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#646426 - 02/07/09 12:36 PM Banh Hall Pianos
Glenn Doyle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 40
Loc: Central Texas, USA
As a newbie (18 months), I'm experiencing many twists and turns (hmmm, twists and turns on the piano) that bring me back to this great resource! I recently aqcuried my first school district account in December. I completely understand how important the institutions are to the success of any PT, so I'm very excited to be able to work with them. The HS band director emailed me yesterday and stated that the band hall piano has dropped in pitch since I tuned it in mid December. The piano is never used except this time of year when his kids are preparing for solo competitions. He tells me the pitch has dropped enough where it is impossible to rehearse with it. I should also note that the instrument was a bit sharp before I even tuned it, so I brought it down to 440, keeping in mind that the pitch was critical for the solo instruments. The BD has asked me to come in next week and look at it, which I'm happy to do. If this is normal, then I would assume that my usual fee would be fair. My concern is that he is making it sound like the instrument is about 20 cents flat since my tuning. That hardly sounds normal to me. Is there something I'm doing wrong if that be the case, and, should I charge a normal fee to make the adjustments on my TuneLab Pro?

Cheers,
Glenn

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#646427 - 02/07/09 12:39 PM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
Glenn Doyle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 40
Loc: Central Texas, USA
I should also mention we're talking about an upright Kimball - 8 or 9 years old.

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#646428 - 02/07/09 01:22 PM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4231
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
“I should also note that the instrument was a bit sharp before I even tuned it, so I brought it down to 440, keeping in mind that the pitch was critical for the solo instruments.”
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If this instrument was being used as a solo instrument it might have been better to “float” the scale so that it would not have had such a severe drop in pitch. In my experience with institutional equipment used for solo competitions, it is better in the autumn if you can leave the pitch a little high. As long as the instrument is used for solo practice this will not matter too much. Sometimes when you lower the pitch in the fall by tuning, you start this pendulum of the scale going too far flat……… then you pull it up in January/February, then in April/ May/ June it goes way sharp and back and forth all year you go.

It takes a while to get used to how institutional equipment reacts to the temperature and moisture changes. Not like the average household where the temp/humidity is a bit more stable.

Remember, most likely to save money, the heat is down, or off on weekends.

Example: A high school I used to service saves 40 thousand dollars a year by shutting down the heating system for the 52 weekends of the year.
You can do a lot of tunings for that kind of savings..... ;\) And yes the same fee applies. You are not responsible for the weather changes.

Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
_________________________
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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#646429 - 02/07/09 03:05 PM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
Yeah...what he said.

Where we live here in Michigan, swings in institutional pianos are just extreme...and keeping pace is almost impossible, especially at schools.

I never go to a school to tune again without charging...its only fair since the piano is probably being cooked and dried, and then swelled and soaked in the summer...even in Texas I'd bet the humidity swings are severe.

You might try measuring humidity with a guage that Shaff Piano Supplies sells for 25 bucks...it eliminates guessing, and is a great visual. I've eliminated argument from clients about falling pitch in the winter (this year especially!) by showing them their environment is at 25% RH, where pianos NEED to be stabalized at 42%RH.

I'd obtain, and memorize, the Dampp Chaser brochure...we've had very little luck getting schools to pop for installing Dampp Chaser systems, but churches and other facilities get huge benefits from Dampp Chasers...

I'm at the point when, if a client tells me its been two years since her piano was tuned, and I sit down and start playing and its close to A440 still, I can almost predict there is a cord running from the piano to the wall...so, your solution is to manage humidity at the piano.

Failing that, then they will just have to have you tune the instrument frequently...and I'm with Dan on this too; don't crank pitch all over the place high and low...if they don't care, then go easy and get it close within some reasonable tolerance.

You may find schools a difficult fit, in the end. Good Luck! RPD
_________________________
MPT(Master Piano Technicians of America)
Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
(Subscriber PTG Journal)
Piano-Tuner-Rebuilder/Musician www.actionpianoservice.com

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#646430 - 02/07/09 04:55 PM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
wayne walker Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 515
Loc: Windsor,Nova Scotia Canada
Here in Eastern Canada we can tuned pianos in early December and by mid January when the colder drier air moves in they have drop at least a 1/4 semitone. You have no control of the humidly so charge them for another tuning. Just explain to the school, pianos go sharp in the summer and flat in the winter.
_________________________
Wayne Walker
Walker's Piano Service
http://www.walkerpiano.ca/

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#646431 - 02/07/09 10:24 PM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
Jeff A. Smith, RPT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/03
Posts: 476
Loc: Angola, Indiana USA
Glenn,

Some people will charge a discounted fee if a tuning is done within a short time from the last. What qualifies as a "short time," and how much of a discount? In my experience that's very situational, depending on the customer and circumstances. I won't give you any guidelines for that, because I don't have any set rules for it myself. I just know for some it's a practice, and I've done it occasionally.

