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#1967666 - 10/02/12 07:51 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4943
Loc: Bradford County, PA
Originally Posted By: mbick
Hi Jeff. How did your customers react later when you started charging more? Did you make many small increases or just one or two larger jumps?

By the way, I am so grateful for all the input I have gotten so far from this forum. It's always good to be able to learn from other's experiences.


I never encountered that problem. At the time, in the late seventies, the computation I gave was about the standard rate for a tuning where I was anyway. But I only tuned full-time for a year and then changed careers. So I didn't have to explain a rate increase. Decades later (a century later???), I found my talent in regular demand. I did raise my rates a while ago because of general inflation, and might have lost ONE customer.

I recently finished a book by Alan Greenspan. He wrote about the benefits of a free-market economy. You know, supply and demand. And I remember what a drywall finisher once told me: "I would rather go broke sitting in a chair than go broke working myself to death."

I charge what I consider a fair price. By the hour it is about the same as I make as an electrician at a manufacturing plant. When the time comes to "hang out your shingle" as Jurgen nicely puts it, pick a price that YOU feel comfortable with. There is nothing like a clear conscience for a good night’s sleep.

Of course the next question is WHEN is that time? I read about the 1,000 tuning estimate. Well, only your customers can decide, not you and not the PTG. Some tuners are never ready. Myself (believe it or not), was told by my hired tuning teacher that there was nothing more he could teach me after the fifth lesson, about the sixth tuning. So I started charging, and customers paid me. Did I improve since then? Of course! And I hope I never stop improving. But I am getting older...

The funny thing is most customers don’t have their piano tuned so it sounds good. They have it tuned so it doesn’t sound bad. Now here on this Forum, we talk about the importance of a great sounding tuning. But the market place is a different story. Otherwise, the tuners that can tune exceptionally well would be in very high demand. If you doubt this, go to any local semi-pro performance and listen to the intonation. Ugh!!! That will be the standard for the local discriminating customers. There is a fellow in the area that uses a guitar tuner, mostly for pianos that he has to play on himself (I don’t think he charges), and people are happy: supply and demand.
_________________________
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

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#1967669 - 10/02/12 07:58 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: RTO]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3869
Originally Posted By: RTO


What I decided to do was to give all of my new clients a "new client" discount. So, on the invoice, I put the regular going rate for my area. Then underneath that I write 15% discount for first time customers.


Bad Idea. The first time I see a piano it is usually a pitch raise, minor repairs, cleaning, etc because no one has tuned the piano in 15 years. The first time is always the MOST expensive, and subsequent tunings usually run less money - if they follow my "treatment plan".

It's also a bad idea to worry about what others charge. There are so many in this business that don't have a clue what to charge, and following in their footsteps is a mistake.

Use your business experience and income requirements, factor in expenses, and come up with your own pricing.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#1967673 - 10/02/12 08:13 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
+ 1 Bob.

Quote:
Well, this is just what I came up with. Because I had the same dilemma as you. I don't feel that I should charge the same as someone that has been doing this for years. But, yet I don't feel like my services are worth nothing. I have certainly done the "free" tunings with family and friends. But, now that I am ready to charge, this was how I decided to handle it. I'm certainly open to other ideas too. I have enjoyed reading everyone's input.


One of the biggest problems in this industry is that it is completely unregulated. Therefore, literally, any "Tom, Dick, Harry or Rose, can go into it and "hang up their own shingle." I don't mean that in a negative way. I simply mean many people go into it with the wrong idea.

Another big problem is that MANY, and I do mean MANY tuners are no good and never have been, nor will they ever be good. They have no intention of becoming good.

Some tuners do care, but just can't hear it no matter what.

Some don't care if it's good or not, they just want the additional income. This kind generally winds up in a category all their own. They go around messing up pianos while they try to adjust things that they should not be messing with because they lack the knowledge or caring to do it properly which costs the home owner a lot more later on when someone that knows what they are doing comes in to fix it. And, yes, they usually charge very little because they haven't a clue about business let alone quality.

