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#2016491 - 01/18/13 03:10 AM Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities
Bojan Babic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/15/09
Posts: 325
Loc: Vojvodina, Serbia
Hello. Beside my other engagements, I have been doing piano maintenance at one University, here in our region( East Europe) for past few years, and we(music department principle, teachers and me), constatntly have problem with the budget, because the people who are distributing the money to different departments( fine arts, acting, movie directory..., and music) seem not to understand that piano maintenance is essential for their Music department normal functioning. The music teachers are crying for better maintenance, but the big bosses just do not give them enough money for that purpose. That is why we are both unhappy- I can"t do everything that I should do on their pianos, and even when I do that minimum, they are willing to pay, I wait for the payment for more than 6 months. At the other side, they have most instruments not in good condition, and they can not work properly with their students on them. Each year, we do some projects together, writing tones of paper in attempt to get some money, but at the end, the situation remains the same. It is a state University, so all the money is given by the state, they do not have sponsors, or scholarships.
I would like to ask you, to give me some information here, about the way Music departments which you are working for have solved that issue. How often do you tune each piano? How often do you regulate actions. How many pianos are there? How often do they buy new pianos? What do they do with the old ones? How long do you wait for the payment? Are you full time employed there, or you are working on the contract? I would also like to know about approximate costs of maintenance, per piano, in average, just to have some data for comparison( knowing that it is relative, of course).
Your responses will be presented to the University management, just as an illustration how it is done in different parts of the world.
Thanks in advance.
_________________________
Bojan Babic
piano technician and tuner
Sid, Vojvodina, Serbia
_____________________________
bojanbabic@yahoo.com
www.klaviri.blogspot.com

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#2016502 - 01/18/13 03:26 AM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3876
First of all, I would drop any client that takes 6 months to pay. A sub contractor should expect to be paid in 30-45 days after invoice is presented.

I think in the USA, some schools have trouble budgeting enough money, while others are better. It seems to be a mixed bag. The Piano Technicians Guild has a guide for institutional maintenance of pianos that may be helpful. You can contact them at www.PTG.org.

It's commendable for you to fight for the pianos you service, but by taking 6 months to pay, the school is sending you a message that they couldn't care less about you or the pianos. My advice to you is reevaluate if this is really a customer you want long term. Sometimes you have to let a client go.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#2016511 - 01/18/13 04:00 AM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3348
Working in a university environment can be very frustrating. As with your situation, the vast majority of music conservatories are underfunded, especially with regard to piano maintenance; it's not unheard of for a piano maintenance budget to receive 30% or less of what is actually needed. To make things worse, university pianos deteriorate rapidly without frequent reconditioning. First things first, though... having to wait six months for compensation is totally unacceptable; assuming you're not an employee, you should have a written and signed contract with the school that outlines what each party's responsibilities are, and what happens when those are not met. If the situation is so dire that you don't benefit from the relationship, then you should sever your ties with the school. Above all else, you need to avoid making their problem your problem.

As far as piano maintenance goes, you will have to come up with a comprehensive plan, and learn how to prioritize. The PTG has an excellent guide for successful maintenance of institutional pianos: http://www.ptg.org/userfiles/file/CAUT_Guidelines.pdf. A good place to start is finding out exactly what your piano inventory is, assess each piano, and determine if you have pianos that aren't needed, or are beyond helping, etc. You will need to make detailed written assessments for every piano, and then write a full report (possibly including pictures) for the administration. In your final written report, you should include where things are at now, what your goals for the future are, and what you need to achieve those goals. You should do this annually.

My suggestion is prioritizing concert and teaching instruments. Then, ensuring that any practice room grands remain decently functional, followed by tuning as a secondary priority (consider letting the pitch float within reason). Uprights should be at the bottom of your priority list. Pianos that are not used specifically by pianists do not need to be as finely regulated or tuned; non-pianists usually just use them as a convenient table top, anyway. If you're able, consider training apprentices; they can be a great way to extend the budget.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#2016515 - 01/18/13 04:20 AM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7887
Loc: France
Hello Bojan,

I can provide you the time frames provided for the different usual operations of maintenance, from the National Music school in Paris , if it can help you.

Everything is broken in units, each having a number of hours considered as enough to make the job, and most technicians are subcontractors (while there is a head tech, a tuner and an apprentice , if I am not wrong , who are directly related to the institution)

let me know as the document is in French, there are not so many operations I could not translate it in English. Only common tuning and maintenance , and usual repairs, are covered.
Repairs are budgeted on a one by one basis, changing hammers or the 2 treble strings sections is considered maintenance +-.

