Question about the business end from a new tuner.

Posted by: mbick

Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 08:51 AM

Hi everyone. I extremely new to the piano tuning scene and I would appreciate your input.

Two years ago, I started taking Rick Butler's piano technology course. It wasn't until recently that my tunings were stable enough that I felt confident to tune anyone else's piano. (Stability was the hardest thing for me!)

Anyway, I know I need to tune about 1000 pianos before I'm really good at it, and I've only done about 5. My question is, given my inexperience, how do I decide what to charge other people? While I don't feel comfortable charging the same thing as someone who has been doing this forever, I don't want people to get the wrong idea about how much a good tuning cost and then balk later when they have to pay more.


Also, unless it is a good friend or relative, I don't want to charge nothing because I am providing a service and doing freebies implies I am providing nothing of value.

Any input would be appreciated.
Posted by: Ryan Hassell

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 09:18 AM

Hi Martha!

The way I did it, was to find a mentor. He was an older piano tuner which was looking towards retirement. We have a shortage of good technicians here in my area, and that was the motivation of teaching me, that he, himself would be able to retire and slowly hand off his customers to me. It's good to have someone else there to ask questions and get feedback about how your tunings are coming along. Don't just learn to tune pianos, but learn how to repair and regulate them as well.

It took me about a year of tuning many, many friends pianos (for free) before I felt confident to charge anyone. I'm sure other's will say that was a short amount of time. Are you trying to learn to tune aurally or with an ETD? I personally use the iPhone version of Tunelab. You will progress much faster and get more accurate tunings right off the bat. This is due to the fact that an ETD will give you visual feedback. I respect those that tune aurally, but that is a skill that takes years to learn and perfect.

Best of luck! You have come to the right place. There are many very talented piano technicians here on this forum!
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 10:02 AM

A local mentor would be great, but there are none in this area that I know of that would be willing to take me on at this time.

I periodically do one on one lessons with Rick, and I recently joined the Northern Virginia PTG chapter, which I think will be a great help. Really nice people there. It's about 1.5 to 2 hour drive, but well worth it.

Up until recently, I was only tuning aurally, which is how Rick taught me. It does take me a long time, however. Not long ago, I purchased a SAT IV which has helped my speed immensely. Also, without it, I didn't really know if the treble and bass sections were tuned anywhere close to correctly. At first I mostly used it to check and see how close my aural tuning in the temperament was to what the ETD thought it should be. I was pleasantly surprised at how close I was.

Now, I have been using it and trying to increase my speed, especially in the high treble where it seems I spend half my time trying to set the pins.

I appreciate that I did so much aural tuning before getting the ETD because I can see where it would be tempting to use it as a crutch and not bother with aural tuning.

Rick Butler's course is divided into two parts, the tuning side and the technical side. I haven't yet progressed to the technical side, but I have been doing a lot of reading and am itching to learn regulation and voicing.

This is a great forum. I've been lurking here for quite a while and finally decided to come out of hiding. Thanks for your reply.
Posted by: OperaTenor

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 10:29 AM

Martha, best of luck with your new venture! Sounds like you're off to a practical start. Ryan's advice is great - I second his comments.

One thing to keep in mind about tuning: If you can't tune a clean unison, nothing else matters.

When I reentered the business with my new technique, I also tuned a lot of freebies, practicing. I would also add that, at this stage, don't sweat taking a long time to get it right; getting it right is what matters more, and you can leave knowing you did your best.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 11:22 AM

Thanks Opera Tenor.

I do understand about making sure the unisons are clean. They will stick out like a sore thumb to anyone who has any idea what a tuned piano should sound like.

I actually don't mind taking forever to tune a piano until it is as perfect as I think I can get it. What I worry about is driving the piano owner crazy if they have to listen to me tune it for hours on end, and then never want me to come back, lol. I do always try to do my best. A couple of weeks ago, I tuned two of the pianos at my church, and I made sure to do them early in the week so I could come back on Saturday and make sure the tuning was holding before church service on Sunday. I did find three unisons to tweak. I'm not sure anyone else would have noticed, but I sure would have.

Currently, if I use the ETD to assist, I can tune a piano in about 3-3.5 hours. It takes longer without the ETD, and I'm never sure if the high treble and bass are really where they need to be. I hope that one day with enough practice, I'll know what that sounds like without relying on an ETD. I'm not opposed to ETDs, but I view them as another tool, not the final authority.

I don't mind doing freebies if that's what it takes to get the experience I need, but I would also like to be building a client base that understands that I expect to get paid when I perform a skilled service for them. I suppose the reason I am leery is that I know people that have received free or discounted services/products (from me and other people) as a favor and then expect that that is going to be the norm through eternity, and act put upon when they are later required to pay for the same service/product. I suppose in this case it would be them doing me the favor by letting me get the experience I need.

I'm 46 years old, so I better get cracking or it will time to retire by the time I'm an "expert."
Posted by: David Jenson

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 06:46 PM

Originally Posted By: mbick
Thanks Opera Tenor. I don't mind doing freebies if that's what it takes to get the experience I need, but I would also like to be building a client base that understands that I expect to get paid when I perform a skilled service for them. I suppose the reason I am leery is that I know people that have received free or discounted services/products (from me and other people) as a favor and then expect that that is going to be the norm through eternity, and act put upon when they are later required to pay for the same service/product.
This IS where things can get dicey, and you've nailed it quite nicely. In my early career I did Public TV auctions and discount promotions. I quickly learned NOT to do that! Clients came to expect that the discounts and the auction prices were my real bottom line and adjusted their attitudes accordingly.

Is there a dealer in your area who will let you tune the "green" pianos in the warehouse or in storage? That helps with experience. Churches often have auxiliary or extra pianos that you can practice on.

Work your speed and confidence up, then start out charging full price. It'll save you a lot of grief later.
Posted by: Jim Frazee

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 07:35 PM

I'm 46 years old, so I better get cracking or it will time to retire by the time I'm an "expert."

Maybe not. I started when I was 57, now I'm 65 and, while I don't in any way consider myself an expert, I'm at least decent at what I do. I work with a mentor, (a guru, actually) attend all the PTG functions I can (though not a member anymore) and just attended the Regulation and Touch Workshop at the Steinway factory. BTW, I have no intention of retiring - did that, didn't like it.

Consider attending the MARC in King of Prussia, PA next April and/or the National in Chicago next summer. Almost can't spend money any better than that. Simply put, the more you attend, the faster you'll learn. The nice thing about both events is that you can concentrate your learning on what your clientele's pianos happen to be, grands or uprights.

Most of all, keep on keepin' on - you'll be an expert before you know what hit you! thumb
Posted by: Dave B

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 08:07 PM

Charge the going rate when tuning for the public.

