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#1166771 - 03/22/09 11:11 AM tuning player pianos
dschwoyer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/24/08
Posts: 134
Loc: Williamstown,NJ
I have been asked to tune a player piano next week.I have never serviced one.What are some general procedures to removing the player action,and what do I need to pay attention to while servicing?
_________________________
David Schwoyer
Dave's Piano service
Piano Technician

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#1166780 - 03/22/09 11:39 AM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: dschwoyer]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1067
Loc: PA
I don't do much work on players, but I did take a player rebuilding course many years ago, so I can at least point out a few landmines to avoid.

Make sure the player piano actually works before you do anything to it. Gently encourage the customer to demonstrate it for you.

If the player has a transposing tracker bar, do not change the position. Often, an old player will continue working just fine even though the tubing is dry-rotted. If the tubing is dry-rotted and you change the position, the tracker bar tubing could all shatter like glass. Then you could have an angry customer that doesn't understand why his piano "worked fine until you touched it."

Make a note of how the chain connects between the wind motor and spool box ( where the roll goes) so you can reconnect it correctly when you are done tuning... assuming you need to remove the wind motor.

The main thing to look out for is dry-rotted tubes and cloth. Gently press on any tube you are going to disconnect to make sure it's pliable.

Also, keep in mind that if a string should break...

The thing is about older players, they can continue to work even if their parts are old and dry-rotted until their mechanisms are disturbed. Then, you could find yourself with a problem. Even though it's genuinely not your fault, it could be difficult to get a lay person to accept this. Now, if this is a newer piano, or one that has been rebuilt correctly, you're probably OK.

Before going out to tune the piano, I think it would be a really good idea to contact the customer and get the brand name of the piano.

You may then want to consider cross-posting to Piano World Forum's Mechanical Musical Instrument Forum for advice as to the specific brand of player you will be working on.

Another really excellent resource is the Mechanical Musical Instrument Digest Forum available at <http://www.mmdigest.com/>.

Also, there's an organization for player enthusiasts called AMICA (Automatic Musical Instruments Collectors Association) available here: <http://www.amica.org/Live/index.htm>

Good Luck! smile



Edited by daniokeeper (03/22/09 12:29 PM)
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1166783 - 03/22/09 11:45 AM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: daniokeeper]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21292
Loc: Oakland
You do not need to remove the mechanism to tune a player piano. You may need to undo a thing or two. There should be instructions printed somewhere on the piano.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#1166818 - 03/22/09 01:44 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: BDB]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4187
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Not sure if this is a late model player or an old one. If it is one of the older ones Joe is correct; things inside could be pretty crispy.......inform the customer if you have to disturb something this is done at the owners risk. In order to minimize string breakage, use a technique of lowering the sting pitch previous to pulling up for tuning.

BDB is correct, most of the time you just have to shift some things around a bit.

I just serviced a late model Aeolian from the 70’s, electric player… I had to remove the motor bracket only to move the motor to the side and tune the bass section. But of course all the tubing is relatively new and flexible, so no problems there.

Good luck with the job.Always good experience to do different models....
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#1166827 - 03/22/09 02:05 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: Silverwood Pianos]
dschwoyer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/24/08
Posts: 134
Loc: Williamstown,NJ
Thanks for some of the advice.I did tell the client that I haven't done any players yet,and she kept the appointment,so at least she knows who she is hiring,and has the option of hiring someone with more experience.
_________________________
David Schwoyer
Dave's Piano service
Piano Technician

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#1166865 - 03/22/09 03:31 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: dschwoyer]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1067
Loc: PA
At some point in your career, you may want to get a copy of Player Piano Servicing & Rebuilding by Art Reiblitz and keep it on your shelf as a reference.

For now, you're a student and there are far more important things for you to spend your money on. But, this is the best technical book I've ever seen on player pianos.


Edited by daniokeeper (03/22/09 03:43 PM)
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1166972 - 03/22/09 08:30 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: daniokeeper]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Some older player pianos can be a real pain to work on if you get into regulation issues or string breakage. Especially the older ones where the old rubber tubes are brittle and ready to break off as soon as you touch them.

If you do break a string, it is highly likely that you will have to remove a bunch of this garbage to get it. Especially down below in the pedal area.

I don't touch them anymore. But, that is my personal preference.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1166997 - 03/22/09 09:28 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: dschwoyer]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2039
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: David Schworyer
she ... has the option of hiring someone with more experience.


