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#2113915 - 07/06/13 07:22 PM Piano Tuner Etiquette
Dominicus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/11
Posts: 22
I have an issue with the as-of-late performance of my piano tuner.
Nicest guy ever, as we've gotten to know each other, he likes to chat away as he is tuning more and more. Very interesting topics about music, piano mechanics, tuning quirks, piano movies on Netflix, plays 2-3 nice pieces for me after tuning is finished to demo whatever style he happened to be talking about before, I now look forward to his visits, as I find them intellectually enriching.
HOWEVER, the quality of his last 3 tunings has decreased. He seems to be relying much more on an electronic tuner he's got on some vintage PalmPilot or similar device. Many intervals continue to sound harsh, and some keys have weird tone/timbre/voicing.
Today I played my daughter's Yamaha keyboard, which I had not played in 2+yrs, and I found its tuning to be much more enjoyable than how the upright is tuned.
This didn't use to be the case. The keyboard, which I played for years before getting the upright, was only OK when compared to the freshly-tuned upright.
Unfortunately, I don't have the technical savvy to make a detailed list of flaws on the later tunings of the upright.
I don't know about tuning etiquette, just trying to avoid feedback like "your last tunings sucked" or "talk less and tune better" or "make it sound better than my keyboard".
Any ideas on how to build an objective "to-do" list for my tuner tech? Or how to politely get across he needs to up his performance?


Edited by Dominicus (07/06/13 08:27 PM)

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#2113931 - 07/06/13 08:14 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3866
I would have a difficult time chatting while tuning. It would distract me from the job at hand. In fact, I tell chatty clients (nicely) that I need peace and quiet to do a good job. Perhaps next time you should make a comment "I'll leave you alone so you can concentrate", then leave the room. Personally, people in the room when I tune are a distraction, because they move around and make noise.

There is nothing wrong with using an electronic aid, but the tuning still should be checked by ear when finished. A tuner's ears can change over time, as can their opinion of what a good tuning sounds like.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#2113935 - 07/06/13 08:23 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Bob]
Dominicus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/11
Posts: 22
Originally Posted By: Bob
I would have a difficult time chatting while tuning. It would distract me from the job at hand.


Makes sense to me, and matches the experience. The friendlier and talkative he's gotten, the poorer the outcomes I've gotten.

So is the suggestion to try one more tuning but stay out of the room to avoid him initiating conversation, and just come back once he starts testing the piano?

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#2113941 - 07/06/13 08:32 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3866
Yes, give him some alone time, but you could also make a comment before he starts about how the last tuning didn't hold as long, or something along those lines. It sounds like he is very comfortable with you as a customer, and may not realize you are noticing tuning issues. If someone told me the last tuning didn't hold as long, I would spend a bit of extra effort on this tuning, make darn sure everything was set, and make sure to double check everything.

Understand that tuners do try different stretches and temperaments over their tuning life. Sometimes these changes are intentional, some may be a result of declining hearing as we age. Your tuner might be relying more on his ETD due to declining hearing, or he might find the ETD makes tuning easier. For me, a piano comes alive when I tune aurally.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#2113949 - 07/06/13 08:50 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Bob]
Dominicus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/11
Posts: 22
Thanks for the advice.

I typically tune every 4 months or so. It's only been 3 weeks since last tune, but I noticed issues the same day of last tune.

So I'll call him back for a re-tune and give him the feedback tuning didn't "hold up", and point out the couple keys that are worst offenders generating weird tone.

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#2113959 - 07/06/13 09:11 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3866
Let me also suggest that the voicing on your piano might be getting uneven as well, due to certain notes that are played more sticking out in power or brightness over their neighbors. Clients sometimes perceive uneven voicing as tuning issues. To prevent call backs in that regard, I usually even out voicing on errant notes as part of the tuning, if it's just a few notes. When string grooves in the hammers get too deep, hammer shaping is indicated along with a good voicing.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#2113968 - 07/06/13 09:33 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2051
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Excellent advice from Bob. I would call right away and tell him the "tuning has slipped". Then see how he responds to that. If he schedules a service call with you ASAP, that is a good sign. When he arrives, then broach the subject about "distraction" in a way you find effective. Tell him how much you enjoyed his first tunings and that you want to return to that standard. Then let him make a plan. You will really know he values you as a client if he makes a serious adjustment to the fee.

It may be that the humidity increased at the same time the tuning was performed and that can move pitch rapidly. Wood takes on humidity about five times as fast as it will give up moisture. So it may not be his fault-or a product of distraction.

