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#2104303 - 06/18/13 09:33 AM Do I trust this tuner?  
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Brinestone Offline
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I've owned my Yamaha upright for about seven years. It was a used piano, but the first time I had it tuned (a couple of months after buying it), the tuner said he was impressed with the quality of the instrument, and when he looked it up to see when it was built, he was shocked that it was as old as it was (built in the 1980s).

Anyway, I tune it every year. I wish I had the funds to do it twice a year, because I have "perfect pitch" (I've seen threads on that here, and mine is about as complicated as it gets, I guess) and because I teach on this piano. I have moved a few times and always tune it after moving, but not right after. I have hired three or four different tuners over the years because of moving.

Anyway, last August, I had a different guy tune it than I'd been using before. I think the woman who tuned it the previous few years couldn't do it for some reason. Anyway, he seemed like an expert, talking a lot about his schooling back east and how lots of piano tuners aren't all that qualified or well trained.

He recommended a pitch raise, which was a surprise to me. I have never had a tuner recommend that before, and my last tuning was a year before this guy came. Furthermore, I have a good ear, and if it was even half a pitch off, I'd know. And I have a metronome that plays A440, and it's just about right on with my piano. Some of the very low and very high notes get out of tune faster than others, I guess.

Part of me wants to say, "This guy knows more than my other tuners did because he noticed this problem that they didn't," and part of me wonders if he's just trying to get me to do the pitch raise because he'd make more money if I did.

If it were you, would you go with this tuner next time, or go back to my previous (female) tuner? I'm leaning toward the latter. If she recommends a pitch raise too, then I'll know for sure that I need one.

But if she doesn't, I might wonder . . .


Piano teacher since 2008, member of NFMC
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#2104315 - 06/18/13 10:09 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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A few things to consider;

It is fine to wait a month or so following a move to tune the instrument.

If the pitch was low on your piano, this could have been demonstrated to you by the technician prior to PR and tuning. I make a habit of demonstrating to the client problems associated with the instrument.

A metronome does not determine nor play in pitch; a metronome counts time.

If you feel more comfortable with the former tuner then make that choice.


Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
#2104319 - 06/18/13 10:17 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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This tuning is almost a year ago. It sounds as though you trust your former (female) tuner. Try to get her back and put this experience behind you and learn from it. There's no real way for any of us to judge this situation reliably.

By the way, how much is "half a pitch off"? That's a new one on me.

Edit: Dan, modern electronic metronomes do sound a pitch reference note or two and those notes are often adjustable within a limited range.

Last edited by rxd; 06/18/13 10:37 AM.

Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


#2104329 - 06/18/13 10:35 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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By "half a pitch off," I meant that an A would be halfway to A flat. I don't know the correct way to say that.

I agree. I was just wondering if someone with more expertise would know right off the bat if something sounded fishy. I think I will go with my previous tuner.


Piano teacher since 2008, member of NFMC
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#2104333 - 06/18/13 10:40 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Originally Posted by Brinestone
By "half a pitch off," I meant that an A would be halfway to A flat. I don't know the correct way to say that.


That would be 50 cents flat, a profound degree of flatness.
Regards,

#2104354 - 06/18/13 11:05 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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rXd Offline
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There are charlatans around so it behooves every piano owner to learn to use a pitch reference to ascertain the pitch of their piano with a degree of accuracy.

Using terms like half a pitch when you mean a quarter tone may be a clear signal to a practiced con man. Specify flat or sharp, not "off" and you will gain more respect as a musician.

It is not necessary to tune your own piano to know a thing or two about it. There are smartphone apps that will tell you at a glance or an inexpensive guitar tuner for a few dollars will protect you from rogue traders. The dial tone of a landline telephone in the USA is an equal tempered f and a. (If anybody still has one).


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


#2104369 - 06/18/13 11:34 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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The chances of your piano going that flat in just a year are extremely slim. Either your previous tuner has been tuning it there, or your new tuner is lying to you. If the old tuner tuned it that flat, you most certainly want to find out why, she may have seen something the new tuner didn't. (Or been too lazy to pull it up, it could go both ways.) Use Google to find a strobe tuner and check to see where the middle of the piano is registering. The outer octaves won't be at "mathematical pitch", so there's no point in trying to check them on a strobe tuner. If the middle is close to pitch, the guy is lying to you.


Piano Technician, 3 years experience

And why yes, I know I'm a girl!
#2104396 - 06/18/13 12:09 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Ya know, if right off the bat he has to tell you how qualified he is, that raises a big red flag for me. If people ask me I'll be glad to tell them how I was trained but I don't offer that information unless they ask. It sounds to me like he was trying to really really impress you with his knowledge and yes, get more money out of you, because, of course, he's so highly trained and you are so fortunate to have him working on your piano and straightening it out... yes, sarcasm intended.

