FrankenSteinway – Episode 5

Scalpels and Scruples

(From the Diary of a Mad Piano Technician)

As you will clearly see from the photographic documentation presented in this and previous entries, we have managed to achieve significant progress toward our goal of reviving this retched creature and, therefore, will continue to maintain our expectations for a positive and pleasing outcome.

My apprehension, however, grows steadily as we proceed with efforts to restore the countenance of our subject.

It would seem that many of our experiments thus far have been destined to falter in some way, wither by deed or design, and that some have produced even more grotesque and horrifying results than we could have imagined.

Yet I am compelled, almost to the point of insanity, by my avarice to complete the project and am unwilling to accept defeat even in the face of continuing reversals.

As is my nature, I will not yield to any challenge before exhausting every option.


The Face of Discontent:

Our first obstacle was the removal of any necrotic flesh and the establishment of a boundary that would limit our intrusion into the remaining viable material (upon which we dared not operate for fear of exacerbating the existing damage).

In order to maintain our aesthetic principles and produce a more or less symmetrical prosthetic (keep in mind that there were actually four adjoining surfaces involved) we chose to create this frontier at the extreme edge of the most damaged area and continue that delineation from front to back – as shown in this first slide.

[Click on the images to expand them – use your navigators back-page arrow to return to the story]


Marking the frontier

Once this was accomplished, the denuded underlying framework was found to have lost much of its original contour and structural integrity. After careful measurement and calculation we determined that our course of action necessitated the application of audacious and unprecedented techniques that would test our ingenuity and try our patience to their extremes.


Measuring the loss

Rebuilding the substrate proved to be a decidedly non-trivial matter. Many of our preliminary attempts were absolutely calamitous, forcing us to revert the subject to its previous state and begin anew. Ultimately, however, we arrived at a moderately acceptable cross-section that would allow us (or so we thought) to continue with the next phase of our experiment.


Reconstructed Contour

We then managed to graft a scavenged layer of dermis to the first section of our platform with relative ease. But the contrast in tone and texture of this new stratum were far too extreme and clearly no match for the original. Thus began a concerted effort to effect the coloration of both new and old so that they might present a less displeasing juxtaposition.


Color Matching Experiments

After applying what we believed to be the least offensive solution to our newly installed surface and concluding the results to be unacceptable, several attempts were made to rectify the situation but none proved satisfactory.


Newly Colored Dermis

It became readily apparent at this point that the transplant was genetically incompatible with our subject and we conceded to the necessity of its removal. We were now forced to embark upon a search for fresh donor material to replace it.

My frustration had now reached a new plateau and I began to pull at the scant remaining hair upon my scalp.

Although somewhat vexed by the imbalance between our meager successes and numerous misfortunes, I am no less determined to persevere unto the very limit of my endurance and hold full faith in the future of our endeavor.


As we continue our work on the facial prosthesis, I pray that you not be discouraged by the apparently slow pace of our progress and will continue to read my journal entries as they are here posted.

For even as we fall into the pit of despair, there is forever hope – and I am yet convinced that

Death Shall Not Defeat Us. . .

As before, I encourage you to comment and subscribe.

FrankenSteinway – Episode 4

Reconstructive Surgery

(From the Diary of a Mad Piano Technician)

Continuing with our skeletal reparations after joining the inner layers of the rim (see Episode 3), we sculpted a rather large section of new bone (hardwood) to replace the missing outer layer.  Its installation required an elaborate series of clamps and braces (as shown in the picture below) to secure it to the previously joined inner layers.

[Click on the images to expand them – use your navigators back-page arrow to return to the story]


Clamped Outer Rim

We then refined our work using various compounds, abrasives and shaping tools to obtain a smooth and contiguous surface upon which to graft  a new layer of skin.  The resulting platform (shown below) may appear odd, because of the obvious tonal variants, but I assure you that it was meticulously formed and perfectly even to the touch.


Shaped Outer Rim Layer

Finally, we painstakingly grafted a new layer of skin onto the substrate and were relieved to have achieved an acceptably presentable profile that our subject would be able to live with quite comfortably without embarrassment.  As you can see here, it is readily apparent that the new dermis was scavenged from another creature – though it be of the the same species, it was from a different region and exhibits obvious variants in tone and color.  However odd the contrast may at first appear, remember that this side of the piano normally faces the wall.


