Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Ole Bessie"

Having decided that we’re going to buy a digital, this brings up the question of whether our old upright (henceforth to be referred to as “Ole Bessie” or merely “Bessie”) really is obsolete. Consider:

  • Jillian and I are still playing Bessie on a daily basis. Yes, I have my complaints, but if she (Bessie, that is, not Jillian) isn’t useless now, she may be equally not-useless in a few months.
  • The soundboard crack is capricious. Some days, it's so bad, I can't stand the feel (to say nothing of the sound) of the piano. On other days, there's no sign at all the anything is amiss. It's been a cool Spring, which seems to agree with her.
  • Selfishly, having more than one piano in the house increases the odds I can grab some bench time when the opportunity arises. After all, in about 8 months, Jason is going to begin HIS lessons, and it's hard enough negotiating practice time with just Jillian.
  • The new house is going to be roughly 4800 square feet. Even after we combine our stuff with the in-laws’, it doesn’t add up to 4800 square feet worth of stuff. We’re not in a position to be throwing away large pieces of furniture.
  • Bessie already has a cracked soundboard. What’s the risk in moving her? That we might damage her*? Please. I know this is heresy to those of you in the industry, who hate the idea of laypeople moving pianos. But if you’ve been with us for awhile, you know that the real owner of the piano is my brother-in-law, a professional mover. He’ll be the one in charge of this ordeal. And sure, for all we know, maybe he’s the one who cracked the thing in the first place. But it's his piano, and there really isn't much more damage we can inflict on her.
* Funny story unrelated to piano, but a variant on the theme of "What's the worst that could happen?" I played basketball in college. While the team itself was very, very good, I was an absolute nobody on it. In my entire career (if you count 2 seasons as a “career”), I played in a total of 12 games, scoring two points. But I got lots of free shoes and meals out of the experience, not to mention instant and unquestioned credibility in any pickup game I wandered into during my college and graduate school years.

Anyway, one Thanksgiving, we were in
Hawaii, playing in a tournament. We had been eliminated earlier in the day by a very good Ohio State team, led by Jay Burson, an amazing little point guard roughly the size and shape of a Kewpie doll. So, having nothing to do the next day, we went to the Chart House and had a wonderful dinner. Afterwards, the coaches sat at their table for a very long time, just talking, the way old folks (like me, it turns out, although I didn’t know it at the time) do after a big, satisfying meal. We players were not so interested in continuing to soak up the atmosphere. But the time ticked on. 30 minutes, 45 minutes... we were tired, and we were all getting pretty antsy to go back to the hotel and go to sleep. One of the guys on the team, a starting guard, nudged me to do something, to tell the coaches it was time to go. Without a hint of derision, he asked in a very simple, matter-of-fact tone, “C’mon, aw2pp, who cares if they get mad? What are they going to do, bench you?”

It wasn’t funny at the time. Well, yes it was. He did have a point.


Anonymous said...

Do you have a humidifier in the room with the piano? I have a smallish one that I just tuck under the keyboard at the treble end (where my crack is) and it keeps things moist enough that, other than the dead spot, - which isn't going away unless we replace the soundboard- you can't even tell there is a crack. Now, admittedly, mine has been shimmed, but still, there has been no indication of the crack separating or getting worse in over 20 years. Might be something to think about, should you decide to keep Bessie.

Always Wanted to Play Piano said...

Very good question. In the cold months (say, October to, well April, this year), we have used a humidifier for the whole house. Without it, the humidity would run in the single digits on cold days. In the current house, this humidifier is in the same room as the piano.

In the next house, the humidifier(s) will be attached to each furnace (one upstairs, one downstairs).

From what I understand, you'd recommend supplementing this with a local humidifier for the piano itself. This is a very good suggestion.

Anonymous said...

It depends. If the humidifiers you are using keep the house (and particularly the piano room) at the ideal humidity year round (which my tech says is about 45%. I have not researched to see how much variance there is in this figure among other piano techs.), then there is really no need for supplement. If not, then a small supplemetnal humidifier might well be a good idea.