Best way to learn piano tuning and repair?

Posted by: Dustin Spray

Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 04:06 AM

Hello,

I have been interested in leaning how to tune and repair pianos for quite some time. I have looked in online and it looks like there is a variety of "home school" study courses available for purchase. Has anyone had any success with these? What direction would a newbie like myself be best taking. I was looking at the American School of Piano Tuning course. Looked decent from what I can see. Any feedback? Thanks!
Posted by: Mark Cerisano, RPT

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 07:09 AM

Where do you live? Sometimes technicians will offer courses, like myself. The PTG has meetings and there are schools that have formal programs. Most if not all online programs recommend that you find a mentor.

Good luck.
Posted by: David Jenson

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 09:02 AM

Before you invest too much time and energy in learning piano tuning, there are a few things you should consider.

Are you a self starter?
Can you organize and run your own business?
Are you personable and courteous?
Can you conduct yourself with courtesy and integrity in other people's homes?
Do you have a mechanical aptitude?
Do you have some working knowledge and aptitude in the music field?

This is just a short list. I tried to cram as much as I could into six questions that highlight areas of the business not normally discussed.
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 09:09 AM

Good points David. The biggest thing that I find in most tuners haven't a clue, how to run a business and that, is their down fall. ALL of these same tuners are continually never charging enough for their services and believe me, I've heard every excuse in the book as to why they don't either.

It is IMPERATIVE that you learn how to run a business. If you can't do that, you'll never be able to acquire enough work to make a nice living.
Posted by: Supply

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 11:15 AM

Buyer beware - there are a number of "Home study" courses which are hopelessly outdated and have obviously not been updated in many years or even decades.

Connect with local PTG members, attend a few meetings and get some first hand input on the voyage you are about to begin, before spending (wasting) $1000 on outdated material and marginally useable tools.
Posted by: Mario Bruneau

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 11:35 AM

Jurgen is right.

Be careful at what you buy especially on the Internet.

There is a lot of misinformation and crap out there.

PTG is a safe start.
Posted by: rysowers

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 11:47 AM

I haven't met anyone who had any success with the American School of Piano Tuning. I have met quite a few technicians who got their start with the Randy Potter Course. But as Jurgen states above, don't think a correspondence course is going to provide you everything you need - it will be just the basics.

I think the best course of action is to first find out who the most successful technician is in your area and take him/her out to lunch and have a serious talk about what is involved with the business. Jurgen is right on about attending some PTG meetings - that will give you a chance to meet some techs and get a sense of what is involved in being a tech.

If possible attend a regional PTG convention. For $300 you can attend WestPac in Phoenix this March. It is a great educational value. You'll actually be able to take tuning classes from the Legendary Jim Coleman Sr, Don Mannino and Randy Potter! Go to http://www.westpac-ptg.org to see the full schedule.
Posted by: RPD

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 01:32 PM

...to the above I would only add that you need to have an insatiable appetite for always being in the learning mode. With that tool installed, you can use almost any source to enlighten yourself in different areas. I considered the written material to be supplementary to hands-on and mentored training.

That said, there is some VERY good written material and structured material available out there.

Best of luck. What Jerry highlighted about running a business is right on. Find technicians who you can ascertain (given their schedules) make up over 100K a year and find out what THEY are doing. Copy those business models and don't miss the part about grounding your business in service.

FWIW

RPD
Posted by: Dustin Spray

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 03:07 PM

Thank you for all the replies and feedback. I am looking to do it for myself and a few friends. Mainly as a hobby or sideline buisness. I noticed there are VERY few piano tuners in my area. Im not sure if this trade is a dying breed or not? I will look at the Randy Potters guide online and check out the PTG.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 03:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Dustin Spray
Thank you for all the replies and feedback. I am looking to do it for myself and a few friends. Mainly as a hobby or sideline buisness. I noticed there are VERY few piano tuners in my area. Im not sure if this trade is a dying breed or not? I will look at the Randy Potters guide online and check out the PTG.