The client needs to be trained that quality comes with a price tag just as anything does. Various kinds of Porcelain flooring verses inexpensive vinyl flooring for example.

A cheap not cared for Craig's list piano verses one that was very well taken care of.

A techs pay is no different. But, as we have said, many techs, tuners or whatever we may wish to call them never were any good. They think they are but, they are not because they don't know it themselves. Therefore, the reason to have a good mentor or chum up with the local PTG chapter to learn and let someone there listen to your turnings, watch your work and give you adivce most of which will do for free at one of the meetings.

I have a local guy here that I work with on a regular basis that can tune, but, he has difficulty with his unison's. The most important part of tuning are clean unison's.

Time to head out the door. Hope that helps!!! Proof read later!!
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1967699 - 10/02/12 09:34 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: daniokeeper]
mbick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 27
Loc: Culpeper, VA
Originally Posted By: daniokeeper
Originally Posted By: mbick
Hi Daniokeeper,

My long term goals are to tune and repair. I don't have the space right now to rebuild, but I would like to at least try it someday. I am trying to get a "junk" piano right now to practice doing things on I wouldn't dream of doing on my good piano, at least not until I know what I'm doing. I'm sure that's how most everyone starts out.

Excellent! One choice isn't necessarily preferred to another. But it's great that you have definite goals.
As for the 'junk' piano, it could be of genuine benefit to someone ( a student, a poor church,...), if you decided to recondition it.

Originally Posted By: mbick
My medium terms goals are to pass the RPT exams. I know that doesn't necessarily mean much to a lot of people, but I would like to and it gives me a very concrete goal education-wise to work towards.

Again, a definite plan. Excellent!

Originally Posted By: mbick
My short term goals are to just get more practice in with as many different pianos as I can, so that I can reach the longer goals.

I'm not sure how much of a market there is where I live for reconditioned pianos. I know that with my piano students, the ones that use keyboards (ugh) instead of pianos do so because their parents don't want something that takes up a lot of space. (It's only on PianoWorld that I let my distaste for electronic keyboards come out. And truly, I would rather a child learn to play music on a keyboard than not at all.)
[Emphasis added]

You have to go by your area and your local economy. You are coming to this with some actual life experience and an impressive business background. I would have confidence in your opinion of your area.

Originally Posted By: mbick
OT - what kind of danios do you have? Do you breed them?

I had 5 zebra danios in a 55-gallon tank. I don't breed them or anything. It's just that when I signed up for the forums here at PW and was trying to think of a screen name, I happened to glance over at the fishtank... smile
Edit: Are you an aquarist?


I don't have any fish now, but when I was in the pet business, I kept any where from 75-144 tanks of fish in my store. I never set out to breed any. I did have an African Cichlid tank at home where they just started spontaneously breeding, which was pretty cool.
Now, however, I have had my fill of maintaining fish tanks and will just enjoy other people's tanks.
_________________________
Martha Bickers
Future piano expert :-)

994 1/2 pianos to go.

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#1968066 - 10/03/12 12:50 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: UnrightTooner]
mbick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 27
Loc: Culpeper, VA
Originally Posted By: UnrightTooner
[quote=mbick]
The funny thing is most customers don’t have their piano tuned so it sounds good. They have it tuned so it doesn’t sound bad. Now here on this Forum, we talk about the importance of a great sounding tuning. But the market place is a different story. Otherwise, the tuners that can tune exceptionally well would be in very high demand. If you doubt this, go to any local semi-pro performance and listen to the intonation. Ugh!!! That will be the standard for the local discriminating customers. There is a fellow in the area that uses a guitar tuner, mostly for pianos that he has to play on himself (I don’t think he charges), and people are happy: supply and demand.


