We often get calls to follow up on difficult to find noises. Today I was called to service a piano with a particularly interesting left, shift or una-corda pedal squeak noise which happened as the pedal was depressed.
The source for noises is often not at the most obvious location. For instance, I find that many or maybe even most pedal squeaks are not at the pedal or lyre at all. Often times I will trace to noise backward from the top of the system which is associated with the noise. Pedals move things. Pedals are connected to underlevers which shift or lift other parts. Often it is where parts meet that noises can be found. Unfortunately not all are easily identified or found so that homeowners or persons other than piano technicians may not have easy access to them.
A good lesson is to put down the WD40 spray can. That belongs in the garage where there are many good uses for it. There really are not any reasons to use it on a piano that are safe at least. Some piano lubricants are viscous pastes for use in high friction contact points. These products that we regularly use for pedal to pedal rod, pedal rod to underlever, pitman dowel, shift arm, dag, return spring or keyframe glide bolts are particularly well suited for such high friction places. There are many more sources for sounds to eminate from than the obvious. Better to find the source before spraying anything that may not help at all.
Today’s noise was not in the pedal system at all. It was coming from the contact of a capstan screw (a round brass nut) which is designed to keep the action stable during transport which is secured to the hammer rail. Not all pianos have this. It is more commonly found on newer Asian pianos. This otherwise useless capstan screw was turned up to contact the underside of the pinblock to help stabilize the action when being shipped. As the shift or una-corda pedal was used the capstan was dragged against the underside of the maple pinblock as the action was shifted with each pedal movement along with the keyboard making the awful noise as it slid left to right and back with pedal travel causing an odd and irritating brass-to-wood sqeaking, creeking sound.
This was just another intersting noise to track down and eliminate. There have been so many found over the years. Sometimes buzzes, zings or rattles are not even at the piano. If there is a snare drum or harp in the room they will react insympathy to frequencies the piano produces as will many other things.
Leg ferrules, caster stems, hinge pins (at the case or continuous hinge), prop stick pin or any number of things might be the source of a zing, buzz, squeak or other noise.
Sometimes extra bad buzzes might require the help of a second person to play keys which set off the buzz while the other person hunts. Debris on the soundboard, loose bass string windings, loose soundboard, separated rib….on and on it goes. There are many possibilities. It is always a good day though when the problem is put to rest and we can get back to enjoying sound that comes from the piano instead of the distraction of obnoxious noises.