesn’t get it. I worked in silence on Sunday except for the reverb from the strings and soundboard. It may be like that for a while, now.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 77 – Sunday, February 13 – Finally, some success

Goals: Shim loose pins and continue rough tuning piano.

Music: Ornette Colemans’s “Beauty is a Rare Thing” discs 3 and 4.

After making excuses for an entire month (shame on me!), I decided yesterday that I could not put it off any longer, and I needed to try the metal shims I bought and see if they would solve the problem of the loose tuning pins. I found the middle A strings and amazingly, they were still in tune. B-flat right above had one of the problem tuning pins, which I had already removed and left in that state, so I got my tin shears and cut me a tapered shim, quarter inch at the bottom, a little more at the top. I had a little trouble getting it seated at first, and although it was a crisp, tight fit, when I had the pin turned in and strung, it held. I tuned that pair of strings to B-flat and moved to B, C, and C#, all of these needed a shim on both pins. Long story short, it was tedious process, but the metal shims worked on every tuning pin I’ve tried them on so far (tapping forehead in lieu of wood), and my piano is, in fact, tunable. More importantly, I’ve been able to use the wires that I’ve already strung onto the piano, so I’m going to save a lot of work in not redoing all the pins and wires (a scenario I had been trying to mentally prepare for, but which I was increasingly going to face by tearing everything out of the piano and inserting an electronic keyboard instead.

Now, I have every reason (and no excuse not) to work on the thing. It may actually be able to be completed, maybe in just a couple of weeks. I’m praying for bad weather next weekend so I can stay in, drink brandy tea, and work on the sucker. I really want to get everything back inside the piano, up off the floor and finish turning the dining room into a music room. But the piano has to be first, so, no more excuses.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Advanced Jazz CD Collecting: A Quick “How To”

The basis for my jazz music collection has always been the Penguin Jazz Recordings Guide’s “Core Collection”. Remember that I started out in jazz without owning a single jazz album, except for three culled from a Wall Street Journal article about “must have” jazz recordings and some average stuff borrowed and burned from the library (I don’t do that anymore, so don’t call the FBI.) . So using the core collection of the Penguin Guide eighth edition, I began buying jazz CD’s.

As is to be expected with a list like the core collection, probably more than half the CD’s are common, relatively inexpensive, and easily found on amazon or ebay. But as you pick what I call the low hanging fruit, you are left with high hanging fruit that gets increasingly harder to find and more and more expensive. Some of the recordings are downright rare, and as I’ve written before, some can’t be had for love or money. They just aren’t out there. Be that as it may, I am dangerously close to completing the core collection with only one or two substitutes, but no integral gaps from the 188 selections.

Notice there that I say “selections” because some are multi-disc sets and some recordings are now available either as parts of boxed sets or other compilations. That complicates matters. So here’s the “how to” for completing the core collection:

1)  Get the easy ones first. Lots of artists can be had for just a couple of bucks: Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, etc. Most every selection on amazon will have a “People who bought this also bought…” underneath with a bunch more of the selections you will need to complete the collection. Pick up what you need.
2)  Buy used. Used CD’s are almost always half the price of new, or less. There are some CD’s I literally picked up for the cost of shipping. 
 3)  Keep track of what you have and what you don’t. You will quickly form a mental database that will help guide your search and will alert you when you come across something rare or hard to find.
4)  If you see one of the rare ones, buy it. You have to convince yourself that money is not an issue here, because there are some that I have seen and failed to purchase because I thought it too expensive, and then I never saw the thing again. It’s frustrating. More frustrating than breaking the budget.
5)   Search ebay and amazon everyday. The foreign amazon sites are also worthwhile. I found some on amazon Japan that I couldn’t find anywhere else. Use the wishlist (amazon) and watchlist (ebay) to keep your eye on prices and availability.
6)  Spend the time and money.
7)  Listen and enjoy your collection. You deserve it.

Depending on the availability of one or two CD’s and whether I opt to substitute or not, I should finish my core collection by the end of March. I plan to take a picture of me sitting in the middle of all those CD’s. It’s going to be exciting.