When I go from tuning a Steinway Grand to an old beat-up spinet, I get the aural bends. While I’m in this frame of mind, people should never make the mistake of asking what I think of these little mutants because I am no longer tactful. I don't care at all how emotionally attached a person is to grandma's spinet, that piano belongs at the curb, piece by piece if necessary. If grandma is still alive and objects, put her at the curb, too. It's all her fault.
Sometimes, as I am standing before a little beast and am asked "Can you fix this piano?" I have been known to answer "Do you believe in miracles?" Once I was so overwhelmed by the weird sounds coming out of the guts of the spinet, I said, "This piano doesn't need a tuner, it needs an exorcist." I was so absolutely appalled at the state of a woman’s spinet that when she asked "Can this piano be saved" I remember answering, "Only if it can repeat the Sinner’s Prayer." Press me to rate an old, beat-up spinet from one to ten, I'm likely to say "Minus 2." When it comes to these spinets, people imagine that you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but it can’t be done. IT’S A SOW’S EAR, PEOPLE, AND WILL REMAIN A SOW’S EAR NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO! The only use for these old beat-up pianos is target practice.
A psychotherapist asked me what I thought of his spinet after wrestling with the ogre for several hours. I answered, "One more piano like yours and I'll end up on your couch."
One time I opened up the top of a spinet that was a minor third down in pitch and so horrendous in all ways, it no longer qualified as a musical instrument. It had a split right across the pin block. I remember saying, “Whoever took an axe to this piano had the right idea."
People's piano vocabulary never cease to amaze me. In one old spinet whose plastic elbows were shattering thus preventing the hammers from playing, the lady said, "My knockers don't work." I answered, "Sorry to hear that, but let's talk about the piano."
I will never understand how these people keep having me back. In fact, a spinet-owner whose jack springs were breaking one by one, asked me to tune her piano recently but, mercifully, my car was in the shop. She offered to pay round trip for a cab. I told her that I had a broken leg. Then she told me that she's giving grandma’s old spinet to her daughter so the grandkids can take lessons. Here we go again with that grandma thing. If she knows how bad the piano is, why would she give it to family just because it was grandma’s? I told the woman to give that spinet to someone she hates.
Even a new spinet can be a tinny monstrosity. A late client of mine, Les Paul, that legend who invented multi-track recording and the solid body electric guitar that launched the whole rock movement, once told me, proudly, “Baldwin is putting out a Les Paul spinet.”
I looked at him in horror and said, “And you’re letting them?” He was shaken by my response and quickly said, “Well, maybe it’s a console.” Yeah, right.
I instructed my daughter that when I die, please inscribe across the top of my headstone, Death By Spinet, because that will undoubtedly be the cause.