The costs to entry are great enough, IMO, that it only makes sense to learn for two reasons: as a hobby, or full time. Expecting to be profitable as a side business is probably an unrealistic goal.
Posted by: pppat

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 03:58 PM

Hi Dustin,

I am convinced that there is more than enough information in this very forum to get you started with learning how to tune. If you need pointers to particularly useful threads, I'll be happy to list them here.

I think Dave and Jerry make good points as to what might be important to consider. I'd like to add a few more characteristics that I personally feel are quite crucial: self-discipline, persistence and determination. Starting tuning the piano, everyone is going to want to throw in the towel quite a few times. Just don't give up.

Piano repair takes more tools (we never get enough of them... smile To start practicing tuning, you would only need to get a good-quality hammer, some temperament strips, and a bunch of mutes. The real investment lies in the time committed to learning.
Posted by: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 04:19 PM

Originally Posted By: Dustin Spray
Thank you for all the replies and feedback. I am looking to do it for myself and a few friends. Mainly as a hobby or sideline buisness. I noticed there are VERY few piano tuners in my area. Im not sure if this trade is a dying breed or not? I will look at the Randy Potters guide online and check out the PTG.


As a hobby? As a sideline? PLEASE, forget it then. If you plan on taking it up eventually seriously as a full time job then great otherwise, quite frankly, we have enough lousy tuners in this field as it is. We certainly do not need more and I say this from 40 + years of experience. That is my honest opinion of what I have encountered. "I want to do it for an extra buck. I want to learn it as a hobby. But, I am not serious about really learning how to do a fantastic job" and if you do it as a hobby, you will not be able to learn enough about it to do a fantastic job either.
Posted by: David Boyce

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 06:29 PM

As a first tentative "toe in the water", why not invest in the Reblitz book (one of the standard texts), study it, and see how it grabs you. If you find it fascinating, then you can take further steps. If you hate the whole thing and are sure that you can go no further, then you have only wasted the price of one book, rather than a whole correspondence course. If you do undertake a course, the Arthur Reblitz book is still very good to have.
Posted by: David Jenson

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 06:45 PM

Originally Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT
Originally Posted By: Dustin Spray
Thank you for all the replies and feedback. I am looking to do it for myself and a few friends. Mainly as a hobby or sideline buisness. I noticed there are VERY few piano tuners in my area. Im not sure if this trade is a dying breed or not? I will look at the Randy Potters guide online and check out the PTG.


As a hobby? As a sideline? PLEASE, forget it then. If you plan on taking it up eventually seriously as a full time job then great otherwise, quite frankly, we have enough lousy tuners in this field as it is. We certainly do not need more and I say this from 40 + years of experience. That is my honest opinion of what I have encountered. "I want to do it for an extra buck. I want to learn it as a hobby. But, I am not serious about really learning how to do a fantastic job" and if you do it as a hobby, you will not be able to learn enough about it to do a fantastic job either.
You were doing well until you used the word hobby. I'm with Jerry Groot on this. Tuning is involved and difficult enough that you'll never be able to do acceptable work as a part-timer or hobby tooner.
Posted by: Mario Bruneau

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 08:24 PM

Cool down guys.

There is no problem if anybody want to try piano tuning for his personal education. We piano tuners need more well informed clients too! The ignorance about piano tuning stuff of most of our clients is annoying. I like it when I come across a well knoledgable client about piano tuning even if he did NOT pursue a profession.

Of course we have enough doers and incompetent piano tuners around but, I would never discourage a person in going deeper in the trade of piano tuning just for his personal education.

I only hope if this person (same goes for you Dustin Spray) just go into piano tuning for fun or hobby, would NEVER charge the full piano tuning fees or wont claim to be a professional piano tuner.

Honesty is important.

This said, get Reblitz Dustin et check if piano tuning is for you.
Posted by: accordeur

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 08:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Mario Bruneau
Cool down guys.

There is no problem if anybody want to try piano tuning for his personal education. We piano tuners need more well informed clients too! The ignorance about piano tuning stuff of most of our clients is annoying. I like it when I come across a well knoledgable client about piano tuning even if he did NOT pursue a profession.

