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#2125806 - 07/31/13 11:23 AM Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please.
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1072
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Hello Everyone,

I am a registered piano technician with the piano technicians guild and I also give courses on how to tune and repair pianos.

Until now, giving courses was a great way to supliment my incone from tuning.

However, this summer has been very difficult to find people interested in learning this skill.

I have advertised using Google Adwords, I have paid for top ads in Kijiji. I keep track of everyone who contacts me about learning to tune and repair pianos and I have actively contacted each one of them to see if they are interested.

In the past I have had 10 to 12 individual registrants for each week of my courses. This summer, I have had to run my courses with only one student in each, choosing to cancel some.

So, my questions for you are:

1) Should I just give up on this? Is there basially no one interested in learning this trade anymore, or

2) Am I using the wrong marketing techniques. If you type in "learn to tune pianos" into Google, I come up on the first page, near the top, so I find it hard to believe people could not find me if they were interested, which makes me think, nobody is interested.

I need to decide what to do because, if I cannot increase my revenue doing this (which I love to do but need to be paid for it) then I will have to quit putting so much effort into marketing and preparation and just stop giving the courses and concentrate on something else.

I was just feeling extremely frustrated about the whole experience and thought a post on Pianoworld might shed some light on the situation.



Edited by Mark Cerisano, RPT (07/31/13 11:32 AM)
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2125839 - 07/31/13 12:13 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1318
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Mark, I've heard good things about your courses, but I am astonished that you were able to get as many as 10-12 participants for weeklong courses. That was remarkable success! To me you would have been doing well to attract 3-4 participants.

So my question to you would be, were you advertising any differently in this past? Or was it word of mouth?

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#2125850 - 07/31/13 12:35 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1072
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Thanks for the comments Peter.

My best marketing tool has been the internet and following up emails. Nothing much has changed.

I have noticed that demand for the course is strong in the first year I offer it in a city. I can only surmise that, as I am in that city for a longer time, there are less people interested because they've already taken the course.

That is why I am targeting online real-time video conferencing. Do you think it is too early for the general public to trust this enviroment and consider it as a valid alternative to live in-person training?
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2125871 - 07/31/13 01:03 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1072
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
Mark, I've heard good things about your courses, but I am astonished that you were able to get as many as 10-12 participants for weeklong courses. That was remarkable success! To me you would have been doing well to attract 3-4 participants.

So my question to you would be, were you advertising any differently in this past? Or was it word of mouth?



Also, an individual registration is for one course. I.e. if they take two courses the same week, that is considered two individual registrations. So when I say 10 - 12, because I offer tuning and repair in the same week, that could mean 5 - 6 participants taking both courses.
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2125884 - 07/31/13 01:42 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
StarvingLion Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/13
Posts: 226
I can't even get an acoustic piano, nevermind take a course on how to tune it. It takes $2000 to get a 40 year old yamaha console into my home. So I bought a service free digital for $600. Offshoring manufacturing has done nothing to make acoustic pianos affordable.

The real problem is high density population economics favored by the financial elite. Good luck trying to sell acoustic pianos (and associated services) to apartment dwellers in the future.
_________________________
I'm starting the solid wooden keys revolution in digital pianos. Get'em now or be square!

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#2125939 - 07/31/13 03:18 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
Whizbang Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 740
As an amateur pianist, I worry about the profession as well.

I don't feel like we live in an amateur performance culture any more. Tv, Internet, gaming--these all have low barriers to entry. Face to face socialization seems a rarity now.

In such an environment, it's hard to justify the expenditure on acoustic instruments. There is a quality difference to be sure, but for folks on a budget, digital pianos offer significant advantages.

Furthermore, the barrier to entry is high and the return on investment seems pretty low. It may come down to a race in decline rates: how quickly the acoustic pianist population decays relative to the population of acoustic piano technicians.

A talk that might appeal to people is a layman's talk, in which you describe piano basics such as how a piano action works, what voicing is, what regulation is, signs of wear to look for, as well as categorization of problems you can DIY for and problems (like tuning) where you want to call a professional.