I think you'll be more comfortable after you get into the technical side of the course. If the piano doesn't work, you can't tune it.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 08:51 PM

One thing I've seen veterans say over and over is that most people cannot distinguish between a truly great tuning and a mediocre one. If your unisons and octaves are good, many will not notice a mediocre temperament. Don't undercharge. It's a huge problem when the public thinks that $50 is an appropriate price for tuning a piano! By undercharging, you not only cause problems for established techs, but you will cause problems for yourself in the future.
Posted by: Supply

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 09:09 PM

Originally Posted By: mbick
... I extremely new to the piano tuning scene and I would appreciate your input.

Two years ago, I started taking Rick Butler's piano technology course. It wasn't until recently that my tunings were stable enough that I felt confident to tune anyone else's piano. (Stability was the hardest thing for me!)

Anyway, I know I need to tune about 1000 pianos before I'm really good at it, and I've only done about 5.


With all respect and with no intention to offend, I would like to say:
First off, for someone who started two years ago, five pianos tuned is not exactly a high count. I know we all have busy lives and all, but five pianos is two years does not sound like the result of enthusiasm and commitment to your new chosen vocation. Two weeks OK but 2 years?
Second, I don't think anyone is ready to tune for paying clients after tuning only five instruments. That would be like driving a schoolbus after half a lesson as a student driver. (Thankfully with much less serious consequences, of course.)

You should not be tuning for paying clients until you are really good at it. Remember that someone who pays for a tuning and is not happy (likely, in the case like yours) will never call you back. You can't build up a clientele that way.

If they ask you about your experience, are you going to say "Oh. I already have five tunings (or six or ten) under my belt!"???

I suggest continuing to practice on as many pianos as you can.

But don't take my word for gospel - run it by the PTG Chapter at one of your meetings.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 09:19 PM

Or practice on one piano over and over.
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 09:20 PM

Amen Beethoven!

HUGE mistake to undercharge. We all deserve raises too and when we have people that only charge a piddly sum, you screw with the whole system not to mention your screwing yourself. Do it for free instead and tell them why! Once you start charging, charge the going rate. But, you must be serious about tuning or forget about it.

In the long run, you will definitely pay for it literally later on because, first off, the vast majority of price shoppers in my 40 + years of experience with them, do not take piano tuning very seriously to begin with and tune their pianos VERY infrequently! Most are looking for cheap.

Secondly, they do not take very good care of their pianos. That is, many of them will just say when given an estimate "oh, it's good enough for little Johnny to play on" when it most definitely is not! They don't play it so, they don't care about it either.

Thirdly, because of this, many of the pianos that you will wind up servicing, are often the crappiest pianos.

Read articles about running a business!!!!!!!! That's one of the most important things about being self employed that you can do for YOURSELF. If you haven't a clue about it and you don't, you'll never make a decent living from it let alone build up your clientele like you should.

As your business grows, because you've learned how to make it grow properly, you will be able to start being a little more picky on what kinds of pianos you will tune and/or service. In other words, you will not always have to tune the crappiest pianos out there just because... wink
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 11:28 PM

Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply.

David Jenson: There are no dealers in my area, but I should be able to find quite a few of those "extra" church pianos that no one has tuned for 15 years. Speed and confidence - do you think Santa could bring me those for Christmas? wink

Jim Frazee - Thanks for your advice and encouragement. I plan on attending as many of those events as I can.

Jurgen - No offence at all taken. I perhaps did not word things as clearly as I could have. I did not mean I had only tuned 5 times. I meant I had only tuned 5 different instruments, which I am well aware does not make me a professional. My own piano has been tuned and detuned so many times I have lost count.

5 pianos in 2 years is not a great deal, I understand. I didn't have as much time then as I do now, which is why I am now ramping it up. (Without going into too much detail, holding down a job, running another business, and getting seriously injured in an accident all at the same time does have a way of putting a damper on extracurricular activities.) Anyway, I'm not looking for a pity party, just trying to move forward.

Which is why I posed the original question. I need to get the experience by tuning as many pianos as I can, but I don't want to ruin the market for other techs. I think David Jenson had an excellent suggestion about the "extra" church pianos because they usually don't get tuned anyway, so that wouldn't really have any market impact. I just saw one tonight, as a matter of fact.

I specifically asked this question about charging at my last chapter meeting, and the advice I got was never to do freebies. Good thing none of them actually work in my area.

Jerry, Beethoven, and Dave B:

I think I'm going to go with tuning for free and just being very clear that it is because I am learning. Then I'll start off charging the going rate for this area when I have gained the necessary experience and skill.

Actually, Jerry, I have a B.S. in Business Administration and 18 years of experience in being self-employed and running successful retail businesses. Before that I worked for a CPA firm as a staff accountant for 7 years. (BTW, I hate accounting but I will never regret the knowledge I acquired there.) There are many business management skills that overlap to all businesses, but then there are industry specific aspects that one needs to become familiar with when new to a field. That is one of the reasons I appreciate this forum. And I am never adverse to reading any material that will help me further my business. wink

One very practical problem I have run into is that I am so used to tuning my baby grand, that when I tune an upright, my arm quickly tires. I am trying to find an upright to have at home so I can develop the proper muscles. I was originally thinking of finding an old upright, but I know so many people around here seem to have spinets, that may be a better practice instrument. Space in an issue right now, so I need to choose wisely.

Thank you again everyone for your very thoughtful replies.
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/29/12 11:44 PM

Hey, what do you know! Finally a person that has some serious business knowledge too!!! Perfect!! So many people go into business (especially this one) without it and fail or do extremely poorly. Good!!! Now, you only have 995 pianos left to tune yet! haha.

Sorry to hear about your accident. That sort of thing sucks..

PTG offers many business courses too at the convention level and at seminars. Most are excellent.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/30/12 12:08 AM

Unfortunately, a lot of businesses fail because people pursue something they are enthusiastic about, but don't have any idea how to manage the nuts and bolts of the operation, or even have any idea if they have a market. Seven years of my retail experience was in the pet industry. During that time, I saw so many people open up specialty pet shops, and then close up a few months later because while they loved snakes or birds or whatever, they had no people or business skills. Fortunately, my business wasn't one of them smile


Now about those 995 pianos. Since I still have to make a living, if I can squeeze in 3 different pianos per week, hmmm, it will take me almost 7 years to reach my goal at that rate. Good thing I never really plan to retire.
Posted by: Dave B

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/30/12 02:32 PM

mbick, The tiredness your experiencing is very likely your technique. The hammer grip will change with the obvious change of arm position from grand to upright. There are small adjustments in grip and arm position for every brands and size. Stay relaxed when tuning.

It seems you have reached the point where you are ready to spend time with some techs.

I'll add this taken from page 57 of the "Steinway & Sons Technical Service Manual", ...Steinway & Sons stresses the importance of aural tuning. Developing piano tone is a mechanical and musical art. Solid aural tuning exercises and develops the musical ear, giving the technician a greater ability to master the methods used in tone building."....

and then goes on with a A3-A4 temperament.