Of course we have enough doers and incompetent piano tuners around but, I would never discourage a person in going deeper in the trade of piano tuning just for his personal education.

I only hope if this person (same goes for you Dustin Spray) just go into piano tuning for fun or hobby, would NEVER charge the full piano tuning fees or wont claim to be a professional piano tuner.

Honesty is important.

This said, get Reblitz Dustin et check if piano tuning is for you.


Very well said!!!

Très bien dit!
Posted by: Blues beater

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 09:02 PM

Originally Posted By: David Jenson
Originally Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT
Originally Posted By: Dustin Spray
Thank you for all the replies and feedback. I am looking to do it for myself and a few friends. Mainly as a hobby or sideline buisness. I noticed there are VERY few piano tuners in my area. Im not sure if this trade is a dying breed or not? I will look at the Randy Potters guide online and check out the PTG.


As a hobby? As a sideline? PLEASE, forget it then. If you plan on taking it up eventually seriously as a full time job then great otherwise, quite frankly, we have enough lousy tuners in this field as it is. We certainly do not need more and I say this from 40 + years of experience. That is my honest opinion of what I have encountered. "I want to do it for an extra buck. I want to learn it as a hobby. But, I am not serious about really learning how to do a fantastic job" and if you do it as a hobby, you will not be able to learn enough about it to do a fantastic job either.
You were doing well until you used the word hobby. I'm with Jerry Groot on this. Tuning is involved and difficult enough that you'll never be able to do acceptable work as a part-timer or hobby tooner.
Acceptable to who? A famous concert pianist or an impoverished family with a practice piano that is so out of tune as to be unplayable? Nothing wrong with all levels of service for all levels of budget. In my youthful drinking days I played pianos that had such loose pins that I had to quick put a pair of visegrips on them before sitting down to play. I don't play that kind of piano now, but I beat out a lot of blues on them in the past to the enjoyment of me and my audiences.

I say if the level of professionalism is not misrepresented and he charges accordingly more power to him.
Posted by: DoelKees

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 09:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Dustin Spray
Hello,

I have been interested in leaning how to tune and repair pianos for quite some time. I have looked in online and it looks like there is a variety of "home school" study courses available for purchase. Has anyone had any success with these? What direction would a newbie like myself be best taking. I was looking at the American School of Piano Tuning course. Looked decent from what I can see. Any feedback? Thanks!

I got started on the repair side with Reblitz's book and some old pianos to try things on. However it is of little value for tuning.

For tuning I got started with Bill Bremmer's website, easily findable. The rest I learned from friendly RPT's (I'm an associate member) and from this forum.

I got to the level that I can repair and tune my kids school pianos (for free). Perhaps my work is not up to professional standards, but if I didn't do it for free the school would dump the pianos and get electronic keyboards, which I consider a form of child abuse.

However if I were to advertise myself as a top-notch piano technician tuning for half the market rate on Craigslist I would call myself (and would be called that rightly so by Mr. Jerry Groot) a con-artist.

Main reason I tune and repair is I enjoy it.

Hope this perspective helps.

Kees
Posted by: Ron Kneale, RPT

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 09:32 PM

Dustin, there are a lot of good points made here. Especially the one about having the skills to run a business, any business for that matter. Just know that it takes a strong desire and tenacity to learn to tune pianos well. And, strong mechanical skills to perform repairs and services at a high level.

I would highly recommend attending some local PTG chapter meetings to talk with other technicians - both beginners and seasoned pros. This should help give you a good sense to know if it is right for you.

I personally got the "bug" after reading an article in Keyboard Magazine in 1990, written by Larry Fine. He talked about the career of being a piano technician. 10 years later, I made the decision to become a full-time piano technician. Best choice I have ever made.

Now 12 years later, my business is doing well, and my wife even helps me with it. In the beginning,I studied and completed the Randy Potter course and found it to be excellent, though a bit wordy. I also found an excellent mentor (a former piano technician for the Los Angeles Symphony) who taught me a lot about striving for excellence in piano servicing, among other things.