Sometimes I have thought the same thing. Occasionally someone who knows I have been learning to tune will ask me if their piano sounds out of tune. Okay... I'm fairly confident that if they can't hear the horribly dirty unisons that their piano currently has, then there's not much I can do to their piano that will make them unhappy with it. And ultimately, it's really not about the piano, it's about the customer. (Ha, I hope I don't get banned for saying that on PianoWorld. wink )

I don't live in a big city and there are not many professional performance venues here. The reality for me is that most of the pianos I get to tune will probably be Grandma's old upright or the spinet that sits on top of an HVAC duct. Most of my customers probably will not be able to tell a passable tuning from a great tuning.

That being said, I still want to be able to give each piano the best tuning it can get. Even if the owners can't tell the difference, lol.
_________________________
Martha Bickers
Future piano expert :-)

994 1/2 pianos to go.

Top
#1968108 - 10/03/12 05:40 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
MakeANote Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 6
Loc: NSW Australia
I went to tune a piano at a lovely elderly couples home (friends of our family) this afternoon. It was an old pianola and the wife wants to revive her piano playing skills. From the very beginning I could tell it would be an interesting ride - 'we haven't had it tuned for about 16 years'. The ring of the A440 was met with the clunk of a note somewhere below G#4. A pitch raise ensued so that the piano was sitting (overall) around 10 cents above pitch. 'Oh, that sounds so much better!' was the delighted comment....

I go back tomorrow to actually tune it.
_________________________
A.Mus, B.Mus, Dip.Mus.Ed
Pianist - Teacher - Tuner

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#1968128 - 10/03/12 08:01 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
Gerry J. Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/13/12
Posts: 3
Loc: MA
Hi Martha -
It has been over 35 years since I was in your position, but I remember well the dilemna you describe. My advice would be to ask around to find out what most tuners in your area are charging. Charge the average or perhaps very slightly below average. You do not want to become known as the cheapest tuner in town. Also, you do not want to be jacking your price way up after you've gained more experience. Doing so could cost you some of your regular customers.
Gerry Johnston
_________________________
Gerry Johnston
www.johnstonpianoservice.net

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#1968577 - 10/04/12 08:44 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
When I was learning I was told to tune 100 pianos before I charge anything. Much more attainable than 1000 (a good number for feeling like you're "good), but a realistic frame for doing stable tunings in 2 hours or less.
_________________________
RPT. In the business: Feurich pianos, Neupert harpsichords, Hidrau benches, piano technician

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#1968588 - 10/04/12 09:14 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: MakeANote]
mbick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 27
Loc: Culpeper, VA
That sounds like the church basement piano that I was working on the other day that was around 110 cents flat. It was...interesting.
_________________________
Martha Bickers
Future piano expert :-)

994 1/2 pianos to go.

Top
#1968591 - 10/04/12 09:17 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: Gerry J.]
mbick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 27
Loc: Culpeper, VA
Thanks Gerry. I think it will be wise to charge to going rate, after I've done enough freebies as a student that I know the tunings are stable and sound good.
_________________________
Martha Bickers
Future piano expert :-)

994 1/2 pianos to go.

Top
#1968592 - 10/04/12 09:25 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: BoseEric]
mbick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 27
Loc: Culpeper, VA
Originally Posted By: BoseEric
When I was learning I was told to tune 100 pianos before I charge anything. Much more attainable than 1000 (a good number for feeling like you're "good), but a realistic frame for doing stable tunings in 2 hours or less.


100 pianos does sound like a more realistic goal than 1000. Of course, #1000 will hopefully be a lot better than #100. I think part of the "art" of business is being able to decide when your product is good enough for the intended use. So, will #101 be good enough for Grandma's old upright that I will feel fine about charging for it? Probably. Will #101 be good enough for a professional musician who makes their living with their piano. Maybe so, maybe not. They might need a more experienced tuner.
_________________________
Martha Bickers
Future piano expert :-)

994 1/2 pianos to go.