I can listen to people talk while I tune but when I speak I can't tune. I do talk a lot so my tunings can be slow, but this eases the strain on the arm/shoulder/neck.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2114006 - 07/06/13 11:01 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
That Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/11
Posts: 401
Loc: Lincoln, NE
I'd like to add that if you're not pleased with the tuning this time call him back right away. That way it will be evident that the tuning wasn't up to par and it wasn't just an anomaly. That's what I'd like someone to do for me if they were't pleased with the tuning. As a matter of fact I had it happen to me a couple of months ago. A lady I've tuned for for several years called me and said it didn't sound as good as my past tunings. She was right. I think what happened was that I got distracted by diagnosing a buzz (with her helping me by playing the notes that buzzed) and forgot to go back and check things like I normally do. When I tuned it again she was very happy! So if he's done a good job in the past you know he's capable of it. As others have said he may just have gotten distracted.
_________________________
Scott Kerns
"That Tuning Guy"
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com

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#2114063 - 07/07/13 03:37 AM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7538
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Dominicus
I have an issue with the as-of-late performance of my piano tuner.
Nicest guy ever, as we've gotten to know each other, he likes to chat away as he is tuning more and more. Very interesting topics about music, piano mechanics, tuning quirks, piano movies on Netflix, plays 2-3 nice pieces for me after tuning is finished to demo whatever style he happened to be talking about before, I now look forward to his visits, as I find them intellectually enriching.
HOWEVER, the quality of his last 3 tunings has decreased. He seems to be relying much more on an electronic tuner he's got on some vintage PalmPilot or similar device. Many intervals continue to sound harsh, and some keys have weird tone/timbre/voicing.
Today I played my daughter's Yamaha keyboard, which I had not played in 2+yrs, and I found its tuning to be much more enjoyable than how the upright is tuned.
This didn't use to be the case. The keyboard, which I played for years before getting the upright, was only OK when compared to the freshly-tuned upright.
Unfortunately, I don't have the technical savvy to make a detailed list of flaws on the later tunings of the upright.
I don't know about tuning etiquette, just trying to avoid feedback like "your last tunings sucked" or "talk less and tune better" or "make it sound better than my keyboard".
Any ideas on how to build an objective "to-do" list for my tuner tech? Or how to politely get across he needs to up his performance?


I seem to notice that the more the tuner is talking and have "little stories" to tell the customer, the less the job is satisfying. (often heard of how "special" the guy is doing, with some totally wrong or badly explained technical point)

There is a "mood" of the "tuner artist" that knows so much stories about pianos and music, etc"...

Does not guarantee the quality of the work.



Edited by Olek (07/07/13 03:38 AM)
_________________________
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#2114065 - 07/07/13 03:45 AM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3336
I used the same technician for roughly 10 years (until I took over tuning my piano), and we were always really chatty during the tuning. Now that I'm doing my own service calls, having a customer try to talk to me while I tune would just drive me nuts... they can gab me to death before or after, but tuning time is me time. However, some techs like to chat during tuning, and can still produce good results in a decent time frame. Good for them!

I've developed a protocol while tuning that, so far, has kept me out of trouble:

1. Tune the piano (usually with appropriate over-pull)
2. Depress sustain pedal and play octaves in both hands at forte volume up and down the keyboard a few times.
3. Make a second tuning pass
4. Check each note for pitch and unison quality.
5. Correct, as necessary.

I am able to do this usually between an hour and 1.25 hours, unless the piano is really far from pitch and/or I'm being really picky.

My philosophy is that the customer should inspect the piano, post-tuning, so that changes can be made, if necessary, and if they do not inspect the tuning, they waive their right to contest the tuning quality once I leave. Too many things can happen once the tuner leaves (open doors, windows, sun, kids banging, AC/heat going on and off or changing temperature drastically, etc.) for tuners to be expected to do return visits to fix a tuning. If anyone has a different opinion, I'd like to hear it, and why.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#2114149 - 07/07/13 10:55 AM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: beethoven986]
Samthetech Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/11/13
Posts: 78
Originally Posted By: beethoven986




My philosophy is that the customer should inspect the piano, post-tuning, so that changes can be made, if necessary, and if they do not inspect the tuning, they waive their right to contest the tuning quality once I leave. Too many things can happen once the tuner leaves (open doors, windows, sun, kids banging, AC/heat going on and off or changing temperature drastically, etc.) for tuners to be expected to do return visits to fix a tuning. If anyone has a different opinion, I'd like to hear it, and why.



I agree, I always make sure to ask the customer what they think, and have them play the piano if they are able. If someone were to call me back after 3 weeks, I'd be very unlikely to tune it for free. I'd certainly go check on it, just to provide good customer service. I would also certainly explain to the customer that I probably won't be willing to tune it for free a second time, especially this time of year! Close your windows and leave the AC on. Sometimes customer's forget that pianos change as they age. That means that the OP's piano may simply not be holding the tune as well, or that its voicing has gotten bad, or any number of things.
_________________________
Piano Technician, 3 years experience

And why yes, I know I'm a girl!

