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#2125807 - 07/31/13 10:24 AM Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please.  
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Mark Cerisano Offline
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Mark Cerisano  Offline
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Hello Everyone,

I am a registered piano technician with the piano technicians guild and I also give courses on how to tune and repair pianos.

Until now, giving courses was a great way to supliment my incone from tuning.

However, this summer has been very difficult to find people interested in learning this skill.

I have advertised using Google Adwords, I have paid for top ads in Kijiji. I keep track of everyone who contacts me about learning to tune and repair pianos and I have actively contacted each one of them to see if they are interested.

In the past I have had 10 to 12 individual registrants for each week of my courses. This summer, I have had to run my courses with only one student in each, choosing to cancel some.

So, my questions for you are:

1) Should I just give up on this? Is there basially no one interested in learning this trade anymore, or

2) Am I using the wrong marketing techniques. If you type in "learn to tune pianos" into Google, I come up on the first page, near the top, so I find it hard to believe people could not find me if they were interested, which makes me think, nobody is interested.

I need to decide what to do because, if I cannot increase my revenue doing this (which I love to do but need to be paid for it) then I will have to quit putting so much effort into marketing and preparation and just stop giving the courses and concentrate on something else.

I was just feeling extremely frustrated about the whole experience and thought a post on Pianoworld might shed some light on the situation.



Mark Cerisano, RPT, B.Sc.(Mech.Eng), Dip.Ed.(Music)
www.howtotunepianos.com
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#2125816 - 07/31/13 10:38 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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Jbyron Offline
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Since you asked. Personally, If I were you I would focus my attention on building up my tuning business to the point where supplementing income wouldn't be an issue. You could then teach tuning when opportunities naturally present themselves, if that is what you enjoy doing. Or you could do what Randy Potter has done or something similar.


Tuner-Technician


#2125818 - 07/31/13 10:40 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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BDB Offline
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You may have saturated your market.


Semipro Tech
#2125854 - 07/31/13 11:41 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: BDB]  
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Thanks. Both good comments.

As for teaching less, the problem is, it can be lucrative when there is demand, and I receive tremendous reviews which confirms my feeling that I have a gift doing this. So, I want to do it more because it gives me so much reward. And then we are back at the beginning, demand. BDB may have hit on it. As I posted in another thread, I notice a bigger demand in the first year I offer the course in a city. Then it dies off. I am assuming because the people interested have already taken the course.

This is why I have started advertising a video conferencing alternative. However, there has been very luke warm response.

Do you think people in general, think video conferencing is not considered a viable alternative to in-person training?

Last edited by Mark Cerisano, RPT; 07/31/13 12:04 PM.

Mark Cerisano, RPT, B.Sc.(Mech.Eng), Dip.Ed.(Music)
www.howtotunepianos.com
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#2126090 - 07/31/13 07:09 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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jim ialeggio Offline
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Mark,

I'm curious what your demographic is. Of the students you've taught or who have inquired about your teaching, are they mostly 40-50yr old 2nd career types??

Jim Ialeggio


Jim Ialeggio
www.grandpianosolutions.com
advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
Shirley Center, MA
#2126283 - 08/01/13 07:29 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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TimR Offline
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If you do a good job of teaching tuning, aren't you eliminating the need for your own job?



gotta go practice
#2126428 - 08/01/13 12:41 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: TimR]  
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Samthetech Offline
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Originally Posted by TimR
If you do a good job of teaching tuning, aren't you eliminating the need for your own job?




No. The need for piano tuners is increasing dramatically. Not due to increased demand, the supply is just drying up! Its getting harder and harder to find a properly trained technician.


Piano Technician, 3 years experience

And why yes, I know I'm a girl!
#2126626 - 08/01/13 07:53 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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showard Offline
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I would think that the videoconferencing option would be something to try and push further. There are generally only so many people in a local geographic area who are interested in learning how to tune, but with the videoconferencing your market is as big as the number of people who speak your language that are interested in learning how to tune.