Have fun!
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 09/30/12 05:00 PM

Thanks Dave, I will!
Posted by: RTO

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 11:09 AM

Martha,

I am also fairly new at this. What I decided to do was to give all of my new clients a "new client" discount. So, on the invoice, I put the regular going rate for my area. Then underneath that I write 15% discount for first time customers. That way, they know that when I come back to tune for them again, they should expect the regular rate. I won't do this indefinitely, but for the first several months in business, that is my plan.
Posted by: UnrightTooner

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 12:04 PM

Martha,

I remember when I started tuning, I decided I needed to make the same as a mininum wage worker even if I only tuned 1 piano a day. At today's minimum wage, that would be $58 for a tuning.

How does this sound? Charge what YOU would be willing to pay for one of your tunings. And when you can tune better, charge more.
Posted by: Dave B

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 04:37 PM

RTO, Why do you offer discounts to new clients. Aren't your regular clients more deserving? How do you handle referrals? What is your regular customer going to think when they hear you gave a discount to their referral?

I've found over the years that customers shopping price rarely become regular customers.
Posted by: OperaTenor

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 05:49 PM

What everyone here has said about charging too little is spot on.

I've learned that i either charge my retail rate, or I do it pro bono(and make sure they know the retail value of what they're getting) - nothing in between.
Posted by: Supply

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 07:46 PM

Originally Posted By: OperaTenor
I've learned that i either charge my retail rate, or I do it pro bono(and make sure they know the retail value of what they're getting) - nothing in between.
Some tunings are not worth the retail rate. Why should a seasoned veteran charge the same as someone with minimal experience, whose tuning will a) not be as good and b)not be as stable i.e. not last as long?

Originally Posted By: OperaTenor
getting it right is what matters more, and you can leave knowing you did your best.
These are not one and the same thing. When you are a student, even your best is probably not "getting it right".

I stick with "learn to do it properly before you hang out your shingle" and don't charge trusting clients for your training and practice. I realize some people see it differently. Sadly, we have even had a few posters here who tune for $$ when they can't even tune a solid unison, as their videos show. Not OK, in my books... Maybe I'm the result of old-fashioned training and ethics, in which case I apologize... blush

Posted by: beethoven986

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 08:03 PM

Originally Posted By: Supply
Originally Posted By: OperaTenor
I've learned that i either charge my retail rate, or I do it pro bono(and make sure they know the retail value of what they're getting) - nothing in between.
Some tunings are not worth the retail rate. Why should a seasoned veteran charge the same as someone with minimal experience, whose tuning will a) not be as good and b)not be as stable i.e. not last as long?


This is a fair point, but at the same time, most people who get their pianos tuned can't tell the difference, even if the result is complete rubbish. It's unfortunate, but a lot of people don't make much distinction between buying gas and getting their piano tuned. With that in mind, I'd rather have everyone charge somewhat in the same ballpark and let the market decide who is worth hiring.

Originally Posted By: Supply
Originally Posted By: OperaTenor
getting it right is what matters more, and you can leave knowing you did your best.
These are not one and the same thing. When you are a student, even your best is probably not "getting it right".

I stick with "learn to do it properly before you hang out your shingle" and don't charge trusting clients for your training and practice. I realize some people see it differently. Sadly, we have even had a few posters here who tune for $$ when they can't even tune a solid unison, as their videos show. Not OK, in my books... Maybe I'm the result of old-fashioned training and ethics, in which case I apologize... blush


I agree in principle, but who decides what the threshold for "properly done" is? Even among RPTs, there is a wide range of skill level.
Posted by: daniokeeper

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 08:17 PM

Hi Martha,

What are your long term goals? Do you want to only tune pianos? Or, do you also want to tune and repair? Tune, repair, and rebuild? Do historical restorations? Consulting?

I'm lucky in that I had the opportunity to be school-trained. So, when I graduated, I already tuned a wide variety of pianos. But, the business wasn't exactly waiting for me... no one was knocking down my door demanding I tune their piano.

I started out by getting old uprights, reconditioning them, and then reselling them. At that time ('79 and early 80's), they were available for little to no money. I was able to resell them to folks who could not afford newer pianos. But,they and their kids had at least playable, reliable instruments to use.

This was a good way for me to continue to develop not only my tuning skills, but also repair skills, which are important, too.

Edit: Perhaps you could create your own variation on this? smile
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 08:46 PM

RTO,

Thanks for your input. I think different things work in different areas/markets. My experience has been when people are charged too little, they tend to take it for granted it will always be that way. In your market doing the discount could work out. It is good that you have your regular rate listed on the invoice.

I was kicking around an idea today about how to transition from tuning for free to charging a fee. One possibility would be to send the people whose pianos you practiced on a thank you letter and enclose a coupon/voucher for a small discount on their next tuning, clearly giving notice of your regular rate, as a thank you for entrusting their instrument to you when you did not have much experience. I do not know that I would actually do that. As I said, just kicking around ideas.

Mostly I am leaning towards free or full price.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 08:52 PM

Hi Jeff. How did your customers react later when you started charging more? Did you make many small increases or just one or two larger jumps?

By the way, I am so grateful for all the input I have gotten so far from this forum. It's always good to be able to learn from other's experiences.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 09:16 PM

Hi Daniokeeper,

My long term goals are to tune and repair. I don't have the space right now to rebuild, but I would like to at least try it someday. I am trying to get a "junk" piano right now to practice doing things on I wouldn't dream of doing on my good piano, at least not until I know what I'm doing. I'm sure that's how most everyone starts out.

My medium terms goals are to pass the RPT exams. I know that doesn't necessarily mean much to a lot of people, but I would like to and it gives me a very concrete goal education-wise to work towards.

My short term goals are to just get more practice in with as many different pianos as I can, so that I can reach the longer goals.

I'm not sure how much of a market there is where I live for reconditioned pianos. I know that with my piano students, the ones that use keyboards (ugh) instead of pianos do so because their parents don't want something that takes up a lot of space. (It's only on PianoWorld that I let my distaste for electronic keyboards come out. And truly, I would rather a child learn to play music on a keyboard than not at all.)

OT - what kind of danios do you have? Do you breed them?
Posted by: RTO

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/01/12 11:41 PM

Originally Posted By: Dave B
RTO, Why do you offer discounts to new clients. Aren't your regular clients more deserving? How do you handle referrals? What is your regular customer going to think when they hear you gave a discount to their referral?

I've found over the years that customers shopping price rarely become regular customers.


Dave
As I stated in my post, I am new at this. Therefore, I don't have any "regular" customers yet. I am just starting out, so all of my clients are new. No one is "price shopping" with me. I am not even advertising yet. Just getting a few tunings here and there by word of mouth.
Posted by: RTO

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/02/12 12:03 AM

Originally Posted By: mbick
RTO,

Thanks for your input. I think different things work in different areas/markets. My experience has been when people are charged too little, they tend to take it for granted it will always be that way. In your market doing the discount could work out. It is good that you have your regular rate listed on the invoice.


Well, this is just what I came up with. Because I had the same dilemma as you. I don't feel that I should charge the same as someone that has been doing this for years. But, yet I don't feel like my services are worth nothing. I have certainly done the "free" tunings with family and friends. But, now that I am ready to charge, this was how I decided to handle it. I'm certainly open to other ideas too. I have enjoyed reading everyone's input.

