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2012 RPT Logo Masterprint (1)-page-001.j
  • Writer's pictureMilton Horne

Pianos as tiny homes (Reason number twenty five--even in the city)

Even though some of the larger vertical pianos I have serviced over the years could just about pass as a feature in a "tiny home” viewbook, I have in mind a different kind of resident. The most common squatters I encounter are neither wasps (the common "mud-dauber”) nor moths (only detectable under keys and on hammer felt). I'm talking about peromyscus maniculatus, the common field mouse, or deer mouse. Yes, they like pianos, largely because of the ample nest-building materials available.

You'd never see this if you were only tuning a vertical piano, because, from that vantage point-- the piano may only be opened from the top with the front board removed--much is obscured. In the present case, there was no mistaking a mysterious presence (an odor, probably) as I observed damper felt and back-check felt gnawed to bits. Suspicions aroused, my search yielded a couple of nests of the sort seen in the accompanying photo: not one home, but two: a summer playground and a winter cozy. One near the protective outcropping of the bass cheek block, the other behind the knee-board, nestled under the beach umbrella of a damper pedal.

Usually, it's not just a cozy nest that is in evidence, either, but a trail of other leavings: some detectable from the green discoloration on the wound (bass) strings, others from the literal lines that look like trailing ants on the bottom board, from the "summer home” to the miniature opening through which the critters enter the instrument (mouse turds, of course--ugh). Where are my mask and nitrile gloves when I encounter these? Nowhere near, to be sure. Clients are always mortified, of course, as though you'd discovered some salacious habit of their distant uncle Hank. Ever had a mouse in your piano? It's reason number twenty-five to have your piano serviced regularly. Oh, you can tell the truth. We're all friends, here. :)

The winter cozy... ahem.

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