Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Cool New Ersatz Piano

When I was first married I bought a piano after a lot of shopping, a Baldwin Hamilton chosen for its tone rather than appearance. It cost more than the others and I had to make monthly payments, but the sound was worth it.

Then I had a bunch of kids, and had less time to practice. The computer's easier to manage, because you can save work to resume later, and the projects don't have to be shared until they're ready! Anyway I'm not the performing arts type. I've talked about that before (huge rant...)

Then to top it off I got that magnificent yellow dog, who took up all the available room in this rather small house of ours. As the dog grew larger and larger, I sacrificed more and more things to try to keep him. I figured I wasn't playing the piano much anyway, and I could put his magnificent kennel where the piano was. So I let the piano go to a relative who wanted to borrow it / store it for me.

Once the dog reached full size, he went bonkers being confined inside a small house, and I didn't want him as an outside dog getting cold and lonely in wintertime, so he had to go.

Then I had neither dog nor piano.

piano old

I kept the twins!

Being pianoless was okay for a while. When I began to need music, I spent some time trying to play my old guitar, which happens to be a nice one, very mellow and soothing.  

But then I really started missing my piano. I found myself thinking of it at nights again. Now I have the space for it, but no way to get it back home. Estimates for piano moving started at $400, and I don't have a pickup and can't very well move an 800 lb piano with just me and DH anyway (were he willing to try it, which he isn't)


Andrea has an electronic keyboard, which I am allowed to play, but not exactly encouraged, shall we say? It's kept up on her top bunk with its wires wound around the bed frame...

(Anyway her middle G doesn't work, due to long-ago cat barf. Last year I cleaned it and got it working, but recently the same key went silent again. Middle G is kind of important. Here's the inside of a Yamaha keyboard, in case you're curious, with the "before" view of the problem. )


But, guess what! I have a piano again!


A lady offered this 80s electronic keyboard which has been in a church attic for years. It weighs a ton, and it's obtuse; at first I despaired of it working because it wasn't making any sounds in the headphones, but it turns out you have to read the manual and push a few buttons before it'll do anything! But it does work.  The keys are weighted, it even comes with a pedal. It requires external speakers, and I happened to have a set of computer woofers and tweeters up in the attic which I'd been about to give away thinking I'd never have a use for them! At first I despaired of them working too, but it was just a bad audio cable. I tried another audio cable, and that one was bad, too. Luckily there are at least five audio cables in the attic. My Dad was right, you should keep everything that might EVER be useful! :-)

The cool part about a real piano is that it plays even when the power's out, but the cool part about the electronic keyboard is that it's always in perfect tune. I would never spend the money to keep my poor old piano tuned. I did tune it myself with the free utility Tunelab, but that was such a big operation that I only did it every couple of years, and anyway it just doesn't sound quite as lovely as when the tuner does it.


This satisfies my "piano" urge, it sounds lovely and the keys feel almost like the real thing, and this all cost $0 to put together.
See, that's the top hutch from my old computer desk!