Also, I have read in other forums posts from tuners that consider 5 cents flat to be a "pitch raise". I consider that untrue. If that were true then pretty much every tuning I did would be a pitch raise. This would exclude concert tunings - I'm just talking about in home tunings.

I agree with you - go back to your other tuner.

You could download the demo version of TuneLab if you wanted to check up on what they're doing. It won't match perfectly but it would give you a good idea of where the pitch is.


Scott Kerns
"That Tuning Guy"
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com
#2104399 - 06/18/13 12:13 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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There are legitimate reasons for tuning a piano flat, even as low as -50 cents. If any of these come into play your tuner should, at the very least, advise you accordingly prior to service. Moreover, a notation to that effect should be placed in the piano advising future tuners not to pitch raise because: _______. (The reality is, some tuners do not examine instruments before they tune.)

Last edited by bkw58; 06/18/13 12:15 PM. Reason: typo

Bob W.
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Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2104407 - 06/18/13 12:23 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Some thoughts come to mind...

I begin charging for pitch raises if any one section is more than 10 cents from its target. The reason behind this procedure is that significantly changing the tension in a piano causes unstable tuning; pianos that are not close to pitch must be brought to pitch before they can be tuned accurately. For example, an A4 that is 10 cents flat must be tuned 2.8 cents sharp for the pitch to settle at the correct target (440Hz); if this is not done, the pitch will fall below 440Hz as the piano is tuned. For any given note on a piano, one can expect the necessary over-pull to be approximately 10% in the bass, 28% in the middle section, and 36% in the treble.

Unfortunately, having your piano tuned only once a year significantly increases the chance that it will be this far from pitch, particularly if the indoor relative humidity around the piano is poorly controlled. Most piano manufacturers recommend two tunings per year as a minimum, and even more if the piano is brand new, is subjected to strenuous use, and/or the owner is sensitive to tuning.

So what does this mean for you? It's possible that your first tuner "floated" the pitch, meaning that she tuned it to the pitch it was at at the time. This is somewhat controversial, but may be appropriate in some applications. It's also possible that she performed a pitch raise and didn't charge extra for it. It's also possible that she tuned it to A-440 without doing a pitch raise, which is probably the least desirable of the three. Since you have stated that you've moved around a few times, it's plausible that the piano's new environment is less stable than its previous ones, and this is why a pitch raise was needed.


#2104413 - 06/18/13 12:33 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: That Guy]  
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Originally Posted by That Guy
Ya know, if right off the bat he has to tell you how qualified he is, that raises a big red flag for me.


OTOH, some technicians really do like to brag and talk themselves up.



Originally Posted by That Guy

Also, I have read in other forums posts from tuners that consider 5 cents flat to be a "pitch raise". I consider that untrue. If that were true then pretty much every tuning I did would be a pitch raise. This would exclude concert tunings - I'm just talking about in home tunings.


Technically, it is. If A4 is 5 cents flat and it is tuned to A440 without a second pass, or without over-pull, it will ultimately settle more than 1 cent flat. On the RPT tuning exam, this would result in penalty points. Does this mean one should charge for a pitch raise at this threshold? No, for the reason you stated.

#2104415 - 06/18/13 12:35 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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With your "perfect pitch", you would have been able to tell if the piano's pitch was off, right? How did the piano sound after the latest person tuned it? Better, worse, or about the same as the previous technician? If you were happy with the previous person, and are somewhat suspicious about the current person, go back to the previous person. When you call her to set up the appointment, come right out and tell her about this other person and the pitch raise. Simply ask her, "Has my piano always been tuned to standard pitch?"


Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York
#2104504 - 06/18/13 03:47 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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That Guy Offline
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Quote
Technically, it is.


In my family we have a running joke about "technically speaking" and I use my game show host voice announcing - "It's the let's get technical show with your host _________!)". So I got a chuckle out of your post wink

Yes, technically speaking you are correct. That's why I'm usually overpulling 2-3 cents in the middle and 4-6 cents in the higher range. It usually comes out just fine and even if it doesn't 2-3 cents flat isn't a big deal, especially for a home tuning. But it's not something I charge extra for and therefore not something I would tell the customer about.

I do charge extra for a pitch raise but only if it's about 30 cents flat or more.


Scott Kerns
"That Tuning Guy"
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com
#2104516 - 06/18/13 04:00 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Is A=440, or something similar, written on your previous invoice?


Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.morethanpianos.com
(semi-retired)
#2104619 - 06/18/13 07:08 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: That Guy]  
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Originally Posted by That Guy
Ya know, if right off the bat he has to tell you how qualified he is, that raises a big red flag for me. If people ask me I'll be glad to tell them how I was trained but I don't offer that information unless they ask. It sounds to me like he was trying to really really impress you with his knowledge and yes, get more money out of you, because, of course, he's so highly trained and you are so fortunate to have him working on your piano and straightening it out... yes, sarcasm intended.