Even experienced old-timers like me can have trouble with the brittle old player actions. Jerry Groot is probably wise to leave 'em alone. I haven't acquired that degree of wisdom yet, but I do ask owners to sign a short release now after one bad experience!

I always offer to remove the action and dispose of it for free. I'm getting fewer and fewer takers. I think too many people are watching that durned Antiques Road Show, and think the crusty crumbling things are valuable.
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#1167029 - 03/22/09 10:32 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: David Jenson]
dschwoyer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/24/08
Posts: 134
Loc: Williamstown,NJ
So,should I try to tune without removing any of the parts,and remove only if absolutely necessary?
_________________________
David Schwoyer
Dave's Piano service
Piano Technician

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#1167061 - 03/22/09 11:52 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: dschwoyer]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1067
Loc: PA
Quote:
So,should I try to tune without removing any of the parts,and remove only if absolutely necessary?


That's my strategy. smile

Please make sure the player still works before you touch it. Also, make sure all the keys play before beginning. If you see other issues... rusty strings, whole-step flat, action problems, never been tuned in living memory, etc... You have the right to politely decline to tune the piano. Don't run the risk of finding yourself in the position of adopting responsibility for problems that you didn't cause.

I've never gotten into trouble for any job I turned down.







Edited by daniokeeper (03/23/09 12:19 AM)
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1167359 - 03/23/09 03:30 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: daniokeeper]
wesquire Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/01/09
Posts: 88
Loc: Ohio
Great advice on this subject. I would do a complete evaluation of the piano, looking for anything that is not as it should be. Put it in writing, show the customer the issues and have them sign the evaluation stating you are not the cause of these pre-existing problems. On most old players you can work around the stack without moving anything. Muting patterns often need improvised.

Some day you might pick up an old player and do a ground up rebuild to see just what is involved so you will be confident to work on them in the future. They are fun to work with. Good luck!
_________________________
Retired industry professional.

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#1167382 - 03/23/09 04:01 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: wesquire]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4187
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada

Yes in writing is a good idea...so is taking a couple of shots with the digital camera when you open up the front board....
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#1167512 - 03/23/09 07:18 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: Silverwood Pianos]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Excellent idea of taking pictures with a digital camera!
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1167525 - 03/23/09 07:48 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
Paul Clement Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/15/08
Posts: 12
Loc: Mississauga, Ontario
I have only encountered two players in my brief tuning career - a couple of Heintzman's. I don't know the design of other brands, but I have a hard time seeing how I could tune these pianos without removing the player mechanism. Sure, I could get at the tuning pins, but getting near the strings to mute them seemed impossible to me. Am I missing something?

I have considered charging people extra to tune players in the future because of the additional 20 minutes required to remove and replace the mechanism. It's not difficult, except for exercising the care mentioned in the previous replies, but it does take time.

Paul
_________________________
Paul Clement
Certified Piano Technician - UWO 2008

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#1167527 - 03/23/09 07:53 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
dschwoyer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/24/08
Posts: 134
Loc: Williamstown,NJ
wesquire,that someday was a few days ago.The only thing is,all of the player action was removed,except for the hand controls under the key slip.

It is a Bush and Lane built in Chicago.It was in an unheated garage for who knows how long.It had rodents living in it,as well as a nest over F#5 and G5 keys,those keys were chewed partway near the action.

I cleaned it out when I got it home,vacuumed out the keybed,and everywhere else.I wiped everything down inside and out.After that was done,I tuned it,and it was a 50 cents flat.It has dropped a little over the weekend,but it sounds so good,like a grand piano.

I know some of you might think I'm crazy for taking this one,but I know what to do if I can't do anything else with it.
_________________________
David Schwoyer
Dave's Piano service
Piano Technician

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#1167587 - 03/23/09 10:00 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: dschwoyer]
wesquire Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/01/09
Posts: 88
Loc: Ohio
David,
If you teardown and completly rebuild a player you will gain a great understanding of how everything goes together and works so you will be confident in future encounters with tuning and servicing them.
The advice given here is to save you a world of problems if you have a difficult customer.
_________________________
Retired industry professional.

