David Patterson - Master Piano Technician

Piano Rebuilding

Can there possibly be any other consumer decision that deals with the blending of art and science in such equal proportions? With so many changes being made at one time due to complete disassembly and re-assembly, who will keep track of the essence of the piano you love and guide the transition from old to restored?

Piano restoration is more than just replacing and exchanging components. The service starts with diagnosis. The quality begins when the technician and the piano lover create a common vision of the finished product. The promises made at this point in the rebuilding process will set the stage for the protocols that follow. Experience is essential, since a piano technician applies a range of skills, including:

  • A complete step-by-step assessment to determine the viability of piano restoration.
  • Analysis of touch, tone, structural defects, age, model, intrinsic quality and finishing needs.
  • Communication with the piano owner in non-technical language, to meet your needs while conveying what you need and want to know.
  • Creation of critical protocols and checklists that must come from the knowledge of what to expect.

Every prediction about the job must be accurate, if many aspects are going to successfully and synergistically come together to create the magnificent whole. My own orientation is always tied into a philosophy of achieving maximum power. This applies to each rebuilding step on its own. Grand piano rebuilding involves assessments, moving,  reconditioning procedures, refinishing, stringing, regulation, voicing, and tuning. But a series of separate unconnected procedures may not come together to create that emotional connection. It is the rebuilder who must assure this connection. From the first viewing of the piano to the final tuning back in its home – this is like a circle that brings a technician back to the moment of birth of the rebuilding job.

Our field is esoteric, like it or not. The amazing range of procedures forces an esotericism on the best rebuilders. They develop a love for your inanimate object, and then give it away just as the pinnacle of achievement is reached.

I fret and struggle at the end to get a little more high-performance, a bit quicker repetition, a slightly more exquisite look, a tiny number of extra decibels out of the highest notes, an increased feeling for the tone across the ranges of the instrument. Emotional energy and physical energy are spent at this point. Then suddenly – POOF – it’s gone back to its rightful home.