Top
#1968644 - 10/04/12 11:17 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1748
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Hi Martha: I think the underlying question is how to earn an honest living in the trade at a level commensurate with experience. I am not sure what the opportunities are in 2012. However, years ago some of us honed our skill by doing wholesale floor work for a dealer. I recall one dealer in particular who had a beginner do the umpteen tunings required on new pianos (at wholesale), and would later call in a veteran to do the fine tuning at near full retail - usually preparatory to a demo for a prospect. You might consider visiting with the dealers in your area, if you haven't already done so. Wholesale work isn't a lot of fun at the outset, but it has promise of great reward in the long run.
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com/

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#1968652 - 10/04/12 11:34 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1080
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: mbick
Originally Posted By: UnrightTooner
[quote=mbick]
The funny thing is most customers don’t have their piano tuned so it sounds good. They have it tuned so it doesn’t sound bad. Now here on this Forum, we talk about the importance of a great sounding tuning. But the market place is a different story. Otherwise, the tuners that can tune exceptionally well would be in very high demand. If you doubt this, go to any local semi-pro performance and listen to the intonation. Ugh!!! That will be the standard for the local discriminating customers. There is a fellow in the area that uses a guitar tuner, mostly for pianos that he has to play on himself (I don’t think he charges), and people are happy: supply and demand.


Sometimes I have thought the same thing. Occasionally someone who knows I have been learning to tune will ask me if their piano sounds out of tune. Okay... I'm fairly confident that if they can't hear the horribly dirty unisons that their piano currently has, then there's not much I can do to their piano that will make them unhappy with it. And ultimately, it's really not about the piano, it's about the customer. (Ha, I hope I don't get banned for saying that on PianoWorld. wink )

I don't live in a big city and there are not many professional performance venues here. The reality for me is that most of the pianos I get to tune will probably be Grandma's old upright or the spinet that sits on top of an HVAC duct. Most of my customers probably will not be able to tell a passable tuning from a great tuning.

That being said, I still want to be able to give each piano the best tuning it can get. Even if the owners can't tell the difference, lol.
[Emphasis added]


Even if they cannot tell a passable tuning now, their ears may develop if they get used to hearing the piano in tune, if it's tuned regularly. If there is a piano student in the home, this becomes a very important selling point... that the student will develop his/her ear if they practice on a tuned piano. If they get used to hearing an out-of-tune piano, those ears will never develop to their full potential. smile
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

Top
#1968728 - 10/04/12 02:33 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: mbick
.... The reality for me is that most of the pianos I get to tune will probably be Grandma's old upright or the spinet that sits on top of an HVAC duct. Most of my customers probably will not be able to tell a passable tuning from a great tuning.

That being said, I still want to be able to give each piano the best tuning it can get. Even if the owners can't tell the difference, lol.
Yes, the owners may not be able to tell the difference. But their friend, neighbor, cousin, or piano teacher who comes to the house may well be a serious critic with huge ears. You don't want anyone to ask: " This piano is way off - who tuned it?"
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

Top
#1968901 - 10/04/12 11:01 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: daniokeeper]
mbick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 27
Loc: Culpeper, VA
Originally Posted By: daniokeeper


Even if they cannot tell a passable tuning now, their ears may develop if they get used to hearing the piano in tune, if it's tuned regularly. If there is a piano student in the home, this becomes a very important selling point... that the student will develop his/her ear if they practice on a tuned piano. If they get used to hearing an out-of-tune piano, those ears will never develop to their full potential. smile


I have a couple of piano students right now that practice on horribly out of tune pianos. These are on my short list of pianos to practice tuning on, because it pains me to hear them played. They are both beginner students and I don't want them thinking a piano is supposed to sound like that. Right now it is just a matter of coordinating a time convenient to both of us.
_________________________
Martha Bickers
Future piano expert :-)

994 1/2 pianos to go.

Top
#1968904 - 10/04/12 11:06 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: Supply]
mbick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 27
Loc: Culpeper, VA
Originally Posted By: Supply
Yes, the owners may not be able to tell the difference. But their friend, neighbor, cousin, or piano teacher who comes to the house may well be a serious critic with huge ears. You don't want anyone to ask: " This piano is way off - who tuned it?" [/quote]

No, I want them to ask, "This piano sounds really great. Who tuned it?"