New Skin

Satisfied with the results, so far, we now focused our attention on the severely mutilated face – and quickly realized that our work had just begun, for this would be the most challenging and tedious aspect of our resurrection.  Behold the Corpse!


Death Mask

If we could not achieve an aesthetically acceptable result, the monster would be too hideous to present in public and forever destine to hide in shadow.

As was the case with our efforts to reconstruct the body proper, this procedure would require countless hours of intricate dissection and remodeling.  In spite of our careful planning and execution at each step of the process, we encountered many unforeseen problems and set-backs that necessitated multiple surgeries and much disappointment.

Without reservation I now admit to having succumbed, on several occasions, to a profound despair which brought many sleepless nights and terrifying dreams of ghoulish apparitions which caused me to severely doubt the veracity of my commitment to continue our experiments.

Discussions with the family, however, eventually persuaded me to persevere;  the choice of living without their friend – or enjoying the pleasure of his company (even though he would look strange) was an easy one for them.  As anyone with a damaged and disfigured friend or relative will readily attest: The heart always wins this argument.

In the next installment I will present, in vivid detail, the facial reconstruction process and examine what I expect many of you will consider to be amongst the most outrageous decisions that were made in our haste to resurrect this old friend.

There Will Be Scars. . .

 As before, I encourage you to comment and subscribe.

FrankenSteinway – Episode 3

Braces & Bolts

(From the Diary of a Mad Piano Technician)

Having cleaned and disinfected the victim, we were now confronted with one of our more perplexing problems. Being faced with layers of missing and/or distorted skeletal elements, we were required to invent bold and unusual methods for reconstructing the underlying framework of our subject before we could even consider grafting any new flesh onto the corpse that might give it the appearance of normalcy.

By now, I trust, you have identified the species of our specimen and I no longer feel it necessary to withhold images of our progress (as I have done before) until the end of the chapter. I believe, at this point, that the telling will be enhanced, and that you may be drawn closer to my plight, by providing photographic evidence from the laboratory that depicts the difficulties and dilemmas we encountered during our experiments.

[Click on the images to expand them – use your navigators back-page arrow to return to the story]


The first hurdle we faced was that of re-attaching the two inner layers of the outer rim (the framework that defines the shape of its body), which had been separated during its submersion in putrefying liquids. The problem we faced was the impossibility of injecting adhesive evenly and adequately between their layers, because there were areas that remained bonded and resisted our efforts to separate them. In order to prevent further damage, we elected to perform a series of radical procedures that both frightened and excited us.

De-Laminated Rim

De-Laminated Rim

We began by injecting a bonding agent into the crevice from atop and clamping it (as shown in this photo) but were left with areas in the mid and lower sections that remained bulging and distorted.


Clamped Upper Rim

In order to bond these otherwise inaccessible regions we, in our depravity, contrived to bore holes through the outer of the two layers in areas that remained separated so that we might inject adhesive through them.


Boring The Middle Layer

Another problem existed, however, in the absence of a means to secure the two layers against each other during the bonding process.

The method that we devised to overcome this obstacle gave rise to the title of my story and the photos of that process will provide all of the descriptive elements. Our solution was to bolt the layers together and anchor them to the inner rim (not visible).

Bolting the Bulges

Bolting the Bulges

In the next episode we will attach another layer of bone to replace that which was destroyed or missing from the corpse and discuss our efforts to repair the horribly disfigured lid (its visible face).

I hope you’ll stay with me as the horror intensifies over the next few weeks.  If you’re enjoying this story, I encourage you to comment (below) and sign up to follow this story (click the check boxes in the comment dialogue).  And, if you haven’t already done so, please register on my web site.

FrankenSteinway – Episode 2

Skin and Bones 

(From the Diary of a Mad Piano Technician)

In order to begin my experiment, I first needed to remove all of the rotted flesh from our corpse and determine if there was anything salvageable beneath it. This proved to be a more devilish task than I had, at first, imagined.

Although much of it was still viable, one entire side and several adjacent areas had been disfigured beyond recognition. The cleaning and preparation would require several days of grueling and resolute travail (with no certainty of a positive outcome) along with the application of new and untested techniques that would, no doubt, shock my colleagues.