Also, I have read in other forums posts from tuners that consider 5 cents flat to be a "pitch raise". I consider that untrue. If that were true then pretty much every tuning I did would be a pitch raise. This would exclude concert tunings - I'm just talking about in home tunings.

I agree with you - go back to your other tuner.

You could download the demo version of TuneLab if you wanted to check up on what they're doing. It won't match perfectly but it would give you a good idea of where the pitch is.


I agree with all of this.

Additionally, if you want to get a reasonable indication of pitch, get Cleartune for your smart phone; it has an easy-to-read display that will tell you exactly what the pitch is it's hearing.

And it's only $3.99...



Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
#2104627 - 06/18/13 07:20 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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If someone asks me to substitute for their regular tuner, I will do nothing to poach the client. After all, I may need the favor in return.


Semipro Tech
#2104637 - 06/18/13 08:16 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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It sounds pretty legitimate to me. I have perfect pitch but can't tell by ear that a piano is flat until it's about 20c flat. That's a fairly major pitch correction. If you're like me in that aspect it's possible that your piano would be pretty significantly flat and you would not know it.

If you can't afford to tune twice a year maybe your old tech was aware of that and was tuning for stability. There's nothing wrong with that. How did your piano hold up since last August?


Piano Tuna
#2104791 - 06/19/13 08:08 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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"...If you can't afford to tune twice a year..."

I would suggest you save up a little more. Tuning twice a year is not that expensive, and can prevent the more expensive situation of your piano's needing a pitch raise. Besides, a teaching piano takes more wear, and will require more service anyway; this maintenance is an overhead of your business, and it is completely fair to adjust your rates to cover it.

It is also an income tax write-off.

It is also a bare minimum for a working piano.

Your loyalty in sticking with the tech you've trusted over the years is commendable.


Clef

#2104842 - 06/19/13 10:27 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Many people can't afford to get their pianos tuned twice a year, something many piano technicians forget. If you can only have it tuned once a year, stick with the technician who understands that. Doing a pitch raise on a piano that isn't going to be seen again for a year isn't necessarily a smart decision. As techs it is our responsibility to do our best within budget, not to bleed our clients dry trying to do everything WE want done.


Piano Technician, 3 years experience

And why yes, I know I'm a girl!
#2104857 - 06/19/13 11:02 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Samthetech]  
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Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted by Samthetech
Many people can't afford to get their pianos tuned twice a year, something many piano technicians forget. If you can only have it tuned once a year, stick with the technician who understands that. Doing a pitch raise on a piano that isn't going to be seen again for a year isn't necessarily a smart decision. As techs it is our responsibility to do our best within budget, not to bleed our clients dry trying to do everything WE want done.


Absolutely. With our own wallet we can be idealistic. With the client's, we must be pragmatic. Present all of the legitimate options - and the consequences of each - then allow the client to choose which one is affordable. If an altogether different choice is presented to us that offends our ethical sensibilities, then we are always at liberty to decline the business.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2104865 - 06/19/13 11:23 AM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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The idea that 6 month tunings will help maintain pitch better than yearly tunings is completely inaccurate in my experience - at least in my part of the country.

Almost invariably the pianos I see once a year are in much better tune than the pianos I see after 6 months, especially if the piano was tuned in the middle of summer or winter. After a certain age, if the piano has received regular tuning, time is no longer the main factor in losing pitch. It's almost all humidity related. I tuned a piano a while back that I had not tuned in 10 years and it was still at pitch.

If the goal is to have an nice sounding piano throughout the year, I would first recommend a client invest in a humidity control system for the piano before spending money on twice a year tunings.


Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net
#2104997 - 06/19/13 05:37 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: rysowers]  
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Originally Posted by rysowers
The idea that 6 month tunings will help maintain pitch better than yearly tunings is completely inaccurate in my experience - at least in my part of the country.

Almost invariably the pianos I see once a year are in much better tune than the pianos I see after 6 months, especially if the piano was tuned in the middle of summer or winter. After a certain age, if the piano has received regular tuning, time is no longer the main factor in losing pitch. It's almost all humidity related. I tuned a piano a while back that I had not tuned in 10 years and it was still at pitch.

If the goal is to have an nice sounding piano throughout the year, I would first recommend a client invest in a humidity control system for the piano before spending money on twice a year tunings.


As many tunings as necessary for some years, it indeed can inclued 6 months tuning for 2 or 3 years.

it takes more than that to have pianos that do not loosed a few cts each year.

Then the day of the concert a tuning is due, and even one day before , for recordings for instance.
In studios, concert halls, the pianos are seen twice the day, or once.