Originally Posted By: mbick

Mostly I am leaning towards free or full price.


So, how will you decide when you're ready to go from free to full price. What will be your criteria.....the number of pianos you have tuned....or how confident you feel about your tunings?
[/quote]
Posted by: daniokeeper

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/02/12 01:12 AM

Originally Posted By: mbick
Hi Daniokeeper,

My long term goals are to tune and repair. I don't have the space right now to rebuild, but I would like to at least try it someday. I am trying to get a "junk" piano right now to practice doing things on I wouldn't dream of doing on my good piano, at least not until I know what I'm doing. I'm sure that's how most everyone starts out.

Excellent! One choice isn't necessarily preferred to another. But it's great that you have definite goals.
As for the 'junk' piano, it could be of genuine benefit to someone ( a student, a poor church,...), if you decided to recondition it.

Originally Posted By: mbick
My medium terms goals are to pass the RPT exams. I know that doesn't necessarily mean much to a lot of people, but I would like to and it gives me a very concrete goal education-wise to work towards.

Again, a definite plan. Excellent!

Originally Posted By: mbick
My short term goals are to just get more practice in with as many different pianos as I can, so that I can reach the longer goals.

I'm not sure how much of a market there is where I live for reconditioned pianos. I know that with my piano students, the ones that use keyboards (ugh) instead of pianos do so because their parents don't want something that takes up a lot of space. (It's only on PianoWorld that I let my distaste for electronic keyboards come out. And truly, I would rather a child learn to play music on a keyboard than not at all.)
[Emphasis added]

You have to go by your area and your local economy. You are coming to this with some actual life experience and an impressive business background. I would have confidence in your opinion of your area.

Originally Posted By: mbick
OT - what kind of danios do you have? Do you breed them?

I had 5 zebra danios in a 55-gallon tank. I don't breed them or anything. It's just that when I signed up for the forums here at PW and was trying to think of a screen name, I happened to glance over at the fishtank... smile
Edit: Are you an aquarist?
Posted by: UnrightTooner

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/02/12 07:51 AM

Originally Posted By: mbick
Hi Jeff. How did your customers react later when you started charging more? Did you make many small increases or just one or two larger jumps?

By the way, I am so grateful for all the input I have gotten so far from this forum. It's always good to be able to learn from other's experiences.


I never encountered that problem. At the time, in the late seventies, the computation I gave was about the standard rate for a tuning where I was anyway. But I only tuned full-time for a year and then changed careers. So I didn't have to explain a rate increase. Decades later (a century later???), I found my talent in regular demand. I did raise my rates a while ago because of general inflation, and might have lost ONE customer.

I recently finished a book by Alan Greenspan. He wrote about the benefits of a free-market economy. You know, supply and demand. And I remember what a drywall finisher once told me: "I would rather go broke sitting in a chair than go broke working myself to death."

I charge what I consider a fair price. By the hour it is about the same as I make as an electrician at a manufacturing plant. When the time comes to "hang out your shingle" as Jurgen nicely puts it, pick a price that YOU feel comfortable with. There is nothing like a clear conscience for a good night’s sleep.

Of course the next question is WHEN is that time? I read about the 1,000 tuning estimate. Well, only your customers can decide, not you and not the PTG. Some tuners are never ready. Myself (believe it or not), was told by my hired tuning teacher that there was nothing more he could teach me after the fifth lesson, about the sixth tuning. So I started charging, and customers paid me. Did I improve since then? Of course! And I hope I never stop improving. But I am getting older...

The funny thing is most customers don’t have their piano tuned so it sounds good. They have it tuned so it doesn’t sound bad. Now here on this Forum, we talk about the importance of a great sounding tuning. But the market place is a different story. Otherwise, the tuners that can tune exceptionally well would be in very high demand. If you doubt this, go to any local semi-pro performance and listen to the intonation. Ugh!!! That will be the standard for the local discriminating customers. There is a fellow in the area that uses a guitar tuner, mostly for pianos that he has to play on himself (I don’t think he charges), and people are happy: supply and demand.
Posted by: Bob

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/02/12 07:58 AM

Originally Posted By: RTO


What I decided to do was to give all of my new clients a "new client" discount. So, on the invoice, I put the regular going rate for my area. Then underneath that I write 15% discount for first time customers.


Bad Idea. The first time I see a piano it is usually a pitch raise, minor repairs, cleaning, etc because no one has tuned the piano in 15 years. The first time is always the MOST expensive, and subsequent tunings usually run less money - if they follow my "treatment plan".

It's also a bad idea to worry about what others charge. There are so many in this business that don't have a clue what to charge, and following in their footsteps is a mistake.

Use your business experience and income requirements, factor in expenses, and come up with your own pricing.
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/02/12 08:13 AM

+ 1 Bob.

Quote:
Well, this is just what I came up with. Because I had the same dilemma as you. I don't feel that I should charge the same as someone that has been doing this for years. But, yet I don't feel like my services are worth nothing. I have certainly done the "free" tunings with family and friends. But, now that I am ready to charge, this was how I decided to handle it. I'm certainly open to other ideas too. I have enjoyed reading everyone's input.


One of the biggest problems in this industry is that it is completely unregulated. Therefore, literally, any "Tom, Dick, Harry or Rose, can go into it and "hang up their own shingle." I don't mean that in a negative way. I simply mean many people go into it with the wrong idea.

Another big problem is that MANY, and I do mean MANY tuners are no good and never have been, nor will they ever be good. They have no intention of becoming good.

Some tuners do care, but just can't hear it no matter what.

Some don't care if it's good or not, they just want the additional income. This kind generally winds up in a category all their own. They go around messing up pianos while they try to adjust things that they should not be messing with because they lack the knowledge or caring to do it properly which costs the home owner a lot more later on when someone that knows what they are doing comes in to fix it. And, yes, they usually charge very little because they haven't a clue about business let alone quality.

The client needs to be trained that quality comes with a price tag just as anything does. Various kinds of Porcelain flooring verses inexpensive vinyl flooring for example.

A cheap not cared for Craig's list piano verses one that was very well taken care of.

A techs pay is no different. But, as we have said, many techs, tuners or whatever we may wish to call them never were any good. They think they are but, they are not because they don't know it themselves. Therefore, the reason to have a good mentor or chum up with the local PTG chapter to learn and let someone there listen to your turnings, watch your work and give you adivce most of which will do for free at one of the meetings.

I have a local guy here that I work with on a regular basis that can tune, but, he has difficulty with his unison's. The most important part of tuning are clean unison's.

Time to head out the door. Hope that helps!!! Proof read later!!
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/02/12 09:34 AM

Originally Posted By: daniokeeper
Originally Posted By: mbick
Hi Daniokeeper,

My long term goals are to tune and repair. I don't have the space right now to rebuild, but I would like to at least try it someday. I am trying to get a "junk" piano right now to practice doing things on I wouldn't dream of doing on my good piano, at least not until I know what I'm doing. I'm sure that's how most everyone starts out.

