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Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

by ivories

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Well, after the lovely spring-like start to Toronto’s winter, the cold weather has finally set in, which means there’s no doubt a significant number of you who’ve now proceeded to build camp fires in the middle of your living rooms for additional warmth (or, we suppose, you may have just cranked the thermostat by twenty degrees or dusted the cob webs off the fireplace for reasons other than a visit from a jolly old man in  a red suit). Whatever your solution to the frigid air that has set in, we’re sure there will be dozens (alright, hundreds) of people who fail to take our may years of warnings seriously and overheat their piano rooms to the point where some of those costly repercussions we’ve mentioned in our previous posts come into play. Today we’ll take a quick look at one of those: Piano pin block and tuning pin problems.

An overly dry climate will eventually lead to cracking of the piano’s pinblock, but before that occurs,  simply loosened tuning pins due to expanding pin holes that can no longer hold their tuning pins snug. Depending on the severity of the damage there are four solutions to the problem, all at varying price points and levels of success.

The quick-fix for less serious cases is simply to knock the existing tuning pins in further to create a better grip. This of course can only be done to a certain point before the coils become too recessed and other options have to be considered.

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This leads us to our second more economical quickie fix: Piano pin tightening fluid. With this option, a specially formulated liquid is injected into the area surrounding your loose tuning pins by the piano technician. This liquid will cause the surrounding wood of the pinblock to swell, leading to a renewed tightened grip on your piano’s tuning pins. This option has varying levels of success, and the results may only last for a season or two as opposed to more thorough, permanent solutions, which are as follows:

Re-pinning with over-sized tuning pins. This relatively popular option consists of replacing the piano’s existing tuning pins with larger (thicker) pins of a greater diameter, that will provide a tighter fit and make the piano easier to tune and help in retain its tuning longer. This procedure can at times be done several times over the years with progressively larger pins before the final (and most expensive option) becomes necessary:

Installing a new pinblock. If all the other options have been exhausted (or the cracking/loosening of the pinblock is too severe to make them viable options), the final option before buying an entirely new piano is to have a brand new custom pinblock fabricated and installed to the original specifications of your instrument. This will ensure your piano can once again be fitted with size one tuning pins like when it was new, and enable you to start the above procedures all over again as you casually forget to keep it away from the roaring flames of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Heintzman – Toronto’s own Piano King

by ivories

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When we hear the words “high-end piano” we don’t often think of Canada, but for a large part of the late 1800’s and 1900’s, Toronto’s Heintzman Piano Manufactory rivaled instruments built by their American counterparts at Steinway & Sons, leading many to christen Heintzman the “Steinway of the North”.

Founded by German immigrant Theodor August Heintzman in 1866, Heintzman Ltd. followed the same tradition of attention to detail and uncompromising quality over quantity as his better known predecessors.

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As the story goes, Heintzman’s first Toronto made piano was built in his daughter’s kitchen, the sale of which allowed him to move into more appropriate surroundings. What followed was a series of progressively larger factories, first downtown on Duke St (now Adelaide), and then two years later at 105 King St (a larger King St building would follow a few doors down in 1873 at what is now the TD Centre). As word of Heintzman’s quality pianos increased, they consistently churned out more and more pianos, reaching the 2000 mark by 1884.

Even as the piano market began to get over-saturated near the end of the 19th century, Heintzman continued with his tradition of building only high-end quality instruments. Theodor was credited with a series of innovations that solidified their reputation as a quality builder and allowed their pianos to carry a superior tone and remain on the cutting edge of piano manufacturing. His pianos would come to be sold overseas, and even be played in Albert Hall for Queen Victoria, who is said to have been impressed that an instrument from “the colonies” could be of such quality.

