FMD: 5/17/1981 – We Bought A Piano!

So last week I found an old upright piano on craigslist. My family had looked at pianos for some time, but hadn't ever quite found a match. This was just a little one, without the huge full top, and it seemed like it would be perfect for the kids to maybe take lessons on. Or not. Just having a piano is awesome. Really, it's been a dream of mine ever since I was about in early high school...

See, my parents loved the idea of us growing up with a piano. They managed to find a free one, not far from where we lived, but they had to haul it. So they borrowed my uncle, and his truck, loaded it up, and set back home. I remember I was watching my brothers and sister, waiting anxiously. We had a split level, and so we'd have to carry the piano straight up the stairs immediately upon getting it in the door, and I was going to have to help. It was a big project. I remember the truck pulling in the driveway... no piano to be seen. My mom, dad, and uncle got out, and they were just laughing, harder than I'd ever seen. Eventually we were able to get the story out of them. "We were driving so slow," Dad said, "everything was perfect. But there was that curve... and as we went around it, the piano... it just started sliding to the other side of the truck... and then it just kept sliding." They held up a broken piece of wood. "It was shattered, on the side of the road," Mom continued, "and your dad gets out, and he looks at this twisted pile of wood and metal, and he says 'Do you think we can fix it?'" With this, they burst into laughter again, and directed us kids to go move the piano from the truck bed, piece by piece, to the firewood pile. Honestly, we had the best fires ever that summer.

So before I got ours, I had to figure out transport. I spent forever looking up how to move pianos, whether I should hire someone, etc. Ultimately, I arranged to borrow a truck and a trailer, and recruited my brother-in-law, after figuring out how to move a piano with just two guys. It turned out I put a lot of time figuring out the right ways to turn and flip pianos for nothing, since this was light enough that the two of us were able to carry it. We drove the 45 minutes, loaded it up - strapped it down like nobody's business - and drove back. And it was $75. Which, all told, is a pretty darn painless way to end up with a piano.

I've been tinkering on it just about every day. I don't know how to play piano, except for "Twinkle, Twinkle" or "Heart and Soul". But it's so much fun. I've decided to start teaching myself a few other songs, and already have part of "Werewolves of London" down. My kids enjoy it too, but they're less sure about it, since they know practice = work.

Anyway, we've got a piano now. And I love it.

If you've got any piano stories. Or tips. Or songs a beginner should aspire to play. Or a list you want to drop... whatever! Chime in. It's looking like a good day!

24 thoughts on “FMD: 5/17/1981 – We Bought A Piano!”

  1. Fun story.

    When my parents moved out of our family home, the two piano movers had to basically flip the upright piano while going down the stairs (we had a split level). My mother was practically shitting bricks. Finally one of the movers (while engaged in this maneuver) said, Ma'am, we do this every day, that's why you are paying us. She shut up and the piano was successfully moved.

    1. That was the method we were going to use. We only had a handful of steps, had we needed to.

  2. So I'm definitely considering going to this Wilco thing in January. Wilco, Courtney Barnett, Dr. Dog, Yo La Tengo and others. 4 days of music, beach, sun, unlimited alcohol all at the end of January.

    I was planning on going to Machu Picchu next March or April so this would take the place of that both time wise and money wise. My thinking is that Machu Picchu will always be there but I probably don't have many weekend long rock and drink fests left in me.

    Of course there are ethical issues with these all inclusive resorts in places like Mexico but I would probably be able to overlook those.

    And while the Wilco thing will be cheaper than Machu Picchu, it's still a tidy sum of $$$ to pay for a 4 day vacation.

    So not, sure delay Machu Picchu for a couple of years for something hedonistic or grow up a bit and forget about the sex, drugs, sun, and rock and roll and continue on my spiritual path that Machu Picchu calling out. (This is what the ex-girlfriend would refer to as a #DeanWorldProblem.

  3. Last night I helped a friend reposition a piano in a room where he was having new floor installed. We talked about how warm the sound was, and he said how he did not know the manufacturer, and thought it might have been built ~1940 or so. I took a photo of the nameplate on it, and found the serial # as well, and exercised my position within the Ministry of Information Retrieval:

    'Spoiler' SelectShow
    1. Cool. I might see about tracking mine down. The owner we bought it from said it had been her grandma's before that, and she expected it was new in the 1940's.

      Ours does not have a "warm" sound. It has a "that really needs to be tuned" sound.

