I enjoyed a couple of days in Kansas City this summer at the PTG National. These annual events are a piano nerds dream, with classes, presentations and exhibits about all aspects of pianos with a focus on technology (build, repair, regulate). This was the first national convention in many years where I attended as a private individual rather than a manufacturers representative. I went to maintain industry contacts, but I was also looking forward to taking classes. I attended a variety, including presentations by Kawai, Yamaha and Abel hammers, as well as classes on tuning and regulation.Yamaha has been presenting the “37 Steps” class for decades. The presentation is honed to a fine edge and everything you need to know to prepare a grand piano at a high level is presented in this class. Of course a key element in the class is LaRoy Edwards, who was the original author of the class and has, I’m assuming, given every one that has ever been presented. He has had more help over the last couple of years, but it is really LaRoy’s show. I’m convinced it is his low key, friendly, folksy manner that makes the class so engaging and memorable. But the content, as they say is king. You come out having seen what each step is for proper preparation and a pretty good idea of why it is done. Of course being able to skillfully execute the 37 steps is not as easy as sitting in the class.
I attended a second class by Yamaha on preparing concert pianos. Yamaha has introduced the newest series of their high end concert piano, the CFX, This class was presented by Yoshi Suzuki who recently moved from the Yamaha Artist Services department in NYC to the corporate office in Buena Park CA. While he is now responsible for all aspects of Yamaha piano service in the US, he is really a CF guy at heart, having worked in the CF factory.
While the steps one needs to go through to prepare a piano are pretty well established, it’s the sequence and the details that make up the individual approach by a maker or a technician. Yoshi had a variety of sophisticated and effective tips, including a rather graphic one about buckskin on knuckles.
David Anderson presented a class on using your whole body in piano work. David is a very engaging and thought provoking presenter and succeeds in getting one to look at the profession and activity in a different light. He focused on the impact ones attitude has on the quality of work as well as ways of incorporating different aspects of your physical being in different aspects of piano work. For example he demonstrated that you can effectively set the jack position by sound! He is also the person who inspired me to pursue the concept of “open unison” tuning, a technique that now has a very comfortable position in my tool kit.
Kansas City is kind of a happening city with an active live music scene that brings crowds down town. It’s also a pretty good beer town so I enjoyed my visit even outside of the convention hall. I did get a chance to catch up with contacts and friends, one in particular and I even made a couple new friends (imagine that).