questions for piano technicians

Posted by: Beth630

questions for piano technicians - 10/18/02 07:35 PM

Hello,

I've just discovered this forum while searching the internet for information on careers in piano technology. This seems like a great site with lots of information and I'm hoping that maybe you could help me with some basic questions that I have about this profession.

Here's my situation. I am considering making a mid-career change to study to be a piano technician. I've been working in an office environment for 13 years and I'm ready for a change. I'm looking for a career where I can be self-employed, one that is tangible (hands-on), and offers variety and a daily sense of satisfaction. Two years ago, my husband and I bought a piano and I've really enjoyed getting back into practicing (after being without a piano for 15 years (!)), but I've become even more intrigued and mystified by the piano itself. Since I've been thinking about a career change, I thought maybe I could consider piano tuning, repair, and rebuilding.

Here are my questions:

1) What do you think are the most important skills necessary for this profession?

2) What are the most rewarding aspects of your job? What aspects could you live without?

3) What is the current state of the industry (i.e., are there too many technicians or not enough; are people switching to digital pianos)?

4) What can a self-employed tuner/technician expect to earn yearly?

5) What is your opinion on training? (i.e., apprenticeship vs. schools, etc... I have read about North Bennet Street School in Boston. It seems to be highly regarded.)

6) Is this a highly competitive field? Do piano technicians ever get together in a friendly environment to share ideas and techniques? (i.e., piano technician guild meetings?)

7) What is your opinion of joining the Piano Technicians Guild and taking the tests to obtain the title of Registered Piano Technician? (i.e., is this a necessary credential to succeed in the business or helpful to get in the door?)

8) There seem to be a greater percentage of men in this profession. Any insight as to why? Are more women choosing this as a profession these days?

I really appreciate your help on this. Any information/advice you can provide will help me to make a better informed decision.

Thanks,
Beth
Posted by: SamLewisPiano.com

Re: questions for piano technicians - 10/19/02 01:13 PM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Beth630:

1) What do you think are the most important skills necessary for this profession?
A) A good ear, great people skills, mechanical aptitude.

2) What are the most rewarding aspects of your job? What aspects could you live without?
A)I love having a job I that love that pays well. I could live without a telephone glued to my ear, and I absolutely can't stand being stood up for an appointment.

3) What is the current state of the industry (i.e., are there too many technicians or not enough; are people switching to digital pianos)?
A) depends on where you live. There are areas where good techs are taking part time jobs to live, and areas where there arent enough techs. As far as the digital issue, I have found that a lot of people who switched to them have come back to acoustic. I am not worried about that.

4) What can a self-employed tuner/technician expect to earn yearly?
A) widely varies. A motivated skilled tech can do well into 6 figures.

5) What is your opinion on training? (i.e., apprenticeship vs. schools, etc... I have read about North Bennet Street School in Boston. It seems to be highly regarded.)
A) either/or. Depends on whether you prefer to learn in a structured environment or not. I did a correspondence school, followed by apprenticeship with a real old-school type tuner. When he said I was ready, I started to tune for people.

6) Is this a highly competitive field? Do piano technicians ever get together in a friendly environment to share ideas and techniques? (i.e., piano technician guild meetings?)
A) I imagine it's like any other trade/skill. There are people you will meet that you love to talk to and share with. There are others that you wish would move to Siberia. I have found most to be glad to share and help one another.

7) What is your opinion of joining the Piano Technicians Guild and taking the tests to obtain the title of Registered Piano Technician? (i.e., is this a necessary credential to succeed in the business or helpful to get in the door?)
A) Not necessary,(I have been asked by potential clients twice in 27 years if I am a member, which I am not yet). It is certainly a good networking tool, and a great learning tool though, and I would encourage you to at least check it out.

8) There seem to be a greater percentage of men in this profession. Any insight as to why? Are more women choosing this as a profession these days?
A) There are a LOT of women coming in these days.
Posted by: G-Man

Re: questions for piano technicians - 10/19/02 10:04 PM

I myself got into this buisness about 7 years ago and have totaly enjoyed it ever since.I started calling piano stores & dealers in the area and was refered to a major well known dealer in town.We discused if i had any music knowledge or background & i did but only with guitar,with about 20 years expierence of playing only by ear. Tuning my guitar,I just wondered if i could on a piano.Even though guitar & piano are too different worlds they still rely on a temperment. To be honest & embarrased I didn't know where mid C was, but the head tech had confedence in me & after two months I was booked out on a ton of tunings & repairs & also I am going on 150 player piano installs.It has been a very rewarding buisness.So now I do tunings,repairs,rebuilds & player piano with record & midi features.It's the best move I ever made with my life.I think if you have the interest & the want too.You can do it.I think the best key is getting with good hearted people who are willing to work with you and give you a chance.I hope this helps,good luck!
Posted by: Beth630

Re: questions for piano technicians - 10/20/02 11:08 AM

Sam & G-Man,

Thanks so much for your responses. They are very helpful and encouraging. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. \:\)

If there are any other techs out there who would like to share their experience or insights on this, please do so. This is very interesting!

