Piano Restoration

CREATIVE ENERGY IMBUED IN WOOD

My goal as an experienced piano rebuilder is to improve the performance of your piano with extended service beyond tuning.

Piano restorations can range from 1 day to 6 months or more in duration. Projects are client-focused, and can be tailored to fit any budget. I restore pianos of all manufacturers, and from any time period, with one goal: to make your piano sound great.

Below are some of the steps in my restoration process. Separately or as a complete package they represent tremendous value, providing high quality, artistically sensitive pianos through attention to detail.

"Bryan has a set of ears that are tuned to what musicians want - he's a musician's technician."

Dr. Cameron Bennett

Chair, Ohio Wesleyan University Department of Music

“Bryan has done major work on both of my grand pianos and he is unparalleled in his skill and craftsmanship. After his work my 33-year old Kawai sounds brand new! Absolutely top-notch.”

Thanks Bryan!

Dr. Suzanne Newcomb

Professor of piano, Otterbein University

“Thanks to Bryan Hartzler who masterfully regulated, voiced, and tuned my Petrof grand piano. Thank you for breathing new life to this instrument”

Susan Frost, Nationally Certified Music Teacher

Susan Frost

Nationally Certified Music Teacher

Piano Restoration Services

Below are the 3 steps in a complete piano restoration. Separately or as a complete package they represent tremendous value, providing high quality, artistically sensitive piano restorations through great attention to detail.

Action Restoration

The piano “action” is everything that moves between the finger pressing the key and the hammer striking the string. There are 11 adjustments to be made per note on the piano, and I adjust all of these to make the action transfer energy from the key to the string quickly and efficiently. I have worked in demanding concert environments and I am also a pianist, so I know what is required for top performance. My signature ‘Performance Plus' actions provide effortless connection between pianist and instrument.

Here are some of the things I do that make my piano actions perform at a high level:

KEYS: IT ALL STARTS HERE

KEYS: IT ALL STARTS HERE

Keys are the first interface the pianist has with the piano and must efficiently transfer power to the rest of the action.

  • Key pins guide the keys straight up and down, these are polished and lubricated with 2 types of industrial lubricant.
  • Cloth bushings the keys are fit to key pins and receive Teflon lubrication.
  • Brass or anodized aluminum capstans transfer enormous energy from the key to the hammer, and receive proprietary lubrication.
  • The attention to detail and low friction in my key work is unique and an important part of the Performance Plus action.

KEYTOPS: BEAUTY AND FUNCTION

KEYTOPS: BEAUTY AND FUNCTION

Good keyboard restoration makes your piano look great and feel even better.

  • Ivory keys in good condition can be restored - sanded flat and polished.
  • New keytops are your choice of German acrylic or Steinway factory Ivoplast material. installed and leveled with proprietary tooling and methods for a professional look and feel.
  • Ebony sharp keys whose tops are rounded off from years of wear are resurfaced to establish the original flat top, stained, and sealed. This  proper ebony key shape offers precise control, especially fast tempo.

BACKCHECKS: READY TO REPEAT!

BACKCHECKS: READY TO REPEAT!

The backcheck is the device that catches and holds the hammer after it strikes the string- the closer to the string it holds the hammer, the faster and smoother is the touch and repetition of the note.

  • Most shops either do nothing or attempt to refurbish worn backchecks. I have the specialized tooling to install new backchecks, in the proper location on the key, for fast and sure repetition.

KEYBOARD WEIGH-OFF: DIAL IN THE TOUCH

KEYBOARD WEIGH-OFF: DIAL IN THE TOUCH

The mechanism of the piano action is a lever with three pivot points, essentially a complicated teeter totter.

  • For proper touch, the weight on both ends of the lever needs to be controlled, and the pivot points placed in the correct location.
  • I have the knowledge and tools to calibrate the weight of all of the moving parts, as well as the location of the pivot points.
  • Small lead weights inside the keys counter balance the weight of the action parts. The final placement of these lead weights provides proper down-weight (energy needed to depress the key) and up-weight (energy that returns the key to rest.).
  • My Performance Plus actions are never too heavy, never too light, always just right.