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#1167632 - 03/23/09 11:11 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: wesquire]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1067
Loc: PA
If you do decide to get into rebuilding, you should absolutely know about this place:
<http://www.playerpianocompany.com/player.html>

They also have a copy of Rebuilding The Player Piano by Larry Givens as an online book you can read at no charge.
<http://www.playerpianocompany.com/book.html>
You'll want to read this reference as well as the Reiblitz player book.

If I'm remembering correctly, the stack valve blocks on the Bush & Lane's player action were made of pig iron or some sort of cheap metal that became very brittle over time and fell apart. That's probably why the player action was missing.

Before you decide on a project, research what will be involved. Some mechanisms are harder to rebuild than others. And, some are just not worth it anymore. Also, beware of rebuilding a player action that has been rebuilt before. If it wasn't rebuilt correctly, you could really be in for a time.

Also, you should avoid rebuilding the more valuable player mechanisms like those in expression pianos and reproducing pianos until you become experienced.

Good Luck smile


Edited by daniokeeper (03/23/09 11:33 PM)
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1168912 - 03/25/09 11:28 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: daniokeeper]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
I charge more for tuning a player, and take digital pics of everything before I move anything...after almost 3 decades of rebuilding players, I usually know what goes where...but tubing schematics or unusual configurations (to escape patent issues, no doubt) still can cause problems...

An additional $20 is not unreasonable to take out, or tilt the player stack to tune it...and, the tunings take longer because you have to reach further around things.

Beware though...old mechanisms with rotted cloth and hoses/tubes will fall apart and you'll be blamed. I only tune old player pianos after delivering a rebuilding estimate first, so there is no doubt that both my customer and I agree it needs rebuilding.

Player Piano Company is, at last check, out of the picture...Durell Armstrong passed away, and the company doesn't answer the phone (unless this changed this week). My understanding is that it is unclear if/when they will re-open. This is painful for those of us who order most of our player supplies from that source. We'll need to stay tuned....

RPD
_________________________
MPT(Master Piano Technicians of America)
Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
(Subscriber PTG Journal)
Piano-Tuner-Rebuilder/Musician www.actionpianoservice.com

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#1168925 - 03/25/09 11:55 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: RPD]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1067
Loc: PA
Quote:
Player Piano Company is, at last check, out of the picture...Durell Armstrong passed away, and the company doesn't answer the phone (unless this changed this week). My understanding is that it is unclear if/when they will re-open. This is painful for those of us who order most of our player supplies from that source. We'll need to stay tuned....


How very sad... I hadn't heard.

<http://www.cozinememorial.com/obituary.php?id=46>
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1168945 - 03/26/09 12:25 AM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: daniokeeper]
Grandpianoman Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/05
Posts: 2318
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Here is another good website for Player Piano Care etc....

http://www.player-care.com/index.html

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#1169083 - 03/26/09 09:22 AM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: Grandpianoman]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
Yes, and John Tuttle (at above link) is trying to purchase the contents of the building! I sure hope John is successful!! RPD
_________________________
MPT(Master Piano Technicians of America)
Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
(Subscriber PTG Journal)
Piano-Tuner-Rebuilder/Musician www.actionpianoservice.com

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#1169374 - 03/26/09 05:57 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: RPD]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
According to a few things I read a week or two ago, the new owner (not J. Tuttle) is planning to re-open PPCo.

Regarding tuning players - I almost always remove the air motor. Several linkages and hoses need to be disconnected as well. If you are not experienced and comfortable doing this, you could either be lucky, or not. If not, then you have stepped into a big pile of doggy doo that you have created.

I don't think it is fair to charge clients for a learning experience. I sure would not appreciate it myself as a consumer. It is definitely very unprofessional.

Speaking as a tech, and also as a consumer of all kinds of services, it is sometimes better for all parties involved to recommend someone else (who is perhaps better suited, qualified, specialized etc) to the client.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#1169484 - 03/26/09 10:33 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: Supply]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
Originally Posted By: Supply
I don't think it is fair to charge clients for a learning experience. I sure would not appreciate it myself as a consumer. It is definitely very unprofessional.


I agree. I'm not sure if you were referring to my post, but to clarify my comment about adding $20, I'm basically saying that its extra work, and can be worth more money. I actually charge more if the player is cumbersom...but sometimes its a breeze and we just charge our normal fee. Either way, its all about creating understanding with the customer..

