We are a team of two qualified piano technicians with extensive experience working with pianos and harpsichords in concert halls, schools, studios and private homes. We are based in Bathurst, and in addition to servicing the Central West, Blue Mountains and Sydney areas, we travel to Darwin twice a year to service the university and the local music community. We work on instruments of all makes and models, and we are Yamaha Authorised Service Agents. Among the institutions we look after are the Mitchell Conservatorium, Newington College and Charles Darwin University.
Jennifer received her training in Canada and USA, completing a Masters of Piano Technology at the Florida State University under Anne Garee. She has served an apprenticeship at the Aspen Music Festival, completed a rebuilding fellowship at Northwestern University, Chicago with master craftsman Ken Eschete, and received training from the Sauter piano factory in Germany. She also holds a double degree in Music and Music Education, and has had many years teaching music and piano. Jennifer has been tuning for over 10 years in the Sydney region and has worked for various private customers and institutions.
Marcelo completed studies in piano technology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, where he graduated with distinction. He has a thorough knowledge of tuning history and techniques across instruments and eras, having studied classical guitar and lute throughout his Music degree and worked on fretted instruments before transposing his knowledge to pianos. He has tuned for pianists Roger Woodward, Piers Lane, Tamara-Anna Cislowska, Michael Kieran Harvey, popular artists Joan Baez, Dan Sultan and Cold Chisel, alongside regular work for institutions including the Darwin Symphony Orchestra.
Tuning is the most regular service that your piano is likely to need. Most pianos, even those that are not played regularly, need to be tuned once a year to stay close to pitch. Tuning stability is affected by changes in temperature and humidity, and instruments subjected to heavy use may need service more often. Pianos that are not tuned for a few years can drop their pitch substantially and need a pitch raise or extra tunings to stabilise at the correct pitch. Concert venues, music teachers or musicians with finer ears may want more frequent tunings to keep their pianos in top shape.
The mechanical action inside the piano needs to be adjusted within very small tolerances in order to work properly. The touch and tone of all keys must be consistent and predictable, providing accurate feedback to the player. Without that, playing can become increasingly difficult, as the piano does not respond correctly to the player's touch. In addition, most of the piano's 10,000 internal parts are made of felt and wood, and can change with the weather and with age. Keeping your piano well regulated will improve playability, reduce wear and tear, and increase the instrument's longevity.
Voicing is the process of adjusting the sound of the piano, usually by reshaping the hammer felt with a file, softening it with needles or hardening it chemically. Hammer heads flatten with use as the felt compresses, enlarging the striking point and resulting in a harsh sound. Often, heavily-used school pianos quickly lose their warm sound and develop an unpleasant metallic tone, which can be improved by loosening the compressed felt. A beautiful tone depends on a combination of factors, but it can only be achieved on a piano that is properly regulated, tuned and voiced.
We can repair broken parts, often onsite, though sometimes we have to take the whole action to the workshop. Common minor repairs include broken key tops, strings and hammers, sticky keys and worn felts. To minimise the chance of damage caused by dust, rust and insects, we recommend a thorough clean-up of the internal parts of the piano every once in a while. We can also refurbish and upholster most piano bench styles.
After a certain age, usually around 20 or 30 years, pianos start deteriorating. Even if they look beautiful as furniture, they lose functionality as a musical instrument. Major works like restringing, pin block replacement, bridgework, new keyboard and action replacement will extend the instrument's useful life and protect its value. At Narrow Fifth we can redesign the action geometry to correct design faults, or simply to enhance the tone and touch of your piano.
While we are not a retail shop, we are more than happy to source and supply products for your piano, such as cleaning kits, covers, benches, castors and piano lights. Just let us know if you need anything and we'll do our best to help.
We also offer private music lessons for piano and classical guitar at our small home studio in Bathurst. We apply researched pedagogical techniques towards teaching music, and our lessons include a mixture of aural learning, reading music, composing, improvising and playing duets. We emphasise correct technique from the very beginning as a solid foundation for future development. Above all, we foster in our students a sense of appreciation for the art of music and the enjoyment of playing it. Lessons range from 30 minutes for the younger beginner to an hour for more advanced students. Small group lessons may be available upon request, please contact us for further information.
Jennifer teaches piano and has a special interest in beginners pedagogy and giving new students the best possible first experience in music. She has many years of experience teaching both privately and in the classroom from ages 3 to 18. Jennifer has trained in Orff and Kodaly methods of teaching and has worked as an HSC practical examiner for the Board of Studies for Music 2 and Extension.
Marcelo is an experienced classical guitar tutor for beginner students young and mature, having taught privately, in primary schools and at the university's Centre for Youth and Community Music in Darwin. He is also a keen lutenist, with a personal interest in early music, unequal temperaments and alternative tunings on the guitar.
Most piano manufacturers recommend having the piano tuned every six months. As a reference, concert pianos are tuned before every performance, some teachers have their instruments tuned every month or two, some schools two or three times a year, but an annual tuning is the bare minimum required to keep their pitch from dropping too low. More frequent visits allow for a more refined tuning and help the piano remain stable for longer. Ultimately, it depends on your ear and your budget.