To begin with, the stench was overwhelming. The cadaver had been found lying on a pile of old blankets that were apparently being used as a commode by a colony of rats infesting the basement where it was discovered (along with a long dead and desiccated member of their tribe). The flesh had absorbed and retained much of the excreta that had saturated those rank and tattered bed cloths. My awareness of that fact, along with the stench of rot and decay emanating from the remains, gave me cause to wretch in disgust and forced me, several times, to rush from the laboratory gasping for the smell of clean fresh air. Were it not for my devotion to this family and their cause, I would have abandoned the project at that point. I chose, however, to continue, despite my misgivings, and after suffering many hours of torturous endeavor was finally able to clean and disinfect the body.

Upon doing so, I discovered that much of the skeleton was grossly disfigured and in need of major reconstruction. Although I knew that some of it could be regenerated by grafting on new material, other segments were completely destroyed and would have to be replaced with scavenged body parts.

My assistant and I set about the task of preparing our laboratory and assembling the special equipment that would be required before beginning surgery. Ultimately, we devised a diabolical scheme to re-join all of the critical parts and I will reveal our method (and our madness) in the next episode.

Pictured below is the cleaned and disinfected corpse.


I would like to reiterate the statement posted at the conclusion of Episode 1

This is a true story about my efforts to resurrect an old family friend.

Over the next several weeks I will unveil some of the unusual procedures that we’ve employed in a series of operations that will eventually return it from the grave to the waiting arms of a loving family.

Revez Vous Cher Ami!

In the spirit of Halloween, I hope that you will follow this disturbing and (I hope) entertaining saga. Show your love my friends, leave a comment and sign up to follow future posts on this story.



Cleaned and Disinfected Corpse


FrankenSteinway – Episode 1


(From the Diary of a Mad Piano Technician)

After many years of struggling to recuperate patients with terminal and calamitous ailments, I was recently confronted with a dilemma that I would soon realized to be an opportunity for making a monumental paradigm shift in the science to which I have devoted my life.

The beloved friend and companion of a family that I have know from childhood was recently discovered in a flooded basement infested by rats. The corpse had been decimated and devoured by the water and rodents over several months and was barely recognizable. The amount of deterioration and decay was astonishing. My initial viewing of the corpse left me pale and retching.

Saddened and dismayed by the loss of their trusted family retainer, I committed myself to investigating and rectifying any inequities that may have been at the root of his demise. Unfortunately, my efforts to solve the crime that resulted in this horrifying scene proved fruitless.

Because of their trust in me and my selfless devotion to finding a solution to the perplexing cause of his demise, the remains found their way to my facility for internment preparations.

On the slab in front of me was the most decrepit and mutilated specimen I had ever encountered. The flesh was flailed and peeling from its bones. The noxious stench of rot was overwhelming and almost brought me to my knees. Tears flowed from my eyes at the sight of it and emotions welled from my heart that I had not felt in the many years since the death of my parents.

I was, at first, inclined to relinquish the corpse to the incinerator and be done with it, as I had so many times before.

On this occasion, however, for reasons that I can’t explain, I made a decision that may haunt me the rest of my days. I chose, in my arrogance, to attempt what no man had done before. . .

To resurrect the dead!


Whatever your impression may be of this little story (which I hope you enjoyed reading),I assure you that it’s true to a word. The victim, however, is not human nor was ever animate.

Pictured below is the subject of my tale as it was first presented to me. The series will continue over the next several weeks as I reveal the unusual and unprecedented processes that we chose to use in bringing this little beast back to life.

In the spirit of Halloween, I hope that you will follow us as we attempt to revive our old friend.

The Monster Will Live Again . . .

Please leave a comment and sign up to follow the posts on this story.


The Corpse


Pop Quiz

One of the first questions I ask when visiting a new customer is “Aside from tuning, are there any specific problems with the piano that you’d like me to address?”

With older pianos there is often a litany of complaints about obvious mechanical malfunctions – from broken strings to keys that don’t work – and every technician encounters these problems almost daily.

One complaint, however, that I hear quite often (even from piano teachers) is:

“The middle pedal doesn’t work”.

I check the pedals’ operational status and find that it’s performing precisely how it should. So, I ask the owner what they were expecting it to do.

