Claude Montal (1800-1865) was an extraordinary man. Blinded by illness at the age of five, he taught himself to tune and repair pianos, and wrote the definitive work on that subject in 1836, revising his book shortly before his death in 1865. He also became a successful piano manufacturer and innovator, patenting several of his inventions, and receiving numerous awards and medals for his work.
His book was aimed at both professionals and complete novices – his title was The Art of Tuning Your Own Piano Yourself – so he wrote in a very basic, direct and detailed way, describing everything very vividly. He went far beyond the topic of piano tuning, providing advice on how to judge the quality of an instrument and how well it was built, how to care for a piano, how to do most of the necessary repairs to keep it functioning well, even instructions for packing a piano in a crate for moving. He included a detailed history of the piano, with a special emphasis on the early 19th century, and a thorough mathematical account of the problems of tuning and temperament.
The most extensive section gives step-by-step instructions for the repairs needed to maintain a piano, from replacing parchment hinges and broken springs and strings to re-covering hammers and regulation.
On this site, you will find
In the coming weeks, additional materials about Claude Montal will become available here, all in English or translated into English:
Each of the pages of this site is laid out with links to download pdf files of materials at the top, followed by text files of the same material below. In part, this is for the convenience of readers who may be blind or sight-impaired. This makes it possible to read on line, or select all text and copy it, then paste it into the format of your choice for reading off line.
In the summer of 2015, in connection with the release of the translation, Fred Sturm prepared a presentation of the life of Claude Montal, in its setting of mid 19th century Paris. A video of that presentation can be seen here.
During 2015, the 150th anniversary of Montal's death, a year-long series of commemorative events was prepared by l'Atelier d'Euterpe, taking place in Paris and throughout France, with parallel events in the United States. Following that commemorative year, they established a website devoted to Claude Montal and his life (in French).