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After Theodor’s death in 1899, his sons took over the company reigns. By this time the company had opened a large factory in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto near Keele and Dundas, and was producing instruments at a much higher rate. Other innovations followed, such as a clever “transposing” piano, which allowed players to shift the entire keyboard several octaves, allowing the player to play in any key, and the first ever full sostenuto pedal on an upright piano (a feature previously only found on grand pianos)

Although the Depression was hard on the company, they continued to manufacture instruments at an impressive rate. Following the second world war, they could no longer survive on manufacturing pianos alone, and diversified into the sheet music market, and even dabbled in the manufacture of house ware products, at which point pianos only accounted for half of the company’s sales. The piano arm would go on to produce economy pianos under economy labels such as the Gerhard, Weber, Stevenson and Nordheimer brands. The company had previously taken over the reigns of Theodor’s nephew Gerhard Heintzman’s rival piano company upon his death, which produced pianos that did not necessarily have the same quality and standards as the Heintzman & Co. brand.

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After changing ownership a hand full of times in the latter half of the 20th century, the original Heintzman company closed its doors for good in 1988. While a Chinese/Canadian conglomerate has since purchased the Heintzman name and patents and continues to produce instruments under the Heintzman name, it is not widely considered to be the same company.

Welcome to our new site!

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Those of you returning for a repeat visit will have noticed that things are looking a bit different around here these days. We’ve once again upgraded our site to hopefully serve you better, and we hope you’ll return often to check out what’s new. Make sure to add us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to get the latest updates.

All the best,

The Ivories.ca Team!

Calling all piano students ages 3-96!

joannagrace

Originally posted on 04/30/2015 12:26 PM

Just a quick note to inform any of our customers looking for an exceptional and accomplished piano (or french horn) teacher that our friend Ms. Joanna Grace is currently taking on new students in the Richmond Hill area. Joanna holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees and has studied both here in Canada and abroad. She can also help prepare students for Royal Conservatory exams. In addition to music lessons, Ms. Grace is available as a performer for private and corporate functions.

For information on availability and lesson rates in Richmond Hill, Ontario contact Joanna Grace: 647.701.8421 or Joanna@JoannaGrace.ca
www.joannagrace.ca

Keeping humidity in check

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Originally posted on 15/05/2013 01:20

With the warm summer weather rapidly approaching, it’s not a bad time to revisit the topic of keeping your piano’s humidity at proper levels to avoid cracks in the soundboard, along with a variety of other performance and mechanical issues. As we’ve mentioned in prior posts, your piano should ideally be at a humidity level of 45% to help avoid problems caused by excessive drying of the wooden components of your instrument (which make up the majority of it!).

When out piano tuning, we’ll often see pianos that are placed in less than ideal spaces, often near fireplaces or other heat sources which contribute significantly to drying out essential structural components. Keeping a piano away from such places will greatly contribute to increasing its playing life.

It’s not only the larger structural parts of your piano that are affected by humidity. Overly humid conditions can cause your piano’s keys to stick, making playing difficult, not to mention annoying. The humidity levels also cause your piano’s pitch to change. High humidity will result in a sharper pitch, while low humidity will cause your piano to go flat.

A Humidity gauge is an inexpensive but important tool to have around to make sure your piano isn’t being exposed to extreme humidity or dryness. In our next post, we’ll take a close look at the options available to treat and protect your instrument from the dangers of humidity we touched on here.

Avoiding Costly Structural Piano Repairs

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Originally posted on 04/03/2012 13:39

Avoid costly structural repairs by keeping your piano in a properly humidified environment and well away from fireplaces or radiators. Humidity should ideally be at 45% and most definitely not fall below 40% or rise above 50%. Failure to do so can result in loose and straight tuning pins, swelling and shrinking of the pinblock and cracks in the soundboard. Humidity gauges are relatively inexpensive (around $25) and can help you ensure your instrument is in a favourable environment. They can easily be found online, in most good music shops, or even at your local wine store. If you find the humidity in your music room lacking, it is definitely in your best interest to invest in a humidifier, or if your budget allows, an in-piano humidifying system such as those offered by Dampp-Chaser. This will ensure your piano keeps a wonderful tone, remains tunable & in tune longer, and keeps you entertained for years to come.