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#535059 - 06/07/02 10:46 PM Need advice with an awkward situation
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Dear Abby:....

(Oops, sorry)

My piano teacher, who is a fabulous pianist AND teacher, hasn't tuned her piano in a million years! Since I play her piano during lessons, it is really becoming annoying.

But, she is a recent college grad and her husband is still in grad school. Their only reliable income is from her piano teaching and, based on what I'm paying, they're not exactly rolling in the dough.

Should I mention it? Should I offer to pay for the tuning? (both because it's starting to bug me and also as a thank you for being such a great teacher.)

If the latter, any ideas how I can phrase it so it sounds OK, not insulting or condescending?

Thanks for any advice...


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#535060 - 06/08/02 12:50 AM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
Palindrome Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3916
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Well, you've asked for advice, so I'll give it. Offer to pay for the tuning, and perhaps, then, to be compensated for the cost in the form of a few extra lessons, or longer ones.
There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians

#535061 - 06/08/02 02:31 AM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
Mr. Gould Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/01
Posts: 1111
Yeah thats what I was going to say.

#535062 - 06/08/02 10:40 AM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
Matt G. Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/01
Posts: 3789
Loc: Plainfield, IL

If money really is that tight for them, I would think that asking for a few lessons in return would be no different than forcing them to use the money you pay your teacher for lessons on getting the piano tuned. If it's really no financial burden to you, why not get your teacher a nice thank you card (or maybe her birthday's coming soon) and put in it a slip entitling her to a free (prepaid by you) tuning. And whatever you do, I wouldn't ask for anything in return. I would leave it up to her to offer something, if she wishes. Good will goes a long way.
Sacred cows make the best hamburger. - Clemens

#535063 - 06/08/02 02:33 PM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
Wow, this is a tough one. I don't know how you can do this and without insulting her. I like the gift certificate for tuning idea. But even then, if you don't have a good reason for giving her a gift, it might make her feel bad. But then, again - a professional should make sure that all their equipment is up to snuff. Here is how I dealt with the issue - our teacher had a small upright, we have a grand - I paid her a little extra to come to our house to teach my kids back to back on our piano. Of course, our teacher was a music student at the local university, so her lesson fee wasn't that much to begin with. Don't know what I am going to do when we move. Good luck, let us know what happens! Jodi

#535064 - 06/08/02 05:15 PM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
MacDuff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 560
Loc: Southeast, U.S.A.
A teaching piano should be kept in tune. Period. However, one can't expect the fine tuning aspect to stay pristine when a teacher has loads of students.

It builds character to learn to deal with hammer voicing and touchweight problems. These should be tolerated as long as they aren't too severe. Many teachers sit to the right of the student and encouragingly bang out melodies at the top of the keyboard. The upper registers are just going to suffer due to this.

Is the teacher's piano loosing its overall tone? It may have soundboard or pin block problems and won't hold tunings.

#535065 - 06/08/02 08:09 PM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
nancyww Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/02
Posts: 585
Loc: central oregon
Hi Nina,

That's really nice of you to want to pay for your teacher's piano tuning. It's probably driving her crazy, too. Matt's suggestion to make it a gift in a thank you card might be a gracious way to do this. Since it is the end of the school year and kids often get gifts for their school teachers around now, perhaps that would be a good excuse to give her something, too.

#535066 - 06/08/02 11:40 PM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
Elaine617 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 364
Loc: North Carolina
Hi Nina,

I agree that the gift certificate is a great idea but as Jodi says, make sure there is a good reason for the gift. Chances are pretty good that your teacher's piano is as frustrating to her as it is to her students and she might truly appreciate a tuning as a gift. When I was teaching piano, we also had some pretty lean times, but I tried to have my piano tuned once in the spring and again in the fall. A gift certificate for a tuning would have really been helpful, especially during the fall when my children also needed new school clothes. When you find a good reason for the gift, just be genuine and let her know that you sincerely appreciate her for being a fabulous teacher. Of course, I don't know your teacher's personality, but I think that she'll probably be very touched. Good luck to you & hope all goes well. \:\)


#535067 - 06/09/02 04:16 AM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
Joy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 550
Loc: Encinitas, CA
Just thinking out loud here:

(1) Is it possible she doesn't realize how out of tune her piano is? If she hasn't had it tuned in a long while, perhaps she's gotten accustomed to it.

(2) MacDuff brings up another aspect. Perhaps there's more than just a lack of tuning behind the actual condition of your teacher's piano. With so many other students pounding on it, perhaps it is badly in need of regulation work as well.

(3) It seems to me it's imperative to have a well tuned piano in order to teach aural skills properly. A teacher shouldn't skimp on something this vital.

The gift certificate approach is a thoughtful idea. Hope it works!


#535068 - 06/09/02 10:19 AM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Thanks, all--

I think the gift certificate idea is an excellent idea. She and I use the same tech, who is also a very nice guy. I'm sure he'd be "into it" as a concept.

I'm definitely going to start getting a reputation with the tech, however. We recently donated a day of his time to my daughter's ballet school... not sure if the dancers appreciated it, but the rehearsal pianists were thrilled!

Now I just have to figure out a way to write a thank you note that gets the message across, which is a thank you for being a good teacher, and not "thanks for letting me tune your piano."

\:D \:D \:D

Thanks again for the advice!


#535069 - 06/09/02 11:10 AM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
"We recently donated a day of his time to my daughter's ballet school... "

Nina - what a nice thing to do. I always thought that donating a tuning was a nice (an often overlooked) way to give something back to a school, which is often on such a tight budget that tuning the piano is probably on the bottom of the list. Good for you! \:\) Jodi

#535070 - 06/10/02 04:42 PM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
I guess I'm the only one, but it seems to me that the idea of enclosing a tuning certificate in a thank you note is not so great. If she's a fabulous pianist it is more than clear to her that the piano is out of tune. I don't see any way to wash the certificate so it doesn't seem obvious. She may be feeling guilty about it and the certificate could end up hurting.

Why not, next time before you start your lesson, tell her honestly that you don't know how you'll be able to continue to play on such an out-of-tune piano? Tell her it's really bothering you. After you discuss it a few minutes, maybe some solution will present itself or you may even get the chance to offer your free tuning as a gift.
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

#535071 - 06/10/02 07:57 PM Re: Need advice with an awkward situation
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Hi, Bernard:

I'll have to think on your post. I know she's aware that her piano is out of tune, and I'm the one concluding that part of the problem is the money to tune it, given their particular situation.
I would like to give her something as a general "thank you."

Perhaps some sort of compromise, where I do a thank you note and then discuss my desire to do something in addition, that's aligned with our musical relationship, hence tuning the piano. (An alternate could be tickets to a concert, etc.)

My biggest fear is that she will be somehow offended, but I'm probably off-base on that and just feeling paranoid.



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