Steve Howard
Piano Technician
Owner of Howard Piano Industries
www.howardpianoindustries.com
#2126641 - 08/01/13 08:32 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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jim ialeggio Offline
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Mark,

One reason may be that serious students, those who intend to pursue tuning as a career, would tend to see the perceived credibility of being trained and graduating from an institution as something that was sale-able. This in terms of either institutional employment, references etc., or acquiring the personal authority to chase after tuning jobs. The institution has, at this point and time much more credibility as opposed to taking an online course from whomever.

That's not to say that what an institution gives a student is superior to what you have to offer, but the perceived value and commitment attending an institution entails tends to attract serious students.

Having said that, I personally don't do institutions, or certifications. That means I have had to construct credibility by various other means. Its doable, but a long haul, and one's name has to become recognized by sheer repeated exposure.

I personally think what you have to offer in the way of teaching and pedagogy should easily be able to stand on its own in the company of Randy Potter. Potter knows how to market his wares and keeps the marketing and name recognition up year after year.

I wouldn't throw in the towel yet, but the model you are using right now needs some rethinking.

For instance, in your recent offer for free lesson/demonstration, or whatever it was, if you have a real and useful pedagogy to offer, start offering it to PTG conventions. Let people see what you do in the way of teaching first hand. I, for instance find your double unison idea as a teaching tool to have value, and if you were teaching it in person at a convention I was attending, I would certainly attend, especially as a hands-on class.

Just my random thoughts..as we all have to come to terms with the marketing aspect of what we are doing...analyze what works, what is useless, reconfigure, flex, try again from a different angle...or sell life insurance. I know in my business the marketing part is the part I do not enjoy, and am not good at. However I also have to keep at it, flex as necessary and occasionally hire someone who breathes and enjoys marketing to help me when I get stuck.

Jim Ialeggio

ps another thought. When ever I tell a marketing consultant one of my great idea to create a new market, they roll their eyes and sigh smile It seems as if, at least in your present attempt, that you are trying to both invent a new market and a new clientele all at the same time. Maybe some kind of a more conservative approach might help meet people where they are right now, without re-inventing the wheel all at once.

Identify a demographic, and design an approach that fits that specific demographic.


Jim Ialeggio
www.grandpianosolutions.com
advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
Shirley Center, MA
#2126647 - 08/01/13 08:45 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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accordeur Offline
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Honestly, teaching piano tuning online? On one piano?

I'm sure some players would pay for a lesson online on how to tune a unison, but the whole piano? I don't think so.

Any tuner must at least be trained as a basic tech first. Basic repair and exposure to as many different actions and scales as possible. To understand what might go wrong while tuning. To understand what you are getting into.

Then you begin tuning training.

Sure it's not rocket science, but we are always working on a different rocket.

I would give a potential and eager candidate some training on skype or whatever, but I would not count on it to make a living.


Jean Poulin

Musician, Tuner and Technician

www.actionpiano.ca
#2126733 - 08/02/13 12:30 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: jim ialeggio]  
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Mark Cerisano Offline
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Originally Posted by jim ialeggio
Mark,

I'm curious what your demographic is. Of the students you've taught or who have inquired about your teaching, are they mostly 40-50yr old 2nd career types??

Jim Ialeggio


Hi Jim,

Great to hear from you again.

My students range in age from 16 year old high school students to grandmothers. No kidding. I once taught two older ladies who were best friends. One flew all the way from Alberta to Ontario, just to take this course with her best friend. I've also had a lot of musicians. I like teaching them the most because they eat this stuff up. It's like "Oh. Okay. That's how you do it. Gimme the hammer."



Mark Cerisano, RPT, B.Sc.(Mech.Eng), Dip.Ed.(Music)
www.howtotunepianos.com
#2126735 - 08/02/13 12:35 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: TimR]  
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Mark Cerisano Offline
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Mark Cerisano  Offline
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Originally Posted by TimR
If you do a good job of teaching tuning, aren't you eliminating the need for your own job?



You sound like my wife!

No actually. Of the 100+ students I've taught in Montreal, only three are working in Montreal. (Some have left for further training) Of those three, one works for me, one is a significant competitor, and one is not competant.

I solve this problem by being better at customer service and marketing. There's always room for one more good technician.