Maybe call it "the Care and Feeding of an Acoustic Piano".
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2125961 - 07/31/13 03:46 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: StarvingLion]
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1072
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Originally Posted By: StarvingLion
I can't even get an acoustic piano, nevermind take a course on how to tune it. It takes $2000 to get a 40 year old yamaha console into my home. So I bought a service free digital for $600. Offshoring manufacturing has done nothing to make acoustic pianos affordable.

The real problem is high density population economics favored by the financial elite. Good luck trying to sell acoustic pianos (and associated services) to apartment dwellers in the future.


Thanks for the comment StarvingLion.

I'm not sure what city you live in, but here in Montreal, I just saw some free pianos being given away by a rebuilding shop. True most were dogs, but one had great promise. It would sound awesome with just a tuning. The cabinet had some issues but everything else was good. Awesome bass. Piano moving in Montreal, main floor to main floor would be about $200. With a crane to a higher floor in an apartment, $400 - $600. So, I'm not sure where you say acoustic pianos are expensive. They're not in Montreal.
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2126039 - 07/31/13 06:23 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1779
Loc: Pennsylvania
Well, it must be fairly obvious that acoustic pianos are on the way out in favor of digital pianos. They may never be totally removed from the picture but certainly their numbers will decline.

So .... not much need for tuning.

An unfortunate (for you) fact of life.

I might suggest you stop teaching others to do it. This will increase the need for piano tuners ... a position that you may be happy to fill.

Good Luck
_________________________
Don

My current system: Kawai ES7 + Focal CMS40 Powered Monitors, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, Mackie ProFX8 Mixer, Ravenscroft275, True Keys American Grand, Ivory II American Concert D, Steinway Basic, Galaxy Vintage D, True Pianos, Pianoteq, Alicia's Keys

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#2126201 - 08/01/13 01:46 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 951
I share your frustration in the internet world. It's often hard to predict what will work and what won't, or know if you are finding the right people. Tuning is something I'm interested in, but I'm not sure how much I would want to take a course. Not only what Don said about digitals, but if I need a tuning, I'd rather pay someone than do it myself. I would think the repair end of things might bring you more business, depending on how many repairs you think could be done by the owner. I know when I was in college, the pianos in the practice rooms always needed to be fixed up, most often a pedal needed adjustment or reconnected.

Have you tried short YouTube videos with free tips and a link to your site? Maybe something like "Adjust the feel of your pedals" or whatever you feel would be a good free tip. Ask people what are the top things they would like to know about their piano and build from that. Can you teach me how to unstick a key? I'd pay to learn how to do that, as an example.

It's a brave new world. I say hang in there and maybe try to expand what you are teaching.
_________________________
-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 21+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
My Sight Reading eBook
My Music

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#2126212 - 08/01/13 02:34 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
StarvingLion Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/13
Posts: 226
Give me a break, Mark. Is there even a single dealer in Canada that sells a premium brand new 42" console like a Charles Walter? I don't even think the guy in BC stocks them.

Chasing down 100 year old free piano's is not a sustainable business model. It is fraught with risk. The local private restoration firm wants $3k minimum for used mediocre consoles. The snobs at Steinway want $1500 for a 6month trial rent-to-own Essex console piece of junk.

If you go into any of these places without a 8-10K budget, the eyes begin to roll; another cheapo has entered the establishment.


Edited by StarvingLion (08/01/13 03:02 AM)
_________________________
I'm starting the solid wooden keys revolution in digital pianos. Get'em now or be square!

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#2126227 - 08/01/13 03:58 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
Anne H Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/13
Posts: 116
Ooh, something I can actually be helpful about! In my "real life" I own a small internet marketing/content company that deals entirely with niche markets, so I know exactly how you feel. I would imagine this kind of thing is a niche market so you'll need to approach it with that in mind. One way to get around this (and how I've managed successfully with my business) is to think of how to appeal to people globally rather than locally. If local people sign up, that's great, but they probably won't be your bread and butter. I also think the suggestion of offering some videos or other "samples" of your courses that might attract nerdy layperson types is a good one. If you're having success with internet leads and simple followup emails, a newsletter can help automate that process even further.