I will receive a record made with a tuning I did with PR from 439Hz to 442 Hz, and the last was one year ago (and my tunings are stable generally) The pitch moved due to the humidity variations in the (personal) studio.
year ago, the piano did need 2 tunings on 2 days.
Then he stayed "playeable" for long (was not used for recordings in the meantime)








Last edited by Olek; 06/19/13 05:45 PM.

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#2105037 - 06/19/13 07:08 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: rysowers]  
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Bob Offline
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Originally Posted by rysowers
The idea that 6 month tunings will help maintain pitch better than yearly tunings is completely inaccurate in my experience - at least in my part of the country.

Almost invariably the pianos I see once a year are in much better tune than the pianos I see after 6 months, especially if the piano was tuned in the middle of summer or winter. After a certain age, if the piano has received regular tuning, time is no longer the main factor in losing pitch. It's almost all humidity related. I tuned a piano a while back that I had not tuned in 10 years and it was still at pitch.

If the goal is to have an nice sounding piano throughout the year, I would first recommend a client invest in a humidity control system for the piano before spending money on twice a year tunings.


Yep, I second that. A Concert grand I service stays within 2 cents year round, even though the church sanctuary RH is all over the map. I have a full DC unit in it, and I'm confident someone fills the tanks when needed. It used to change 10 cents or more. I tune it every two months, so I've been able to track it pretty well since the DC install.

I always tell people to tune the same month every year, so the climate matches each time.

#2105052 - 06/19/13 07:34 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Bob]  
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Originally Posted by Bob
Originally Posted by rysowers
The idea that 6 month tunings will help maintain pitch better than yearly tunings is completely inaccurate in my experience - at least in my part of the country.

Almost invariably the pianos I see once a year are in much better tune than the pianos I see after 6 months, especially if the piano was tuned in the middle of summer or winter. After a certain age, if the piano has received regular tuning, time is no longer the main factor in losing pitch. It's almost all humidity related. I tuned a piano a while back that I had not tuned in 10 years and it was still at pitch.

If the goal is to have an nice sounding piano throughout the year, I would first recommend a client invest in a humidity control system for the piano before spending money on twice a year tunings.


Yep, I second that. A Concert grand I service stays within 2 cents year round, even though the church sanctuary RH is all over the map. I have a full DC unit in it, and I'm confident someone fills the tanks when needed. It used to change 10 cents or more. I tune it every two months, so I've been able to track it pretty well since the DC install.

I always tell people to tune the same month every year, so the climate matches each time.


+2



Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
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#2105080 - 06/19/13 08:46 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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I don't about this once a year business. After a week of very heavy 5-6 hours a day practice, some of the unisons on my piano really start to 'brighten', It needs to be tuned at least once a month to keep it tolerable for recital work, and more often (before each performance) as necessary.

#2105083 - 06/19/13 08:52 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Brinestone,

Your gut is right on this one. Go with you regular female tuner. If a piano hasn't been tuned in 15 or 20 years, it's definitely going to require a major pitch raise. Only an amatuer tuner is going to sell a "pitch raise" to a once a year customer


Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2105094 - 06/19/13 09:02 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Gary Fowler]  
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Originally Posted by Gary Fowler
Only an amatuer tuner is going to sell a "pitch raise" to a once a year customer


Actually, several technicians in my PTG chapter do this. The amount of time it's been since the last tuning is irrelevant. It's how out of tune it is that matters....

#2105098 - 06/19/13 09:09 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: beethoven986]  
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Jbyron Offline
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Jbyron  Offline
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USA
I had a once a year customer today who's piano was 30 cents flat. I also had a first time customer today who's piano had not been tuned in 10 years and her piano was also 30 cents flat. There is no way I would charge my once a year customer for the pitch raise even though I raised it.

It took less than an hour to tune the once a year piano and 90 minutes to tune the 10 year piano even though they were both flat by the same amount.


Tuner-Technician


#2105143 - 06/19/13 10:29 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Brinestone]  
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Gary Fowler Offline
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Gary Fowler  Offline
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Jbyron,exactly! Your regular customer gets the best rate. (I am not going to penalize a good customer because humidity got out of hand). Also, when I am familiar with working on the paino, I can get it to pitch quickly


Making the world a better sounding place, one piano at a time...
#2105161 - 06/19/13 11:36 PM Re: Do I trust this tuner? [Re: Samthetech]  
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Glue Collar Worker Offline
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Glue Collar Worker  Offline
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Originally Posted by Samthetech
Many people can't afford to get their pianos tuned twice a year, something many piano technicians forget. If you can only have it tuned once a year, stick with the technician who understands that. Doing a pitch raise on a piano that isn't going to be seen again for a year isn't necessarily a smart decision. As techs it is our responsibility to do our best within budget, not to bleed our clients dry trying to do everything WE want done.

Agreed. It's all about the player and what are their needs for the piano.


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