Mark Cerisano, RPT, B.Sc.(Mech.Eng), Dip.Ed.(Music)
www.howtotunepianos.com
#2126738 - 08/02/13 12:38 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: showard]  
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Originally Posted by showard
I would think that the videoconferencing option would be something to try and push further. There are generally only so many people in a local geographic area who are interested in learning how to tune, but with the videoconferencing your market is as big as the number of people who speak your language that are interested in learning how to tune.


Yes, that is my feeling. But trying to find those people is the challenge. I have started a blog at http://howtotunepianos.wordpress.com. That might help.

I am also thinking of videoing most of my lessons so people can get a feel for my style and decide whether they want to pay for more personalized instruction.


Mark Cerisano, RPT, B.Sc.(Mech.Eng), Dip.Ed.(Music)
www.howtotunepianos.com
#2126743 - 08/02/13 12:58 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: accordeur]  
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Mark Cerisano Offline
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Mark Cerisano  Offline
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Originally Posted by accordeur
Honestly, teaching piano tuning online? On one piano?

I'm sure some players would pay for a lesson online on how to tune a unison, but the whole piano? I don't think so.

Any tuner must at least be trained as a basic tech first. Basic repair and exposure to as many different actions and scales as possible. To understand what might go wrong while tuning. To understand what you are getting into.

Then you begin tuning training.

Sure it's not rocket science, but we are always working on a different rocket.

I would give a potential and eager candidate some training on skype or whatever, but I would not count on it to make a living.


Bonjour Jean,

Merci pour votre reponse.

I hear what you are saying, but learning piano tuning is not a serial activity. Do we learn how to turn a pin first, or what a good unison sounds like? Do we try to understand how this piano responds, or how the variation in designs affect how other pianos may respond? How about repair? Should we be able to tune a unison before replacing a string?

You see, the self-guided student takes what she can get wherever she can get it, and puts the parts together to form a more complete understanding of the challenge.

Hey, listen, I was as sceptical as you. "How can someone learn to tune a piano over the internet? I'm not even in the same country as them, let alone the same room!"

All I can tell you is it works. I've done it with a student in Australia.

As for effectiveness, I've had students right beside me who didn't have a clue what I was talking about, so physical presence had no benefit in those situations.

Video conferencing is a technology that is barelling down the pipe. Get ready for it. It is coming and when it gets here, you won't recognize how we did things before. Imagine using your iPhone to show a clerk at Home Depot what problem you are having with your toilet. He tells you to move the camera over here, over there, then guides you how to fix it, or emails you the UPC code of the parts you will need to fix it. Check out http://paltalk.com or http://ustream.com. And don't get me started on what Google is doing. Have you heard of Google Hangouts? What about Google Hangouts on Air? Live streaming broadcasts by everyday people. And Google is beta testing Google Helpdesk; hooking up technicians realtime with customers for the purpose of providing advice and service in realtime.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

It's exciting and frightening at the same time. I'm hoping there is a place for piano technology in this space. I want to improve the effectiveness of learning this way.

And by the way, this has got to be better than Randy Potter correspondance courses, or American School of Piano Tuning. It's LIVE!

Merci encore.


Mark Cerisano, RPT, B.Sc.(Mech.Eng), Dip.Ed.(Music)
www.howtotunepianos.com
#2126826 - 08/02/13 06:41 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Samthetech]  
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Quote
No. The need for piano tuners is increasing dramatically. Not due to increased demand, the supply is just drying up! Its getting harder and harder to find a properly trained technician.


I'm curious how you equate a "piano tuner" with a "properly trained technician"?


Piano Technician/Tuner
#2126838 - 08/02/13 07:47 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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jim ialeggio Offline
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Originally Posted by Mark Cerisano, RPT
Video conferencing is a technology that is barelling down the pipe. Get ready for it. It is coming and when it gets here, you won't recognize how we did things before.

Perhaps...but this is why I asked the demographic question. Old farts are not the demographic that will embrace this, at least right now. Young people will. But serious young people also will also need to be able to "acquire" some sort of credibilty while they acquire the knowledge. That credibility used to come from an institituion, or from an apprenticeship with a local master. You have to invent the how to confer this acquired credibility on your students and help them to feel comfortable and assured conveying it to their propspective clients.

