Piano Tuning by Jim Selleck, Brighton, Michigan

Piano Tuning by Jim Selleck, Brighton, Michigan Piano Tuning and Repair Services in S.E. Michigan Please visit the web site for more information: www.selleckpiano.com

Operating as usual


The newly redesigned web site is UP and running! Now visitors to selleckpiano.com will experience a new "responsive" view designed to display equally well on screens, tablet/pads, and phones.

Also, the site is now "secure", meaning when you use the "Email Jim" form everything you type, including Personal Identification information like your email address, phone number, and home address, is encrypted and protected from prying hacker eyes.

The new site has been in testing most of this week, and we discovered a problem for users with Apple devices such as iPads, iPhones, and Mac computers using Safari browser. That issue has been FIXED as of this afternoon.

Still plenty of spaces on the fall schedule, so if your piano is due, give me a call or go on the web site and use the spiffy new "Email Jim" page.

This afternoon in Novi - practicing safe piano tuning in the playroom.

This afternoon in Novi - practicing safe piano tuning in the playroom.


What a summer 2020 has been. With more people staying at home, pianos are being dusted off and - along with the kids, lots of adults who always meant to get around to learning to play, are giving it a go.

But despite pandemic fears starting to ease, we all remain cautious about gatherings and social distancing. More and more piano teachers are offering to give lessons online using Internet sites and tools like YouTube and Zoom.

Meanwhile I am back to visiting homes to wrangle the pianos back into tune. But lately I've been getting a lot of calls from folks who didn't realize how far out of tune their piano had gone until they tried to play along with a teacher on the computer and discovered their instrument had drifted so far off-key it was impossible.

How does this happen, where a piano can still sound "pretty good" by itself, but still be totally off key?

It happens all the time. Of course, it depends on the individual piano, the materials used and the build quality, and how stable the humidity and temperature are in your home. But in general, all of the notes in the instrument will tend to drift off key more or less together. In the summer, your whole piano will tend to go sharp - all of the notes - as the sound board absorbs moisture in the air. And in the winter, it will tend to go flat due to dryness. Over longer periods of time (years), most pianos will tend to go flat as the stretched steel strings naturally lose tension.

This is why the manufacturer of your piano recommends it be tuned twice a year. In most homes, I say once per year is sufficient, but realistically, life happens and before you know it, 2, 5, or 10 years has passed since the last tuning.

Still, even after all that time, the piano can sound "pretty good" when played by itself, despite being terribly off key. You just don't know until you fire up the computer and try to play along with your teacher - suddenly you're all "OMG"!

Time to call the tuner.


I frequently receive inquiries on my web site (www.selleckpiano.com) regarding repair of player pianos. Today I wrote a little historical explanation of the different types for a customer, and thought I would share it here:

Hello Mary,

I do indeed have experience fixing player pianos. However, must say at the outset that many of the older ones are not worth fixing because of the very high potential cost vs limited resale value. Of course, some pianos have non-monetary historical value or family heirloom value that cannot be quantified, so that's always a decision for the owner.

Player pianos fall into general categories. The oldest pneumatic mechanical marvels may have been built before 1900. Most commonly I see them from 1910-1940. The usable life of the air-tight components of those oldest player pianos (hoses, leather valve pouches, pneumatic bellows, etc) is about 30-40 years. Most of them simply stopped working due to air leaks before 1970-1980. If they are working today, it's because somebody rebuilt them after 1960-70. Rebuilding a player mechanism (depending on the type) is extremely time and labor intensive, and parts are becoming more rare. I have quoted customers up to $20,000 for a mechanical rebuild of an antique player piano, and estimated the time required at 7-10 months.

The next generation of air-driven player pianos appeared starting in the late 1960's and they were built using newer synthetic materials (neoprene rather than rubber, etc) and their components tend to last longer. I have seen many newer players from the 1970's and 80's that are still holding vacuum well and do not require rebuilding yet. Most of those late-20th century models came from the factory motorized, using an electric vacuum pump as an alternative to the manual pedals.

The final generation of player pianos are all electronic. They started appearing in the 1980's and the oldest units use cassette tapes instead of punched paper rolls. The next generation after that used floppy disks, then CDs, and if you buy a brand new player piano today, you download the songs on your phone and magically send them over to the piano wirelessly via Bluetooth.

The first step in determining whether or not your player can be (or should be) fixed is figuring out its age and type.

Another baby grand piano brought back into service after being damaged by movers who did not have experience or knowledg...

Another baby grand piano brought back into service after being damaged by movers who did not have experience or knowledge of how to move a grand piano properly.

If you are moving to a new home, please either hire a specialist in piano moving, or verify that your mover has experience and an understanding of how to move pianos. Grand pianos in particular require special treatment and handling including removal and separate protection for the legs, pedals, and lid.