I wasn't saying that is okay to do a mediocre tuning because one could get away with it, just that I have no illusions that many people may not be aware of the difference between and good one and a bad one.
_________________________
Martha Bickers
Future piano expert :-)

994 1/2 pianos to go.

Top
#1968913 - 10/04/12 11:39 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
I think you've got it!
Best of luck in your new life of piano technician!
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

Top
#1968917 - 10/04/12 11:53 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: Supply]
mbick Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 27
Loc: Culpeper, VA
Thanks. I have appreciated your input.
_________________________
Martha Bickers
Future piano expert :-)

994 1/2 pianos to go.

Top
#1968923 - 10/05/12 12:06 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
Olek Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7660
Loc: France
there are 5% of the piano owners that are disappointed with the job of the tuners here .

Some of them are expecting much from their piano

Some only remeber the quality of the job done by a precedent tuner

Some also notice that some tunings dont stay good for long

On the bread and butter part, as Jeff said, many customers just want their piano to be playeable so many tuners dont make the effort to put it at the best level (not particularly for tuning, but for general care, voicing, cleaning, lube, etc)
The same tuners are then in trouble when something unusual happen, and then the more polished ones come and make a good difference, usually, noticed etc...
So gain experience in every aspect of the job even the less enthusiastic ones it will be worth someday.
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#1969095 - 10/05/12 12:13 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1080
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: mbick
I have a couple of piano students right now that practice on horribly out of tune pianos. These are on my short list of pianos to practice tuning on, because it pains me to hear them played. They are both beginner students and I don't want them thinking a piano is supposed to sound like that. Right now it is just a matter of coordinating a time convenient to both of us.


Another good selling point, for the parents who are hesitant to keep the pianos tuned on a regular basis, is what I like to call the "chiropractic" argument. If a piano goes for a very long period of time without being tuned, there is the risk that the strings may rust themselves in position. Even if you lower the tension before raising, the odds of a string breaking have increased.

Regular tuning is similar to chiropractic adjustment. The strings are moved across the bearing points on a regular basis. It keeps them "limber," like regular chiropractic adjustments, so they don't freeze in position.

Even if you are developing as a tuner, the piano may still benefit from your tuning it, even if your tunings are not absolutely perfect yet. Of course, it's all relative.
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1969473 - 10/06/12 02:16 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
That Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Lincoln, NE
I'm getting in late on this one but thought I would share some things that have worked for me from the business side. It's obvious that we need the skills to do the job but then the question is; How do I get customers?

1. I have magnetic signs on my car. Both sides and the back. I think they are tasteful and they generate business for me. They're very inexpensive. Lots of people comment to me how they like them and like my car, a PT Cruiser (the PT could stand for Piano Tuner) smile

2. I give away a pen with each tuning so people don't forget about me. Many times I've had people hire me because they couldn't remember who tuned it last. I get my pens from National Pen: www.pens.com

3. Leave a card in the piano with the date you tuned it, humidity level, temp and notes about the last tuning. If someone calls you back because the tuning went out the humidity level change could save your reputation.

4. Start a website at www.vistaprint.com You can get a website all the way from free to $29.95 a month. Here's how mine looks: www.thattuningguy.vpweb.com Nowadays you just have to be on the web and this is a very inexpensive way to do it.

5. Get your name on this website: www.pianoacoustics.com Again it can be free or you can pay $10 a year and have a link to your website. I get a lot of hits from this site.

6. Send out tuning reminder post cards every month. I go with the one year anniversary of the last tuning. My customers tell me all the time how they appreciate it.

7. Don't waste your money on a Yellow Pages ad! I think you can just be listed for free but don't pay for an ad. Seventeen years ago when I started it was the only game in town but it's time has passed and it's a waste of money.

8. If you're on google maps you can claim your listing for free and get more info on the web. Once you have a website it may be easier to do this. When I claimed mine I think I was there because of my Yellow Pages ad so if you don't have that I'm not sure how it works. Maybe just having a free listing in the Yellow Pages will get you there.