You will need basic tools to get started, as mentioned. But, you will also need pianos to practice on - lots of them. It is common for new tuners to perform floor tunings at a local piano store. I started off doing just that. At first, for free and later for pay and now, not at all.

Hope this helps! Good luck.
Posted by: Supply

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 10:28 PM

Originally Posted By: David Jenson
... I'm with Jerry Groot on this. Tuning is involved and difficult enough that you'll never be able to do acceptable work as a part-timer or hobby tooner.

Ah, come on guys - how hard can it be, really? bah

You know - get a couple tools, twist a couple pins, collect a couple checks.... laugh thumb
Posted by: accordeur

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 10:54 PM

I am not willing to give up on people who want to learn.

I have seen once one customer who learnt to tune his piano
using tunelab. He owns a recording studio, and the piano is often played and recorded.

I was impressed.

But he also had techs (me included) come in for regulation and guidance.

Unisons go out so quickly, in a studio environment, it is a must to be able to at least get those right.

Hearing them can be both a blessing and a curse.

When playing music most musicians are not listening to the tuning, they are playing. Enjoying the moment.

I am not saying we should not strive to provide the best tuning, but at a certain point only we hear the difference.

When I learnt tuning, there was no such things as etd, stretch, or 4:2 or whatever. You just had to make it sound good. The piano would tell you.

So, any musician who is curious about how his instrument works, that's fine by me.

But any fly by night person who thinks that, after 2 weeks, having tuned a total of one piano three times starts charging, just as a hobby. Karma will work itself out.

Posted by: Dustin Spray

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/11/13 11:32 PM

Thank you for all the kind replies. Like I said, I am employed full time and am not looking to make a career out of this. Sorry, I mean no disrespect to the professional piano technicians in this forum. I was mainly looking to do it for informational and personal education. I didn't mean to put it like I would be offering my services and doing shabby workmanship and giving piano technicians a bad name. That's why I thought maybe there was a decent self study course that would allow me to experiment and play at home.
Posted by: David Boyce

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/12/13 07:44 AM

Quote:
Ah, come on guys - how hard can it be, really?

You know - get a couple tools, twist a couple pins, collect a couple checks..


Oh, I want to live in that world!
Posted by: Mark Cerisano, RPT

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/12/13 08:33 AM

I have taught many students piano tuning. I can tell you that every single one of them comes away with a new found fascination about how it is done aurally, and how hard it is to do a good job, and how much practice it takes to be good. Some never tune another piano. Some save a few bucks by tuning their own. Some continue their studies and keep trying to get better and make a career from it. Very very few, if any, have tried to charge more than they are worth. There are some dishonest people out there who will do that, but there are dishonest people everywhere. They get what's coming to them in the end, IMHO.

One of the greatest services to our profession, as I see it, from students taking a course or trying to learn on their own, is the new found respect that we, as piano technician, get. Read what one doctor wrote after taking a piano tuning course:

"The program [I have just taken, has] helped to shed light onto so many things for me. For the first time I understand what makes a truly superb tuning and appreciate why this requires considerable time and perseverance to really master. Great tuning is a remarkable process but once understood and appreciated anything less becomes unacceptable.

Likewise, I finally have an [improved] understanding of the piano action which had previously been only a labyrinth of confusion for me. The patience of your expert instruction was so important to me and helped me in so many ways to achieve a deeper understanding and knowledge of the piano and its workings.

I would unhesitatingly recommend [a] program for any aspiring student of the piano. In fact, I now consider it mandatory for anyone interested in the instrument whether it be from the stand point of a performer or a technician.

Sincerely,

Dr. Frank C."
Posted by: David Jenson

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/12/13 08:37 AM

Originally Posted By: Supply
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
... I'm with Jerry Groot on this. Tuning is involved and difficult enough that you'll never be able to do acceptable work as a part-timer or hobby tooner.

Ah, come on guys - how hard can it be, really? bah

You know - get a couple tools, twist a couple pins, collect a couple checks.... laugh thumb
Ha ha. It's a good thing I have this handy dandy DIY sarcasm meter. How did you get it to peg like that?
Posted by: Mark R.