Its great to be back to visiting customers to get their pianos back in shape, albeit with a few changes to keep things a...

Its great to be back to visiting customers to get their pianos back in shape, albeit with a few changes to keep things as clean and germ-free as practical.

Yesterday I tended to Jerry's 100+ year-old Cable-Nelson player piano. Jerry is a professional piano player and had been keeping the piano maintained regularly until about 12 years ago when his previous tuner passed away.

Now, he's ready to do some YouTube concerts using the big old piano to take advantage of its booming voice (you just can't find the same great sound on a digital piano), however the instrument needed some repair. At least 8 keys were either not working, working poorly, or making weird buzzing noises.

I had my work cut out for me, but fortunately had all of the necessary parts and pieces and tools in my kit to get all 88 keys back to full function. Bring on the concerts!

Pictured below are the harp of the piano just after removal of the player mechanism and the piano "action" (yes, if you have sharp eyes, there are 3 strings missing) and the action itself set up on Jerry's dining room table during the repair process.


Available to tune up your piano now.

As life slowly returns above ground here on Planet Michigan, I have resumed making appointments. Things have changed, of course, and your kids may now be communicating with their piano teacher via a laptop or even a phone screen. If so, that makes it even more important for the pitch of your piano to match that of the instructor.

Call 810-360-3896


The curve is flattening - but is it safe to have your piano tuned?

As I type these words, tomorrow will be May 1st, 2020, and what a March and April it has been! Most of us have been staying at home, practicing social distancing, and doing whatever we can to inhibit the spread of the C-19 virus. Meanwhile increasingly louder voices shout conflicting messages from all sides, and nobody can seem to agree on the best and safest way for us all to get back to work and school and life in general.

It's nearly impossible to filter out the noise to isolate the truth at this point, and your conclusions may be different than mine, but I am considering the following points to be probably right.

1. Covid-19 is highly communicable because it is new (novel) and therefore most of us don't carry protective antibodies.

2. Most people who catch it simply recover. Kids and healthy adults are pretty much not in danger of dying, except for rare exceptions where the disease progresses to a pneumonia stage, which is always serious and potentially fatal.

3. Older folks and anyone with a preexisting health condition that has weakened them are in danger from C-19. We continue to exercise caution and to observe extraordinary sanitation measures primarily to protect them from being exposed.

4. We know now that many people may be infected with C-19 without having any symptoms. We are not certain if asymptomatic carriers are also potential "spreaders" of the disease, but based on the way nursing homes have experienced rapid infection even without allowing symptomatic visitors, its seems likely that you can be breathing out droplets containing the virus even if you are feeling fine. This is why wearing masks in public buildings and continued social distancing are responsible decisions.

5. Doctors are actively working to develop drugs and possible vaccines for C-19. There are positive indications from around the world that certain drugs and therapies may be helpful in mitigating the symptoms (reducing contagion) and most importantly in helping patients resist the disease, recovering faster, and potentially avoiding the potentially deadly pneumonia stage.

6. There is no way to stop the spread of C-19 entirely. The most we can do is to try to manage our resources by slowing the spread for a time while we ready better defenses. We have done so. At some point the normal progression will continue until enough of us develop natural immunity sufficient to slow it down naturally. Shortly after that we should have vaccines to help protect those most vulnerable.

I see positive news among the negative. Nevertheless we are most definitely not out of the woods and likely will not be back to a place where everyone feels "safe" for several more months.

But continuing to keep large portions of our lives completely "on-hold" is not a viable option. Therefore, various businesses and services are being allowed to resume operations on a limited, phased basis. Everyone is being encouraged to behave responsibly to avoid needlessly spreading C-19 any faster than necessary.

So what about having a technician come into your home to service the piano? Well, first of all, don't do it if you feel in any way apprehensive about the possibility of contagion, because nobody can provide an absolute guarantee that their body, tools and clothing are 100% sanitized. The piano will not be damaged by waiting another 2 or 3 months to get it tuned.

As your piano technician, I offer assurance that, as I resume visits to customers' homes, I am observing extraordinary measures including frequent hand washing, frequent disinfection of my tools and tool cases using solutions containing chemicals we know degrade C-19. Also, I will immediately cancel all appointments if I am showing symptoms of any respiratory condition.

While in your home, I will observe social distancing and will clean any surfaces I touch with disinfectant. If you request it, I will wear a mask.

But... even given all those common-sense precautions, I can not guarantee you that I will not unintentionally bring C-19 into your home, just as you cannot guarantee that I won't come into contact with the virus from someone in your home who is unknowingly contagious. The risk level cannot be reduced to zero.

I am comfortable with resuming operations at this time on a limited basis, not more than one customer visit per day. Only you can determine, in discussion with the members of your household, what is your personal acceptable risk level.