9. I book tunings all the time by email and texting so if you don't already have those it would be a good idea to get them.

Maybe some of this is helpful to you. Good Luck!
_________________________
Scott Kerns
"That Tuning Guy"
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com

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#1970073 - 10/07/12 10:54 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2402
Loc: Olympia, WA
My first ad for piano tuning was in 1994. It was a classified ad for $50 piano tuning. This was about $15 less than the going rate at the time. I had just passed my PTG exams and explained to the few people about the exam process. I remember one client was really happy to give me a chance - some people like to support the new, green, technician. They feel they are getting a good deal for the money, while doing something positive for a member of their community.

The PTG was helpful for finding extra work when I was starting out. After meeting some of the other techs I was able to help out in their shops part time for a little better than minimum wage. My advice to a newbie is: learn to do a decent job on the following tasks:

1. Key bushings
2. Bridle tapes
3. Hammer reshaping
4. Repinning flanges

If you get reasonable efficient at those tasks you can be of real service to a busy technician.

I don't think there is anything wrong with getting paid to practice tuning. Put up some signs on some local bulletin boards and craigslist saying that you are a piano tuning student looking for pianos to tune: Donations graciously accepted. I'm sure many people on a tight budget will take their chances with your work.

Speaking of Craigslist: Some people have trouble selling pianos that are badly out of tune. An interesting strategy would be to contact those sellers and offer to tune them for donation or modest fee. To make it even easier you could offer to defer payment until the piano sells.

The main thing is full disclosure: just let them know exactly what your experience is so that they know what they are getting. Many people are happy to help someone starting out.
_________________________
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net

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#1970089 - 10/07/12 11:26 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: daniokeeper]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2402
Loc: Olympia, WA

Originally Posted By: daniokepper

Another good selling point, for the parents who are hesitant to keep the pianos tuned on a regular basis, is what I like to call the "chiropractic" argument. If a piano goes for a very long period of time without being tuned, there is the risk that the strings may rust themselves in position. Even if you lower the tension before raising, the odds of a string breaking have increased.

Regular tuning is similar to chiropractic adjustment. The strings are moved across the bearing points on a regular basis. It keeps them "limber," like regular chiropractic adjustments, so they don't freeze in position.

I don't mean to offend, daniokeeper, but this sounds like a "snake oil sales pitch". We want to be as straight with our clients as possible. Ultimately the trust you cultivate will pay off better than phony scare tactics.

It is true that 99.5% or more of my clients probably wouldn't be able to identify a medium quality tuning from a high-quality tuning. However, if you can impress that .5% that can really tell the difference they will bring in lots of other work, and the prestige gained by keeping those discriminating clients will substantially raise your credibility in the musical community.

The other major consideration is voicing.

Clients often don't discriminate between voicing and tuning issues. If you leave a piano perfectly tuned with uneven voicing, it will be perceived as more "out of tune" than a "just OK" tuning with nice, even, voicing.

More than one mentor told me to always include at least a little voicing with every tuning. While I won't swear that I do this 100%, I come pretty close and it's made a big difference in my career. In fact I sometimes spend more time voicing than tuning.

The combination of tuning and voicing is what will make clients tell you "this is the best my piano has ever sounded!". Even moderately discriminating clients will recognize a good voicing.
_________________________
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net

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#1970120 - 10/08/12 01:03 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1080
Loc: PA
Ryan,

I also don't mean to offend, but this is not snake oil; it is my opinion based on observations of my mere 32+ years of tuning professionally. I am not "relying on phoney scare tactics."

I have seen it. I have dealt with it. A piano that was last tuned 20, 30, 40, or more years ago. When you lower the tension on a string before raising it, nothing happens as you keep dropping the tension until you hear a 'ping" sound as the string comes loose from where it has rusted itself and then the pitch drops... a lot. this may happen on only one or two strings. Or, it may happen on many or most strings.