Thanks again,
Beth
Posted by: TomtheTuner

Re: questions for piano technicians - 10/20/02 03:50 PM

Hi Beth. You are really asking the right questions. I aggree with all of the answers that have preceeded my post. The only addition I can make is to Contact the RANDY POTTER SCHOOL OF PIANO TECHNOLOGY . and seriously consider his Correspondence course. There are others, but his is the most thorough, by far...
Posted by: JIMBOB

Re: questions for piano technicians - 11/21/02 11:31 PM

I made a career change from an office job and
graduated from North Bennet Street Piano
Technology I. When I can get the time and money
I hope to go back for the second year. It is
THE BEST MOVE YOU WILL EVER MAKE. We had two
women in our class so it is not just a guy
career. Two of our instructors where women and
excellent teachers and technicians. I am
just starting out but the work is picking up. It
is the most interesting and rewarding job
I have ever had. You never know what you will
find when you show up at an appointment.
I may not get rich dollar wise but for job
satisfaction it is great. I have tuned in
a large Worship Center and a small country
church. I had my first mouse piano last Saturday.
Yesterday I had a service call at an historical
bed and breakfast, Unfortunately- the piano was
not tunable in its present state. The strings
had fused themselves to the bridge and hitch
pins due to excess humidity, poor maintenance
and lack of attention. NBSS gives you
a thorough grounding in theory and hands on to
prepare you for the challenge. It is up to you
to take the ball and run with it. You also have to have a good business sense and take the time
to build up your business. By all means join the
Technicians Guild and attend conventions. The
Guild has much to offer and the conventions
are an awesome learning experience where you
get to be taught by the best of the best.
Good Luck and let me know if you have any questions. You might want to go to NBSS for a
tour or an open house. In the summer they
sometimes have week long survey courses.
Posted by: PNO2NER

Re: questions for piano technicians - 11/30/02 04:27 PM

Hi Beth: I applaud your decision to make a career change. I did the same thing 20 years ago, and have not regretted it for a minute. I'll try to answer your questions. Question #1:
In my opinion the most important skills would be, patience, a good ear, the ability and desire to work alone, you must be a self-starter, and the desire to keep on learning. Q#2: The most rewarding aspects of piano servicing are the freedom-the ability to make your own schedule and to work as much or as little as you choose. Next, one provides a needed service working on pianos, and the satisfaction from making instruments sing, and customers happy is very rewarding. There are drawbacks however, as there are in any line of work. It takes years to become really proficient, also years to build up a clientele, and you will encounter an occasional difficult piano or piano owner, but these are few. There are ups and downs seasonally to piano work, but these become predicable. Q#3: In general, there is a need for qualified piano technicians, a lot depends on where you are located. If your particular area has many techs, then one more might have tough sledding for a time. Electronic and digital instruments in general have not diminished the need for technicians, in fact there is a general need for those service technicians also. Q#4: Yearly wage after one is established is almost up to you. Many work part time, many full time making 40-60K/yr. Six figures as someone mentioned might apply to high demand concert technicians. Q#5:
Training can be obtained in general 3 or 4 ways. A full or part-time school is excellent. N. Bennet has a fine reputation and is one of the best. Correspondence schools such as The Randy Potter course is very good, but should be augmented by working with a mentor. Working in a piano shop is very good, as you learn the business from the ground up especially the rebuilding and repair end of the business. My method was apprenticing. It is hard to beat a one on one learning experience. Try to find an older technician who is willing to take on a new person with the idea that someday they may want to take over the business. All of these take time and some money, but as with any profession, you get out of it what you put into it. Q#6: Our field enjoys what is called friendly competition. I have had experience in five geographical markets and technicians in are usually willing to share information, experiences and on occasion, customers. PTG meetings are the basis for this cooperation. Q#7: Joining The Piano Technicians Guild is a vital part of learning the business and continuing to grow. It is not required, and certainly few customers know it exists, but for one's own benefit it is the quickest and best way to progress in the field. From local chapter meetings to regional conferences to national conventions, the knowledge and information is invaluable. Becoming a Registered Piano Technician is an important step in your career, and one that you should strive to eventually attain. Again, it is not required, but will go a long way to making you a qualified technician. A plus benefit is being listed on the PTG website for piano owners looking for a tech in their area. I had a customer call yesterday after finding me in on the RPT list. Q#8: Yes, there always have been more men than women in piano work, I guess its just tradition, much like auto mechanics, airline pilots, nurses, teachers and secretaries. However I estimate 10% of techs are now women, and that number is growing. Women seem to excel at repetitive work and fine motor skills needed in dealing with tiny parts found in pianos. Do not be intimidated, many female piano owners prefer dealing with female technicians, much like doctors. Beth, I hope this helps, if I can answer other questions, e-mail privately.... PNO2NER