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Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
#2886283 09/02/19 02:30 PM
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Hi, I am a new member to the forum and have enjoyed reading through many of the threads in this section as well as those relating to the title of this particular thread/question. I currently work in another industry, however, have several days a week each week that I could focus on a separate opportunity. I'm very interested in music and over the last year have entertained the idea of working towards becoming a Piano Technician. Currently studying Arthur Reblitz' book as well as Larry Fine's (The Piano Book). Beyond that I am considering a correspondence program. I've read many of the older threads but wondering if anyone else recently has gone through any of the below schools and could provide any input(good or bad)?

Piano Technician Academy
Randy Potter
Butler School of Piano Technology


Before spending the money I just wanted to hear what others had to say that might steer me in the most appropriate direction for my situation. Beyond just wanting to do this as an interest is it still a financially worthwhile endeavor?

Thanks!

Blee7

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Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2886375 09/02/19 08:39 PM
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Joining the Piano Technicians Guild will cost much less than any of the online correspondence courses, and will give you access to a massive body of materials and access to members and meetings.
Of the correspondence courses, Rick Butler is the only one who gives you real feedback about your tunings. He often has a waiting list because he won't take more students than he can honestly serve.
Search this website for other comments.


Ed Sutton, RPT
Just a piano tuner!
Durham NC USA
Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2886602 09/03/19 04:02 PM
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If you read Reblitz and Igrec (Pianos Indside Out) you will have covered as much or more than what a correspondence course may offer.

You will need a local mentor of some sort, anyway. PTG is an essential component, anyway, as Ed mentioned.

Another online option for tuning is Marc Cerisano at www.howtotunepianos.com

I like to suggest for comparison see what Bennet Street school provides:
3+ mentors; over 1000 hours of instruction; multiple pianos to work on and pretty much of a guarantee to pass the RPT exams within a year.

However you slice and dice it, that's pretty much what it takes. You can take longer and defer starting to earn an income but in the end, your cost will be about what it costs to go to Bennett Street -- either in outlay or lost income.


Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
editor emeritus of Piano Technicians Journal
Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2887280 09/05/19 02:11 PM
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Thank you Ed and Keith,

That helps a lot and will most definitely check out those other options. It appears that the most helpful step/start will be joining the PTG and interreacting with others as well as possibly finding a mentor to learn from. Many thanks.

Brendon

Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2887329 09/05/19 05:50 PM
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One of the impressive features of the Potter course is that the author insists a student find a local piano tuner/technician mentor with whom to arrange a formal or informal apprenticeship lasting some months. One of my piano students did the program and an informal apprenticeship, and it launched her in the field here in Toronto.

Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2887414 09/05/19 11:28 PM
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When looking for a tuner/technician mentor to arrange an apprenticeship....How does that work? Is there some value that can be added to a mentor(help with odd jobs etc.) or are most in this profession just generally helpful and it's more of a pay it forward type thing. I'm in the Southern California area and would be very interested in this. Thanks for the info.

Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2887660 09/06/19 05:40 PM
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You just have to sound out a few of your community's better tuner/technicians on the informal apprenticeship idea. I think many would be more receptive if you offer them money, but some might be receptive without pay.

Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2887737 09/06/19 11:15 PM
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The Piano Technicians Academy is a new entrant into the Piano Technicians correspondence school business.

I have always thought there is very little value to most of these things. I do come from the perspective of a person who is fairly capable of self-instruction. But there are times professional tutelage can really boost your understanding.

There are far less business opportunities than when I began in the field in 1971.


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2888266 09/08/19 02:44 PM
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Thank you Ed; that helps as I was wondering if that was a necessity (completing a school) to market yourself as a tuner/technician or to represent that you are a professional in the area.

I also wonder when you mention less business opportunities if the investment to income potential is there for the years to come.

At the end of the day; I love music, and have always been curious about learning how to work on pianos; that being said there is nothing to lose with self education.