Here's something I usually tell my clients to ask themselves (a different niche industry, but it still applies): What do you do in the real world that works? Do people love your teaching methods? Your content? What do you offer that is unique and really works?

Then, take that and think of how to infuse that into your online marketing. If it's your personality that people love, make some videos that show that off. If it's the depth of information that you give out, showcase that. Instead of thinking of the web as a different medium, think of it as an extension of what you're already doing that you know works.

Also, think about things that your target market might want to know about, even if they are smaller subjects. What about people who live in humid climates and struggle with their pianos because of it? I know I'd pay for a consult on how to maintain my piano better in those conditions. Sometimes giving people a bite size option can lead them to splurge on a bigger one, like a full course.

Sorry for the essay length response - I hope it's all helpful! PM me if you have any questions, okay?
_________________________
Works in Progress:
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#2126246 - 08/01/13 05:11 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 1991
Loc: Rocky Mountains
I am one who hopes you are still out there if I ever have the money to buy a good used Grand. I would love to buy a good used Kawai KG2.
Like they say; If you want something done right. Do it yourself.
Otherwise the only one's I would trust is a very good tech who refurbishes the best old Grands.
_________________________
Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon

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#2126304 - 08/01/13 09:27 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
Peyton Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 2533
Loc: Maine
Mark,

I tune my piano using an old sight tuner which gives me the deviations. I generally use it for the center strings and tune the two outer strings of the triads by ear. That said, I would love to learn how to really tune the piano the right way. My piano tech comes in when I break a string and I'll watch him tune and I'm always mystified how he does it. Considering how often my grand goes out of tune tuning it myself is almost a necessity (either that or get a higher paying job...).

That all said... If you figure out a way to do online classes please keep me in mind.
_________________________
"One's real life is often the life that one does not lead."- Oscar Wilde
www.youtube.com/Biffer5
www.peytonart.com


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#2126308 - 08/01/13 09:39 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Peyton]
Sam S Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 1408
Loc: Georgia, USA
Mark, same here - I tune my own piano. It's an open-face pinblock, a grand, and seems to go out tune more often than it should. Maybe it's my inability to set the tuning pins and not the piano at all. I actually bought a copy of Tunelab. But I still have to tune the unisons and so forth so there are probably a lot of tips that would help me. I would love to take an online class from you.

Sam

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#2126362 - 08/01/13 11:32 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
Mark Cerisano,I have read your post, here:

I am a registered piano technician with the piano technicians guild and I also give courses on how to tune and repair pianos.

Until now, giving courses was a great way to supliment my incone from tuning.

However, this summer has been very difficult to find people interested in learning this skill.

I have advertised using Google Adwords, I have paid for top ads in Kijiji. I keep track of everyone who contacts me about learning to tune and repair pianos and I have actively contacted each one of them to see if they are interested.

In the past I have had 10 to 12 individual registrants for each week of my courses. This summer, I have had to run my courses with only one student in each, choosing to cancel some.

So, my questions for you are:

1) Should I just give up on this? Is there basially no one interested in learning this trade anymore, or

2) Am I using the wrong marketing techniques. If you type in "learn to tune pianos" into Google, I come up on the first page, near the top, so I find it hard to believe people could not find me if they were interested, which makes me think, nobody is interested.

I need to decide what to do because, if I cannot increase my revenue doing this (which I love to do but need to be paid for it) then I will have to quit putting so much effort into marketing and preparation and just stop giving the courses and concentrate on something else.

I was just feeling extremely frustrated about the whole experience and thought a post on Pianoworld might shed some light on the situation.

______________________________________________

Well, there are a lot of things to be said.

A piano costs at least 15,000. Would let a first aideman do open heart surgery on you or would you find best surgeon money could buy?

I worry everytime I let a piano tuner near my piano - and he is recommended by the piano salesmen of a huge piano retailer in Canada.

If you are worried, think of the people who own Steinways and the company has been sold - or is being sold? I'd worry!


