Last week, on a rainy Tuesday, my lovely Steinway grand received its annual tuning.
If you’ve heard a piano being tuned, you know it’s not particularly pleasant. The tuner repeatedly strikes a single note while using a lever to turn the pin inside the piano that holds a corresponding string. In tiny increments, the tension of the string is adjusted to the correct pitch.
One key at a time, all 88 keys, more than 200 strings. You get the idea.
My tuner, David, spends a lot of time in senior facilities, tuning the often not-very-nice pianos found in them. In fact, he tunes many of the pianos I play as a volunteer.
Assisted-living residents have told me how miserable they find listening to the piano getting a tune-up. Most try to go as far away from the tuning as possible, but they can often still hear it even from their rooms. Then there are always a few residents who like being there when the tuner is doing his thing, pleased to have something new and different to break the monotony that can blanket a senior home. They’re the ones hanging around the piano chatting with the tuner.
David doesn’t mind. He’s a chatty guy. At my house last week he wanted to schmooze a little before he started tuning. We swapped humorous (at least to the two of us) anecdotes.
His: David asked a spry nonagenarian her secret for longevity and good health. She said (and here he imitated an Irish brogue and pointed a scolding finger in my face), “I read the Bible every day and I don’t play the boogie-woogie!”
Mine: My brother-in-law, a piano tuner, told me about a woman in a nursing home who, after listening to him go through the tuning process for a while, approached the piano, patted his arm, and sweetly informed him, “That’s not a song, dear.”
David eventually got to work on my piano. For almost two hours, I listened to his one-note repetitions as I went about mindless chores around the house. The tuning makes it impossible for me to concentrate enough to do much else.
Then, my reward: To assess his work, he played a skillful, improvised rendition of “Here’s That Rainy Day.”
Appropriate for the weather and oh such a relief for my ears.
Paulette Bochnig Sharkey