If I ever have to torture anyone – for, you know, information, or whatever – I plan to buy a really crappy old piano and lock my subject in a small room while it’s bashed back into tune. Seriously, I had no idea what an untuneful process tuning a piano would be. Yes, I do realise I sound like a complete idiot, but bear with me. I mean, you’ve already glossed over the idea that I might one day need to have someone tortured, so you may as well suspend your disbelief a little longer.
I’ll go back to the beginning. To the part where I am not from a musical family. See, the piano-tuning comment is starting to make sense already, isn’t it? By chance, I married someone who is from a musical family. And by the laws of genetics, our children inherited a modicum of musical – well, I won’t go so far as to say “talent”. Let’s stick with “enthusiasm”.
Having persevered at their piano lessons for over a year, we decided to reward the children with an upgrade from the flea market electronic keyboard they were previously practising on. I’m not sure they felt entirely rewarded once they realised that they couldn’t press a button on the real piano to make it sound like a set of drums or a very squeaky guitar, but at least the bottom five keys don’t give out a haunted house style multi-octave crash every time you touch them.
Scary. Which brings us to the bargain charity shop piano I recently bought, and the need to have it tuned. In hindsight, maybe I should have learned by now that flea markets and resale shops are not necessarily the best places for the purchase of fine musical instruments, but hey, the pianists of the family are six and seven. And I’m practically tone deaf, so, whatever.
I had expected the tuning process to go a bit like this: <slightly offkey> “plink, plink.” Listen. Fiddle in the depths of the piano. <less offkey> “plink, plink”. Repeat until tuneful.
Nooo. Whatever TV show gave me that idea must have been the piano-tuning equivalent of the geology expert on Bones or CSI announcing, in revelatory tones, “It’s sedimentary sandstone.”
Instead, picture one of those toddler music lessons where every kid is allowed to bash his or her plastic instrument with as much force as possible. Substitute real instruments and a construction crew in this scenario and imagine the noise. That’s what tuning a piano is like. I swear, at one point, I discovered the resonant frequency of my sinuses.
And after a six-month interval of listening to halting, back-to-back repetitions of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, I get to have the device tuned all over again. I feel so lucky my children are musically inclined.