I’ve compiled the following list from common responses and challenge you to select the correct answer. . .

  1. Nothing
  2. Mute or muffle all of the strings
  3. Lift only the Bass dampers
  4. Separate the left pedal from the right pedal
  5. Sustain only the notes that are pressed down
  6. All of the above


I think the confusion comes from the fact that the middle pedal does different things on different instruments. Its functionality is dependent on the manufacturers’ design criteria and the type of piano it is installed in. Below are descriptions of each:

  1. Nothing: In pianos with an installed player system the pedal is often disabled to allow room for the player mechanism.
  2. Mute or muffle the strings: Many (but not all) upright pianos have a “Practice Mute” which consists of a felt curtain that the pedal lowers between the hammers and strings to reduce the volume of the instrument.
  3. Lift only the Bass dampers: This is what I call the “Poor Mans’ Sostenuto”.
  4. Separate the left pedal from the right pedal: This was the explanation given by the late musical comedian Victor Borge.
  5. Sustain only the notes that are pressed down: This is known as Sostenuto or selective sustain, and is the way the pedal is designed to function in most high-end grand pianos (and a few uprights).
  6. All of the above: Yes and No. As described above, it depends on the instrument.

 If you don’t play piano you won’t have any idea what I’m talking about. If you do play piano and you still don’t know what I’m talking about you need to look into this subject. Understanding the mechanics of the instrument that you work with are of paramount importance to you when you are performing.

 Sostenuto (selective sustain) can be used to produce stunning and spectacular effects on the piano and should be explored by any serious pianist.

Aliens in the Action

After visiting a friend in an old apartment building downtown on a cool and cloudless summer evening, I walk downstairs to the lobby and, as I near the front door, I hear a loud rumbling sound and people screaming outside. Exiting the building onto the sidewalk the noise level increases to a deafening roar and a crowd of panicked and screeching people are running through the street toward the east. The scene is one of utter pandemonium!

I manage to snake my way through them and, turning the corner toward where my car was parked, have my first glimpse of what has them so terrified.

Descending from the sky above a park in the next block is an enormous, glowing white, inverted cone shaped object belching smoke and flames from rocket engines at its base.

Someone runs into me and knocks me to the ground. I scramble to my feet and run back up to my friends apartment. She’s standing frozen at the window staring down into the park below. . .


I wake up in a cold sweat and stumble into the bathroom, splash some water on my face and prepare to meet the day. I have an appointment scheduled in the Hollywood Hills so I put the dream out of mind and go about my morning routine.


My new customers’ piano turns out to be almost as disturbing as my nightmare. The inside is covered with a yellow mold that I’ve never encountered before. It takes me and the owner more than an hour to clean and disinfect it before I can even consider tuning the poor little thing – which required a major pitch raise and some minor action regulation. After three and a half hours of work I collect payment and hit the road.

On the freeway, heading west toward the beach, I suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to sneeze and, with no time to reach for a tissue to cover my nose, a spray of large salt crystals (?) spews across my dashboard and windshield. Alarmed by this I exit the freeway and park so I can collect myself and clean up the interior of the car.


That evening, after describing these two oddities to a friend on the telephone, there’s a long pause in our conversation. Finally he blurts out “Dude, you were abducted!”.   He was dead serious.

Certainly the coincidence is a little weird and I have no idea how all that “salt” got into my sinuses but I imagine it was a reaction to the mold. My friend wasn’t buying it, however, and urged me to install surveillance cameras in my room to document the next close encounter.  He has a vivid imagination and is a very inventive and prolific song writer who often makes bizarre connections like this which I find enormously entertaining.  I put down the phone and laughed until my sides ached.


I hope that you [Like] this little story.  Halloween is just around the corner and I have more fun tales on the drawing board of shocking and, dare I say it, terrifying experiments from our laboratory.


This story is only related to piano tuning in that its primary elements occurred on either side of a tuning appointment, rather like an inexplicable sandwich of paranormal bread.

It begins, oddly enough, with an unforgettable dream (from which I awoke startled and amused). The principal subject, or muse, of which was a young woman with startling yellow eyes. Her face was unfamiliar but pleasing and I felt comfortable in her presence, though slightly unsettled (because of the color of her eyes).

