Monday, 24 June 2013

Tuning a Piano

The job of tuning a piano is one of the most traditional of trades and is done now as it always has been - a few simple tools and a good ear! Some of the earliest pianos are lovingly preserved in museums and private collections. One such piano dated from around 1811 appeared on eBay recently! 

Tuners from the early years of piano history would be fascinated to see an App that does most of the skilled part of their job, so easily available to anyone with a smart phone! (At the dawn of piano history, even the telephone was a piece of
science fiction.)

Back in the 1970s & 80s, before piano tuning aids were widely available, it was not uncommon to meet people who tried, with the help of a book, to tune their own pianos! A few tune-your-own-piano books were written and might still be found in libraries. Hopefully, they are no longer in print! Clearing up the mess after some DIY Piano Tuning sessions were mildly amusing! In one case, the would-be tuner felt the tuning pins were far too tight for him to turn - and so WD40 was used to 'loosen' them up! The sad result was a written off piano! If it were not such a skilled trade, DIY Tuning Books might have become permanent Best-sellers.
Sorry for the quality of the picture - the light was very poor.

This label was stuck to the inside of a piano which dates from the 1920s - when pianos really were tuned 4 times a year. These or similar labels are no longer stuck to the inside of pianos! 

Back in the golden decades for piano tuners, to be busy the whole year round, only 3 months of work would be required to set the ball rolling, as it were. After that, it was just repeat business - easy money! How many pianos have been tuned 4 times a year since the 1920s is impossible to know, but it would be interesting to calculate the amount of money that would have been spent on just tuning a piano 4 times per year.

Some of this imaginary pot of money - no longer spent on piano tuning - has been spent on the digital piano which has established itself as the low-maintenance alternative to the traditional acoustic piano.  

But thankfully, whatever happens in the world of technology and the digital piano, there are still genuine, old-fashioned Piano Tuners, willing to tune your piano (up to 4 times a year). There is still nothing quite like a traditionally-tuned, acoustic piano!

© Steve Burden

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Ibach Pianos - A Short History

Ibach Pianos have been made since 1794 - and it is no surprise that the oldest piano-making operation should also produce the very finest of pianos. Solidly-built and beautifully put together, Ibach Pianos are instruments of elegance and distinction. A piano manufacturer's long history is like a bank of traditions and experience which brings purpose and direction to the long and complex process of building pianos. Pianists love to find a firm and responsive action with a clear and singing tone - these are the distinguishing features of Ibach Pianos.

There are many, very old examples of Ibach Pianos still being used today. Even if they are rather tired and long passed their best, the sheer quality of manufacture still shines through. 

It was Johann Adolph Ibach who in 1794, began building organs and pianos but soon chose to devote his efforts solely to pianos. He handed the business on to his son Carl Rudolph Ibach in 1825. Carl Rudolph, after establishing himself in the new role, sought to find an ever greater market for his product. He travelled to France and Spain entering his pianos in competitions and invariably coming away with an award.

From 1863, the 20 year-old Rudolph took charge and changed the name of the firm to Rudolph Ibach Sohn. His strong and dynamic personality soon enabled the extension of the factory to cope with the growing demand for Ibach pianos. Many of the great piano virtuosos of the time played Ibach pianos. 

Rudolph sent his son younger brother Walter to study the methods of other great piano makers. Walter spent some time in Paris with Gaveau but also visited Brussels, and London before going to America spending some years with George Steck. 

During World War II, the Ibach factories, concert halls, retail houses and even their archives were completely destroyed. At the close of the war, another chapter in the unfolding story of Ibach Pianos was begun at Schwelm. Ibach Pianos continue to be among the finest in the world. Modern Ibach Pianos still impress any pianist looking to play his music on a first-rate piano.  

Ibach family names include: Johann Adolph Ibach, Carl Rudolph Ibach, Peter Adolph Rudolph Ibach, Hulda Reyscher, Albert Rudolph Ibach, Johann Adolph Ibach, Rolph Ibach.