REGULATION: CRISP, SMOOTH PRECISION

REGULATION: CRISP, SMOOTH PRECISION

There are 11 adjustments for each note of the piano, from how far the key goes down, to where the hammer sits at rest, to when the damper lifts off the string. These determine touch, repetition speed, control of dynamics, and power. Action regulation is the process wherein I set these adjustments just right for effortless control of the piano from pianissimo to fortissimo.

HAMMERS: WHERE GOOD TONE BEGINS

HAMMERS: WHERE GOOD TONE BEGINS

Piano hammers are made from wool felt that is cut and then compressed around a wood molding into the shape of the hammer.

  • From sheep shearing on the farm to end product of the felt in the hammers, hammer manufacturers monitor the entire process to make the great hammers that I use.
  • There are dozens of choices of hammer, and I choose the type that best fits each piano. Genuine Steinway hammers for Steinways, American-made Ronsen hammers for other American pianos, as well as German and Japanese products to perfectly match any other piano.

VOICING: TONE ARCHITECTURE

VOICING: TONE ARCHITECTURE

Voicing a piano involves manipulating the hammers to affect how they strike the string. For instance, if the piano is harsh, uneven, too bright, or too quiet, then I change the hardness of the hammer to eliminate these problems. I use needles to soften and lacquer to harden the hammers as necessary.

  • The voicing process includes ensuring that the hammer strikes all 3 strings of the note at the same time, and that each individual string produces the same type of tone as its neighbors.
  • The ‘architecture’ part is making each section of the scale, from bass to high treble, plays its part to build the whole of the piano. As a pianist I can quickly determine what resources a given piano has to offer and capitalize on them to make the piano speak with one powerful and complete voice.
  • Even tone from one note to the next, and clarity even at fortissimo are hallmarks of my voicing processes.
  • I also recognize that the una corda pedal (left pedal) is not the “quiet pedal” but in reality a tone color resource for the pianist. I voice this to give the broadest range of tone.

DAMPER SYSTEM: MAXIMUM TONE COLOR

DAMPER SYSTEM: MAXIMUM TONE COLOR

The dampers rise from the string when the key or sustain pedal is depressed, and drop back to the string to stop the string from vibrating.

Use of the sustain pedal buy pianists is a fine art, and properly regulated dampers help pianists achieve a full range of expression and tone color.

  • I regulate the damper system for easy control, all dampers lift together and at the right point in key and sustain pedal travel. From this, the pianist can do anything from flutter and half pedaling, to full sustain.
  • I also have the tooling and know-how to replace the entire damper system if necessary, for perfect damper performance even in pianos well over 100 years old

THE POUNDING ROOM- BREAK IN THE NEW PARTS!

THE POUNDING ROOM- BREAK IN THE NEW PARTS!

Unique to my shop is a mechanical ‘pounding machine’ that plays the completed piano for 8 hours, fast and loud! This is just like they do at all piano factories to break in the new action parts and strings, resulting in a product that is stable and accurate.

Belly Restoration

The “belly” of the piano consists of the soundboard, bridges, strings, cast iron plate, and the wood pinblock that tightly holds the tunings pins and strings. There is up to 20 tons of tension held by these parts of the piano. Despite this massive amount of force, I adjust various parts of the belly to very small tolerances.

SOUNDBOARD: NATURE MEETS NURTURE

SOUNDBOARD: NATURE MEETS NURTURE

The soundboard of all pianos is made from spruce boards that are quarter sawn from rough cut timber, glued into a flat panel, and then sanded to the proper thickness. The rebuilder always controls the quality and construction of the soundboard, but in the end nature has already determined what the piano will sound like.

  • How old was the spruce tree? Where was it grown? What stress did it experience in its lifetime, such as fire, drought, or exposure to high winds? How close was it to its neighbor? The ways nature interacts with the tree are endless, and this is what gives a piano its unique voice.
  • Strong sugar pine or spruce ribs are glued to the underside of the soundboard panel to strengthen and impart the ‘crown’ the board needs- about 3/8” higher in the center of the board relative to the outside edges of the board.