The decision is yours.


Is your piano a vector for viruses?

Probably not, but germs like coronavirus can live on surfaces like your piano keys. If a contagious person sneezes or coughs and leaves fluid droplets behind, it could be possible to pick those up on your fingers for up to 48 hours.

The good news is there is no reason to nail the lid shut on your piano during flu season, and by using a few simple common-sense procedures and precautions, no reason not to have your piano teacher or piano tuner come to the house.

As the CDC tells us, we don't know everything about coronavirus just yet, but we do know that washing hands thoroughly with soap is a fantastic start toward avoiding spreading it. So, as your piano tuner, my first action is to do just that between visits to customer homes, just as I always have, only perhaps a little more carefully.

We know that disinfectants containing alcohol work well too, so its not a bad idea to spray a little Lysol around your piano, but be careful not to get too much on it, both for the sake of the furniture finish and to avoid saturating the felts.

Disinfectant hand wipes can be used on the keys as well, but again, always avoid getting too much moisture down around and between the keys. Its bad news if the wood absorbs enough moisture to warp, and just as bad if the felt bushings get too wet.

Better might be to have all players use hand sanitizer before and after playing, and of course, everyone needs to get out of the habit of touching their faces.

That's all I have to recommend. Epidemics can be scary, but we can still enjoy making music during the adventure if we just exercise a little of that old fashioned common sense.


Today I tuned a fairly unusual and fun piano. A blast from the 1970's past for sure! This 1978 Marantz Pianocorder is one of the first digital player pianos that used cassette tapes. It also had the unique (at the time) ability to RECORD the performance of any player on a cassette tape. That means in addition to the usual set of actuators that push up the back of each key for playing, it ALSO has a complete set of sensors to be able to capture the player actions on the keyboard and pedals. Very cool early digital electronic technology!


Piano tuning and repair services are uninterrupted and unaffected by the current rash of fear and panic that has overtaken the public at large. Its flu season. We do what we do every year. Spray disinfectant on touched surfaces, wash hands, use hand sanitizer, avoid touching our faces. Business as usual. Call me. I'll come to your house. If the kids start coughing, postpone. No big deal. Same as every year at this time.


Happy 2020 to everyone!!

New year note: a common problem with upright pianos happens when you set a pencil down on the music desk and afterward it rolls unnoticed down into the piano action. Said pencil may then adversely affect the operation of one or more adjacent keys.

I call the removal of pencils from the piano action a "Pencilectomy" to make it sound kind of like a medical procedure.

I perform pencil removals at no charge for my tuning customers as a courtesy, but mostly because I love saying the phrase:

"Pencilectomies are free."

Is your piano sounding farther out of tune this fall than usual?  If you live in Michigan, that's not surprising.  It's ...

Is your piano sounding farther out of tune this fall than usual? If you live in Michigan, that's not surprising. It's the damp weather we've had this year.

I haven't looked at the statistics, but the sheer number of pianos I have encountered in the last 6 weeks with very sharp notes in the tenor and lower treble sections speaks of a heck of a lot of humidity in the air this year. That humidity has been absorbed by piano soundboards resulting in swelling of the wood, pushing the bridges out and tightening the strings. This raises the pitch most noticeably in the area where the soundboard has its largest surface area, the lower middle.

And as it happens, when those particular notes (in roughly the left hand octave down below middle-C) go sharp relative to the rest of the piano, the result is a really awful sound.

Of course, your tuner can readily reduce the tension to bring those sharp strings back down into lovely harmonious intonation with the rest of the instrument, but its not quite that easy. The challenge lies also in the weather.

Michigan winters are dry. Well, the air is. And unless you have a really good humidifier servicing the room where you keep your piano, the soundboard is going to tend to shrink back down, making those same notes go flatter than usual.

So in a year like this we tuners are faced with some tricky decisions. Sometimes, if we can, we may try to leave those formerly-sharp notes just a LITTLE bit sharp, knowing that by November or December they very likely will ease back down a bit, potentially bringing the piano closer in tune and reducing how far it has to be brought back up to pitch if you have a winter or spring tuning done.

It's tricky alright, but there is a way to avoid these problems. If you can put the piano in a place where the humidity remains pretty much constant all year round (wood tends to most like about 45%) and does not change significantly, your piano will tend to stay much closer in tune between tunings, and your piano technician will be much happier too.


Tamarack Dr At Cowell Rd
Brighton, MI

Opening Hours

Monday 09:00 - 21:00
Tuesday 09:00 - 21:00
Wednesday 18:00 - 21:00
Thursday 18:00 - 21:00
Friday 18:00 - 21:00
Saturday 09:00 - 21:00
Sunday 08:00 - 21:00


(810) 360-3896


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