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Boston U111 Stability

  • 1.  Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-26-2019 10:51
    Good morning Learned Colleagues
    I have been having a heck of a time getting a few 3-4 year old Boston U111's to maintain any semblance of stability.  (Don't think it is an issue of hammer technique, as I scored 90%+ on the stability part of the tuning test. No brag, just fact)  Pianos are in school settings.
    Some pianos are tuned twice a year, others being in elementary buildings only get seen 1 time during school year, usually early fall.
    Have tightened all accessible plate screws, but these things have a serious swing in pitch.  The worst offender was 35 Cents sharp in August when I tuned it,(lots of humidity during summer) and last week was 20-30 cents flat.  Data logger, showed no variation in temperature (72 degrees) over the course of 7 days, including weekend.  However, the humidity swing was about 5% (17-22%)  Did I mention I live in Wyoming :)

    Has anyone encountered similar issues with this particular model/vintage, any thoughts on how to get these things to settle down.  Of course being a public school system, finances are tight for the piano maintenance budget.

    Thanks

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    Thane Yennie
    Cheyenne WY
    307-871-8718
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  • 2.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-26-2019 11:00
    hello Thane,
    i would guess it's not the particular model of piano but rather the heating/cooling system in the building, air draft and/or perhaps a case of an occasional unstable piano.  have you checked the air flow and if the piano is perhaps smack in the middle of one?
    The university whose pianos i maintain, bought 5 Kawai K3 uprights a few years ago which i tune twice yearly.  One of them goes out of tune by a lot as well (as in 20 to 30 cents) each and every time while the others stay within a 3% to 5% swing.
    Peter

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    Petrus Janssen
    Peachtree City GA
    678-416-8055
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  • 3.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-27-2019 07:52
    The place or pianos obviously need climate control.

    Do do you float the pitch, or try to tune A440 each time?

    Pitch floating will reduce the amount of seasonal pitch changes.

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    John Formsma, RPT
    New Albany MS
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  • 4.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-26-2019 15:34
    How did the unisions survive inbetween tunings?

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    Jim Ialeggio
    grandpianosolutions.com
    Shirley, MA
    978 425-9026
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  • 5.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-26-2019 16:35
    Thane,

    Let me guess: low tenor up to about 1 1/2 octaves...berserko, (bass stays reasonably good), then just past the treble break again berserko for about an octave or more. Does this sound familiar, or is Not even worse?

    Pwg

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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    603-686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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  • 6.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-26-2019 21:56
    Edited by Thane Yennie 01-26-2019 22:11
    Hi Jim, Petrus, and Peter,

    Most unisons did well there were others that were just as wonky as the rest of piano.

    Figured the hvac system was going to be the biggest issue.   The worst offending piano is in an average sized classroom, sits up against the office wall, and is not in direct airflow.

    Peter, yeah that pretty  much describes the issue.  I can understand the 30 cent variation in August, lots of rain this summer. My bigger concern was the 20 cent drop from August to present.  I have tuned pianos (private residences) around town where I don't see them but 1 time a year, and they are within a cent or two of 440

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    Thane Yennie
    Cheyenne WY
    307-871-8718
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  • 7.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-26-2019 22:04
    I haven't tuned many Bostons, but it seems to me that they get very bright sounding after just a few years. That brightens seems to arise from higher partials becoming more prominent. Therefore even the slightest movement of the string is exaggerated in the upper partials making it seem like the piano's stability is poor. Perhaps voicing will restore a more round and pleasant tone and, thereby, improve "stability." Boston's tuning stability may be more dependent on voicing than other brands. As I stated, I'm no expert on Bostons, but I've been struck by how bright and ugly they can get.

    Richard








  • 8.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-27-2019 06:24
    Yes, the brighter a piano is, the less tolerance it has for being out-of-tune.

    Alan

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    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
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  • 9.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-27-2019 06:39
    I don't think there is such a model as a Boston U111.

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    Rick Butler
    Bowie MD
    240 396 7480
    RickRickRickRickRick
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  • 10.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-27-2019 09:10

    Hi All,

     I contacted a colleague who works for a small Steinway school university. Here's what he had to say about the Bostons:
    "Hvac controls the swing. They're definitely divas. The gp178s I tuned yesterday are dropping 1c-2c a day since the beginning of the year. Overall they move about 2x as much in pitch as other brands in the same environment."

     These are 5 to 10 years old. He also works in another, larger, school, so his comment about other brands in the same environment is substantiated.

     I service a load of Yam. P22's in the dorms at the University of Illinois. Often. There is lots of swing in them as well. It helps to float the pitch somewhat, although not as much as you would like! And of course some of them you shouldn't do that, so I don't.

     


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    Cindy Strehlow
    Urbana, IL
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  • 11.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-27-2019 09:42
    Good information to have, as the school district is looking at purchasing replacement instruments for the 40-50 year old Hamiltons and Wurlitzers in other classrooms.  Will pass this on to the music coordinator for the district.  :)

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    Thane Yennie - RPT
    Cheyenne WY
    307-871-8718
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  • 12.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-27-2019 10:03
    I have serviced a dozen Boston UP118S pianos and a GP193 at an "all S&S" university since they were new, mostly 1999, a few a bit newer.  They had typical wild fluctuation prior to the installation of DC Life saver systems.  There is still the usual low in January higher in August pitch shift but not nearly as bad as before and mostly in the tenor range.  Department secretary and work study students are trained to monitor systems.  I always bring back to A440.  HVAC systems are to blame for wild fluctuations and the client needs to know.  Track the RH and Temp for a season and show the findings to the client.  I find the Bostons fairly easy to tune and the blocks/pinning are (for the most part) solid. I also tune at a couple other universities and public schools and all models of pianos react about the same given the HVAC systems.