Good luck with your player adventure! RPD
_________________________
MPT(Master Piano Technicians of America)
Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
(Subscriber PTG Journal)
Piano-Tuner-Rebuilder/Musician www.actionpianoservice.com

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#1170193 - 03/28/09 11:23 AM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: RPD]
dschwoyer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/24/08
Posts: 134
Loc: Williamstown,NJ
Well,I had nothing to worry about,because when I got there,the customer said she didn't need me.One of her relatives had tuned her piano since she had set up the appointment with me.She said she would call if anything had changed.I never received a call from her to cancel,and she had said she forgot to call me.

Now this being the first customer to respond to my ad,should I still hit her with a cancellation fee?I think I should.
_________________________
David Schwoyer
Dave's Piano service
Piano Technician

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#1170455 - 03/28/09 06:46 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: daniokeeper]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
What I do in instances like these (thankfully, rare!) is I send a note with a bill for my time. I don't pursue collection, but I inform the clients that this bill is on their account and that if they want me in the future they'll need to pay it first. I'm happy to go back, but last minute cancellations require a pow-wow with all parties so it doesn't become an ongoing problem. I've gotten about 1/2 of my bills for my time paid when I do this, and those clients are my treasured friends. The rest can call somebody else.

FWIW...RPD
_________________________
MPT(Master Piano Technicians of America)
Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
(Subscriber PTG Journal)
Piano-Tuner-Rebuilder/Musician www.actionpianoservice.com

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#1170466 - 03/28/09 07:03 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: dschwoyer]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
It could be that the client reconsidered having someone without the required experience work on their piano. I could understand a cold feet syndrome here.

Originally Posted By: dschwoyer
.....should I still hit her with a cancellation fee?I think I should.


"Hit her with a fee"???
I don't think you should "hit" anybody with anything. This is an unfortunate choice of words for a public forum such as this. It sheds a bad light on all of us.

I think that you as a self professed piano tuning student can be glad that you didn't end up opening a potentially huge can of worms for yourself and the piano owner. Go out and earn some honest money for honest work.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#1170492 - 03/28/09 08:07 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: Supply]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Quote:
Well,I had nothing to worry about,because when I got there,the customer said she didn't need me.One of her relatives had tuned her piano since she had set up the appointment with me. She said she would call if anything had changed. I never received a call from her to cancel,and she had said she forgot to call me.

Now this being the first customer to respond to my ad, should I still hit her with a cancellation fee? I think I should.


It's probably a good thing in this case that you didn't tune the piano considering what you were getting into.

But, either way you look at this, it was very rude of the client to not call you allowing you to waste your time driving to her home only to tell you THEN that she didn't need you. If that were me, I would have at least explained to her that it was a very rude thing to do. It didn't cost her anything but, you lost an appointment and it cost you time, money and lost income to drive out there regardless of what she decided to do.

Seeing as how you are new, you should probably eat it. But, looking at it as a seasoned tech, I would have left her a bill.

Jurgen is correct too, she could have gotten cold feet. Regardless, a simple phone call from her to cancel was in order.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1170500 - 03/28/09 08:19 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: Supply]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1067
Loc: PA
After she failed to cancel in a timely manner, she should have at least had the courtesy to offer to pay you for your time and gas expense.

I really respect RPD's approach and Jerry Groot's approach, though I choose to play it differently. I try to cut folks a little slack because the day may come when I need them to cut me a little slack. You never know what twists life can take. But, if someone stands me up repeatedly, I just won't go back. Ultimately, you must use your own best judgment.

This is a decision only you can make.


Edited by daniokeeper (03/28/09 11:08 PM)
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1170507 - 03/28/09 08:31 PM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
dschwoyer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/24/08
Posts: 134
Loc: Williamstown,NJ
I am much more relaxed now since the last post,and there is a better choice of words to use."Hit" isn't one of them here.

Being new in the field,I'll likely eat it,and move on.But I won't forget it.I did not call a few days ahead of time,which probably would have saved me a trip.

It doesn't bother me at all that she didn't need me,but the fact that she didn't call to cancel is just discourteuos.

I am relieved that I didn't have to touch any player mechanism.


Edited by dschwoyer (03/28/09 08:34 PM)
_________________________
David Schwoyer
Dave's Piano service
Piano Technician

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#1171255 - 03/30/09 08:45 AM Re: tuning player pianos [Re: dschwoyer]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4908
Loc: Bradford County, PA
As a courtesy, I usually call the day before an appointment to confirm the time.
_________________________
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

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