A regular tuning will cost around $190 in Bathurst and surrounding areas. This is assuming that the piano has been tuned regularly and is close to the correct pitch. Generally we will also do a few minor adjustments on top of the tuning, to make sure your piano is functioning well. Things like pedal adjustments, lubrication of sticking parts and a bit of voicing are done each time we tune. Over time this adds up to a piano in much better shape than one that has simply been tuned. Of course, if your piano needs more than the odd adjustment we will let you know; if it is the case, we can do a more thorough regulation separately.
We chose this name as it reflects what we do when we tune a piano. On a piano, an octave needs to be divided into 12 equal parts (equal temperament) and this does not fit with the natural sound of some intervals like the pure fifth and the pure third, which are what string players and singers naturally tune to. The narrow fifth is that precise interval that fits in with equal temperament so that we can play in all 12 keys equally.
Even if you are not a regular player, your piano will still go out tune and need annual tunings. Pianos don't just go out of tune when they are played, it is a mixture of changes of temperature, humidity, quality of the instrument and amount of playing that will result in the piano going out of tune.
While it is lovely to have the natural light on the piano while playing, it is not great for your piano. Exposure to the heat of the sun can damage the finish of your piano, and can affect glue joints. It can also cause tuning instability as the temperature changes, causing the soundboard to swell and retract.
Use a soft cloth to keep dust and fingerprints away. Try to avoid using harsh chemical products, a slightly damp cloth will usually suffice for case and keys. We use a specialised product that is safe for the finish of your piano, if you are interested we can supply you with some at your next tuning.
Simply tune your piano regularly and let us know what you want from your piano. As everyone has different requirements, we can advise whether it would be beneficial to do some tonal adjustment or regulation if you want more from your piano than you are getting. Additionally we can let you know if it is time for some more extensive TLC. Just as simply changing the oil in your car is not enough to keep it maintained, just tuning your piano will not be enough over time to keep it in good shape.
Concert pitch, or A440, is an international standard (ISO16) that defines the frequency of the note A above the piano's middle C as 440Hz. It was first proposed in the nineteenth century but even nowadays it is not universally adopted, for a number of reasons. It is not unusual to find orchestras that prefer a slightly higher pitch, or particular instruments that respond better to a slightly lower pitch. There are still a few pitches of historical interest, varying from 390Hz to 470Hz, being often used on period instruments for more authentic renditions. Most modern pianos, however, should be tuned to A440 whenever possible for compatibility with other instruments.
It is best to wait a couple of weeks after the move, so that the piano can have some time to settle in and get used to the new environment.
Pianos go out of tune for a variety of reasons, such as changes in temperature or humidity, heavy usage, low-quality instruments or damaged parts. It is more difficult to keep the piano in tune in environments where the weather changes drastically or in schools where practice is constant. An ideal humidity range will be between 40-60%. In places such as Darwin the humidity ranges from 20-100%, tuning stability is a constant challenge. It is a good idea to try to keep the piano room in as constant temperature as possible in order to maintain the tuning stable.
Every piano will sound different. It depends partly on the brand and model of the piano, but mostly it relates to whether it has been kept in good shape with regular tunings, regulation and voicing. Over time, investing in these services will really pay off with a beautiful sounding instrument that will last longer.
Despite popular belief, this will not help. Water should be kept well clear of the piano!
Yes, we service many areas of NSW and the Northern Territory. We will always try to book in multiple jobs in an area to save on travel time and cost, so if you want to get together with some other locals in your area, we can come and spend a day or two. If you are even more remote than that, just give us a call, we can probably still work something out.
It depends. The value of a piano is a flexible concept, but ultimately it is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. If it means something to you emotionally, you may consider it a priceless possession. However, in terms of monetary value, even if it is a lovely piece of furniture, a piano is really only worth anything if it functions well as a musical instrument. Sometimes an investment even larger than its market value may be needed to make it rewarding to play again.
Just like most other valuable assets, the cost of having a piano is never limited to its purchase price. Similarly to a car that needs regular fuel, services and occasional repairs, a piano needs to be tuned, regulated and voiced to be kept in good shape.
While keyboards have their advantages, they are not a useful replacement if you would like to learn the piano. The piano's internal mechanical parts that make the hammers strike the strings also provide tactile feedback to the pianist's fingers, which is crucial for learning how to control the production of tone. As neither touch nor tone are easy to replicate digitally, a piano is still the best choice for an aspiring pianist. In fact, many teachers require their pupils to practice on an acoustic piano.
Often we are asked interesting questions that need more than a paragraph for an answer, so we are writing a few pages on those topics that you can take your time to read. This is work in progress and the list might grow as we plod along completing the articles.
Tuning & Temperament
Humidity & Temperature
Piano Maintenance for Institutions
How to Train a Piano Tuner
Voicing & Tone
Action & Tactile Feedback
Cleaning & Polishing
Benches & Covers
Buying Used Pianos
0420 574 236 ‧ Jennifer Roberts
0431 222 150 ‧ Marcelo Costi
Visits by appointment only
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