Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for... Quonset Hut

How's my mental health today?

It's another good day.

After writing about my piano experience in yesterday's blog post, I started thinking about some of the weird places people put their pianos. One family owned a very small farm house, probably less than 650 sq ft. The lady of the house wanted a piano, and it didn't matter to her that her husband said they didn't have room for a piano and she should buy an electric keyboard instead. The woman persisted in her demands so they bought an old upright piano. When it was delivered the movers put it into their living room. The room was so small that almost nothing else fit into the room. I had been contracted (by the music store owner) to tune the piano after the move which I quickly did and then got out of there. The couple was still arguing about the piano purchase when I left.

A piano was brought into the shop where I did my apprenticeship by some movers. The piano had been in the basement of a house in another city and when the owners decided to renovate they built the basement rooms around the piano. When they decided to move  they hired a moving company to move the piano. Unfortunately the renovations made it impossible to take the piano out of the basement. The movers solved that problem by taking the piano completely apart, including furniture. The instrument arrived at our shop in pieces. All the boards (the furniture) came in unmarked as to how they fit together, and all the mechanical pieces were jumbled up in plastic bags - again, nothing labeled. My boss decided that I should put this instrument back together. It took several weeks before that instrument was back in working order.

The strangest piano placement I came across was on a farm owned by a single man who was in his late fifties or early sixties. He also had a very small house and decided he would put his recently purchased piano in his office. This office was located in his Quonset Hut where he stored all his machinery. It (the office) was built high up against the curved roof and front wall of the Quonset. This was another situation where I was tuning the instrument shortly after it had been delivered. (When I saw where the piano was I was glad I didn't have to move it up the rickety stairs). I learned the owner only heated the office when he worked in it and he had no air conditioning to cool it off in the summer heat.

It was obvious to me that tuning the piano was pointless because the extreme temperatures and humidity fluctuations the instrument was exposed to would quickly undo any tuning or any other maintenance it required. I pointed out the adverse conditions and their consequences for the piano, but the old man insisted that this was where he wanted the instrument. Since the tuning was part of the purchase deal, I went ahead and tuned it as best I could, but I had the customer sign a waiver that outlined the situation and stated that there was no guarantee on how long the tuning would last. I also informed the owner of the music store where the piano came from of the situation so they wouldn't get any comebacks on the deal.

The ten years I spent in the piano business never got boring.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
~~ John Adams


  1. I had at first rented a piano and after 3 months sent it back. I purchased one from a man who had a couple in his uptown New Orleans home/workshop.
    He had tuned it and I thought he was a very competant workman.
    One day I saw him in the piano dealer's showroom. He had on his bib-overalls but he was sitting at a baby grand - and played the Walstein sonata expertly.

  2. i recently transported my daughter's piano to her home in another city.When I recently visited I found the piano in the only room it would fit...her bedroom. Anyone who wants to hear and watch her play goes and sits or lies on her bed. I have seen that bed full of friends and their kids...she is a very good pianist.