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House Piano - Minimum Standards
#2872231 07/24/19 11:42 AM
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Years ago, we didn't have a choice, but given advances in portable keyboard technology, we now have the option of bringing our own to the gig, at least in theory. I'm a semi-retired piano technician, so I like clean unisons and a reasonable touch weight, both of which are permanent features of a keyboard, but assuming you're expected to play on the house piano, how do you go about making sure it's playable, at least to your standards?

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Re: House Piano - Minimum Standards
seniorblues #2872232 07/24/19 11:47 AM
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I always bring a bag of rubber mutes to my gigs. Sometimes I use just one or two, other times I mute out whole sections of the treble depending on how bad it is. I think of it as a quick tuning!

Also, with all of the tuning apps available, I've learned to do a basic tuning on my own (I use verituner). On new gigs I'll check out the piano in advance and if it is horrendously out I will ask if I can tune it.


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Re: House Piano - Minimum Standards
seniorblues #2873593 07/28/19 08:37 PM
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I'm wondering if some of you who read this question got to the part about keyboards and quit. My bad! The question is "How do pros deal with the prospect of playing substandard pianos on a gig?

If a venue has a piano and they're looking to fill a slot - weekly, nightly, whatever - the fact that you've played gigs with your keyboard is irrelevant. You're going to play their piano!

I'm a semi-retired piano technician and enjoy playing out, but if someone offers me a regular gig on a Kawai KG2 and lets me tune it but won't spring for the action regulation that it desperately needs, I wouldn't enjoy the gig. Surely i'm not the only pianist who has run into this situation.

Re: House Piano - Minimum Standards
seniorblues #2873675 07/29/19 03:07 AM
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Originally Posted by seniorblues
how do you go about making sure it's playable, at least to your standards?


If they have regular gigs at the venue with people playing the piano then it is good enough for me. Sometimes though I am at the gig playing a rough out of tune upright at the gig that I can't hear very well wondering why I didn't bring my nord and then I remember all the effort of loading it in the car and setting it up (and taking it home again) and get through the gig albeit slightly conflicted.

Re: House Piano - Minimum Standards
seniorblues #2873753 07/29/19 10:32 AM
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This is a tricky subject. I was asked to play at a restaurant 3 yrs ago. Console not in tune. Others issues, constantly asked to play softer which didn't matter as the hammers (yamaha) needed voicing and piano was very close to people and back of piano needed to be buffered and closed up to lower sound.

After a month of playing weekends I was giving the job, but the piano got so out of tune and the volume issues got me to the point of quiting. So, I had to make a decision. I have my own tuning business. Doing it for long time. I also realize if I tuned it, it takes away money from whoever else tunes it. Not a lot of places to play solo piano either around me and lots of pianists. And I could use the experience to get better.

So, I told the owner the piano needs tuning and voicing. Guess what happened? Said he called to have it tuned but they (local piano dealer) don't call back. Hmm. Does he not pay them? Now what. I could walk and lose an opportunity or take control.
I told him I can't play the piano as it is. I tune and will try to fix the issues. Says ok.
I voiced, dealt with the soundboard buffering, and tuned. Difference was night and day and customers were really happy by tip jar accounts.
Also, the card in the piano indicated it was only tuned once in winter and once in summer. No damp chaser in piano and temp/humidity changes a lot.

So, I learned the piano needs a monthly tuning before going out of tune bad. I've done over 3K of work at no charge. One time he gave me $40 for whatever reason. Feeling guilty maybe?
What did I get out of it? Their respect, happy customers and my playing got better.

Would I recommend pianists tune venues piano?
There's a reason tuners get insurance. Things can happen and you can be held liable.

I had a teacher who said musicians should be able to tune their instrument way back. So I took a course in piano technology at a college. Then chip tuned, then fine tuned pianos in a rebuilders shop for about a year.
The saying is it takes 100 pianos to get the knack of knowing where to set the pin.
You have to start somewhere, but 100 is just the start. The more pianos you do the better you get.

But you better know what you are doing. You could break more than just strings. Anyone wanting to tune better learn how to replace strings, it could happen, especially with lack of tuning experience.

So, in the end, I also learned something about restaurant biz. The owner in no way would schedule monthly tunings.
He also wouldn't get a high end digital. Not that I would prefer playing one.

I took ownership to play. Having a piano in a public setting expecting people to enjoy it after only tuned 2x a year is not a good business decision.


Last edited by joggerjazz; 07/29/19 10:35 AM.
Re: House Piano - Minimum Standards
seniorblues #2874827 08/01/19 09:38 AM
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A couple questions for the full-time pros . . . At your house gig, how often is the piano tuned? Does the venue recognize that a piano needs service beyond tuning, ie voicing, regulation, repairs? Concert venues know all about these issues, so you'd think that other commercial performance venues, regardless of genre, would recognize that many patrons would be turned off by a poorly serviced piano.

I hope I'm wrong, but I'm getting the impression that many of you feel forced to take whatever they give you or try to patch things up yourself.

All things being equal, I'd rather play a top of the line keyboard than a poorly serviced piano. I don't understand why there isn't unanimous agreement on this . . . .


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