A Lesson in Pianos

I had my piano tuned recently.

It was an experience.


My piano is my mother’s childhood piano. Translation: We know nothing about it, only that my grandmother was suckered into purchasing it and paid probably much more than she should have for it.

Love you, Gram.


Case and point, when I described the piano’s major problems over the phone to the new tuner, he asked, “Is it a spinet?”, to which I replied, “I don’t think so.” then immediately texted my mom, who didn’t know either. In my mind, a spinet is a strange shaped harpsichord, so my ‘no’ answer seemed right.


Though it was purchased new, the piano grew up in a smoking home and developed many inexplicable issues over the years. I inherited it when I moved into my first home. Beggars can’t be choosers, and as a musician and part-time private music instructor, a real piano is kind of a necessity.

The piano is such a wreck, our past piano tuner would tune it a half step lower than the A440 pitch standard. You don’t need to understand instruments to realize that if an instrument can’t be tuned to the place it belongs…something is wrong. Knowing the state of the piano, I admittedly neglected it. In ten years, it has been tuned twice.*

*That’s about eight times less than it should be.

A quick Google search after scheduling my tuning showed there are four kinds of upright pianos, a spinet being the smallest in height. I later learned from the piano tuner this style was popular after WWII. People seemed to think spinet pianos were smaller all together even though their width is no smaller.


After a quick look over, the tuner started breaking it down, explaining why a spinet is pretty much the worst kind of piano you can have. He spoke cautiously until I set his mind at ease, ensuring him I knew my piano was no belle of the ball. This brought an in depth explanation as to why one of the strings broke during the last tuning (and why more strings might, and did, break during this tuning), of the difference in changing a string in a spinet and a string in a regular upright (1 hour vs 10 minutes), that pegs should not be rusted and rotted looking, and that pianos on the east coast have shorter lifespans than the rest of the country due to the varying weather we experience.

If you have a piano, keep your piano healthy and get it tuned today.


I learned so much in such a short time about an instrument I’ve been close to for almost my entire life. Hopefully, rather than having bored you with my piano woes*, you’ve learned something new, too. Here’s the bottom line: A spinet is a harpsichord, but it can be a piano, too. However, if a piano is a spinet, it probably stinks, but if a harpsichord is a spinet, it’s just small.

*Because, yes, now I need to start the search for a new piano.


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