Excellent! One choice isn't necessarily preferred to another. But it's great that you have definite goals.
As for the 'junk' piano, it could be of genuine benefit to someone ( a student, a poor church,...), if you decided to recondition it.

Originally Posted By: mbick
My medium terms goals are to pass the RPT exams. I know that doesn't necessarily mean much to a lot of people, but I would like to and it gives me a very concrete goal education-wise to work towards.

Again, a definite plan. Excellent!

Originally Posted By: mbick
My short term goals are to just get more practice in with as many different pianos as I can, so that I can reach the longer goals.

I'm not sure how much of a market there is where I live for reconditioned pianos. I know that with my piano students, the ones that use keyboards (ugh) instead of pianos do so because their parents don't want something that takes up a lot of space. (It's only on PianoWorld that I let my distaste for electronic keyboards come out. And truly, I would rather a child learn to play music on a keyboard than not at all.)
[Emphasis added]

You have to go by your area and your local economy. You are coming to this with some actual life experience and an impressive business background. I would have confidence in your opinion of your area.

Originally Posted By: mbick
OT - what kind of danios do you have? Do you breed them?

I had 5 zebra danios in a 55-gallon tank. I don't breed them or anything. It's just that when I signed up for the forums here at PW and was trying to think of a screen name, I happened to glance over at the fishtank... smile
Edit: Are you an aquarist?


I don't have any fish now, but when I was in the pet business, I kept any where from 75-144 tanks of fish in my store. I never set out to breed any. I did have an African Cichlid tank at home where they just started spontaneously breeding, which was pretty cool.
Now, however, I have had my fill of maintaining fish tanks and will just enjoy other people's tanks.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/03/12 12:50 AM

Originally Posted By: UnrightTooner
[quote=mbick]
The funny thing is most customers don’t have their piano tuned so it sounds good. They have it tuned so it doesn’t sound bad. Now here on this Forum, we talk about the importance of a great sounding tuning. But the market place is a different story. Otherwise, the tuners that can tune exceptionally well would be in very high demand. If you doubt this, go to any local semi-pro performance and listen to the intonation. Ugh!!! That will be the standard for the local discriminating customers. There is a fellow in the area that uses a guitar tuner, mostly for pianos that he has to play on himself (I don’t think he charges), and people are happy: supply and demand.


Sometimes I have thought the same thing. Occasionally someone who knows I have been learning to tune will ask me if their piano sounds out of tune. Okay... I'm fairly confident that if they can't hear the horribly dirty unisons that their piano currently has, then there's not much I can do to their piano that will make them unhappy with it. And ultimately, it's really not about the piano, it's about the customer. (Ha, I hope I don't get banned for saying that on PianoWorld. wink )

I don't live in a big city and there are not many professional performance venues here. The reality for me is that most of the pianos I get to tune will probably be Grandma's old upright or the spinet that sits on top of an HVAC duct. Most of my customers probably will not be able to tell a passable tuning from a great tuning.

That being said, I still want to be able to give each piano the best tuning it can get. Even if the owners can't tell the difference, lol.
Posted by: MakeANote

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/03/12 05:40 AM

I went to tune a piano at a lovely elderly couples home (friends of our family) this afternoon. It was an old pianola and the wife wants to revive her piano playing skills. From the very beginning I could tell it would be an interesting ride - 'we haven't had it tuned for about 16 years'. The ring of the A440 was met with the clunk of a note somewhere below G#4. A pitch raise ensued so that the piano was sitting (overall) around 10 cents above pitch. 'Oh, that sounds so much better!' was the delighted comment....

I go back tomorrow to actually tune it.
Posted by: Gerry J.

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/03/12 08:01 AM

Hi Martha -
It has been over 35 years since I was in your position, but I remember well the dilemna you describe. My advice would be to ask around to find out what most tuners in your area are charging. Charge the average or perhaps very slightly below average. You do not want to become known as the cheapest tuner in town. Also, you do not want to be jacking your price way up after you've gained more experience. Doing so could cost you some of your regular customers.
Gerry Johnston
Posted by: BoseEric

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 08:44 AM

When I was learning I was told to tune 100 pianos before I charge anything. Much more attainable than 1000 (a good number for feeling like you're "good), but a realistic frame for doing stable tunings in 2 hours or less.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 09:14 AM

That sounds like the church basement piano that I was working on the other day that was around 110 cents flat. It was...interesting.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 09:17 AM

Thanks Gerry. I think it will be wise to charge to going rate, after I've done enough freebies as a student that I know the tunings are stable and sound good.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 09:25 AM

Originally Posted By: BoseEric
When I was learning I was told to tune 100 pianos before I charge anything. Much more attainable than 1000 (a good number for feeling like you're "good), but a realistic frame for doing stable tunings in 2 hours or less.


100 pianos does sound like a more realistic goal than 1000. Of course, #1000 will hopefully be a lot better than #100. I think part of the "art" of business is being able to decide when your product is good enough for the intended use. So, will #101 be good enough for Grandma's old upright that I will feel fine about charging for it? Probably. Will #101 be good enough for a professional musician who makes their living with their piano. Maybe so, maybe not. They might need a more experienced tuner.
Posted by: bkw58

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 11:17 AM

Hi Martha: I think the underlying question is how to earn an honest living in the trade at a level commensurate with experience. I am not sure what the opportunities are in 2012. However, years ago some of us honed our skill by doing wholesale floor work for a dealer. I recall one dealer in particular who had a beginner do the umpteen tunings required on new pianos (at wholesale), and would later call in a veteran to do the fine tuning at near full retail - usually preparatory to a demo for a prospect. You might consider visiting with the dealers in your area, if you haven't already done so. Wholesale work isn't a lot of fun at the outset, but it has promise of great reward in the long run.
Posted by: daniokeeper

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 11:34 AM

Originally Posted By: mbick
Originally Posted By: UnrightTooner
[quote=mbick]
The funny thing is most customers don’t have their piano tuned so it sounds good. They have it tuned so it doesn’t sound bad. Now here on this Forum, we talk about the importance of a great sounding tuning. But the market place is a different story. Otherwise, the tuners that can tune exceptionally well would be in very high demand. If you doubt this, go to any local semi-pro performance and listen to the intonation. Ugh!!! That will be the standard for the local discriminating customers. There is a fellow in the area that uses a guitar tuner, mostly for pianos that he has to play on himself (I don’t think he charges), and people are happy: supply and demand.


Sometimes I have thought the same thing. Occasionally someone who knows I have been learning to tune will ask me if their piano sounds out of tune. Okay... I'm fairly confident that if they can't hear the horribly dirty unisons that their piano currently has, then there's not much I can do to their piano that will make them unhappy with it. And ultimately, it's really not about the piano, it's about the customer. (Ha, I hope I don't get banned for saying that on PianoWorld. wink )

I don't live in a big city and there are not many professional performance venues here. The reality for me is that most of the pianos I get to tune will probably be Grandma's old upright or the spinet that sits on top of an HVAC duct. Most of my customers probably will not be able to tell a passable tuning from a great tuning.