The video confrencing thing, and on-line colledge thing is in its infancy, and I feel will make many bricks and mortar instituions quake in their boots, but not yet. In order to pull it off, your vision will need long term staying power in the face of apparent "non-interest".

You may pull it off, and more power to you. But I would say you need to look at the long game and keep a day job at least for now. The day job makes it possible to roll with the inevitable non-income producing punches.

Jim Ialeggio

ps I completely agree that your model, even in its somewhat unformed infancy, is a way better model that the Potter course. I looked at Potter's course a long-long time ago and rejected it without a second thought. However...Potter's marketing is and remains exceptional.


Jim Ialeggio
www.grandpianosolutions.com
advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
Shirley Center, MA
#2126882 - 08/02/13 10:07 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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Jbyron Offline
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With all due respect, it sounds like you already have it all together. It seems as if your original post was really just another advertisement in disguise.


Tuner-Technician


#2126894 - 08/02/13 10:24 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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It's even more blatant in the Piano Forum.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#2126903 - 08/02/13 10:48 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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In an industry that seems to be fond of shooting itself in the foot, it is refreshing to see someone developing new ideas that just might help. Who knows? The best could be yet to come. Give the guy a break. smirk


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2126958 - 08/02/13 12:39 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: bkw58]  
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I will not be ready for your course for a few yeas yet, but I can see down the road a desire to take such a course, but not at a professional level, just to tune my own piano. Learning is its own reward. I am having a blast learning all the ins and outs of piano repair. Each new skill learned is very satisfying.

I am sorry I put the piano on hold for 25 years or more, but raising a family, working full time, and not really making any progress with learning to play was just a show stopper for me. Now, with the kids on their own, retirement, and the addition of the internet, all this has changed. I found some exercises on the internet for learning the notes, name and position on the ledger lines, and position on the key board. I am making great progress and I don't even have a functional piano right now, as I am reworking the entire action. Did I say I was learning all kinds of new skills?

When the time is right, I would love to learn to tune my piano. Maybe I would only be touching up the tuning during the year, but that would be great to do. So, if you and the progress in communication via long distance get a good working class going, I can see myself wanting to take it. I'd bet a lot of self sufficient piano players would like to be able to do this for their own pianos, and expand your market. Maybe you could even aim a class at those that just want to tune their own pianos.


Cynthia

Roland FP-50
Conover Upright, 1888/9, but a very low mileage piano. http://www.pbase.com/schnitz/conover_upright_piano__1888_or_9 .
Tuneless = Don't play piano yet but getting there.
I'm technically very capable. I love my piano and love tinkering with it.
#2126993 - 08/02/13 02:20 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Tuneless]  
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Hi Mark, I have occasionally supplemented my income with coaching Persian ney through skype. Sometimes people get stuck on something and they have just a few lessons, I've had a few that had weekly lessons.

All of them contacted me by first going through my youtube "getting started" lessons. I guess they liked the videos I put up and my teaching style.

So my suggestion to you is to put up a few youtube introductory lessons to attract students.

Judging by the number of requests I get, and the assumption that the number of would-be Persian ney players is a tiny fraction of the number of would-be piano tuners you should get more request than you can handle.

Please PM me if you want more information on my experience with remote teaching.

Kees

#2128161 - 08/04/13 08:24 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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showard Offline
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I certainly see learning to tune over the internet as a viable option. I know many very qualified technicians who have gotten their initial training through taking the Randy Potter Course. Obviously becoming a fully trained technician will require other training experiences, but the course provides an excellent foundation to start on and can give a wealth of training in one course.


Steve Howard
Piano Technician
Owner of Howard Piano Industries
www.howardpianoindustries.com
#2128166 - 08/04/13 08:32 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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showard Offline
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Mark,
I looked over your website and found the wide range of different services on the site a little overwhelming. You offer tuning, sales, rentals, tuning courses and even real estate rental. To get more focused traffic you may consider also having a separate website that focuses just on the training portion of your business. Directing people to this site from some YouTube videos I think would be a good way to attract some good traffic. The WordPress blog is definitely also a good way to attract business.