Getting to tuning many pianos in the beginning to build the skill set appears to be the hurdle and what I'll have to figure out how to do.

B

Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2888303 09/08/19 05:01 PM
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There can be no guarantees about future income, and no single answer that fits all areas.

Assuming that you have aptitude and acquire good skills, you might be fortunate enough to launch your business in an area of high population density with a good piano-owning demographic, several recital venues, music schools and conservatories, and three retiring piano technicians. Circumstances like those, would make the chances as good as they get.

Broadly however, I think it is fair to say that in the USA, as in the UK, in many areas, making a full-time living with only piano work is more challenging now than it was say, forty years ago.

Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2888446 09/08/19 11:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Blee7
Thank you Ed; that helps as I was wondering if that was a necessity (completing a school) to market yourself as a tuner/technician or to represent that you are a professional in the area.

I also wonder when you mention less business opportunities if the investment to income potential is there for the years to come.

At the end of the day; I love music, and have always been curious about learning how to work on pianos; that being said there is nothing to lose with self education.

Getting to tuning many pianos in the beginning to build the skill set appears to be the hurdle and what I'll have to figure out how to do.

B



Actually, there is some opportunity right now from the number of folk who got their start in the 60s/70s and are now retiring/semi-retiring.
I get all the work I want without trying and am mentoring technicians who can take up the slack when the "key members" of our PTG chapter have stepped back.
I will say this, though: the market is for people who have wide capabilities. There is not as much demand for the schlock "tooner" as there is for people who have a good complement of tuning/voicing/regulating skills and at least a certain level of business know-how.


Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
editor emeritus of Piano Technicians Journal
Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
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Keith,

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Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2888751 09/10/19 12:24 AM
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I think I've posted this before, but a while back I met a young man from my university's business school at a PTG chapter meeting. He'd conducted a pretty thorough survey of technicians for his capstone class. Those in major urban areas reported having steady work, tech's in smaller towns, not so much, and rural tech's struggled to find work.



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Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Retsacnal #2888772 09/10/19 01:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
I think I've posted this before, but a while back I met a young man from my university's business school at a PTG chapter meeting. He'd conducted a pretty thorough survey of technicians for his capstone class. Those in major urban areas reported having steady work, tech's in smaller towns, not so much, and rural tech's struggled to find work.


Interesting. However...

I'm in a small town/rural area and I have plenty of work and could have more if I wanted.
Not sure what his definitions were, but if you analyze travel times, in rural areas you can drive 50 miles in an hour (or further, maybe) which gives you a 100 mile diameter. With a properly-designed route -- either to a destination an hour away and tune 5 pianos or a circular or lollipop shaped route with tunings along the way 20-30 minutes apart, for example -- I can have the same sort of daily schedule I did when I was in the capital city -- without the traffic.

And, my income-per-customer may be higher since I'm following up on the accumulated routine maintenance left by the tune-and-run folk.

I hear every now and then of small-town/rural areas that need a piano technician.

Last edited by kpembrook; 09/10/19 02:02 AM.

Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
editor emeritus of Piano Technicians Journal
Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
Blee7 #2888815 09/10/19 05:24 AM
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That's interesting Keith.

What would you say the population is, within your 50-mile radius? There must still be a reasonable number of homes, and with a decent proportion of them being piano-owning homes.

Another rural area might have far fewer homes within a fifty-mile radius, and might also have a different population demographic, with fewer pianos and more poverty.

Reports (I hear them too) of towns desperately needing a piano technician can be looked at in various ways, I think. Why don't those towns HAVE technicians? Is it because there simply isn't a sustainable living to be had there, and that's why technicians have all packed up and gone?