That being said, I still want to be able to give each piano the best tuning it can get. Even if the owners can't tell the difference, lol.
[Emphasis added]


Even if they cannot tell a passable tuning now, their ears may develop if they get used to hearing the piano in tune, if it's tuned regularly. If there is a piano student in the home, this becomes a very important selling point... that the student will develop his/her ear if they practice on a tuned piano. If they get used to hearing an out-of-tune piano, those ears will never develop to their full potential. smile
Posted by: Supply

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 02:33 PM

Originally Posted By: mbick
.... The reality for me is that most of the pianos I get to tune will probably be Grandma's old upright or the spinet that sits on top of an HVAC duct. Most of my customers probably will not be able to tell a passable tuning from a great tuning.

That being said, I still want to be able to give each piano the best tuning it can get. Even if the owners can't tell the difference, lol.
Yes, the owners may not be able to tell the difference. But their friend, neighbor, cousin, or piano teacher who comes to the house may well be a serious critic with huge ears. You don't want anyone to ask: " This piano is way off - who tuned it?"
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 11:01 PM

Originally Posted By: daniokeeper


Even if they cannot tell a passable tuning now, their ears may develop if they get used to hearing the piano in tune, if it's tuned regularly. If there is a piano student in the home, this becomes a very important selling point... that the student will develop his/her ear if they practice on a tuned piano. If they get used to hearing an out-of-tune piano, those ears will never develop to their full potential. smile


I have a couple of piano students right now that practice on horribly out of tune pianos. These are on my short list of pianos to practice tuning on, because it pains me to hear them played. They are both beginner students and I don't want them thinking a piano is supposed to sound like that. Right now it is just a matter of coordinating a time convenient to both of us.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 11:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Supply
Yes, the owners may not be able to tell the difference. But their friend, neighbor, cousin, or piano teacher who comes to the house may well be a serious critic with huge ears. You don't want anyone to ask: " This piano is way off - who tuned it?" [/quote]

No, I want them to ask, "This piano sounds really great. Who tuned it?"

I wasn't saying that is okay to do a mediocre tuning because one could get away with it, just that I have no illusions that many people may not be aware of the difference between and good one and a bad one.
Posted by: Supply

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 11:39 PM

I think you've got it!
Best of luck in your new life of piano technician!
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/04/12 11:53 PM

Thanks. I have appreciated your input.
Posted by: Olek

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/05/12 12:06 AM

there are 5% of the piano owners that are disappointed with the job of the tuners here .

Some of them are expecting much from their piano

Some only remeber the quality of the job done by a precedent tuner

Some also notice that some tunings dont stay good for long

On the bread and butter part, as Jeff said, many customers just want their piano to be playeable so many tuners dont make the effort to put it at the best level (not particularly for tuning, but for general care, voicing, cleaning, lube, etc)
The same tuners are then in trouble when something unusual happen, and then the more polished ones come and make a good difference, usually, noticed etc...
So gain experience in every aspect of the job even the less enthusiastic ones it will be worth someday.
Posted by: daniokeeper

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/05/12 12:13 PM

Originally Posted By: mbick
I have a couple of piano students right now that practice on horribly out of tune pianos. These are on my short list of pianos to practice tuning on, because it pains me to hear them played. They are both beginner students and I don't want them thinking a piano is supposed to sound like that. Right now it is just a matter of coordinating a time convenient to both of us.


Another good selling point, for the parents who are hesitant to keep the pianos tuned on a regular basis, is what I like to call the "chiropractic" argument. If a piano goes for a very long period of time without being tuned, there is the risk that the strings may rust themselves in position. Even if you lower the tension before raising, the odds of a string breaking have increased.

Regular tuning is similar to chiropractic adjustment. The strings are moved across the bearing points on a regular basis. It keeps them "limber," like regular chiropractic adjustments, so they don't freeze in position.

Even if you are developing as a tuner, the piano may still benefit from your tuning it, even if your tunings are not absolutely perfect yet. Of course, it's all relative.
Posted by: That Guy

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/06/12 02:16 PM

I'm getting in late on this one but thought I would share some things that have worked for me from the business side. It's obvious that we need the skills to do the job but then the question is; How do I get customers?

1. I have magnetic signs on my car. Both sides and the back. I think they are tasteful and they generate business for me. They're very inexpensive. Lots of people comment to me how they like them and like my car, a PT Cruiser (the PT could stand for Piano Tuner) smile

2. I give away a pen with each tuning so people don't forget about me. Many times I've had people hire me because they couldn't remember who tuned it last. I get my pens from National Pen: www.pens.com

3. Leave a card in the piano with the date you tuned it, humidity level, temp and notes about the last tuning. If someone calls you back because the tuning went out the humidity level change could save your reputation.

4. Start a website at www.vistaprint.com You can get a website all the way from free to $29.95 a month. Here's how mine looks: www.thattuningguy.vpweb.com Nowadays you just have to be on the web and this is a very inexpensive way to do it.

5. Get your name on this website: www.pianoacoustics.com Again it can be free or you can pay $10 a year and have a link to your website. I get a lot of hits from this site.

6. Send out tuning reminder post cards every month. I go with the one year anniversary of the last tuning. My customers tell me all the time how they appreciate it.

7. Don't waste your money on a Yellow Pages ad! I think you can just be listed for free but don't pay for an ad. Seventeen years ago when I started it was the only game in town but it's time has passed and it's a waste of money.

8. If you're on google maps you can claim your listing for free and get more info on the web. Once you have a website it may be easier to do this. When I claimed mine I think I was there because of my Yellow Pages ad so if you don't have that I'm not sure how it works. Maybe just having a free listing in the Yellow Pages will get you there.

9. I book tunings all the time by email and texting so if you don't already have those it would be a good idea to get them.

Maybe some of this is helpful to you. Good Luck!
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/07/12 10:54 PM

My first ad for piano tuning was in 1994. It was a classified ad for $50 piano tuning. This was about $15 less than the going rate at the time. I had just passed my PTG exams and explained to the few people about the exam process. I remember one client was really happy to give me a chance - some people like to support the new, green, technician. They feel they are getting a good deal for the money, while doing something positive for a member of their community.

The PTG was helpful for finding extra work when I was starting out. After meeting some of the other techs I was able to help out in their shops part time for a little better than minimum wage. My advice to a newbie is: learn to do a decent job on the following tasks:

1. Key bushings
2. Bridle tapes
3. Hammer reshaping
4. Repinning flanges

If you get reasonable efficient at those tasks you can be of real service to a busy technician.

I don't think there is anything wrong with getting paid to practice tuning. Put up some signs on some local bulletin boards and craigslist saying that you are a piano tuning student looking for pianos to tune: Donations graciously accepted. I'm sure many people on a tight budget will take their chances with your work.

Speaking of Craigslist: Some people have trouble selling pianos that are badly out of tune. An interesting strategy would be to contact those sellers and offer to tune them for donation or modest fee. To make it even easier you could offer to defer payment until the piano sells.

