Tech letter for Teachers #1

After a number of conversations with teachers and their students I thought it would be helpful to write a newsletter exploring the instrument we all love yet know so little about.

A violinist can replace their own strings, put on a new a bridge, and name the parts of their instrument. Pianists on the other hand would be surprised to find out there are monkeys, dogs, dog legs, buttons, cheeks, tails, heads, jacks, wippens, balanciers, tabs, shanks, and pins to name just a few parts in their pianos.

Which is worse a crack in a jack, soundboard, bridge, pin block, or shank?What causes a piano to go out of tune?

1) Playing

2) Age

3) Temperature

4) Humidity

How often should you get your piano tuned? And why bother getting it tuned anyhow?

So what is wrong with a spinet? So what is wrong with an old upright?

These and many other questions will be addressed in coming editions. Feel free to submit any questions you may have to ANR Piano Service, 2417 Maple Ave, Downers Grove, IL 60515 or e-mail

So: Which is worse a crack in a jack, soundboard, bridge, pin block, or shank?

Recently I spoke with several people looking for new pianos. Their opening statement was “I know I should avoid a crack in the sounding (sic) board. I am not sure what that is but I should avoid it anyway.” This is less than the proverbial little knowledge being dangerous, it is no knowledge being useless. The soundboard is the large panel of quartersawn sicka spruce with 8 - 14 rings per inch directly behind or under the strings. The bridge is the unit which connects the string to the soundboard.

Of the 5 items listed in the question the least worrisome crack would be the one found in the soundboard.

A crack in a jack would probably render it unregulatable and would surely break soon. A crack in the bridge at the least would make one string untunable, at the worst it would indicate a catastrophic failure of the bridge. A crack in the pin block would make the piano untunable. A crack in a hammer shank will imminently fail. Generally speaking a crack in the soundboard is a cosmetic problem. There are instances when a crack is a problem but most times it is not.

The easiest crack for a layperson to see though is one in the soundboard, but it is also the least important. A qualified technician should always be consulted before buying a piano. Simply sitting down and playing it does not tell the whole story.