For the times, they are a-changin

written by Brian Wilson
14 1 14

I cannot believe it is over six months since I have returned from my Fellowship. The past six months has been spent processing and applying the knowledge. Talking about my experiences has also made me remember small details that I thought I had forgotten.

The voices of my instructors are still in my mind. They have influenced me so much that I seem to have them packed in my tool cases. Kent Webb still reminds me that a piano is a living instrument and it is constantly changing. When I am working on a piano I remember his first words of that it is all about making music. Consistency of touch and tone, dynamic range, control of the action and sound as well as inspiring the musician to want to play this instrument. Kent introduced me to new tools and techniques, a fresh approach as well as answering so many questions I had on the voicing of New York Steinways. Since returning home, I have applied these techniques to my voicing process. I have more options with my new voicing protocols.

I am currently re-stringing a Steinway grand piano, and I have just finished glueing damper felts. Guenther’s lessons on damper installation and regulation make a daunting and exacting process manageable by a simple step by step approach. It is all about making the dampers operate as individuals as well as a complete unit. Visual presentation of the damper assembly is important however it can be frustrating when others do not see what I am critical about.

Jan Hoeppner and Jan Kittel, the Steinway Klavierbauers in Hamburg who performed their work with such precision. Their ability to concentrate and work hard and then switching off and enjoying yourself is something we need to learn in Australia. The German summer evenings sitting in a beer garden, or watching locals cook on their portable BBQ’s  whilst throwing a frisbee on the sand beside the Elbe will always be in my memory.

I was totally inspired by Ulrich Gerhartz from Steinway Hall in London. His pianos and the quality of his work cannot be described in words. Somehow, Ulrich has had a profound influence on me but it has only been recent that I have really understood his words. I thought I wanted to be more like Ulrich. His work and his approach to work is a definite yes. I have found that I already had many of Ulrich’s beliefs. His words of being yourself, keeping your promises, punctuality, constantly improving your standards as well as the instrument, let your work speak for you, understanding and communication was inside me but needed that stimulus for me to realise what I have always aspired to in my career. He made me realise that I can be myself and to let my work describe who I am as a technician. Action is stronger than words.

Since coming home, I have the opportunity to try all the techniques I learnt in my travels. I have also tried combining all the different techniques into my own hybrid style. I have experimented with different hammer hardening solutions and have found the closest one that emulates the New York method.  I have enjoyed working and transforming instruments the owners were previously unhappy or frustrated with the performance abilities.  It is all about listening to the words of the customer as well as listening and watching them play their instrument. A simple approach of complete piano service and performing the work that is necessary so that the musician can play music, and not the piano. There is more than just tuning a piano.

I have recently started my own piano service business based in Brisbane called Brian Wilson Piano Care. I am enjoying the freedom of working with pianos ranging from superb concert instruments through to first pianos for families – each one tells a unique story that I love to hear. If you would like to experience my approach and techniques for your piano, just call me on 0438 196 372

If you would like to learn more about your piano or simply be a fly on the wall during the adventures of a piano technician, you can visit my new blog called “If only pianos could talk“. You can also download a full copy of my Fellowship Report from there.

So now ends the second movement of my concerto. I look forward to continuing the adventure. Thank you for being part of my journey.

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