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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:24 am 
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My friend Marion Woolley is helping with a business startup in Kigali in Rwanda.
They're trying to build the first pianos built in Africa, for thirty years. That's how long it is since the last African piano manufacturer ceased to trade.
They are having trouble sourcing piano wire. Believe me - I've tried to help with this and it's as if no-one wants to know.
Even South African piano-wire companies can't be bothered to ship to Rwanda.

They have a supplier for Bass strings, but Treble strings are trouble. They have finally got a source for some sizes of treble strings, but not all the sizes needed.

Marion is trying to work out if it's possible to string all the 57 treble notes using limited sizes of piano-wire.

Here's a link to her blog.https://drive.google.com/file/d/1S_AkMQzHoZeGC-3hQ8NuJurSGzpZi7Re/view

Can anyone assist? Even pointing to a site that might help would be something!

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 1:54 pm 
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Innocent Bystander wrote:
Even South African piano-wire companies can't be bothered to ship to Rwanda.

I find that terribly surprising. Why on Earth would that be?

Wish I could be of direct help. But in about an hour, as it happens I've got a fellow stopping by who might be likely to know something about this; strings in general are his bread and butter, so piano wire sources might be in his bag of tricks, too.

Apropos of nothing else, have you checked your PMs, IB? You've got an old one there in your Inbox still waiting for you to open it. :wink:

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 6:01 am 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Innocent Bystander wrote:
Even South African piano-wire companies can't be bothered to ship to Rwanda.

I find that terribly surprising. Why on Earth would that be?


Since I’m more familiar with Africa than most Westeners, I can’t tell: is that sarcasm or not?


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 6:45 am 
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Innocent Bystander wrote:
They have a supplier for Bass strings, but Treble strings are trouble. They have finally got a source for some sizes of treble strings, but not all the sizes needed.

Marion is trying to work out if it's possible to string all the 57 treble notes using limited sizes of piano-wire.
Not without compromising the uniformity of sound through the gamut. You're trying to balance the inharmonicity (thick strings go "clang" where thin strings go "ping") and impedance (which affects how fast the energy from the string transfers to the soundboard) from string to string, while making sure the total tension on the strings isn't going to crush the piano. The more gauges you have, the more even you can make the transitions.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_acoustics looks like a good place to start. It has links to other resources, notably a paper by Arthur Benade.

I have an old spreadsheet somewhere that I used for planning harp strings that might be adaptable for the purpose. With pianos you have the additional complication of double and triple stringing. The spreadsheet does require an exact length for each string. How familiar with MS Excel is Marion?

Two factors may work in her favour. The upright piano is already a compromise, so the additional compromises she has to introduce may not be as noticeable. And I think that in a self-contained musical community, idiosyncrasies of a particular instrument model can become features of the communities music, rather than drawbacks.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 1:54 pm 
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AaronFW wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
Innocent Bystander wrote:
Even South African piano-wire companies can't be bothered to ship to Rwanda.

I find that terribly surprising. Why on Earth would that be?

Since I’m more familiar with Africa than most Westeners, I can’t tell: is that sarcasm or not?

Not. It was an honest question.

(Just as a point of personal style: If the above were to have been sarcasm, I would have appended a laughing smiley or some other that, in time-honored message board fashion, would erase any ambiguity and leave no doubt for the reader that it was, indeed, sarcasm. Just a note for future reference when it comes to how I roll with such things, if it helps. This is a message board; as such, the rigors of fine writing aren't a requirement. Smileys have good utility in this highly informal format and IMO do not debase one's writing so long as they're not used wantonly, but with purpose. They may not be for everybody, but for purposes of clarity on message boards, I find they have much to recommend them. :)

For example, that last smiley is intended to convey a friendly tone, because without it there is a real risk that some might take my tone as snooty. It is important enough to me that I would use a smiley so that I won't be mistaken.)

Anyway, I asked my friend about piano wire, and he said he knew people who might be able to lead to some sources in Africa that might serve, and that he would get back to me. Fingers crossed.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:39 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
AaronFW wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
I find that terribly surprising. Why on Earth would that be?


Since I’m more familiar with Africa than most Westeners, I can’t tell: is that sarcasm or not?

Not. It was an honest question.


Okay, I just wanted to make sure before answering.


Well, in short, every African nation except Ethiopia has been a colony of another nation, and recovery from colonization has looked and functioned differently for each nation. Rwanda has been doing amazing economically for the last several years, however, I think many question the means by which it is being done. Apart from getting outside investors (the West) to invest in Rwanda, there are a lot of things to be skeptical about. There are strong reasons to believe Rwanda is responsible for the continued instability of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and that they benefit a great deal economically from its instability.

Paul Kagame, the current leader of Rwanda, has been President since 2000. Prior to that, Kagame was the commander of the rebel force that ended the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. He was also responsible for a lot of the retaliation that happened after the Rwandan Genocide. (The West kinda ignored the retaliation somewhat because it didn't respond in a timely way to the Rwandan Genocide; so there was a lot of awkwardness regarding what to do about the retaliation. For the most part, it was primarily ignored.)

