How Is The Piano Headstock?
In today’s article, we will analyze something very important for the repair of pianos. It is the anatomy of the piano headstock because of the consultation referred by a piano teacher. This is a piece about which we know little or we have erroneous knowledge and we do not know well what function it fulfills.
It anchors the piano strings on the piano pegs element. These have two main functions:
1) It maintains and supports the tension of the ropes.
2) It allows it to tune the piano.
Every piano tuner must place the tuning key on each of the tuning pegs to perform his or her task. Turning the key one way or the other varies the strings tension and thus tunes the piano.
One of the erroneous beliefs regarding the pegbox is to assume that the pegbox is a metal piece and that it embeds the pegs in the metal.
This error is common because at first glance you can only see the surface layer of the pegbox, made of metal. However, the pegbox is a special piece of wood that goes behind this metallic piece. That is the harp or the plate and that in the sector in which it comes into contact with the pegbox has a tiny thickness.
Piano Dowels and Headsets
The harp is a piece of cast iron and has holes in the area where the pegs go. Behind this is a piece of wood, with a special shape and construction, which we call the pegbox. In referring to this same subject a piece of pegbox wood is visible and in the thickness and constitution of the same.
We call the pegbox multi-laminated wood. This is because they form it by several layers of wood superimposed with the fibers of each layer crossed regarding the previous one.
At first glance, besides the harp, we can see a piece of wood around the peg, but they are bushings. They place there a wooden washer and does not form part of the pegbox.
We can observe the head of the pegs, which is the part that protrudes from the pegbox; the pegs also have a blue glue whose surface has a fine roughness. Which allows it to hold well to the wood of the pegbox in all its extension.
That the pegbox wood is multi-laminated allows the tail of the peg to remain firm despite the strings tension. And that the piano tuner can vary the strings tension. By turning them on their own axis with the tuning key on the head of the pegs.
Although very rare, moisture can damage the headstock of a piano or suffer severe cracks. When this happens, it is so expensive to replace, that the piano becomes disposable. Except in pianos of high quality or grand pianos that change the headstock. In pianos of lower quality, I do not do this because it is a very expensive job. That would not justify the cost of the piano in carrying out that work.
Changing the pegbox implies removing all the strings and pegs. Disassembling the piano at the back or in some pianos disassembling the harp, removing the pegbox. Making a new pegbox to measure and then reassembling everything again. So you can have an idea that this is a titanic task. It can make the change of pegbox in these cases but the cost of the work does not justify, we repeat, the cost of the piano.
One of the first audible manifestations of a piano whose headstock has broken is that it does not support tunings at 440 Hz. or is down in pitch. The technicians of pianos say in these cases that “the pegs are loose”. Because when tensioning the strings by the pegs the same ones return to their original position because they do not support the tension.
Is The Pitch Alright
One of the most important evaluations to make when buying a piano is to hear if it is in pitch, at 440 Hz. If the pitch is more or less stable if it is not out of tune. Although pianos get out of tune and maybe for a while when the out of tune is bad, and the piano sounds terrible. It is because it is not only out of tune but also has a damaged pegbox. Not tuned for many years and become out of tune.
This article from our school for learning to tune pianos This is not to be more than a brief introduction to the characteristics of the piano headstock, its function and some of its most common defects. And we will leave for another future article an in-depth study of other types of problems in relation to this subject.