One thing you mention does give me pause: It seems you may be saying you knew the piano was only used "this time of year" for recital prep. Does "this time of year" include December, when the piano was first tuned, or are they only now starting to use it? If it's the latter, a lack of experience with the effects of your area's annual humidity swings may've caused you to incorrectly set the pitch to A440 when you tuned in December. Even if they were using it in December, you might've left it a little sharp, so it would've averaged out over the period they use it. That may be something to consider -- or not -- when deciding on a fee to charge this time. Your call. If they weren't using the piano in December, it would've been better to wait on the tuning.

In my area, too, a lot can happen to a piano's pitch during a month or two of Winter -- especially this Winter.

Jeff S.
_________________________
Jeff A. Smith
Registered Piano Technician
Indiana, USA

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#646432 - 02/08/09 10:57 AM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
Glenn Doyle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 40
Loc: Central Texas, USA
Thanks everyone for your thoughts on all of this. This piano was one of three I was asked to tune back in December and has not been used since then, so they just pulled it out this week to use for recital work accompaning various woodwind and brass soloist. Jeff, I will definitely plan to give him a discount and will make a fair determination when I finish the work. I plan to set the pitch a bit above A-440. I'm wondering if A-442 would be OK in this situation? The director is bringing in several students to practice with the piano once I finish my work tomorrow afternoon. I plan to stay a little while and make sure the BD is satisfied with the adjustments. My only concern is will A-442 work with most instruments? Your thoughts?

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#646433 - 02/08/09 04:38 PM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
It'll work...you can wander a little there...some symphonies tune at A445, and nobody buys new flutes to play along with that. Most band instruments will adjust a tad higher or lower or the player will adjust...RPD
_________________________
MPT(Master Piano Technicians of America)
Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
(Subscriber PTG Journal)
Piano-Tuner-Rebuilder/Musician www.actionpianoservice.com

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#646434 - 02/08/09 09:43 PM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
Jeff A. Smith, RPT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/03
Posts: 476
Loc: Angola, Indiana USA
Glenn,

I don't know enough about humidity swings in Texas to make a determination about A442. Around here, pianos have already pretty much "bottomed out" pitch-wise. It's even been warming up the last few days, and our snow accumulation has melted. Unless I was doing a fairly significant pitch raise and expected some drop, I'd probably just tune to A440. But, as I say, that's just based on my experience around here, where the heat comes on in mid-fall. If your heat comes on a little later down there, and you're expecting more cold weather, I guess the piano could still be dropping.

If I were tuning to A442, eight cents sharp, I'd probably discuss it with the band director first. That's enough for some to notice, particularly if they're prone to check with a pitch source.

Jeff
_________________________
Jeff A. Smith
Registered Piano Technician
Indiana, USA

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#646435 - 02/09/09 08:43 PM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
Glenn Doyle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 40
Loc: Central Texas, USA
Tuned the band hall piano today. I thought it would be interesting to ask the BD to bring me his ETD since that was his source for checking the pianos intonation. The piano was a few cents flat based on his Korg. I then verified that his device was fairly close to my TuneLab Pro (which I use on a Dell Mini 9). I asked him what bothered him the most and I srtuggled to keep a straight face as he told me he couldn't get an old baritone saxophone to stay in tune with the piano (9 year old Kimball in very good condition). After our talk, he realized that the problem was more related to the poor condition of the b. sax. I did make some minor adjustments for him per his request and only charged him 75 percent of my normal fee. I did keep the piano at A-440.

I have extensive background as a successful band director (28 years) and a professional horn player, so I strive to be extra careful with clients who are also colleages.

Cheers,
Glenn

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#646436 - 02/09/09 10:09 PM Re: Banh Hall Pianos
Jeff A. Smith, RPT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/03
Posts: 476
Loc: Angola, Indiana USA
Glad it worked out Glenn. If you mentioned your musical background in previous posts, I guess I missed or forgot it.

You did a nice thing allowing the BD some leeway. I think doing something like that, particularly when first establishing a customer relationship, can go a long way. I bet he does a good turn or two for you in the future.

Jeff
_________________________
Jeff A. Smith
Registered Piano Technician
Indiana, USA

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