I myself don't trust Paul Kagame because of his past and history of being untrustworthy. I am also familiar enough with the situation in the DRC to be fairly confident that Rwanda does play a part in the current instability (though Kagame denies it).

I am conjecturing that South Africans and people from other countries might also have misgivings about Paul Kagame and Rwanda. So when Innocent Bystander said "They can't be bothered to ship to Rwanda"; there are probably negative feelings regarding Rwanda's past as well as Rwanda's current successes.

However, as I said, this is primarily my conjecture. I would be interested to know what someone from South Africa or another state in Africa would say.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:47 pm 
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Okay, thanks.

Well, here's hoping that pianos can be something that transcends politics. Naive of me, perhaps, but worth a shot.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 6:17 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Okay, thanks.

Well, here's hoping that pianos can be something that transcends politics. Naive of me, perhaps, but worth a shot.


I think musical instruments and other types of art have the best chance of anything to transcend politics. I think it is worth a shot.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:11 am 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Innocent Bystander wrote:
Even South African piano-wire companies can't be bothered to ship to Rwanda.

I find that terribly surprising. Why on Earth would that be?
It could just be that the time costs for sorting out a one-off international shipment to a new private customer (not a dealer) make it commercially unviable.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:41 am 
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I think it probably has a lot more to do with the fact that shipping from Johannesburg to Rwanda would be the equivalent of shipping something from Paris to the middle of Turkey, without the convenience of mostly going through EU and EU-ascending countries to get there.

Plus, without getting too far into politics, a country with Jacob Zuma and today's ANC in charge can't be too critical of other countries' leadership.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:40 am 
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My conjecture was based on Innocent Bystander's use of "can't be bothered" which to me suggests they could, but are choosing not to. But that also makes my interpretation 4th hand. ( (4th) I'm interpreting (3rd) Innocent Bystander's interpretation of (2nd) Marion who's interpreting the reply of the (1st) supplier.)

The shipping logistics is an interesting idea. However, if the string manufacturer were in Johannesburg (the OP didn't say where in South Africa the supplier was) then your example should be "Paris to Ankara" rather than "Paris to the Middle of Turkey" since Kigali is the capital of Rwanda and has a higher chance of being able to receive shipped goods than others places would. Other than that, I am hardly familiar with the logistics of shipping from my country (the US) to other countries. I haven't been in a place to know more about shipping in Sub-saharan Africa and how the AU affects shipping within the continent.

As an honest question, are either of you guys familiar with shipping in Sub-saharan Africa? I'm slightly interested in the logistic issue.

Regarding politics, it is rough since I can't think of anyone who has grounds to be too critical. It is a hard balance.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:21 pm 
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david_h wrote:
It could just be that the time costs for sorting out a one-off international shipment to a new private customer (not a dealer) make it commercially unviable.

That would be fine, but considering the OP:

Innocent Bystander wrote:
My friend ... is helping with a business startup in ... Rwanda. They're trying to build the first pianos built in Africa, for thirty years

... I don't think being a one-off was ever the issue.

Now, it may be that the supplier has no faith that the Rwandan venture could produce more than one, but they're not helping matters that way. That would be mere conjecture and excuses when there's a potential for business to be had, to say nothing of striking a blow for bettering African economic development. At least on paper, this last has always seemed to be a Pan-African priority, or so one would think. Are these just hollow mouthings in the end, then? If mere caution is in fact the case, such judgments strike me as premature, and as overreach. If the supplier doesn't like the odds and has to be so Scroogely about it, they can always price accordingly (even at the risk of a dulled competitive edge), because the situation in Rwanda suggests that the customer will be quite good for the money either way.

It is common practice for suppliers who don't insist on bulk orders that the less the customer buys, the more the customer pays; so if a supplier doesn't insist on bulk orders, I'm not 100% convinced that a one-off is the issue. Why would you be in business to supply only droves upon droves of pianos, and not the occasional one as well? That seems like a very lopsided business model in the world of pianos.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 1:14 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Now, it may be that the supplier has no faith that the Rwandan venture could produce more than one, but they're not helping matters that way. That would be mere conjecture ...
The OP indicates that it was more than one supplier. Africa piano wire suppliers may have a view on the African piano market that is more than conjecture.

AaronFW wrote:
As an honest question, are either of you guys familiar with shipping in Sub-saharan Africa? I'm slightly interested in the logistic issue.
I have a little experience, but people I work with have more. I agree with what bigscotia says. It's not just shipment logistics - hassles over customs clearance in the USA and Europe sometimes get a mention on this forum. I will be back with a longer reply.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 1:23 pm 
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david_h wrote:
The OP indicates that it was more than one supplier.

Yes, but one or several, it's immaterial to what I'm getting at. Whether I say "a", "the", or "any", it's really all the same thing here.

david_h wrote:
Africa piano wire suppliers may have a view on the African piano market that is more than conjecture.

I can concede that, but I still maintain that where there's money to be made - even if just once - why miss the opportunity? With the information we have to work with here, it just doesn't make sense to me.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 1:38 pm 
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as colonial hangovers go, you'd likely be better off shipping from Brussels or Paris.

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