Is this freezing in position a deliberate part of the design? Not likely. Is this normal? Again, No. After breaking the string(s) free, the string(s) now renders smoothly. It's not supposed to be stuck in position. It rusted there, or some rare case perhaps there is some other other arcane thing happening such as dissimilar metals or contamination. But still, keeping the string moving across the bearing points occasionally is a good thing.

If a client would phone you and explain that her piano had not been tuned in many years, would you NOT warn her of the increased possibility of one or more strings breaking? I assume that you would. To not warn her would be unethical.

If it is ethical to warn her AFTER the 30 years of neglect, why is it unethical to warn her BEFORE the 30 years of neglect?

If you want to cultivate trust with a client, it is important to give them good information, But, it is also important to give them good information in a timely enough manner to actually do them some good.
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1970151 - 10/08/12 03:22 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: daniokeeper]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1748
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: daniokeeper
Originally Posted By: mbick
I have a couple of piano students right now that practice on horribly out of tune pianos. These are on my short list of pianos to practice tuning on, because it pains me to hear them played. They are both beginner students and I don't want them thinking a piano is supposed to sound like that. Right now it is just a matter of coordinating a time convenient to both of us.


Another good selling point, for the parents who are hesitant to keep the pianos tuned on a regular basis, is what I like to call the "chiropractic" argument. If a piano goes for a very long period of time without being tuned, there is the risk that the strings may rust themselves in position. Even if you lower the tension before raising, the odds of a string breaking have increased.

Regular tuning is similar to chiropractic adjustment. The strings are moved across the bearing points on a regular basis. It keeps them "limber," like regular chiropractic adjustments, so they don't freeze in position.

Even if you are developing as a tuner, the piano may still benefit from your tuning it, even if your tunings are not absolutely perfect yet. Of course, it's all relative.


I think we would all agree that piano wire unmoved for many years is certainly not a good thing; for a variety of very important reasons we need to keep it moving as regularly as is prudent. With this in view, the client needs to be informed of the problems that can ensue by neglecting regular tunings - especially when the piano is new.

When I was a beginner - around 1982 - I read of the above procedure described by daniokeeper in one of the many books on piano technology that I delved into at the time. It could have been in Mr Reblitz' fine work, but I could be mistaken.(My copy is long gone.) Be that as it may, daniokeeper is correct that the use of such method to break a rust collar on old wire at a bearing point really increases the risk of string breakage inasmuch as the counter clockwise turn of the tuning pin may also create a weak point at the coil. In due course, I followed the advice of one of my teachers (the late Jerry Pace), and for the most part, approached any and all piano wire the same: The more time one spends stressing the wire, the greater the risk of breakage; the less time stressing the wire, the less the risk. Therefore, move it quickly. To this end his "snappy" tuning technique proved quite good and, along with other conventional factors, produced a stable tuning. [And exceedingly minimal string breakage]


Edited by bkw58 (10/08/12 03:46 AM)
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com/

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#1970154 - 10/08/12 03:35 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21577
Loc: Oakland
The conditions that can make it more likely that strings will break are age, humidity, use, and neglect. In my area, humidity is rarely a factor. I noted elsewhere that I tuned a piano last week that had not been tuned since the last time I tuned it, in 1991, but because the piano is not more than 40 years old, and has had no more than normal use, there was little chance that strings would break. It actually tuned up nicely with a single pitch raise before fine tuning. Had the piano been over 100 years old, the probability that strings would break would rise significantly, but 50 or 60 years is rarely a problem.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#1970158 - 10/08/12 03:57 AM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: BDB]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1748
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: BDB
The conditions that can make it more likely that strings will break are age, humidity, use, and neglect. In my area, humidity is rarely a factor. I noted elsewhere that I tuned a piano last week that had not been tuned since the last time I tuned it, in 1991, but because the piano is not more than 40 years old, and has had no more than normal use, there was little chance that strings would break. It actually tuned up nicely with a single pitch raise before fine tuning. Had the piano been over 100 years old, the probability that strings would break would rise significantly, but 50 or 60 years is rarely a problem.