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#2114583 - 07/08/13 10:02 AM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Samthetech]
bellspiano Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/04
Posts: 503
Loc: Boston, MA
In terms of etiquette, I think your job is pretty simple:
1) Welcome the tech in, have the piano ready to tune (music off the desk, etc.), and say, "I'm going to work in the other room, and I won't distract you from the tuning. Call me when you want me to check the piano." Red flag: if the tech says, "Oh, I love talking with you while I tune," you immediately know that things are getting muddy and the focus of the visit is already unclear.
2) Play or listen when it's done, and pay attention. I'm guessing from your original post that there may be unison problems, so be sure to listen to individual notes and intervals as well as to a piece of music.
3) Say "thank you" when the tuning suits you, pay up, say goodbye.
4) If the tuning doesn't sound right later that day or the next day, call immediately. Write down the notes or intervals that aren't right to you. Answer any questions the tech has about the tuning. Say "thank you" again at the end of the callback visit.

I'm concentrating on the etiquette thing because it's pretty simple. You need to keep the focus on the purpose of the visit; that will help you and help the tech. Having not done this, you will find that there is some discomfort getting back to basics, but doing so will be good for both of you.

My guess about the situation in general is that the tech is getting sloppy and casual about his work for some reason that is not to do with you (age? substance abuse? personal distraction?), and that you are facilitating this by letting him steer the visit. You are the customer, you are paying, you are entitled to get a good tuning. And if you don't get what you pay for, it is perfectly correct to call someone else for the next tuning. Don't worry about pleasing this tech, it's his job to please you.
_________________________
Dorrie Bell
retired piano technician
Boston, MA

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#2114648 - 07/08/13 12:31 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Minnesota Marty Online   content

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7414
Loc: Rochester MN
Hello Everyone,

I put some guidelines for the 'tunee' in the Piano Forum. It can be found by using this link:

Yikes - The Tuner Is Coming!

Please add your comments, from the tuner's viewpoint, to help make the suggestions complete.

Thanks,
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2125424 - 07/30/13 05:11 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Dominicus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/11
Posts: 22
MN Marty: great post, and seems to have taken a life of it's own.

My tuner, who usually schedules several weeks out, set a "next week" appointment to come check my piano.

Tuner thoroughly tested the piano, played sections of several pieces in various keys, played intervals, counted beats, played chords, and concluded he didn't hear anything wrong, piano sounds very nice and couldn't spot any drifting in tuning or timbre.

He asked me to play some of what I find off, which I did. Some chords in 2nd/3rd octave sound off to me, and the 11th C3-F4. All sounded fine to the tuner.

He offered to change the tuning if I wished (i.e. tuning different than equal temperament), which I declined, since I've never played pianos tuned to anything but equal temperament...that I know of.

No adjustment, no charge, laughs, and to call him in a week if I'm still not liking the sound.

I've had the same piano, which I play daily for 3+ years, so I have to charge it to cognitive issues. I'm mystified and lack any plan at this point.

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#2125447 - 07/30/13 05:56 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Phil D Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/10
Posts: 551
Loc: London, England
I'm not too impressed by his standard of care here. The assumption must be that you are not mad, that you are hearing something wrong that you haven't heard before, and it is his job to come to an understanding on what it is, and hopefully to fix it or to suggest how it could be fixed.

A shrug and a "sounds fine to me" isn't right. Even if it does sound right to him, he's not the owner of the piano. His job is to listen to you, and to try and interpret what you are trying to say as it relates to what he knows about the piano.

The solution may well be a psychological one, but that is not to dismiss the problem.
_________________________
Phil Dickson
The Cycling Piano Tuner

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#2125463 - 07/30/13 06:14 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Yes, it could be a voicing issue or something else which only becomes apparent after some investigating and deeper "questioning" of the client. Trying to understand what the client is perceiving is not always easy. Describing sound is difficult for many people with the vocabulary, and nearly impossible for those who are lacking in that department.

