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#881310 - 02/25/11 05:55 AM Do you tune?  
Joined: Apr 2003
Posts: 1,249
Jeff Van Devender Offline
Jeff Van Devender  Offline

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Joined: Apr 2003
Posts: 1,249
In today's crazy economy, etc., it seems like the more skills we obtain or possess, the better off we may potentially be financially. As I inch closer to retirement, considerations such as these move closer to the forefront of my mind. I always fear that one of my jobs may eventually stop carrying their weight and I may need to make up the financial burden elsewhere.

I teach music in a public school. I play piano every week for 2 churches. I give lessons. I occasionally perform concert/recitals. Still, with college tuition for twin daughters looming, medical bills piling up with less than stellar insurance, etc., I'm on the lookout to increase my monthly intake.

I have often considered piano tuning on the side, but am rather fearful of taking a step forward in this domain. Could my sanity withstand it? Would I be any good? Is the learning curve too much?

Any of you who have gone down that road, do share. How long would I need to apprentice before I could solo? What other considerations do I need to think about before I go forward? Could I even do it???



#881324 - 02/25/11 10:30 AM Re: Do you tune? [Re: Jeff Van Devender]  
Joined: Dec 2008
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John Lawrence Schick Offline
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John Lawrence Schick  Offline
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Jeff, you need to have a long conversation with Johnny Daubert.

John smile

#881329 - 02/25/11 11:36 AM Re: Do you tune? [Re: John Lawrence Schick]  
Joined: May 2006
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Colin Ward Offline
Colin Ward  Offline

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Joined: May 2006
Posts: 7,804
Saint Petersburg. FL
I don't have any personal knowledge of piano tuning but I do know that when you consider a new business venture, the first thing you have to do is a market study followed by a business plan. My guess is that the market for real pianos is probably dropping like a stone due to the availability of keyboards that most pianists now play. So the demand for piano tuners must also be dropping.

The other side of the coin is the supply of piano tuners. Perhaps if nobody is going into piano tuning there is still a need for new tuners? Don't know.....but you need to find out. I see a lot of people prepare for a career in a field where they are not needed and end up flipping burgers. The ability to tune a piano is only one piece of the puzzle.


I try to critique as if you mean business.....



#881390 - 02/25/11 04:00 PM Re: Do you tune? [Re: Colin Ward]  
Joined: Jan 2001
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Johnny Daubert Offline
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Johnny Daubert  Offline
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Posts: 7,895
New Jersey, USA
John, thanks for suggesting I talk with Jeff.

Colin, good points about the business plan and all.

So Jeff, besides that,
The training can be 3 months to 3 years,,,depending on your aptitude for not just hearing and understanding what needs to be done, but that of the mechanical end of it. The tuning hammer technique is actually the hardest aspect to master, being it's a 120 pound torque resistance that needs a feather-like touch to move and set the pins just so, while hearing waves go all over the place, and with having others talk in your ear if nearby. Ready to start?! smile

So, it may not be a short learning curve. Most tuners finally get "good" around their 8th year. I thought it would take me only 3, as I was in the homes after just 4 months. NOPE! 8 years turned out to be correct, to my surprise and added excitement over my craft. The reasons being: 1. All pianos are different, so like doctors seeing a patient, not one approach will work for all. There's compromises and a second nature skill from those 8 years that need to happen in order to get call backs to get to tune their piano again. (Unless the owners are tone deaf or just like you a lot). smile

2. You may not have a lot of pianos to train on. THIS is the most important factor of being trained. If just training on one or two pianos, you will find a nightmare on the first piano you start to tune that isn't one of those two training pianos. I was lucky to have around 100 pianos in the store at any one time to tinker with. Grands of all sizes. Spinets of all sizes and quality, (a BIG factor is quality for any piano). All kinds of uprights and consoles in all kinds of condition. ETC. Even player pianos. BEST to get training in a large piano store, and NOT to have an electronic tuner. Those tuners who use them in my areas have a bad reputation for not being able to tune a piano. (That's what the customers say). Not the word of mouth you want. The reason? Goes back to the fact that all pianos are unique in how they transmit sound waves. Machines get wrong readings when reading acoustic pianos. Not like a guitar tuner, which are good for guitars, for guitar players can't play with ten fingers, and on one end while also playing the other end, as with pianos. There are false beats that come into it too. There are in-harmonics as a result of humans making the bridges and plate. NO perfect piano so far! All factors are different in each piano, which need to be taking into consideration when tuning EACH string. 220 strings on average per piano for the 88 notes. Still with me? Good! You may be as nuts as I was. (still).

