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Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
#2676388 09/19/17 07:24 PM
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I'm curious because my current technician, who is great, does not play the piano.

I have participated in master piano classes at Bösendorfer in Vienna and am amazed at how few of the piano technicians building the pianos and the administrative staff play piano. Bösendorfer even offers free piano lessons to their employees but it is interesting how few take them up on it. They still love the piano though.

I had a technician in Germany who played beautifully and one in Brussels who didn't play at all. Both were wonderful technicians.

Steve

Last edited by Lakeviewsteve; 09/19/17 07:27 PM.

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Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2676400 09/19/17 07:59 PM
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In my experience it varies a lot. Some play extremely well - and may even have been performers at one stage. Some can barely play a note. Most are somewhere in the middle. The other category is the shy technician - somebody who can play very well, but doesn't like to advertise it.

Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2676404 09/19/17 08:15 PM
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Yes, there's both. I play a little piano (actually I play big pianos too! laugh ), enough to fool my customers into thinking I'm actually a piano player. I know all my scales and have 2 song memorized. So, I do a few runs, play my little song and they're impressed! It helps me too to know how the piano sounds when I'm done.


"That Tuning Guy"
Scott Kerns
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com
Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
That Guy #2676408 09/19/17 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by That Guy
Yes, there's both. I play a little piano (actually I play big pianos too! laugh ), enough to fool my customers into thinking I'm actually a piano player. I know all my scales and have 2 song memorized. So, I do a few runs, play my little song and they're impressed! It helps me too to know how the piano sounds when I'm done.


Ha Ha, That's me too. My days playing keyboards in bands ended 30 years ago. My fingers are now stiff. I've lost my speed. Clients think I play well - but it's just an act.



Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2676418 09/19/17 09:48 PM
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My tuner plays and puts me to shame . I keep wondering why I can't sound like him, but he's a professionally trained pianist, and I'm a novice.

Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2676430 09/19/17 10:56 PM
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Some very fine technicians can barely play the piano.

Some very poor technicians can play the piano very well.

One doesn't need to be able to drive a race car at it's limits to be able to build one. You just have to understand how things work.

I do find it infuriating that the proper esthetic framework for testing how musical a piano is, is so poorly understood in our profession. Especially how durable optimal musical qualities should be.

So many pianos being made and rebuilt today have way too heavy and dense hammer felts. Thus the inertia of the action is placed at the very upper limits of usable musical function and they wear out rapidly.

Many tuners wear ear plugs when they tune so as to avoid hearing damage. A properly made piano will not cause hearing damage even when played at the highest volumes unless you place your ears under the lid. It is all the high frequency noise that is causing the damage. Some of it is Longitudinal modes with the frequency being above the audible range but the energy contained still causes hearing damage.


Last edited by Ed McMorrow, RPT; 09/19/17 11:01 PM. Reason: add additional comment

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Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2676871 09/21/17 07:26 PM
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Agreed, Ed. It seems it's all about volume. I'm experimenting with a Steinway B at the university. I replaced the hammers a year ago. The replacement Steinway Hammers were so wide, I had clearance issues in the bass. There was so much felt on those hammers that I sanded off tons of felt, which reduced the power or volume, while holding onto the tone. It's in a small practice room. Students now play it with the lid up. The other, more powerful practice room pianos are played with the lid down. I resisted the urge to voice it up last fall, and with playing it's coming up all by itself.

I think people perceive powerful pianos as easier to play - but power should be reserved for the concert hall where it's really needed.



Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2676882 09/21/17 08:21 PM
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Greetings,
The ever increasing desire for more "power" gave us the hard, harsh, hammers of earlier. years. However, loud is not powerful. Students here play hard enough break strings in practice rooms with the lids up! What is lost is the ability to control tone with volume, and the voicing that the pianist brings to the performance. A malleable tone is a tool that is increasingly bypassed for sheer loudness. The music suffers, the audience is less attracted, and the support for our favorite art diminishes. Get out the needles...!
Regards,

Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2676888 09/21/17 08:48 PM
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I would define "power" as the volume in relation to how hard the key is struck. Tone (taking the hammer voicing out of the equation) is a factor of how the key is struck, which comes though touch control and different ways of pressing the key. A student pianist might not be able to produce the tone a concert pianist can - the difference being the ability to control the press of the key to produce the desired tone, and the strength in the fingers, wrists, and arms.



Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2676921 09/22/17 02:49 AM
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In the workshop where I did my apprenticeship, no-one played - which was a real surprise to me. In fact, playing the pianos was discouraged quite fiercely...

Happily I'm not in that situation any more, so play as much as I can! I've found it's possible to regulate, tune, and tone to the numbers in a book, but often pianos need something that is very difficult to measure or write down, and the only way to figure out what's needed to make it play really well is by actually playing it. That's what pianos are for after all!! laugh


Started work at the Blüthner piano re-building workshop in Perivale, UK, in 1989. Self employed since 2000. Learning something new about pianos every day... smile

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Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2676949 09/22/17 08:27 AM
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Like Scott, I used to finish every tuning appointment by playing a short, melodic piece of music. My opinion was the the customer needed to know and hear that her piano was a musical instrument, not just a physical machine that needed periodic adjustments.


Dorrie Bell
retired piano technician
Boston, MA
Re: Do technicians play the piano or just work on them?
Lakeviewsteve #2677632 09/25/17 12:57 PM
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All of the answers were good. If you looked on the PTG website about a career in piano technology, it specifically states that it is not really necessary to be a musician or to be able to play the piano but of course, both may be helpful.

Many piano technicians became interested in piano technology in some way other than having first learned to play the piano. Many are musicians of other types. Some were factory workers who were trained by the factory to do particular skills but after leaving factory work, they went into piano service. While some such former factory workers never really learned to play the piano, some did learn some basic skills but they are not there to give you a recital!

Personally, I took piano lessons as a child and as a young adult but I learned and performed as a musician upon other instruments and ultimately concentrated on classical voice studies. After working all day on pianos, I am not often interested in playing the piano afterwards.

That means that many of the pieces I once knew well and could play by heart, I have long ago forgotten. However, when I finish tuning a piano and play long arpeggios from one end of the piano to the other to demonstrate how the piano now sounds like it should and is in tune with itself from one end to the other, some people get the idea that I play the piano like a concert pianist. Imagine the opening to Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, for example. I can play the first three notes of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# minor like a champ!

I sometimes have to explain that what I am doing is not really music, it is just some skillful operation of the keys. I sometimes add that is what Liberace used to do. While he was a fairly highly skilled musician, a lot of what he did were simple embellishments that sounded impressive but really amounted no nothing more than just operating the keys across the piano.

Generally speaking, whether or not the piano technician can actually play some music on the piano after tuning should not be a reflection of the work that was done. After all, some people can make virtually any piano play some music that may be impressive but the quality and thoroughness of the actual service may not be as good as it could be from another technician who is not a very good pianist.

The actions and skills involved in servicing a piano are actually not very conducive to playing a piano well. The hands, arms, fingers and joints are all used quite differently. While there are indeed some piano technicians who are very versatile and can do both, if there is a highly skilled piano technician who is also a fine pianist who will give a performance, that person needs to concentrate solely on the pianist skills shortly before the performance.

Think of it this way: while there may be ballet dancers who do some strength training in a gym, you would not find them working out in the gum shortly before they go on stage to perform as a dancer.


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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