Edited by Michael_99 (08/01/13 11:34 AM)

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#2126700 - 08/02/13 12:10 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Whizbang]
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1072
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Originally Posted By: Whizbang
As an amateur pianist, I worry about the profession as well.

I don't feel like we live in an amateur performance culture any more. Tv, Internet, gaming--these all have low barriers to entry. Face to face socialization seems a rarity now.

In such an environment, it's hard to justify the expenditure on acoustic instruments. There is a quality difference to be sure, but for folks on a budget, digital pianos offer significant advantages.

Furthermore, the barrier to entry is high and the return on investment seems pretty low. It may come down to a race in decline rates: how quickly the acoustic pianist population decays relative to the population of acoustic piano technicians.

A talk that might appeal to people is a layman's talk, in which you describe piano basics such as how a piano action works, what voicing is, what regulation is, signs of wear to look for, as well as categorization of problems you can DIY for and problems (like tuning) where you want to call a professional.

Maybe call it "the Care and Feeding of an Acoustic Piano".


I have created a blog for that purpose; to give basic information to people interested in this area. Actually my purpose is a little sneaky; I am hoping to encourage people that they have what it takes to learn how to tune a piano. If you are an accomplished musician, you can learn a tremendous amount in one week. I've seen it before. It is astonishing. But not when you think of how much training a musician goes through, this is just some more of the same, even easier I would say, having done both.

The blog is at http://howtotunepianos.wordpress.com
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2126704 - 08/02/13 12:14 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: dmd]
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1072
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Originally Posted By: dmd
Well, it must be fairly obvious that acoustic pianos are on the way out in favor of digital pianos. They may never be totally removed from the picture but certainly their numbers will decline.

So .... not much need for tuning.

An unfortunate (for you) fact of life.

I might suggest you stop teaching others to do it. This will increase the need for piano tuners ... a position that you may be happy to fill.

Good Luck


Hi Don,

Thanks for the comments.

I can't stop teaching, I'm better at it than tuning, and I'm a pretty good tuner. The fact is, I just love doing it. As for competition, I teach most of my courses out of town, so that doesn't happen. Also, only a very small proportion actually continue and make it a career, although all really enjoy the course.
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2126715 - 08/02/13 12:37 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Brian Lucas]
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1072
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Originally Posted By: Brian Lucas
I share your frustration in the internet world. It's often hard to predict what will work and what won't, or know if you are finding the right people. Tuning is something I'm interested in, but I'm not sure how much I would want to take a course. Not only what Don said about digitals, but if I need a tuning, I'd rather pay someone than do it myself. I would think the repair end of things might bring you more business, depending on how many repairs you think could be done by the owner. I know when I was in college, the pianos in the practice rooms always needed to be fixed up, most often a pedal needed adjustment or reconnected.

Have you tried short YouTube videos with free tips and a link to your site? Maybe something like "Adjust the feel of your pedals" or whatever you feel would be a good free tip. Ask people what are the top things they would like to know about their piano and build from that. Can you teach me how to unstick a key? I'd pay to learn how to do that, as an example.

It's a brave new world. I say hang in there and maybe try to expand what you are teaching.


Hi Brian,

I see from your signature that you know what you are talking about. I am starting to get into that area with a blog and youtube channel. But it is hard getting up the energy and motivation to create content for these sites when I don't know if there will be any interest.

One thing that does inspire me to put stuff out there is the idea that I could finally get some professional and accurate and useful content out there related to this stuff. There is so much bad tuning advice on youtube. Truly, I have not seen one video that comes close to describing the skill. The professional tuners are bad at describing, and the gifted presenters are weak on substance and knowledge.

Anyway, my blog is http://howtotunepianos.wordpress.com and I haven't figured out how to share my YouTube channel yet.
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2126718 - 08/02/13 12:50 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: StarvingLion]
Mark Cerisano, RPT Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/10
Posts: 1072
Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Originally Posted By: StarvingLion
Give me a break, Mark. Is there even a single dealer in Canada that sells a premium brand new 42" console like a Charles Walter? I don't even think the guy in BC stocks them.