      1. My mother & Pa obtained a tired-but-solid secondhand baby grand one year and gave it to the family for Christmas. I was in high school, so I never really learned to play much, but I enjoyed learning a few things. Fast forward eighteen months or so, and I’m playing it one evening while some family friends are over. I notice one of the lower strings is getting pretty flat, and decide I’ll bring it up a bit. Pa had been a piano tuner at one point, and still had his tools. I’d never tuned a piano before, but Pa’s philosophy on these things was “Figure it out.” I’d watched him tune it after it was moved into the living room, and I played stringed instruments, so I figured I’d be fine.

        The sound when one of those ancient bass strings lets go is something else. I wasn’t abusing it or anything — the string was just really old, and so it did what really old strings do. It snapped near the tuning pin. Fortunately, I had the lid closed, because one of our friends was sitting at the foot of the piano; nevertheless, he was quite startled.

  4. 01. "Up All Night" – Parquet CourtsSunbathing Animal
    02. "Sarah" – WeenPure Guava
    03. "skin" – absinthe fathergood enough
    04. "Come Get To This (Alternative Mix)" – Marvin GayeLet's Get It On
    05. "Should Have Known Better" – Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell
    06. "All Along The Watchtower" – Bob DylanJohn Wesley Harding
    07. "Tears For The Sheep" – AtmosphereLucy Ford
    08 "Nevada, California" – The JayhawksHollywood Town Hall
    09. "All The World Is Green" – Tom WaitsBlood Money
    10. "Watch On Mute" – P.S. EliotSadie

  5. Speaking of pianos, I just picked one up!

    Okay, it's just an electric one, but we needed something with the full 88 and the ability to play more than two notes at once (we just had an old small keyboard from the 80s with limited abilities).

    1. Nice. You play? Tips for us newbies? Were their specific purposes you picked it up for, other than the obvious "just having it?" (you used the word "needed" which maybe implies some specific reasons?)

      1. In order:

        -No, only guitar (well, drums and bass too). I've often maintain that guitar is one of the easiest instruments to fake. If I could pick any instrument to be great at, it would be piano because if you have a mastery of that, that means you understand music theory in and out. I... do not have that knowledge.
        -Tips? Nope. Give me yours.
        -The reason is there's a piano class through our city's ("Village", according to the BS that suburbs call themselves around here) parks program, but all we had was a mini keyboard from the 80s that couldn't play more than two notes at a time (as mentioned). We needed something with a bit more oomph. Thankfully the wife tracked down one for $20!

  6. My mom is a wonderful piano player. She played all the way through college and would occasionally pull out her old sheet music and play some for us.

    Both my brother and I took piano lessons for years. I generally liked it, and both of us enjoyed getting to the point that we could sight-read a simple melody (My brother is now much better than me, as he carried on to be a music major).

    Piano recitals are always good for a story. We had one at the local nursing home and while we waited for our turn, the old lady in front of us loudly declared "They aren't doing so well today, are they?" to her neighbor. When my brother started, she did admit "this one is a little better." Which is a pretty solid review for an 8-year old.

    Anyway, we have an electric piano that gets very little use as we try to figure out how to get the little guy interested in music lessons of some kind.

  7. We had a second-hand upright growing up and I took lessons (without *really* learning to read music) for probably 6 years. I hated practicing piano and had to compete with three other siblings for access to the keys, so I was able to trade piano for guitar (short-lived and I lost the guitar to my sister when I enlisted and she moved to CA) and choir. Always wanted to take piano up again, even more so with Kernel (and Niblet ... eventually) at the right age to take lessons.

    Wife and I agreed to buy our neighbors Sohmer Spinet last spring in anticipation of their move to a smaller place (they're grandparents verging on great-grandparenthood). Negotiated a price to include consideration that we didn't really need a piano (and hadn't budgeted for it) plus the neighborly relationship/their need to get rid of it/desire to get it to a good home and the reality that none of us wanted to move it ourselves. Combined unit cost + moving charge was a bit more than $75. However, it's a very nice instrument and worth well more than we paid and the movers were in-and-out in less than an hour.

    The kids and I plink on it most days, but never with any consistency or duration, and it's certainly not practice. Hoping my Sister-in-Law will actually follow through on her promise to give lessons.

  8. Does everyone else play air piano during the solo in "Great Balls of Fire", or is it just me?

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