After waking, I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman with glowing yellow eyes. Her image haunted me throughout the following day and I grew increasingly obsessed with her visage. I even started writing songs and poetry about her.

Three days later I drove into West Hollywood for an appointment. My customer had been delayed at work and requested that I wait for half an hour so she could meet me at her home. Since this was my only booking for the day and I could easily afford the extra time, I decided to have lunch on the boulevard nearby. Around the corner, I found a quiet French bistro. It had only just opened and I was the only patron.

My server was a charming young blond woman in her early twenties. She seated me at a back table and we chatted as I looked over the menu before ordering. Since I was the only diner in the restaurant, she was very attentive and conversational. It was a lovely dining experience – even though it was just for lunch – because of her.

Half an hour later, after finishing my meal and expecting my client to have arrived home from work, I went around to pay the bill. My waitress was standing at the register with her back to me.

When she turned to take my money, I almost fainted.

She was wearing “Granny” glasses with iridescent Yellow lenses!

Mrs. Hot Tub

Years ago, I went to a tuning outside of a small town in West Michigan, in the heart of the Bible Belt. My customer was an average looking middle aged woman, who worked as a truck driver. She had an ordinary spinet piano in the basement. As I began to work, I noticed about 20 small tables, each with a candle and surrounded by chairs. She said there was a hot tub nearby.

Going to the bathroom upstairs, I walked by a table with a sign-in book, and a money container. There was a bulletin board covered with flyers about swinging sex parties, and couple swapping. Returning to the basement, a light started going off in my head. During the ride home, the light in my head grew brighter. Upon arriving home, I told my husband all about this whole weird scene. In dull West Michigan, we were both amazed. Ever since, we refer to this customer as Mrs. Hot Tub. I went back a few other times, over the years; you know how hard humidity is on pianos.

Party of Five?

I was inspired to write this story by a fellow technicians’ comment about the unusual people she’s met during her many years in the field. Before I dive in, however, I want to reiterate my concern for maintaining the anonymity of my subjects. This, as with others I’ve written about, is one of my best customers and has been for many years. He is a monster piano player and has great passion for music and the instrument. As always, I’ll do my best to give you an interesting story without revealing any identifying information about this marvelously talented man.

Anyone who works in the service industry has been confronted by individuals who display odd behavior. Most of the time it’s benign and not so disruptive as to prevent completing the job.

Sometimes, however, you walk away wondering what happened.  This is one of those situations.

My first visit was on a referral from a local piano dealer for a “free” tuning offered to one of their rental customers. I arrived at the apartment, was greeted by the renter and shown to the piano (a studio upright that was placed against the wall near the front door). As I opened it up and prepared to commence work he stood a few feet behind me talking, I presumed, to someone else in the room.

Softly giggling to each other and passing comments about the fact that I was from Steinway and how talented I must be to represent such a prestigious piano manufacturer. I ignored it for a few minutes until they started whispering to each other. I’m not a fearful person but it all sounded a bit conspiratorial.  I reasoned that, like so many others, they were just trying to be quiet so I could hear the piano. But whispering is actually more distracting than normal conversation.

I’ve worked in some very noisy environments and achieved good results but with the their chatter behind me and the traffic noise coming through the windows from the boulevard below, I was having some difficulty hearing the instrument.

So, I turned around to speak to them and found just the one guy standing there. Assuming that the other had left the room, I explained to him that he would get better results if I was left undisturbed while I completed my task. He was very polite and apologized before he too left the room.

A few minutes later their conversation, which was joined by three other people in the kitchen, turned into an argument. One of them was very agitated and the others, especially the younger of the two women, were trying to calm him down. But he was irate about something that one of the older gentlemen had said and was quite adamant about rebuking the others statement.

After about ten minutes of this the volume level reached the point where I was unable to hear the notes I was trying to tune so I went into the kitchen to ask them if they’d hold it down.

To my amazement there was just the one guy, my client, siting at the table. Um?

As I said at the start, I’ve been working for this gentle man for many years now. He keeps me busy with more broken strings than a Baptist church and always in need of tuning because he insists on keeping the windows open so he can see the ocean.

One of the most wonderful aspects of human beings is our adaptability – you just get used to things.