STRINGS: GOOD VIBRATIONS

STRINGS: GOOD VIBRATIONS

The strings the piano are drawn from high tensile steel. The strings must be strong enough to receive the violent force from the hammers striking them, but flexible enough to vibrate freely to produce the energy for the piano tone.

  • The strings are wrapped around tuning pins that are driven into a wood pin block, which holds the strings at the proper tension. The piano tuner turns the pins in the block to tune the piano.
  • Due to the large force applied by the strings to the tuning pins, over time the pins become loose and the pin block needs to be replaced. For stability and longevity I use a 5-layer quartersawn hard maple pin block.
  • The plate is removed and turned upside down, the new block is fit to the plate, holes for the tuning pins are drilled and new pins and strings are installed

BRIDGES: ENERGY OF MOTION

BRIDGES: ENERGY OF MOTION

The bridges of the piano transfer the energy of the strings to the soundboard. They are made from hard maple and then glued to the soundboard. The strings pass over the bridge, and the bridge then transfers the string energy to the soundboard.

  • Pins driven into the bridge guide the string over the bridge. The force applied to the bridge pins by the string is substantial; with time cracks appear around the pins and the pins become loose. This reduces the amount of energy the strings can transfer to the bridge.
  • My shop is unique in that the old bridge pins are removed, the holes repaired with epoxy and then re-drilled, with new bridge pins installed. Tight bridge pins make good tone!

DOWNBEARING: PRESSURE ON THE BRIDGE

DOWNBEARING: PRESSURE ON THE BRIDGE

Adjusting the downbearing controls the amount of downward force the strings apply to soundboard.

  • The string leaves the tuning pin, travels “uphill” to the bridge, goes across the bridge, then travels “downhill” to pins that hold it to the cast iron plate.
  • The difference between the amount of uphill versus downhill is the amount of down bearing, around 1/4” in the center of the soundboard.
  • Around 2,000 pounds of downward force is applied by the strings to the board at the time of manufacture.
  • The soundboard “crown” pushes the bridge up against the strings. As the crown is flattened out by this downward force over time, the bridge pushes up less on the strings and downbearing is reduced.
  • Downbearing is vital- too much force and the soundboard can’t move; too little and the tone becomes weak and with reduced tone color.

DOWNBEARING: RESTORED

DOWNBEARING: RESTORED

My shop is unique in that I can restore proper downbearing on the original vintage soundboard, allowing you to experience the piano as it was when new.

  • To do this, I remove the top of the bridge (the ‘bridge cap’), install a new hard maple bridge cap, and then plane off the excess wood to control the height of the bridge and thus restore proper downbearing. This is referred to as “re-capping the bridge.”
  • The new cap is notched by hand, then new bridge pins are installed to guide the strings over the bridge.
  • This allows me to return the true, “Golden Age” sound to your Steinway, Baldwin, or Mason and Hamlin piano! Old-growth spruce wood and old world craftsmanship are brought back to life with this process.
  • The new bridge cap is the difference between good performance and WOW! performance.

REFINISHING: BEAUTY AND DEPTH

REFINISHING: BEAUTY AND DEPTH

A great vintage piano is a work of art; an immaculate case is essential to making your instrument look as good as it sounds. Refinishing work by Hartzler Pianos enhances the presence of your instrument with attention to details

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  • Careful stripping of original finish
  • Repair of case details such as ornamentation, sharp corners, and veneer
  • Wood pore filling to ensure a perfectly smooth final finish.
  • Application of stain and sealers
  • Application of multiple coats of lacquer
  • Hand rubbed final finishing
  • Nickel re-plating and brass polishing of metal case parts
  • Application of new felt to music desk and lyre components

THE FINISHING TOUCHES

THE FINISHING TOUCHES

It’s all of the “little things” that I do in my full restorations that also set them apart:

  • The hitch pins hold the string on the cast iron plate, and in my complete restorations the hitch pins are replaced with shiny new pins.
  • The contact points for the strings are replaced (new agraffes) or resurfaced (Capo d’Astro bar)
  • The cast iron plate on all types of piano receives a coat of Steinway factory bronze lacquer.
  • A local artist paints the letters on the plate by hand.
  • On Steinway pianos the plate bolts, screws, and hardware are replaced. On other pianos the parts are polished or plated with new nickel finish.
  • The underside of the piano is painted.
  • Pedals and pedal rods are replaced.
  • Vintage one-position lid prop can be replaced with modern prop that has both half-stick and full stick positions.
  • On older Steinway pianos that have been modified or damaged, exact original reproduction case parts will restore the original look of the piano.
  • I use the best custom bass strings from Canada and Germany.