Regards


Edited by Kamin (01/18/13 05:16 AM)
_________________________
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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#2016523 - 01/18/13 04:57 AM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
pianolive Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/11
Posts: 327
Loc: Europe
Hello Bojan,

I know about the situation for culture in Serbia. It is not easy for you and many people are creating great things, though so little money is available.
Maintenance and repair are different things. You should set up a status file for each instrument to begin with.
I work at some universities and I can help you with ideas how you could proceed. Send me a note through the board if you are interested.

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#2016528 - 01/18/13 05:26 AM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7887
Loc: France
Things have moved a little during the 10 last years, but originally the lack of information on maintenance was the cause of much trouble;

Not only because of the administrations, also because the policy of many piano dealers was to expect inquiries from the customers, then sell a "repair" of course always too late for the instrument in that case.

In the institution budget, never you could see the word "maintenance" , any operation done by a piano tech was called "tuning"
Then many techs who where mostly tuners never tried to work maintenance practice, and out of a few minimal operations they did not really try to have the instruments at an accepteable musical level.

This have changed, but not so much.

The headquarters of the schools if they want to ask budgets for maintenance, have to admit they where not doing things at best beforethen, so the most interesting moment is when a new director is coming.

Finding someone capable of making a good expertise of the condition of the instruments, is not even so easy to find, my colleague Jean Morfin , ex chief technician at the Paris CNSM , setup an enterprise with that activity : piano parc audit

http://auditpianos.fr/
_________________________
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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#2016665 - 01/18/13 11:35 AM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
You have to set ground rules for anyone that you work for. One of them possibly the most important one, is when are you going to be paid.

My ground rules on that are that I send them a bill once a month. I expect payment within 30 days like clockwork. For the most part, that is what usually takes place. If not, I let them know and if it continues I complain a lot and I have fired clients over this. I am currently in the process of demanding payment in advance from a few churches because lately, they are paying me after 90 days. I won't accept that. Pay me on my terms or, call someone else. If they don't care about me? I don't care about them either. Pretty simple there.

Set ground rules on what pianos are the priority pianos to be tuned, when, where and how often and for what events?

At my college, we used to have 98 pianos. Thanks to one of the dealers, the college got rid of some acoustic pianos buying 20 digitals instead. The funny part here, is that 95 % of the time, none of the digitals are ever used. But, we still have 78 acoustic pianos that are used daily.

We set up a total of 300 (give or take every year) tunings a year with our regular tunings, concert tunings and other stuff.

I am the lead technician, in fact, the only technician there most of the time. Nobody else is allowed to set foot as a part of my contract with them, on campus without my personal consent. I don't want some jerk tooner coming in there screwing things up doing bad work. They abide by this agreement very well. They also pay me within 30 days almost always.

Now, with me being off from work due to my Gallbladder removal, they are extremely laid back telling me to get better first, the pianos can wait but, for the concert work which, I set up myself, with other technicians that I know will do right by them and by me. They simply let me know what's got to be done and by when and I take it from there.

We set up repairs according to priority. As I'm tuning the "regular pianos" I go through at the same time and touch up things like regulation, I space hammers, fix pedal squeaks and whatever else I might encounter. It is a lot easier to maintain, than it is to start from scratch and cheaper for the college too and, we get virtually no complaints that keys are sticking, keys are squeaking, hammers are bobbling because I take care of all of that the same time I am there tuning.

The college is not my only account. It is about 30 % of what I tune each year. I sub contract a lot of work out to technicians around town as I need the help if and when I need the help including rebuilding work which I no longer do. The set up I have with the college is good. My family has been servicing for them, since my grandfather started servicing for them back in 1926. A very, long, time.

So, set up some ground rules first. How many pianos do they have? How many tunings a year SHOULD they require? How many tunings a year can you get away with? Can you trade off a few tunings on such and such piano and put those on a more important piano instead? Slowly try and increase the budget for tuning and for repairs.

Every single one of us has some sort of problem with budgets. I don't have a lot of trouble but for wanting to do major work. The work I do throughout the year, I don't get complaints on. I just do it and they pay me. They know I'm not going to screw them and I know they're not going to screw me either.

It's an honesty thing too.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2017213 - 01/19/13 11:42 AM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
pppat Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/09/08
Posts: 1195
Loc: Jakobstad, Finland
Originally Posted By: Bojan Babic
I would like to ask you, to give me some information here, about the way Music departments which you are working for have solved that issue. How often do you tune each piano? How often do you regulate actions. How many pianos are there? How often do they buy new pianos? What do they do with the old ones? How long do you wait for the payment? Are you full time employed there, or you are working on the contract? I would also like to know about approximate costs of maintenance, per piano, in average, just to have some data for comparison( knowing that it is relative, of course).
Your responses will be presented to the University management, just as an illustration how it is done in different parts of the world.
Thanks in advance.