    --
    Gary Bruce





  • 13.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-27-2019 10:37
    (Started writing before Gary Bruce's post)

    Thane -
    With respect, I don't think that much of what's been discussed here would be of constructive use to the music coordinator.  A number of points to clarify:
    - As Rick Butler suggested, we're not clear on what model Boston is being referenced.
    - Thane said:
          - Pianos are tuned twice or once a year (early fall)
          - The worst offender was 35 Cents sharp in August when I tuned it,(lots of humidity during summer) and last week was 20-30 cents flat.
          - Data logger, showed no variation in temperature (72 degrees) over the course of 7 days, including weekend.
          - The humidity swing was about 5% (17-22%) Did I mention I live in Wyoming :)
    Glad to know about Wyoming, however mostly irrelevant for this situation.

    For the most part, I think it's absurd to have discussion about tuning stability for institutional pianos that get tuned once or twice a year.  Boston or any other.  The expectation that any piano tuned in August (with lot's of humidity) should be even close to recognizable in 17-22% environment is completely unfounded.  While Thane, to his credit, has a data logger, he doesn't mention any climate control measures (as Gary described).

    I haven't seen to many Boston uprights recently, so I don't know if the particular issue that I felt was a factor (when i WAS tuning a number of  them) is still active:  The friction at the pressure bar was absolutely minimal, making stability an issue, even with superior hammer technique.  There was no way that I could do a seasonal pitch correction without following up a few times.

    There may, in fact, be other, specific structural issues that contribute to these pianos demonstrating wider fluctuations than others, but neither the skills of the tuner nor the inherent quality of the piano should be judged by such conditions.

    A tangential concern about this discussion relates to the recent dust up about Steinway's moves to reassert control over their brand, and an expressed dismay at a perceived history of technicians going out of their way to trash it.  While criticism may be valid, I think it's rather gratuitous to convey a precipitous conclusion to the buying public (including school administrators) that might affect the perception of any company's product.  As it is, more often than not, most decisions like this are based primarily upon price.

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    David Skolnik [RPT]
    Hastings-on-Hudson NY
    914-231-7565
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  • 14.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-27-2019 13:07
    Edited by Jim Ialeggio 01-27-2019 13:07
    < The friction at the pressure bar was absolutely minimal, making stability an issue, even with superior hammer technique.  There was no way that I could do a seasonal pitch correction without following up a few times.

    this was where I was going with my question. If the piano is hard to tune, it doesn't matter what grade one has achieved on a stability test...geometry is geometry...and geometry wins. One might develop a particular lever skill to deal with a particular piano (in the singular) over repeated tunings, and I have done that, but it took serious attention to the nature of the re-recalcitrance. Wonky unisons, or difficulty finding any unisons that one would be "proud of" 6 months out, in a person with good lever technique is an indication of stabilizing or front segment geometry which is making it very difficult to read equlilibrium tensions. This is not to impiunge anyone's skills...its just an inescapable geometric fact on certain pianos...

    Since the lovely missive, I now have a specific upcharge, billed only as an hourly charge, to tune any Steinway piano, given the fact that they are all such a pain in the ass to tune.


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    Jim Ialeggio
    grandpianosolutions.com
    Shirley, MA
    978 425-9026
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  • 15.  RE: Boston U111 Stability

    Posted 01-27-2019 13:31
    Thane,

    Pretty much in lime with the above, I actually see nothing out of the ordinary in what you have described.

    The fact is that in reality these pianos should be being serviced AT LEAST 4 times per year (no matter what make or model they are), as they will all do the same thing.

    1)  An institutional environment is bad from the get go because they are required by law to EXCHANGE the air in the buildings at a specific frequency. So the HVAC system is constantly bringing in outside air (at whatever RH that happens to be at) and then heating it or cooling it without regard for RH to the desired comfort temperature at any time. This does not happen in a home environment...the air exchange is quite a bit slower.

    2)  You are basically "shooting yourself in the foot" by tuning at the absolute worst times of year (the extremes). Of course this is not YOUR fault since it is according to the "school schedule". Not only are they the furthest out of tune they will ever get, there is a big change coming in a month or two which is going to blow whatever you did away regardless of how good your stability is. It's not your fault, so don't take it personally.

    3)  If I were a betting man I would wager that the pianos that are tuned once a year (if done at the same time of year) are actually in better tune (when you see them) than the ones done twice per year.  A piano tuned once/yr will go through its cycle with the humidity and come back to approx 80% or so of where it was the year before (even w/o humidity control). This is a "dirty little secret" that many of us have learned over the years, but it can also give us a false sense of our own abilities if we think that that "stability" has anything to do with US. It doesn't. The proof is to just check that piano at 6 months and hear how bad it is, but that it remarkably comes back at the 12 month point.

    4)  If the "check writers" refuse to accept that these pianos need either more attention, or humidity control, it can be a smart business move to tell them to find someone else.  Instead of them controlling you, you tell them under what circumstances you will agree to work there.

    My .02

    Pwg

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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    603-686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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