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String Covers

  • 1.  String Covers

    Posted 08-25-2021 20:36
    I've never seen one and have hardly any knowledge of these, but I am looking to recommend string covers for a school to keep debris from getting inside their grand pianos and to help maintain tuning. I see a few options but don't know what the word on the street is. Those who are quite familiar with string covers, what should I be looking for to recommend? Is it supposed to stay in the piano when piano is used? See, I'm confused because on Vandaking it says remove when playing, which seems counter intuitive as the whole point is for the cover to remain inside all the time to keep debris and dust out, right?

  • 2.  RE: String Covers

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 08-25-2021 21:00

    There are 2 reasons for a string cover. One is to keep humidity off the strings, which is what I used them for in Hawaii. The other is to keep dust and dirt off the soundboard and plate, which is what you want to use them for. There are several companies that make them. Some advertise in the classified section of the Journal. I got mine from  Instrument Covers by Guye. guye@pianocovers.net.

    As far as keeping them of the piano, that's up to the player. Most of the covers are made to be kept on the piano, but there are some players who think it reduces the full sound of the piano. In an instutional setting, if the piano is used for a performace I would take the cover off, but keep it on the rest of the time. The problem is, you need to assign someone to monitor the cover. Make that person responsible to make sure it's on the piano when it's not being used for a performance.

    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    St. Augustine, FL 32095

  • 3.  RE: String Covers

    Posted 08-25-2021 23:10
    I support the use of string covers and they are extremely effective at keeping dust, dirt and most of all humidity related moisture out of the top side of a piano. They lie inside the piano and wooden ribs inside pockets keep the cover suspended over the struts. They are shaped to fit over  everything that would be exposed with the lid open and that includes the plate webbing and tuning pins. I purchase all my covers from Clark Dawson String Covers in Florida. Fair prices, 100% wool and high quality. When I install a cover I do a thorough cleaning of the soundboard, plate, action, action cavity. Many believe the cover muffles the sound but that is not the case. A problem with institutions is making sure the cover is always on the piano after it may be removed. I have sold many and also saved many pianos because of them. When I find the picture I will post what a string cover looked like on the top side after being in a Steinway Grand for 10 years. The underside facing the strings was pristine. The top side looked like a dirty, dusty, faded rug. Taking it outside and beating it with a broom restored it. Dawson has some nice brochures and some cloth/fabric samples.

    James Kelly
    Owner- Fur Elise Piano Service
    Pawleys Island SC

  • 4.  RE: String Covers

    Posted 08-26-2021 23:30
    Has anyone used the Vandaking cover that could attest to its quality?

    Cobrun Sells

  • 5.  RE: String Covers

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 30 days ago
    Since I service many beach communities, I've installed a lot of these over the years.  I usually don't use the professionally made ones.   They're certainly nice and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them if price is no objection and appearance is important, but at the price they sell for I'd see a whole less of them.  It's greatly to my benefit to sell my customers a cover since I clean out the piano as part of the tuning service, not to mention the prevalence of rust in this area.  So I'm happy to offer an alternative that's considerably cheaper.

    I order string cover felt from Schaff, usually 12 yards at a time, in both maroon and brown.  As far as the batons which are sewn into or velcroed onto the fancy covers, I've found that a single stick spanning the bass section is sufficient to keep the felt off the strings.  I buy a long length of 3/4" pine molding at the big box store, paint it gold on the top and stick some felt to the bottom and cut it into 2' lengths which I tie  to the plate struts for this purpose.

    Lay the bolt of fabric on the closed lid of the piano, chalk the outline and cut to fit.  If you cut to the outside rim of the lid you will end up with about a 2" overlap all the way around the inside of the rim.   I find this preferable to a precise fit to the inside of the case since it prevents the cover from "walking" about over time.

    String covers will not help keep the piano in tune any better, I don't believe.   But experience has shown me they are an effective deterrent to rust, not so much because they "trap" the moisture, but because by keeping the dust out, they prevent it from settling on the strings and giving the water vapor a friendly surface to adhere to.  You've heard of seeding rain clouds?  Same principle.

    The stuff Schaff sells is wool, which is what you want.  The cheap "baize" you'll find at the local yard good store is gonna be polyester, which I've found to be quite ineffective for this purpose.  However, the Schaff material is pressed felt, not woven as the upscale covers are.  (You can't embroider pressed felt.)  In strong sunlight the color will fade.   And if you try to wash it, it'll turn into a handkerchief.  Make sure your customers understand this.  And if they have a cat, their furry shedding friends will brave any hazard to  be able to curl up on this stuff.  Leave some offcuts for the kitty.

    In institutional settings--schools, churches--these covers can be problematic, if only because pianists tend to throw them aside.   You can explain till you're blue in the face that it doesn't stifle the sound, but you'll be talking to the secretary, not the player.  Even signage doesn't seem to help much.  There's some strong psychological voodoo going on there.  Unlike politicians, pianists want to see their sausage being made.

    Cecil Snyder
    Torrance CA