Chasing down 100 year old free piano's is not a sustainable business model. It is fraught with risk. The local private restoration firm wants $3k minimum for used mediocre consoles. The snobs at Steinway want $1500 for a 6month trial rent-to-own Essex console piece of junk.

If you go into any of these places without a 8-10K budget, the eyes begin to roll; another cheapo has entered the establishment.


Hi Starving,

I feel your pain.

My comments about the "diamonds in the rough" pianos available for those with time and a little knowledge and the help of a qualified technician to find them, were not intended as a business model, because even after finding one, very few people would pay to cover your expenses to get it. The goal is to get a great sounding instrument for yourself.

I've seen and played a lot of different instruments. Some new, some rebuilt. And among uprights, there is no clear winner. The good quality 80 year old upright for $100 that is in good condition will rival, and beat in some cases, the brand new Yamaha U1.

My advice for you might be to stop chasing the elite pianos; the dealers want you to think these are unequal gems. The truth is, the real gems are being bulldozed off a tractor trailer into city dumps every month, and yes, most are dogs, but in those piles, every now and then, is a contender, the likes of which we will never see or hear of again.

I've worked on these pianos. I've seen, heard, and experienced how resilient the parts are, how well they were made. I've seen the short cuts modern manufacturers are making and the poor results.

Anyway, if you think you might like to treasure hunt for yourself, read my blog on Evaluating Free Used Pianos at http://learnpianotuning.wordpress.com
_________________________
Mark Cerisano, RPT
www.howtotunepianos.com

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#2126739 - 08/02/13 01:40 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1607
Loc: California
While I do not plan to tune my own piano, I would not hesitate to take such a course if it were available in my area. If anything, it would give me a better understanding of what my tech is talking about, and possibly help me communicate with him better.
_________________________
Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci

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#2126762 - 08/02/13 02:39 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
casinitaly Offline


Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 4884
Loc: Italy
I would love to be able to tune my own piano - and I would be at your door in a flash if I were in your neighbourhood.

I'm not sure though that a web-course would work...It might - but I wonder how you show how much pressure to use, how the sound quality would be, not to mention the inevitable problems that come with Skype such as the sound or picture sometimes disappearing
---- I am a little doubtful. Not totally doubtful, because I give lessons over the internet too - but I am certainly aware of the problems.

I've tried to work on my piano a bit - my tuner /tech is quite supportive of the idea - but the trouble is that I'm not very good at it and I can't afford to practice....in the sense that I can't keep calling her back if I get it wrong.

Of course my other problem with a web-course would be the timezone issue!
But I like the idea.
_________________________
XVIII-XXXIV
Everything's too hard until you make it easy. Follow your teacher's instructions and practice wisely/much, and you'll soon wonder how you ever found it hard ;)-BobPickle
Performance anxiety: make it part of your daily routine and deal with it...Cope! zrtf90

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#2127243 - 08/02/13 11:59 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano, RPT]
Kymber Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/25/08
Posts: 1348
Loc: MA
I would definitely try some other marketing techniques before calling it quits.
Maybe putting out a survey to see what would help increase the attendance. For example if I were to attend a class like that or would have to be in the evenings after work or a weekend intensive course.

Also, have you thought of maybe teaching the class through and adult education center. I don't know of its the same there but here you can propose a class and if they decide to offer it it will go on the catalogue and they take care of the registration etc.
Check: ccae.org (cambridge center for adult education) for and example to the adult ed center

Best of luck
_________________________
“The doubters said, "Man cannot fly," The doers said, "Maybe, but we'll try,"
And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
― Bruce Lee

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Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Ivory v. Plastic Questions
by Retsacnal
Yesterday at 11:50 PM
The worst student in your studio
by Cardinal201
Yesterday at 11:43 PM
Piano Movers
by DancerJ
Yesterday at 11:16 PM
Yamaha P-85 closer to a Grand Piano action than any Upright!
by Paul678
Yesterday at 07:22 PM
Do someone have a Sciortino Insta-COILER
by Olek
Yesterday at 06:55 PM
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