Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cracking in Piano Soundboards

Some piano owners have been dismayed to learn from their piano technician that their piano has a crack in the soundboard. While this may sound disconcerting, it does not automatically mean that the piano has to be rebuilt or replaced. The fact of the matter is that pianos are sensitive to changes in the climate and in the room conditions. The greatest factor affecting piano tuning and stability is humidity. Over many years, solid (usually sitka spruce) soundboards dry out. This drying out process eventually could lead to a split occurring along the grain somewhere on the soundboard.

The criteria as to whether it is necessary to repair the soundboard is whether there is a distortion in the sound of the piano at various frequencies or notes. In other words, there might be a distinct "buzz" that develops when certain notes are played. This would mean that a repair should be done. In most other instances, there is no sound distortion so no action needs to be immediately taken to repair the soundboard.

A basic repair for this in an upright piano is to insert glue between the soundboard and the ribs closest to the crack and draw the soundboard back to the ribs either by screws or by some other method. This usually will eliminate the offending noise when the piano is played.

In grand pianos, this condition is a little more serious mainly because of the visibility of the soundboard. Soundboards in grand pianos are very visible especially when the top lid is propped in the open position. Depending on where the crack is, the piano technician will usually have to loosen the tension on the strings directly over the crack to access the affected soundboard area. Then he will take a specially shaped chisel and widen the crack so that a wooden shim can be inserted into the widened area. This shim is glued in and then, after the glue has dried, the shim is sanded flush to the existing soundboard area. A light finish such as lacquer is applied to make the repair look good and the strings are then replaced.

In severe cases, the entire string set and plate have to be removed to expose the crack. This is a shop repair which means that there will be an additional expense in moving the piano to the shop and returning it to the customer's home. It is important to get a professional estimate done with a reputable technician before this repair is undertaken.

Playing Guitar and Singing - Six Things to Know to Sound Like A Pro

Accompanying yourself on guitar or backing up another singer requires the right approach and a certain set of skills. Your job is to play the kind of guitar part that supports the singer and the song and there are six things you can do to make that happen.

Keep it simple. In order for the singer to deliver a song in the most effective manner, the guitar can't be getting in the way. Start with a simple strum of basic chord shapes (this works as a great starting point) then go from there. A complex, busy guitar part can get in the way of the singing and ruin the song. Whether you are accompanying yourself or someone else, always keep in mind that your job is to support the singer, not wow the audience with fancy guitar licks.

Choose the proper technique for the style. Many songs sound best with a simple guitar strum while others really shine if you use a gentle finger picking pattern. Or you may find you need an electric cranked up a bit to give a song the needed energy and push. Make sure you discover the best way to create the perfect guitar background while staying true to the style.

Fill in around the vocal. In any song, there will be places where the vocalist takes a break, even between phrases. This is where you need to play a little something extra to keep the music interesting and entertaining. If you have an extended part of a song, such as an instrumental break, that's where you can stretch out a bit and play "more" guitar. It's best to keep the melody in mind and stay within the framework of the song.

Choose the best way to play each chord. There are a number of ways to play the same chord on guitar so it's a bit of challenge to play the right one (at the right time) for a particular song. For example, playing an Am chord in the first position might work best for a folk song but playing the same chord as a bar chord at the 5th fret might work best for Blues or Rock. Knowing a number of different chord shapes comes in handy.

Be consistent. First and foremost, keep the rhythm consistent. If there are trouble spots such as difficult chords in the song, practice them separately until you get them down so you don't interrupt the flow of the music. You may find you have to play certain chords in a simpler way to get the job done.

It's also important to be consistent in how you play including strumming the song the same way throughout or using the same finger picking pattern from start to finish. When backing a vocalist, keep your experimenting to a minimum.

Know how to use a capo. A capo allows you to change keys without having to play a whole new set of chords. Typically, if you play a song for a male vocalist, you can play the same song (and use the same chords) for a female voice by placing the capo on the 4th or 5th fret.

If you take the right approach and keep in mind that it's your job as a guitar player to help the singer sound great, you'll play like a pro in no time.