Having said that, you have to be careful to draw a line somewhere. Example: older people sometimes perceive the treble as being flat. You can increase the treble stretch somewhat, but you need to be careful to keep it within reasonable limits, otherwise a visitor or different player will wonder "Who the heck tuned this piano so badly?"
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#2125488 - 07/30/13 06:52 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2381
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
So I like to talk. Sue me...

laugh
_________________________
Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
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#2125583 - 07/30/13 10:26 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2402
Loc: Olympia, WA
Do you have hearing aides? I have had clients that have hearing aides that can make them perceive that the piano is out of tune.
_________________________
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net

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#2125590 - 07/30/13 10:39 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
That Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/11
Posts: 401
Loc: Lincoln, NE
I had a customer tell me not too long ago that she had thought the upper notes sounded funny but then discovered her hearing aids were the problem. I think they were distorting the sound.
_________________________
Scott Kerns
"That Tuning Guy"
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com

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#2125595 - 07/30/13 10:46 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Supply]
Dominicus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/11
Posts: 22
Quote:
Describing sound is difficult for many people with the vocabulary


Couldn't agree more.
As I play various pieces in my limited repertoire, the offending sounds tend to fall in specific chords or lone notes along the piece. This proved very difficult to explain in isolation as I attempted while my tuner was there.

I can't rule out that what I hear may be voicing-type differences, or odd timbre of some strings. Per the tuner's assessment, the piano is midway between soft and bright, and some of the intervals I find standing out, are not technically beating faster than required for equal temperament. I like the overall brightness as it is, especially at the upper registers, so he didn't think it would be productive to soften the overall tone hoping to hide something we can't pinpoint.

I'm debating whether to actually invest the time in notating my music where these blips are more pronounced, or to just try my luck with another tuner. There aren't that many good ones locally anyway.

I do need to figure this out, as I'm not enjoying playing as I used to, find myself playing at electronic keyboard more often, which previously I'd only venture if I felt like playing very late at night.

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#2125598 - 07/30/13 10:54 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: rysowers]
Dominicus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/11
Posts: 22
Originally Posted By: rysowers
Do you have hearing aides? I have had clients that have hearing aides that can make them perceive that the piano is out of tune.


No, I don't have any known hearing problems or use hearing aids. I can imagine how those could add another layer of confounding.

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#2125715 - 07/31/13 06:33 AM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1707
Loc: London, England
Your only specific so far has been the interval of an 11th. This is not a restful musical interval and needs to resolve in a musical way. Music Is about creation and resolution of tension and to take one interval out of context will sound "off"
Similarly, it is not unusual for a parent to listen to their child practicing separate hands. The left hand particularly will have incomplete chords which the parent will perceive as "off". The usual culprit is a minor 7th.

None of us can tell from here if there is a real problem with your piano but after a few years of playing, it will need some work other than tuning, particularly since many beginners have a tendency to bang. (a digital is more forgiving of piano bangers).

There is no harm in employing a different tuner. None of us own our clientele. Ask around. Who tunes your teachers' piano?.
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#2125718 - 07/31/13 06:47 AM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Zeno Wood Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/07
Posts: 446
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
What make and model piano do you have? Some pianos, usually small ones, don't have very smooth progressions of beating intervals over the bass/tenor break. In these cases, one has to make some hard compromises between having a "correct" beat rate and having decent sounding 5ths, octaves, etc.
_________________________
Zeno Wood, Piano Technician
Brooklyn College

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#2125965 - 07/31/13 04:07 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Zeno Wood]
Dominicus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/13/11
Posts: 22
You can see a vid of my piano in a post I did more than a year ago to this forum. It's a U7 Yamaha.
I used a point-n-shoot camera, so audio is quite poor from the pin-hole mike in the camera housing.
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1837683/

I can't tell what state of voicing it was at the time (so scratchy recording), but in real life, I'm quite happy with the tone relative to many other uprights I've played.

I didn't intend to seek a diagnosis for tuning issues on a message forum, this post was about best ways to interact with my tuner, do my homework, and make the tuning session most productive. I'm just posting in reply to inquiry about piano type or banging touch. Thanks for all the inputs and interest, if I'm ever able to find a cure/culprit, I'll report back.

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#2126049 - 07/31/13 06:42 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2402
Loc: Olympia, WA
Wow that piano sounds really bright! If it were my piano, I would want it voiced down quite a bit.
_________________________
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net

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#2126058 - 07/31/13 07:01 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
Jbyron Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 514
Loc: USA
I agree with Ryan, voicing might be what you are noticing.
_________________________
Tuner-Technician



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#2126458 - 08/01/13 02:27 PM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Bob]
tend to rush Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 52
Originally Posted By: Bob
A tuner's ears can change over time


They certainly can. At risk of an indelicate question: How old's this guy? Are your issues in the treble? Are they unisons? Typically these are tuned by ear, even if using an electronic tuner. I remember many years ago, being sent out often to touch up the treble where a store's old tuner was losing his high frequency hearing. Sad.

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#2126839 - 08/02/13 08:50 AM Re: Piano Tuner Etiquette [Re: Dominicus]
David Jenson Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2098
Loc: Maine
The brightness could well be due to the response curve of the little microphone. Unless recording is done with quality mics in a good studio environment, I'm hesitant to say much.

- That said, Yea - it does sound a bit bright.
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
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