As I looked over this list, I immediately crossed off plant bulbs. (I have never ONCE done this in the fall. No… once. I remember. My dad and stepmom helped and it was cold out and my hands hurt.) I scrutinized the list to see what other things I could scrimp on.
The piano desperately needs tuning. Caleb starts piano lessons shortly and I can’t bear to listen to him practice if the piano is going to sound as it does in its current state. In its current condition, it would not be fit for a seedy bar in a bad part of Detroit.
However, shelling out $100 for a tuning always seems so terribly painful. And it was with furrowed brow that I sat at my kitchen table sipping W-Coke when I thought to myself, SELF… perhaps you could tune the piano!
And why not? I can tune a guitar! And guitars and pianos are both string-type instruments! I consider myself a resourceful and a somewhat intelligent being; how hard could this be? Though I wasn’t blessed with perfect pitch like my father, I have a good ear and know flat from sharp. It’s just a matter of tightening or loosening the strings.
I began to get excited. Ideas always seem so good and innovative in the first few minutes after you’ve thought of them.
I do have a history of tuning musical instruments, beginning, I believe, in seventh grade band. I played the sax-a-ma-phone and if memory serves me correct, I don’t recall tuning it much in years before seventh grade band. I suppose our instructors were more concerned with us eking out an actual note in the general vicinity of a correct pitch. But in seventh grade band, everyone tuned their instruments before practice. I sat and listened through the cacophony of instruments playing concert A to see if I could tell if I was in tune. (I couldn’t.)
The girl next to me, and I don’t remember her name, was older and didn’t talk to me much. But I remember the following exchange vividly. During the first week of school, she turned to me as we were tuning our respective sax-a-ma-phones.
“You are very flat,” she stated, rather flatly. So I adjusted my mouthpiece accordingly and played again. “Still flat,” she said. I adjusted my mouthpiece again. I let out a nice long concert A with a bit of vibrato at the end. She shook her head, sighed in disgust, and turned away from me.
I quit band after the ninth grade. It was for the best, really, for everyone involved.
After making the decision to tune my own piano, which is an upright Steinway, I went and removed all items perched on the piano with gusto. Then I dusted the top of the piano, because it really called for dusting. I opened the top and peered in at the hammers and strings and then played a bit of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and imagined Jerry dancing around trying to tire out Tom.
Caleb came by to see what the heck I was doing.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m going to tune our piano.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m going to make it sound better.”
“Are you going to fix the D-note?” (The D above middle C sounds especially bad.)
“Yes. Yes I am.”
“Well that’s good.” And then he went off and played “spy on Daniel” which is the latest craze at the Jennings’ household.
As I fiddled with the innards of the piano, I couldn’t help but note that the strings were, well, thicker than I imagined them to be. And the tighteners (I don’t know what else to call them) were not like tuning pegs on a guitar. They weren’t gonna budge with hands. I immediately thought… I shall use a small wrench for this project. This is when I decided to google “how to tune an upright piano.”
Apparently, there are specific tools one needs to tune a piano. Using a small wrench is NOT recommended as you could break strings. For a couple of brief moments, I considered purchasing such a tool, known in the piano tuning industry as a “tuning lever.”
As I browsed the exciting website pianosupplies.com, I also realized I hadn’t thought about what I had in my home that could dispel a perfectly pitched tone. (Unless, of course, I could get Ella to scream continuously for hours. Her highest pitch is a perfect E flat. How do I know it is perfect? One can sense these things.) My first thought was my old harmonica… and I think it was then- when I realized I was considering using a harmonica to tune my piano- that I saw the absolute lunacy of my plan.
So, I closed up shop and put everything back where it belonged and played the D above middle C and shuddered. And then I looked up the piano tuner’s phone number and resolved to call him before the week was out.
One the plus side, while browsing the internet, I discovered new and exciting items available for music lovers. If you should come to my house within the next couple of months, you may very well find yourself staring at keyboard themed toilet paper while sitting on the pot. (Because one must support the arts somehow.)