The main thing is full disclosure: just let them know exactly what your experience is so that they know what they are getting. Many people are happy to help someone starting out.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/07/12 11:26 PM


Originally Posted By: daniokepper

Another good selling point, for the parents who are hesitant to keep the pianos tuned on a regular basis, is what I like to call the "chiropractic" argument. If a piano goes for a very long period of time without being tuned, there is the risk that the strings may rust themselves in position. Even if you lower the tension before raising, the odds of a string breaking have increased.

Regular tuning is similar to chiropractic adjustment. The strings are moved across the bearing points on a regular basis. It keeps them "limber," like regular chiropractic adjustments, so they don't freeze in position.

I don't mean to offend, daniokeeper, but this sounds like a "snake oil sales pitch". We want to be as straight with our clients as possible. Ultimately the trust you cultivate will pay off better than phony scare tactics.

It is true that 99.5% or more of my clients probably wouldn't be able to identify a medium quality tuning from a high-quality tuning. However, if you can impress that .5% that can really tell the difference they will bring in lots of other work, and the prestige gained by keeping those discriminating clients will substantially raise your credibility in the musical community.

The other major consideration is voicing.

Clients often don't discriminate between voicing and tuning issues. If you leave a piano perfectly tuned with uneven voicing, it will be perceived as more "out of tune" than a "just OK" tuning with nice, even, voicing.

More than one mentor told me to always include at least a little voicing with every tuning. While I won't swear that I do this 100%, I come pretty close and it's made a big difference in my career. In fact I sometimes spend more time voicing than tuning.

The combination of tuning and voicing is what will make clients tell you "this is the best my piano has ever sounded!". Even moderately discriminating clients will recognize a good voicing.
Posted by: daniokeeper

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/08/12 01:03 AM

Ryan,

I also don't mean to offend, but this is not snake oil; it is my opinion based on observations of my mere 32+ years of tuning professionally. I am not "relying on phoney scare tactics."

I have seen it. I have dealt with it. A piano that was last tuned 20, 30, 40, or more years ago. When you lower the tension on a string before raising it, nothing happens as you keep dropping the tension until you hear a 'ping" sound as the string comes loose from where it has rusted itself and then the pitch drops... a lot. this may happen on only one or two strings. Or, it may happen on many or most strings.

Is this freezing in position a deliberate part of the design? Not likely. Is this normal? Again, No. After breaking the string(s) free, the string(s) now renders smoothly. It's not supposed to be stuck in position. It rusted there, or some rare case perhaps there is some other other arcane thing happening such as dissimilar metals or contamination. But still, keeping the string moving across the bearing points occasionally is a good thing.

If a client would phone you and explain that her piano had not been tuned in many years, would you NOT warn her of the increased possibility of one or more strings breaking? I assume that you would. To not warn her would be unethical.

If it is ethical to warn her AFTER the 30 years of neglect, why is it unethical to warn her BEFORE the 30 years of neglect?

If you want to cultivate trust with a client, it is important to give them good information, But, it is also important to give them good information in a timely enough manner to actually do them some good.
Posted by: bkw58

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/08/12 03:22 AM

Originally Posted By: daniokeeper
Originally Posted By: mbick
I have a couple of piano students right now that practice on horribly out of tune pianos. These are on my short list of pianos to practice tuning on, because it pains me to hear them played. They are both beginner students and I don't want them thinking a piano is supposed to sound like that. Right now it is just a matter of coordinating a time convenient to both of us.


Another good selling point, for the parents who are hesitant to keep the pianos tuned on a regular basis, is what I like to call the "chiropractic" argument. If a piano goes for a very long period of time without being tuned, there is the risk that the strings may rust themselves in position. Even if you lower the tension before raising, the odds of a string breaking have increased.

Regular tuning is similar to chiropractic adjustment. The strings are moved across the bearing points on a regular basis. It keeps them "limber," like regular chiropractic adjustments, so they don't freeze in position.

Even if you are developing as a tuner, the piano may still benefit from your tuning it, even if your tunings are not absolutely perfect yet. Of course, it's all relative.


I think we would all agree that piano wire unmoved for many years is certainly not a good thing; for a variety of very important reasons we need to keep it moving as regularly as is prudent. With this in view, the client needs to be informed of the problems that can ensue by neglecting regular tunings - especially when the piano is new.

When I was a beginner - around 1982 - I read of the above procedure described by daniokeeper in one of the many books on piano technology that I delved into at the time. It could have been in Mr Reblitz' fine work, but I could be mistaken.(My copy is long gone.) Be that as it may, daniokeeper is correct that the use of such method to break a rust collar on old wire at a bearing point really increases the risk of string breakage inasmuch as the counter clockwise turn of the tuning pin may also create a weak point at the coil. In due course, I followed the advice of one of my teachers (the late Jerry Pace), and for the most part, approached any and all piano wire the same: The more time one spends stressing the wire, the greater the risk of breakage; the less time stressing the wire, the less the risk. Therefore, move it quickly. To this end his "snappy" tuning technique proved quite good and, along with other conventional factors, produced a stable tuning. [And exceedingly minimal string breakage]
Posted by: BDB

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/08/12 03:35 AM

The conditions that can make it more likely that strings will break are age, humidity, use, and neglect. In my area, humidity is rarely a factor. I noted elsewhere that I tuned a piano last week that had not been tuned since the last time I tuned it, in 1991, but because the piano is not more than 40 years old, and has had no more than normal use, there was little chance that strings would break. It actually tuned up nicely with a single pitch raise before fine tuning. Had the piano been over 100 years old, the probability that strings would break would rise significantly, but 50 or 60 years is rarely a problem.
Posted by: bkw58

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/08/12 03:57 AM

Originally Posted By: BDB
The conditions that can make it more likely that strings will break are age, humidity, use, and neglect. In my area, humidity is rarely a factor. I noted elsewhere that I tuned a piano last week that had not been tuned since the last time I tuned it, in 1991, but because the piano is not more than 40 years old, and has had no more than normal use, there was little chance that strings would break. It actually tuned up nicely with a single pitch raise before fine tuning. Had the piano been over 100 years old, the probability that strings would break would rise significantly, but 50 or 60 years is rarely a problem.


Tuner error, too. In most cases when one broke on me, I had momentarily lost focus and allowed the tip to angle on the pin and thereby twist the wire at the coil. POP! mad
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/08/12 03:52 PM

Originally Posted By: daniokeeper
Ryan,

I also don't mean to offend, but this is not snake oil; it is my opinion based on observations of my mere 32+ years of tuning professionally. I am not "relying on phoney scare tactics."

I have seen it. I have dealt with it. A piano that was last tuned 20, 30, 40, or more years ago. When you lower the tension on a string before raising it, nothing happens as you keep dropping the tension until you hear a 'ping" sound as the string comes loose from where it has rusted itself and then the pitch drops... a lot. this may happen on only one or two strings. Or, it may happen on many or most strings.


daniokeeper,

Thanks for the response. I admit my response to you was too abrassive - I suppose our different perspectives on this may be largely due to the differences in our climates. I just don't find that string breakage issues come down to piano wire rusted onto the bearing surface. I do acknowledge the 'pinging' phenomenon you describe, but I don't come across it very often.