Steve Howard
Piano Technician
Owner of Howard Piano Industries
www.howardpianoindustries.com
#2128326 - 08/05/13 02:13 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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Growing the number of quality YouTube PT videos couldn't hurt a bruised industry image either.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
#2128404 - 08/05/13 08:40 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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Hi, Mark --
Assuming you want constructive criticism --
Your website does not give a welcoming impression. I would change several things:
1) Get that piano-mover ad out of there. Why advertise another firm when you are yourself looking for customers?
2) Consult with a professional about improving your website. The modified dot-matrix font and the crowded layout suggest outdated skills and lack of focus, which is not the effect you want.
3) Again, with focus, what is it about you and your course which attracts people? Your degree in mechanical engineering is not a draw, because many mechanical engineers cannot tune, repair, or teach. Why would a student benefit from learning from you? (I like someone's idea about building up a resume mentioning the courses you have given at PTG regionals and nationals -- a good goal.) Keep the spotlight on why they should give you their money and time.
4) What are the results of your course, in other words, what's the cost benefit to the student of taking it? If you're advertising that you prepare students for the RPT test, how many of your students have taken that test, prepared with only your course, and passed it? What percentage of your students is that?

This is totally aside from the question of how large your potential market is, a separate and important issue.

I was intrigued by piano work after taking a course that advertised, "Learn how to tune and repair pianos in four Sunday afternoons, earn $70,000 a year." I called my dad, a mechanical engineer turned violin maker, and asked him how much trouble that course could get me into. He told me, "You will be fine if you don't believe that you will learn how to tune and repair and if you don't believe the $70,000." Having taken that course, and finding that my dad was right, I went to North Bennett Street and made a better start.


Dorrie Bell
retired piano technician
Boston, MA
#2128421 - 08/05/13 09:39 AM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
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France
I believe that the target is musicians or people that want to learn something to obtain some added income.

What miss are the credentials and experience, when we get to a certain level of professional musicians (pianists but not only) most of the ones I know are conscious that learning to tune pianos is as learning to play an instrument at an accepteable level. there is gift, and work.

Those kind of courses despite their content and eventual validity, cannot replace a proper training in real environment.

It can give a clue about what is tuning, as touching it with a finger.

Now video is certainly a good tool, I can analyse by seeing , what a tuner is doing, what are his perceptions, what is his mental image when he tunes.

I would tend to think that video courses could be a good option for advanced trainings and for total beginning, but all the real training between both can only be covered by working on numerous different instruments in a professional environment.

Once some basis are mastered , the option is to try to work for the most exigent customers, and to tune the best instruments possible.
I see no other way to learn. Tuning spinets and pianos in bad conditions cannot help to learn very far, while the opposite works very well (a first class tuner will have better results on poorer pianos due to experience and imagination) .

Cultural-musical level play also a large role. A tuner used to tune in honky tonk or mainstream music environment will have trouble to tune for classical music, I have seen that yet.(the opposite can be somehow true)



Last edited by Olek; 08/05/13 09:40 AM.

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I wish to add some kind and sensitive phrase but nothing comes to mind.!
#2130568 - 08/09/13 10:44 PM Re: Your opinion on learning to tune pianos, please. [Re: Mark Cerisano]  
Joined: May 2013
Posts: 375
Gary Fowler Offline
Full Member
Gary Fowler  Offline
Full Member

Joined: May 2013
Posts: 375
Mark,

I applaud you for wanting to teach piano tuning. But as a serious money making business, I think you are fighting a losing battle. I understand you, wanting to help people get started in the business. But if you concentrate your efforts on just servicing pianos yourself, your income would be more than enough! I am all for helping some deserving kid to learn the trade(I had mentors that were invaluable!) But I would never look at it as a business opportunity. I too have gone off in areas which I thought would supplement my tuning/servicing income.(i.e. buying and selling pianos). I learned the money was in sticking to what works. Tuning, tuning tuning!!!

Good luck


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