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/12/13 09:23 AM

I see no need to discourage someone who wants to learn piano tuning as a hobby (and possibly later as a part-time income).

And I see hobby tuners as no threat to professionals. (Although I sometimes think that some pro's do - judging by their reactions in threads such as this one.)

For my part, I've been studying and practising piano tuning and repair sporadically for about 3 years, in order to tune my own pianos at my leisure (I LIKE being my own worst critic). I also offer tunings (hitherto all of them free) to friends, my church, or my wife at her teaching studio - all of this in exchange for the chance to learn something new on a different piano each time.

I find it fascinating and rewarding (inwardly, not necessarily financially) to combine mechanical and acoustic/musical aspects, because I have some aptitude in both, and to me, fascination and inner reward are more than enough reason to keep at a hobby!

I still return to my copy of Reblitz's text regularly, and some techs on this forum (and a German sister forum) have been a great help.

The only "missing link" for me is a mentor. But I'm working on that.
Posted by: David Jenson

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/12/13 11:20 AM

Those who haven't been in the business very long will eventually understand why our usual sunny effusive personalities take a turn when someone comes on the forum and asks how to learn to be a mediocre tuner.
Posted by: David Boyce

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/12/13 08:04 PM

As well as the Reblitz book, it's worth considering the soon-to-be-released new book by Mario Igrec, "Pianos Inside Out". www.pianosinsideout.com
Feedback from those who have seen the manuscript (not me) is very positive. This new book may be as much of a leap forward as Reblitz was in the mid 1970s.

Oh, and also very much worth mentioning is the Haynes Piano Manual. It's in full colour throughout and is copiously illustrated with photos, and not very expensive.
Posted by: Nash. Piano Rescue

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/13/13 01:02 PM

The OP lives in IL yet no one yet has suggested the Chicago Piano Tech School ?

www.PianoTechSchool.com I think is the website. I am sure they give tours so you can drive up and take a look around.

One of the biggest encountered problems are opinions on how to do things. 5 people 5 different opinions. Go up there and look around.

There is also another great school in RockPort Maine which is just woodworking. You may just be another Piano Guru and not even know it until someone inspires you.

JC
Nashville Piano Rescue
www.NashvillePianoRescue.com
Since 1918
Lascassas TN
Posted by: Dave B

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/13/13 08:02 PM

The best way to learn piano tuning and repair is to do it. Every tech I talk to has a completely different story of how they got started and how they got to where they are today.

Never know where the path will take you.
Posted by: plns

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/13/13 09:53 PM

I'm still a novice but maybe I can help you with a way to start. Talk a tuner into showing you how to tune. You might have to knock on some doors, so to speak, but I am sure there is someone out there that will spend 2 to 3 hours with you to show you the basics.

Then find a piano and practice unisons. You can find a piano at a piano store. Maybe one in the back that is destined for the heap. Talk to the owner and ask to practice on it a couple times a week. Spend about 2 to 3 hours each time. I used a chromatic tuner when I started which should be fine just to get something close to the correct pitch.

Buy a pair of earplugs. Amazon has the ETY ones.
Posted by: Supply

Re: Best way to learn piano tuning and repair? - 01/14/13 12:43 PM

Originally Posted By: Dave B
The best way to learn piano tuning and repair is to do it.....
Well, yes, kind of. The best way to learn tuning is to do it ... under the guidance and tutelage of a mentor.

Under the right circumstances, a good student can attain basic skills and experience after tuning perhaps as few as several dozen or maybe 50 pianos. We see this at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, where after one year the students pass the PTG tuning exam, demonstrating a basic proficiency in tuning.

For most others in a less than full-time schooling situation, the learning curve is slower and longer, probably in the order of way over a year and several hundred pianos. It takes that long for most (including myself) to acquire the skill and experience necessary to tune a piano acceptably good enough to begin charging money.

Sorry to put off anyone hoping to dabble a bit, but that is the plain truth.