STEINWAY CONCERT PIANOS

STEINWAY CONCERT PIANOS

I restore all makes and sizes of piano, but a subset of my restorations focuses on Steinway concert instruments. I am a pianist with a degree in music from The Ohio State University. I am also familiar with the piano repertoire, and understand what the instrument needs in order for the pianist to play this great music. In the performance venues I have worked, such as The Aspen Music Festival, the Tanglewood Music Festival, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I’ve had up to 6 Steinway concert pianos ready for performance at all times.

Because I have prepared so many Steinway concert instruments at the highest level, I can quickly determine what resources a given piano has to offer and capitalize on them to make the piano speak with one powerful and complete voice. From this comfortable position the artist is able to make music with joy and inspiration.

My Steinway concert grand restorations perform as good as or better than any new Steinway model D.

"I'm absolutely delighted with the improvement in our Steinway concert grand, thank you! The sound is infinitely more beautiful, in tonal balance for the first time since I've known it. The touch is very responsive, and the piano finally sings.”

- Dr. Nicholas Ross, Director of Keyboard Studies, Otterbein University

Additional Services

1 Day In-homeService

1 Day In-home Service

Grand pianos will show tremendous improvement with a one day in-home visit to address:

  • Action regulation and lubrication
  • Voicing
  • Cleaning
  • Adjustments to damper and pedal systems

This visit will bring your instrument to a very high level of performance that is easy to maintain with ongoing tuning and voicing. After this service, you can expect your instrument respond quickly and smoothly, with beautiful tone.

Touchweight Analysis and Correction

Touchweight Analysis and Correction

Grand pianos with poor action design or actions that have been restored incorrectly are unresponsive and heavy to the touch. These instruments benefit from touchweight analysis and correction. Remarkable improvements in piano action performance can be achieved with changes in action geometry and inertia.

Fees for touchweight correction are based on the type of problems present in your piano action.

Other small projects such as bass string replacement and partial action restoration may also be recommended for your instrument.From tuning to regulation to even and responsive voicing, I can bring out the best in your Steinway. I can further improve the performance of your piano with small and large rebuilding projects, from action restoration and stringing to full piano restoration.

Piano Evaluation

Piano Evaluation

If you feel your instrument is not reaching its full potential, contact me to schedule an evaluation of your piano. During this visit I will perform an aural tuning, evaluate your instrument, and then discuss with you in detail the options available to make your piano responsive and beautiful. My piano restoration services encompass all aspects of piano performance, including:

  • One day in-home service to correct action and voicing problems
  • Multi-day projects to address more extensive action and tonal problems
  • Complete piano restoration services to return your entire instrument to better than new condition

With this full service approach, I can develop a plan of action for you that suits both your musical needs and your budget. Contact me to schedule an appointment.

Service Area

Service Area

Piano restoration services are provided nationwide utilizing a network of piano moving services.

Expertise

Expertise

My expertise in all aspects of piano performance insures that your instrument will receive the best quality care. If you need quality in-home service for your upright or grand piano, I provide all of the services you need for your instrument, from tuning to all repairs, with great customer service that you can feel comfortable with.

If you need service for a Steinway piano, I have the expertise to provide the best in service for your Steinway. My experience at all-Steinway institutions such as The Boston Symphony Orchestra as well as summer music festivals at Aspen and Tanglewood requires an in-depth knowledge of the Steinway piano that makes my Steinway piano service unique. At these institutions I have prepared scores of Steinway grands for faculty and students, and prepared Steinway concert instruments for great artists. This level of experience means great care for your Steinway. From tuning to regulation to even and responsive voicing, I can bring out the best in your Steinway. I can further improve the performance of your piano with small and large rebuilding projects, from action restoration and stringing to full piano restoration.

Please contact me to schedule a piano tuning appointment.