Wednesday, 14 November 2018


Tuned up a glossy black Schimmel a few weeks back. The serial number places it around 1985, so fairly modern in comparison to most of the pianos we see.

Unfortunately, we lost a bass string in the process - first time that's happened. Thanks to Hellerbass and their trusty tape measure, we were able to order a new one to fit. Post can take a while here, so we sent it to the owner's sister in France, who was coming out to visit. All neatly installed - can you spot the shiny odd one out?

Friday, 9 November 2018

Second Hand Shipment

After giving her TEDx talk in Luxembourg, Marion returned via The Hague to visit family. They have a lovely pier there, and at the end of the pier, a piano looking out at the sea.

Of course, her first instinct was to open it up and see what was inside. Looks like a pre-bombing Dresden-made piano.


Cute Little Handle Detail
Not in too shoddy condition. Certainly a lot better than the grand we saw in Bukavu.

There are so many abandoned and unwanted pianos. When Marion was in the UK earlier in the year, her father mentioned a piano sitting on the street waiting to be taken to the tip. Gumtree and Craigslist are full of unwanted instruments looking for new homes, and we regularly get people asking us whether shipping second-hand pianos to Rwanda would be a good idea.

It would be a lovely idea - a very lovely one - but unfortunately impractical.

Although the pianos are often free, getting them to the docks, hiring a shipping container, then getting them overland from the port in Kenya to landlocked Rwanda is certainly not cheap, not to mention the import duty we'd be looking at.

On top of that, the type of pianos being given away sometimes have serious issues, such as broken or rusted bass strings, slipping tuning pins or rotting hammers. At the moment, we need to import fairly costly parts to fix all of those issues, and again pay duty.

By the time you add everything up, it's more cost effective for us to continue trying to build pianos here, and looking for new solutions to some of the parts we need to import. And, although it would be wonderful to have a stock of old pianos from Europe to refurbish, there are plenty of those lying around Kigali - it's just a case of convincing people to invest in their restoration.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

TEDx Luxembourg

Hi everyone. We've been a bit quiet. Marion was off giving a TEDx talk at the University of Luxembourg. There's a glossy, edited version coming in a few weeks, but you can catch the original talk on the livestream, here. Pianos are mentioned!

Monday, 22 October 2018

Measure Twice, String Once

Again, we were hoping to be able to shout about finishing stringing the piano, but we hit another snag. Turns out the replica frame isn't an exact copy of the original. This led to having to remove the backrest in the last post, so the bass strings reached the bridge pins.

The same issue of variation means the bass strings we ordered aren't a perfect fit. For the most part it doesn't make a noticeable difference, but for the last few, it does. We're going to have to measure again and order some replacements.

Also have a misalignment in a few of the bridge pins. Dés might be able to straighten this out, and it's another part of this being a prototype. We're making a lot of notes on how to do things better next time. So, we're getting there, but it's taking a bit longer than we'd hoped. 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Bringing it Forward

So, had a little hiccup when we started to string the bass section. The bridge pins on the lower-bass section were about 1 cm too far back for the wire. 


So, this morning Désiré and Paulin dropped by to fix the issue. Paulin works at Dés's carpentry business and is specifically helping Dés with all things piano-related. He was responsible for putting in many of the tuning pins.

That last one is Paulin reattaching the string frame after reducing the thickness off the wooden back rest. 

We think this came about because the string frame might not be an exact replica of the original Lirika. A slight difference in casting could be responsible for the issue. 

The guys worked really hard on this. It took around four hours to do it right, without disturbing any of the strings or tuning pins.

The bass section now fits the bridge pins properly and we can continue with the final stage of stringing.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018


We tweeted last week that we were off to tune our first Steinway in Kigali, but we got that a little wrong. It's actually a 1985 Grotrian-Steinweg. That's sort of a cousin of Steinway, and so often confused that there was a whole legal debate about it:

Grotrian-Steinweg's history dates back to 1835 when the first Steinweg piano factory was built by Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg (later known as Henry Steinway after his emigration to the US where he founded Steinway & Sons). In 1856, Friedrich Grotrian became a partner; in 1865 his son Wilhelm Grotrian and two associates bought the factory and the right to market their pianos as successors to the Steinweg brand. Ensuing generations of Grotrian family members led the company to become one of the finest piano manufacturers in Germany. Grotrian-Steinweg pianos were preferred by some famous pianists, and they received accolades at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Grotrian-Steinweg operated an orchestra and a concert hall, and established sales rooms in a half dozen major cities in Germany, and by 1920, in London as well. At its peak in the late 1920s, Grotrian-Steinweg employed 1,000 people and made 3,000 pianos per year... 

Grotrian-Steinweg sought to expand into the US in the mid-1960s. Steinway & Sons sued to prevent them from using the Steinweg name, resulting in a 1975 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The case set a precedent in describing "initial interest confusion": that the brand Grotrian-Steinweg could cause piano buyers to temporarily confuse its brand with the brand Steinway & Sons. The court ordered Grotrian-Steinweg to stop selling pianos in the US under the "Steinweg" name. Afterward, the company formed a business entity named Grotrian Piano Company to sell pianos in North America. - Wikipedia
Still, it was a very nice piano, in a house with a gorgeous view. A couple who moved here two months back. Always nice to see a new piano in Kigali.

Despite having been shipped halfway around the world, it held its tuning impressively, and whoever tuned it last was very thorough. Bought second hand in a shop in Italy, it's been around Europe, Asia and Kenya before here. 

It was an easy piano to work with and nicely designed. Had the easiest-to-remove mute rail ever invented. No fuss, just slide it out and back in.

We hope to see it in another six months when it needs a proper tuning.

Stopped to look at some lovely roadside flowers on the way home.