You may be able to learn tuning quickly. You may love it. You may be able to secure some tunings through having a clientele from your teaching. Then the schools!,,,"IF" they want to pay for such services on some regular basis, that is.

Despite my great training, with many pianos to learn on, and having nature music and tuning ability, I have struggled to make a living tuning pianos. Would have been great for a part time job though. (I KNOW THIS NOW,,,,damn!). Most people who own pianos won't get them tuned as often as they should. There is also the factor of having to do repairs, knowing all the parts and how they work. And knowing how much parts costs. Many pianos can't be tuned until a note or two is fixed, (usually right in the middle of the keyboard!). Some pianos can't or shouldn't be tuned up to pitch for various condition reasons.

If it is all new pianos you can tune, then great! But I doubt that will be the case. You may be able to get hired part time in a store once having some good skills though. Pros and cons with that too. But may be a steady part time income as one of the pros.

I wouldn't put this trade on the same low money earning potential as writing songs, but it's close!

If you feel you want to tune pianos, after knowing all this and things Colin said, "then you just might be" nuts enough to tune pianos! Lets see how you feel after this:

Know that there is risk to your ears, (Tinnitus,,,as I have, but also from being in bands), for hearing the sounds coming off the plate being that tuners are close to it. The parts of the piano cabinet is taken off of course, to get to the tuning pins. The pianos are louder that way, and you have to "pound" the keys hard to "set the strings", so they won't go out of tune when someone plays it harder than what you hit each note when tuning. If so, the tuning gets knocked out. So, you must attack the keys as if it's going to be the hardest anyone would play it. That "sets the strings". I know of a tuner that uses a tool t strike the keys, so her fingers won't get hurt. I have had no trouble with that hand though. My right hand however developed a condition, from the force needed to move the tuning pins with the tuning hammer. Not everyone gets that though. (Dupuytren's Contrature). I have two minor surgeries so far to temporarily correct it.

(If STILL interested)!, I would buy THEE book by Arthur Reblitz, http://www.amazon.com/Piano-Servicing-Tuning-Rebuilding-Second/dp/1879511037. Covers everything you could ever want to know. He is one amazing piano technician and author. My piano God, along with my great teachers, Elmer Tadderstill and Jeff England, rest their souls. (Duke Ellington tuners and many others).

Even if having a great piano tuning teacher or two, that book is A MUST HAVE! Then decide. Will be worth the ten bucks as part of your business plan.

You may of course PM me for more info, and/or for other contact info.

All The Best to you with anything you do,

Actually a Member Since 1996 or 97 (Number One Hundred Something).
Songnado I and II:

#881867 - 02/27/11 08:52 AM Re: Do you tune? [Re: Johnny Daubert]  
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 19,164
Calvin Online content
Top 10 Poster
Calvin  Online Content
Top 10 Poster

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 19,164
Okeechobee, Florida U.S.A.
Hi Johnny,

I just wanted to let you know I found your tuning story interesting.

ANOTHER whole world I know nothing about!



#882661 - 03/02/11 07:44 AM Re: Do you tune? [Re: Calvin]  
Joined: Apr 2003
Posts: 1,249
Jeff Van Devender Offline
Jeff Van Devender  Offline

Top 200 Poster

Joined: Apr 2003
Posts: 1,249
@ John Lawrence Schick: Yes, I was actually secretly hoping Johnny would find his way to this thread. Looks like my hopes were granted. wink

@ Colin Ward: As a Music Business graduate, I can affirm the correctness of what you speak sir. wink While my market research has been rather informal at best, it does actually include over 20 years of in-depth observation from the inside as a music educator and player, in addition to long conversations with piano tuners/technicians who service the valley. The short answer seems to point to a shortage. Tuning dudes are generally hard to find and with Vail & Aspen w/in spitting distance, many grands in 10k square foot empty homes needing quick servicing for the one week out of the year they are occupied. I think the market could support such a move. My bigger question possibly lies in my own capacity to proceed.

@ Johnny: Sweet! You did not disappoint in your dissertation here, my friend. Give me time to chew it over. Just got over a major production at my school, followed by several days of ill health. Now in recovery and prepared to proceed w/ some dissection of said dissertation & look forward to replying upon further review. wink Thanks!

@ Calvin: Beatles & Pianos will draw him in every time. hahaha!

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