Hi Bojan,

I have 40 pianos here. I tune a piano an average of 3-4 times/year, the concert halls and piano classes more frequently, the other rooms less.

This is a quite new approach at the conservatory, and it's "my fault", so to speak. :)The instruments used to be tuned 1-2 times a year, and maintenance was partially non-existent. To exaggerate a bit, when a piano's hammers were worn out, they bought a new one instead.

This was during the good times, of course. With today's economy, every expense is under the magnifying glass. Still, I've been able to increase the funding placed in piano maintenance, because of the needs. A lot of good grands here, completely neglected for 20 years.

25% of my employment at Novia is piano maintenance, which is 400 hrs for an academic year. Materials are budgetet separately, this is just work hours. My salary runs on a monthly basis, and - just as others mention - I would never accept payment lagging behind.

I did some research last Fall which might be of interest to you. There is no consensus as to how the conservatories and the (one academic!) university in Finland invest in piano maintenance. There are quite baffling variations, ranging from about 5 hrs/instrument/year to 30 hrs/instrument/year. Ours would be 400 hrs divided by 40 instruments = 10 hrs per instrument, per year.


Edited by pppat (01/19/13 02:36 PM)
_________________________
Patrick Wingren, RPT

Senior Lecturer (jazz piano, composition, music theory, conducting) @ Novia University of Applied Sciences, Jakobstad, Finland
- - - -
Dedicated to learning the craft of tuning. Getting better.

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#2017231 - 01/19/13 12:19 PM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
TunerJeff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 481
Loc: Oregon Coast
Dear Bojan,

The Piano Technicians Guild website can also lead you to two online discussion groups and the entire collection of posts traded on those forums. The College and University Technicians (CAUT) and Pianotech forums are open to the public. The libraries are filled with technical specifications, and 'how to' worksheets on a variety of subjects.

Search ptg.org
Tap the 'Communities' button.
Join Pianotech
Join CAUT

Both are open to the public and will be most useful to you.

Ask questions! Search the files. There was a recent discussion of your questions on there, as a matter of fact. The techs were sharing how many pianos they serviced, how many hours per week they worked, and a lot of information that applied to your questions. Just search the recent discussions/recent activity.

Like any forum, there are those who know a lot, and and those who post a lot, and that's not always the same people. Know what I mean? But, there are several highly skilled folks that take the time to answer the questions, and the online library and archives will be most useful to you.

Explain your needs, and the demands on your service, and see what they might offer to help you in your duties. You can certainly take the replies to your administrators, as an example of how they maintain their instruments! You'll have answers from some of the largest universities, colleges, and conservatories in the United States. There are also folks posting from around the world, from South America to South Africa in recent discussions. Quite a mix.

You might consider joining the Piano Technicians Guild, so you can get the monthly 'Journal' of technical and historical articles, too.

Good luck, sir.
See you on the CAUT list!

Smiling,
I am,
Taking care of two,
Community Colleges,
and a lurker on those lists!
_________________________
Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com

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#2017237 - 01/19/13 12:37 PM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
TunerJeff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 481
Loc: Oregon Coast
Dear Bojan,

Here are a couple of posts from recent discussions on the CAUT list. They were comparing numbers on how many technicians/per pianos, harpsichords, etc, just before Christmas. Some basic numbers for you.

POSTED TO
CAUT (College and Univerisity Techncicians Forum)
at PTG.org (Piano Technicians Guild Forum)

Hi....Martin Snow here, Boston University School of Music, I have been asked by the Director for a quick review comparison of number of pianos per technician, no novellas please just the facts! So here at BU/Music which is a heavily performance based degree program, we have 175 pianos 7 h'schords and a fortepiano, staffing is..... One full time piano tech. [myself since 1986], 3 assistants at 20 hours weekly each, and 2 additional assistants at 15 hours weekly each. If you could send along similar info. that would be most appreciated, and whatever it is you celebrate, Happy Holidays, and a spiffy merry Christmas filled with love and peace....................martin
******************************************
Brigham Young University
426 pianos, 81 grands, 4 harpsichords
2 concert halls and 6 other snaller venues used
2 fulltime technicians and 7 students averaging 15 hours each (3 of these are at RPT skill level)
Need anything else?