Tuner error, too. In most cases when one broke on me, I had momentarily lost focus and allowed the tip to angle on the pin and thereby twist the wire at the coil. POP! mad
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com/

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#1970370 - 10/08/12 03:52 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: mbick]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2402
Loc: Olympia, WA
Originally Posted By: daniokeeper
Ryan,

I also don't mean to offend, but this is not snake oil; it is my opinion based on observations of my mere 32+ years of tuning professionally. I am not "relying on phoney scare tactics."

I have seen it. I have dealt with it. A piano that was last tuned 20, 30, 40, or more years ago. When you lower the tension on a string before raising it, nothing happens as you keep dropping the tension until you hear a 'ping" sound as the string comes loose from where it has rusted itself and then the pitch drops... a lot. this may happen on only one or two strings. Or, it may happen on many or most strings.


daniokeeper,

Thanks for the response. I admit my response to you was too abrassive - I suppose our different perspectives on this may be largely due to the differences in our climates. I just don't find that string breakage issues come down to piano wire rusted onto the bearing surface. I do acknowledge the 'pinging' phenomenon you describe, but I don't come across it very often.

I interpreted the "chiropractic" approach as being a way of talking a client into getting the piano serviced more often than they otherwise would. I have heard others on this forum argue that not getting your piano tuned every six months is going to damage it.

I suppose going 20 years without tuning *might* increase the chance of string breakage slightly, but if the piano is not exposed to excessive dampness I doubt it. Most of the time when a string breaks, it just feels likes its ready to go. I also find that rendering problems more often come from the understring felt then anything else.

I think the chiropractic argument may have more bearing on the action than the strings. I definitely believe that actions that sit for long periods become sluggish. The best remedy for this is to make sure to play it occasionally, which is something we all will admit is a good thing smile
_________________________
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net

Top
#1970422 - 10/08/12 05:42 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: bkw58]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 651
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
Originally Posted By: bkw58
Originally Posted By: BDB
The conditions that can make it more likely that strings will break are age, humidity, use, and neglect. In my area, humidity is rarely a factor. I noted elsewhere that I tuned a piano last week that had not been tuned since the last time I tuned it, in 1991, but because the piano is not more than 40 years old, and has had no more than normal use, there was little chance that strings would break. It actually tuned up nicely with a single pitch raise before fine tuning. Had the piano been over 100 years old, the probability that strings would break would rise significantly, but 50 or 60 years is rarely a problem.


Tuner error, too. In most cases when one broke on me, I had momentarily lost focus and allowed the tip to angle on the pin and thereby twist the wire at the coil. POP! mad

Bob, I don't understand. How does a tip angled twist a string at the coil?
_________________________
Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

Top
#1970512 - 10/08/12 09:22 PM Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. [Re: Chris Leslie]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1748
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: Chris Leslie
Originally Posted By: bkw58
Originally Posted By: BDB
The conditions that can make it more likely that strings will break are age, humidity, use, and neglect. In my area, humidity is rarely a factor. I noted elsewhere that I tuned a piano last week that had not been tuned since the last time I tuned it, in 1991, but because the piano is not more than 40 years old, and has had no more than normal use, there was little chance that strings would break. It actually tuned up nicely with a single pitch raise before fine tuning. Had the piano been over 100 years old, the probability that strings would break would rise significantly, but 50 or 60 years is rarely a problem.


Tuner error, too. In most cases when one broke on me, I had momentarily lost focus and allowed the tip to angle on the pin and thereby twist the wire at the coil. POP! mad

Bob, I don't understand. How does a tip angled twist a string at the coil?


My apology, Chris, I did not explain this very well. If the tip is not properly seated on the tuning pin, in the turn the pin may flex contrary to a level course causing the wire to twist and break at the pin. When this occurred during one of my tunings such was the only instance where I considered it to be my fault and the wire would be replaced at no charge ( unless the wire was in terrible shape to start with: oxidation, etc.) etc. )
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com/

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