I interpreted the "chiropractic" approach as being a way of talking a client into getting the piano serviced more often than they otherwise would. I have heard others on this forum argue that not getting your piano tuned every six months is going to damage it.

I suppose going 20 years without tuning *might* increase the chance of string breakage slightly, but if the piano is not exposed to excessive dampness I doubt it. Most of the time when a string breaks, it just feels likes its ready to go. I also find that rendering problems more often come from the understring felt then anything else.

I think the chiropractic argument may have more bearing on the action than the strings. I definitely believe that actions that sit for long periods become sluggish. The best remedy for this is to make sure to play it occasionally, which is something we all will admit is a good thing smile
Posted by: Chris Leslie

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/08/12 05:42 PM

Originally Posted By: bkw58
Originally Posted By: BDB
The conditions that can make it more likely that strings will break are age, humidity, use, and neglect. In my area, humidity is rarely a factor. I noted elsewhere that I tuned a piano last week that had not been tuned since the last time I tuned it, in 1991, but because the piano is not more than 40 years old, and has had no more than normal use, there was little chance that strings would break. It actually tuned up nicely with a single pitch raise before fine tuning. Had the piano been over 100 years old, the probability that strings would break would rise significantly, but 50 or 60 years is rarely a problem.


Tuner error, too. In most cases when one broke on me, I had momentarily lost focus and allowed the tip to angle on the pin and thereby twist the wire at the coil. POP! mad

Bob, I don't understand. How does a tip angled twist a string at the coil?
Posted by: bkw58

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/08/12 09:22 PM

Originally Posted By: Chris Leslie
Originally Posted By: bkw58
Originally Posted By: BDB
The conditions that can make it more likely that strings will break are age, humidity, use, and neglect. In my area, humidity is rarely a factor. I noted elsewhere that I tuned a piano last week that had not been tuned since the last time I tuned it, in 1991, but because the piano is not more than 40 years old, and has had no more than normal use, there was little chance that strings would break. It actually tuned up nicely with a single pitch raise before fine tuning. Had the piano been over 100 years old, the probability that strings would break would rise significantly, but 50 or 60 years is rarely a problem.


Tuner error, too. In most cases when one broke on me, I had momentarily lost focus and allowed the tip to angle on the pin and thereby twist the wire at the coil. POP! mad

Bob, I don't understand. How does a tip angled twist a string at the coil?


My apology, Chris, I did not explain this very well. If the tip is not properly seated on the tuning pin, in the turn the pin may flex contrary to a level course causing the wire to twist and break at the pin. When this occurred during one of my tunings such was the only instance where I considered it to be my fault and the wire would be replaced at no charge ( unless the wire was in terrible shape to start with: oxidation, etc.) etc. )
Posted by: daniokeeper

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/08/12 10:06 PM

Originally Posted By: rysowers
Originally Posted By: daniokeeper
Ryan,

I also don't mean to offend, but this is not snake oil; it is my opinion based on observations of my mere 32+ years of tuning professionally. I am not "relying on phoney scare tactics."

I have seen it. I have dealt with it. A piano that was last tuned 20, 30, 40, or more years ago. When you lower the tension on a string before raising it, nothing happens as you keep dropping the tension until you hear a 'ping" sound as the string comes loose from where it has rusted itself and then the pitch drops... a lot. this may happen on only one or two strings. Or, it may happen on many or most strings.


daniokeeper,

Thanks for the response. I admit my response to you was too abrassive - I suppose our different perspectives on this may be largely due to the differences in our climates. I just don't find that string breakage issues come down to piano wire rusted onto the bearing surface. I do acknowledge the 'pinging' phenomenon you describe, but I don't come across it very often.

I interpreted the "chiropractic" approach as being a way of talking a client into getting the piano serviced more often than they otherwise would. I have heard others on this forum argue that not getting your piano tuned every six months is going to damage it.

I suppose going 20 years without tuning *might* increase the chance of string breakage slightly, but if the piano is not exposed to excessive dampness I doubt it. Most of the time when a string breaks, it just feels likes its ready to go. I also find that rendering problems more often come from the understring felt then anything else.

I think the chiropractic argument may have more bearing on the action than the strings. I definitely believe that actions that sit for long periods become sluggish. The best remedy for this is to make sure to play it occasionally, which is something we all will admit is a good thing smile



Ryan,

I am glad we cleared the air.

Locally, the humidity can get very high during the summers, especially when we have a week or so of rainy days. It's also not unusual to find pianos in damp basements where the children can practice without disturbing the rest of the family and vice versa. I have actually had string break at the becket, at the nut, and even at the bridge, while lowering the tension with the intention of then raising it. I've had them break on pianos the were already 1/2-step or more flat while lowering the tension. Of course, this kind of experience is rare. But, it has happened to me. And, the folks who will neglect a piano for long periods of time tend to be the least understanding when their neglect contributes to a problem.

I completely agree with you that playing the piano is healthy for the action. For one thing, I believe it helps keep the center pins polished and stops them from becoming pitted and then having too much friction on the felt bushings, causing problems. But for that, I use a different argument ( smile )... I use the "Would you just park your car in the garage for ten years without even starting it once, and then expect it to run flawlessly on the first turn of the key?" argument. smile This encourages them to keep playing the piano.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/09/12 11:52 AM

Thanks Scott. Those are good advertising ideas for almost any business. I completely agree about the Yellow Pages. I used to advertise my store in the Yellow Pages in the 90's, and it was a good medium. Now, however, almost no one uses the Yellow Pages, but their prices remain high. Waste of money.

Your website is simple and to the point. Very nice. I don't care for cluttered websites.

I hadn't thought about leaving a pen with the name and number of your business. That's a great idea. It's funny because I have given them away before as advertising, but it didn't even occur to me in connection with piano tuning. I know a local guy that does a great job with those and has high quality products. (As a matter of fact, I always hoard his pens when I get them, lol.)

Sorry I didn't acknowledge your post earlier, but I was gone for most of the weekend and Monday.
Posted by: Emmery

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/09/12 12:18 PM

I carry several different contact reminders which I leave up to the customer to choose from. Plain simple business cards get easily lost so I will carry the magnetic ones that can go on their fridge if they choose. A postcard type contact can be left in the piano bench or undr the lid of uprights. The pens I get from Vistaprint, if you wait long enough they regularly give you deals on them or the shipping. Magnetic signs for the car get changed out every year. The old ones can get stapled to a wood telephone pole at busy intersections to provide a bit more service for you.

I did a charity/freebie tuning for an old age home a relative of mine lives in. In exchange for the tuning, they put a free ad in their newsletter and let me leave a business card holder full of cards on top of the piano in the foyer.
Posted by: mbick

Re: Question about the business end from a new tuner. - 10/09/12 03:37 PM

Excellent suggestions!