Best,
Jim Busby, RPT
***********************
Dear Martin,
That's certainly a large program. Presuming a 40 hr/ full time week, my numbers put you at about 57 pianos/tech average.
We are a smaller liberal arts college with about 140 pianos and 1.5 techs (myself full time and one assistant at 25 hrs/wk for 10 months). Do your assistants have the summer off or are they year round? That also makes some difference. I get a simple division of about 93 pianos/tech here, but of course there's always more to every story. If you are managing 5 helpers that sounds like a significant job in itself.

comfort and peace,

Dennis Johnson
St. Olaf College
***************************
Hi, Middle Tennessee State University is an All Steinway School. Medium large liberal arts university, 27,000 students, 350 music majors. We have 60 pianos, one harpsichord, one forte piano, and two D's on the stage. I am full time with no other help but I have a good budget and enjoy the support of my administration.

Chris

-------------------------------------------
Christopher Purdy, RPT
Piano Technician
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37132
***********************************
I also work at Snow College, an All Steinway School.

39 pianos total, and I work there 10 hours per week. No assistants. (Yet)
Two concert halls, and one recital hall.

Jim
******************************
Approximately 80 pianos, 2 harpichords, 1 celeste.

Myself and the wife take of the pianos at Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, OK.

Not a problem. Contract labor only.

Keith McGavern, RPT
****************************

We have 110 keyboard instruments here at Univ. of Nebraska/Lincoln. About 50:50 uprights and grands, 4 harpsichords, 1 forte, a pedal clavichord, and a few clavichords and virginals that nobody plays. We have 2 main concert venues, both with Steinway D's and one Baldwin D from 1956..y'all have heard about that pain. I also care for the Lied Center pianos where the "big" names play; 1 Steinway D, 2 Steinway B's, a Petrof 6'4" grand and a Charles Walter upright.

It's just me to cover all of them. I do call Richard West out of the retirement "closet" on occasion. I've asked for an assistant (perhaps 15-20 hours/week) to cover the practice rooms, but tight budgets won't allow that.Since I am "staff", I'm glued to 40 hours/week unless we have special needs. I semi-rebuild about 2 pianos/year (like restring, new actions, etc.), and send out about 1 per year for new bellies and everything except refinishing. I've had one refinished...our oldest piano; a 1911 Steinway A that got everything. It's very nice! Our director was very instrumental (no pun intended) on getting both our Steinway D's sent out for rebuilding last summer, and they're a world of difference on the good side. :>) Thanks to the UNL Foundation!!

We also have 2 Celestes, but I don't deal with them too much unless an emergency calls for it.

Martin, what ages are your pianos? what brands? We're working on the Foundation for some new stuffs to replace many aging pianos.

Best and Happy Holidays!
Paul
************************

There are a dozen more responses to the question, but you get the idea. If you join the CAUT discussions, you can get more information from the techs themselves.

Hope this helps,
I remain,
_________________________
Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com

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#2017296 - 01/19/13 02:20 PM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4215
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Hi Bojan,

Unfortunate to read that you are having difficulty in getting paid.

Although many here are not aware, I know in your part of Europe things are quite difficult at the moment and a lot of university professors, other faculty members, and even government workers are not getting paid properly; many are waiting several months at times for pay cheques.

I know that if you refuse to complete the work they will not care much and just find someone else who will do the work, even if the replacements are not qualified as you are.

I am wondering about a retainer or some funding in advance, maybe create an account for them in your business and have them place some funds into that account and you let them know when the funds are going to run out.

It is difficult to know how to advise you in this kind of situation.
_________________________
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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#2017319 - 01/19/13 02:38 PM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: TunerJeff]
pppat Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/09/08
Posts: 1195
Loc: Jakobstad, Finland
Originally Posted By: TunerJeff
Dear Bojan,

The Piano Technicians Guild website can also lead you to two online discussion groups and the entire collection of posts traded on those forums. The College and University Technicians (CAUT) and Pianotech forums are open to the public. The libraries are filled with technical specifications, and 'how to' worksheets on a variety of subjects.

Search ptg.org
Tap the 'Communities' button.
Join Pianotech
Join CAUT

Both are open to the public and will be most useful to you.


Great advice, Jeff, I second that!


Edited by pppat (01/19/13 02:38 PM)
_________________________
Patrick Wingren, RPT

Senior Lecturer (jazz piano, composition, music theory, conducting) @ Novia University of Applied Sciences, Jakobstad, Finland
- - - -
Dedicated to learning the craft of tuning. Getting better.

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#2017463 - 01/19/13 06:46 PM Re: Usual way of piano maintenance at the Universities [Re: Bojan Babic]
Bojan Babic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/15/09
Posts: 325
Loc: Vojvodina, Serbia
I want to warmly thank to all of you who have spent your time do give me the answers. It was really very helpful. I hope this will give some results very soon. Thanks so much!
_________________________
Bojan Babic
piano technician and tuner
Sid, Vojvodina, Serbia
_____________________________
bojanbabic@yahoo.com
www.klaviri.blogspot.com

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