Of Mice, Pianos and Garages

Mice love pianos.  Pianos are easy access for mice and other little critters, with lots of hiding places and nesting spaces.  Mice especially seem to enjoy the area underneath the keys — the key bed.  I don’t know if they do this or not, but from this proximity if a little mouse wanted to, he could watch you sitting at the keyboard through the cracks between the keys.  Lovely thought.

Mice also love garages.  Garages, too, are frequently easy access for mice.  They also have plenty of wonderful places in which to stay out of sight, BUT. . . a mouse who finds a garage with a piano stored in it comes into an exceptional blessing.

I remember a lady calling Barber Piano Service several years ago who had a piano she wanted tuned for her ten year old son, so he could learn to play.  She told me that she had kept the piano in her garage for the past ten years. Unfortunately, when she moved it through the patio door into the lower level of her home, she discovered that it not only needed a serious tuning, but that it had a serious odor about it also.  She wondered if I could help.

When I opened the top of her the piano, so I could see the action and the back portion of the keys,  I saw many spots of dried urine and several gnawed keys.  One key was gnawed almost completely through.  When I opened the bottom of the piano down by the peddles and the south end of the strings, there before my eyes was a virtual mousey sewerage treatment plant.  I showed these things to the lady, and she immediately understood why it is not a good idea to store a piano in a garage (or a barn, or a shed . . . .).   By the time I cleaned up this mess, rebuilt the worst of the gnawed keys, pitch raised and tuned the piano a few times, the cost to this dear mother was high.

We can extract two cardinal rules from this anecdote:  First, NEVER BUY A PIANO THAT HAS BEEN STORED IN A GARAGE  (unless you know how to open a piano and inspect it.  If you don’t know how to do this, go to http://www.pianotuning.com/products/books.htm  and buy a copy of How to Buy a Good Used Piano by Willard Leverett and read it.  It will take an hour or two, and be well worth your time).  Second, NEVER STORE A PIANO IN A GARAGE  (unless you don’t like the piano and want get rid of it anyway, or you love mice and want to be of kindly service to them).

I submit these thoughts as one who has ” been there and done that.”  You are now warned.  Take heed.

Till next time,

Dick Barber,  Registered Piano Technician

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