I know we mustn't generalise here, and I am not trying to draw any sweeping conclusions. I do note that in the UK, however:

1) A little over a century ago there were a hundred piano factories in and around London. Now there are no piano factories in the UK
2) Fifty years ago there were lots of piano restoration workshops doing comprehensive work, employing lots of workers, and offering traineeships. Now there are very few restoration workshops and they mostly can't afford to employ/train people.
3) In the 1980s there were six college courses throughout the UK to train piano technicians. Now there is one, and it is probably on a 'shaky nail'.
4)A century ago there were any number of supply houses making and supplying piano tools, parts and materials in the UK, mostly London-based. Now there are one and a half (Heckschers having downsized, with Martin Heckscher now trading from his house).
5) Since the 2008 recession, Local Authorities have been very cash-strapped, and many no longer provide tuning and maintenance of school pianos, leaving it to Head Teachers to fund this out of existing school budgets, which they can't afford to do. Twice-yearly tuning/maintenance has gone down to once every five years in many areas.
6) How many mainly piano shops exist now compared with sixty years ago, and how are they doing?

Yes, there are still pianos, all made in China and Indonesia now, and yes, people still need them to be tuned and maintained. And yes, happily for some it is possible to find a niche, either rural or urban, that will sustain a living. But I do believe that in most areas it's much more challenging now to make a decent living out of piano work. I would be very cautious about advising anyone to have high expectations of piano earnings.

Last edited by David Boyce; 09/10/19 05:26 AM.
Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
David Boyce #2889158 09/11/19 02:45 AM
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Originally Posted by David Boyce
That's interesting Keith.

What would you say the population is, within your 50-mile radius? There must still be a reasonable number of homes, and with a decent proportion of them being piano-owning homes.

Another rural area might have far fewer homes within a fifty-mile radius, and might also have a different population demographic, with fewer pianos and more poverty.

Reports (I hear them too) of towns desperately needing a piano technician can be looked at in various ways, I think. Why don't those towns HAVE technicians? Is it because there simply isn't a sustainable living to be had there, and that's why technicians have all packed up and gone?

I know we mustn't generalise here, and I am not trying to draw any sweeping conclusions. I do note that in the UK, however:

1) A little over a century ago there were a hundred piano factories in and around London. Now there are no piano factories in the UK
2) Fifty years ago there were lots of piano restoration workshops doing comprehensive work, employing lots of workers, and offering traineeships. Now there are very few restoration workshops and they mostly can't afford to employ/train people.
3) In the 1980s there were six college courses throughout the UK to train piano technicians. Now there is one, and it is probably on a 'shaky nail'.
4)A century ago there were any number of supply houses making and supplying piano tools, parts and materials in the UK, mostly London-based. Now there are one and a half (Heckschers having downsized, with Martin Heckscher now trading from his house).
5) Since the 2008 recession, Local Authorities have been very cash-strapped, and many no longer provide tuning and maintenance of school pianos, leaving it to Head Teachers to fund this out of existing school budgets, which they can't afford to do. Twice-yearly tuning/maintenance has gone down to once every five years in many areas.
6) How many mainly piano shops exist now compared with sixty years ago, and how are they doing?

Yes, there are still pianos, all made in China and Indonesia now, and yes, people still need them to be tuned and maintained. And yes, happily for some it is possible to find a niche, either rural or urban, that will sustain a living. But I do believe that in most areas it's much more challenging now to make a decent living out of piano work. I would be very cautious about advising anyone to have high expectations of piano earnings.


David,
Certainly good comments ... and I wouldn't want to suggest that piano tuning is a growth industry. But there is opportunity to replace those retiring -- either from universities or from private practice. And there are people discovering opportunities in rural areas. There are regular employment ads in the PTGClassifieds

My area is not exactly a 100 mile diameter ... because half of the 50-mile radius goes into the water, so mine is a much taller oval with a long dimension of about 120 miles -- and more to the north than south. However, this is an area that people take vacations to so driving is not an unpleasant task. I'd guess the population of the main area I serve is maybe 100,000. I do occasionally go to even more scenic destinations a bit further away but work is concentrated so that it can be covered efficiently.


Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
editor emeritus of Piano Technicians Journal
Re: Piano Technician Correspondence Courses
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Thank you all for the help and advice!


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