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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051297 11/30/20 02:22 PM
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We can start our own, the "People Foolish Enough to Work on Their Own Pianos" bracket. Maybe then we can get to the top 5% (or bottom 5%, depending on how you look at it).

Last edited by Emery Wang; 11/30/20 02:23 PM.

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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051307 11/30/20 02:36 PM
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Speaking of working on your own pianos (and sorry OP for totally hijacking your thread), there is another reason people do so: cost. I am now in the fortunate circumstance of being able to afford to hire someone to work on my piano if I wanted to, but that was not always the case. When I was a kid, all my folks could afford was a used Lester spinet that never got tuned the whole 25 years we owned it. In junior high, we moved to a house that had a big old Vose & Sons upright in the basement because the old owners couldn't find a way to move it up the stairs. I was excited to have a big upright to play, but the tone was very soft. Hiring a tech was totally out of the question, even had I known such people existed then. Instead, I read somewhere that sanding the hammers could help brighten the tone, so I hauled the action outside and sanded the hammers with some of my dad's sandpaper. I guess that was my first experience working on a piano, but it was either do it yourself, or it doesn't get done. That is how I got in the habit of working on things, be it bicycles, cars, or home repair: we couldn't afford to hire out.

Now I choose to work on my pianos because I like to, but I could hire a tech. However, I expect not everyone on PW has the means to hire a tech, and the only way they can care for their aging pianos is to learn to do it themselves. To those people I say "bravo," and may you find encouragement and knowledge from this forum as I have.


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
pianoloverus #3051347 11/30/20 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
[...]I think the problem of tuning and maintaining one's own piano is that even after 10 years of doing that one will have much less experience than a full time tech has after just one year, and that doesn't even include the considerable training the tech probably had before he started working. And that training would have been under the supervision of excellent techs while most people working on their own pianos will have relatively little supervision.

So I think the chance that one's piano is tuned, regulated, and voiced at a level that an excellent and experienced tech would achieve is very small. Of course, one will have saved quite a bit of money.

This is, of course, the other side of the do-it-yourself coin and to which I subscribe without reservation. The suggestion that one might save money by a DIY approach, can be offset by the potential cost of having to professionally correct bad work or repair unintended damage.

Most of us do not have several pianos among which a couple of "clunkers" on which to experiment with our most basic understanding of tuning, to say nothing of voicing and regulation. Many of us have a single, cherished instrument - the best we could afford at the time of purchase - whose character and integrity we want to maintain by having it serviced professionally.

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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051381 11/30/20 06:01 PM
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If I were an accomplished pianist I'd invest in a new or well restored piano for my retirement, and have it professionally maintained. But I'm not so I bought a large 85 year old German upright languishing on the internet with no casters.

As it happens there is a piano restorer near the village but they were not prepared to look at it or tune it. The local tuner is a music teacher but not a technican. So I had some fun doing it up with lots of advice gleaned from the technicians forum here.

Then I spotted a "restored" German grand hundreds of miles away on ebay just about to close. Goodness knows where all the grime inside had come from since its restoration or why it was in such an unplayable state. The tuner pronounced it untuneable. Another demonstrated the soundboard was dead by tuning a couple of notes and asking me to listen to their sound.

The strings were dead not the soundboard. Amongst other things the plate bolts were loose. Fortunately I knew how to use spanners and screwdrivers. Most other things had to be repeated 88 times, an opportunity to get the hang of it.

No one is going near the hammers on either piano with a file or needles, it's better to leave well alone.

Last edited by Withindale; 11/30/20 06:06 PM.

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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051399 11/30/20 06:30 PM
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To some people, it's probably not the caliber of work accomplished, but the pleasure of actually doing it. I enjoy working on my piano. A lot. At the same time, I'm very judicious about what I choose to do. I'm reluctant to do much more than tune my Baldwin M. On my project console, however, I'll try anything I please because the downside is of very little consequence. And having that safety net makes me more confident.

But re-addressing caliber, I also think the right sort of person will take to this work very naturally (and the wrong sort of person might struggle with it forever). One of the long time PTG heavy hitters who sells "how to tune" CDs said that his son-in-law was tuning as well as he did after only a month.

I think I've mentioned before that there's a young man in my area who did a survey of technicians as his capstone project in college (Business student). One of the questions was something to the effect of "certain people have a natural aptitude for this sort of work," and the answer was overwhelmingly "yes". He's been working as a tech for a couple years now in our metro area, and seems to be doing fine, building a clientele. A couple RPTs have mentored him and he's been learning OJT.


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
Retsacnal #3051406 11/30/20 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
But re-addressing caliber, I also think the right sort of person will take to this work very naturally (and the wrong sort of person might struggle with it forever). One of the long time PTG heavy hitters who sells "how to tune" CDs said that his son-in-law was tuning as well as he did after only a month.
What would expect from someone who sells a "how to tune" CD talking about his son-in-law?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/30/20 06:48 PM.
Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051409 11/30/20 06:54 PM
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That said, I also think the number of highly skilled piano technicians is getting fewer and fewer, as the older, experienced techs retire. Also, I don't think there are many younger people, who are interested enough in piano technology, getting into the business, although I could be wrong.
The RPT who has done the best touch-up voicing of my piano was a young technician with only a few years of experience. He also has a B. Music in piano performance, and is a better pianist than I am. I was able to describe what I did not like about one note/hammer and he fully understood it, and addressed it nicely by sugar-coating.

Previously, an older, very well-respected RPT and rebuilder wanted to apply a light lacquer to the hammer, and said he did not want to mix up a batch of diluted lacquer for 1 hammer, but the next time he had a batch prepared, he would call me and stop by to take care if it. He never called, so it was never done. In retrospect, I'm skeptical it would have been the right thing to do.

I'm skeptical that age is a good predictor either way.

Pianists DIYing their voicing might find this video about the sugar-coating technique useful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JqMqgSGetA


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
Emery Wang #3051416 11/30/20 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
We can start our own, the "People Foolish Enough to Work on Their Own Pianos" bracket. Maybe then we can get to the top 5% (or bottom 5%, depending on how you look at it).

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

Robert Frost

With credit to Poet Robert Frost:

I didn't take the road less traveled because I had to
I took it because I wanted to
Taking the road we wish to take helps to make life richer
Although others may try to paint a different picture

Yes, to each their own, with both wisdom and folly
For it seems easier to travel downhill on life's road trolley
Not only so, and don't you know, as humans we may differ
For some chose to ride, and others walk, or to just be a drifter

Some may travel slow, and others fast, no matter the road taken
And it seems strange, as least to me, that either way, adventure is not forsaken
Yet, and still, it is true, that we all travel the roads we choose
For we learn and grow, and live and love, and in that we cannot lose

What does this have to do with pianos, you say?
Well, I think it best to save that for another day smile

Rick


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
pianoloverus #3051481 12/01/20 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
But re-addressing caliber, I also think the right sort of person will take to this work very naturally (and the wrong sort of person might struggle with it forever). One of the long time PTG heavy hitters who sells "how to tune" CDs said that his son-in-law was tuning as well as he did after only a month.
What would expect from someone who sells a "how to tune" CD talking about his son-in-law?

Well, since he's won the PTG's Golden Hammer award, and in their Hall of Fame, and that his materials are still all over the PTG site, I'd expect pretty high quality. And other than being sort of old fashioned, they are.


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051482 12/01/20 12:15 AM
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While I'm thinking about it, let me add that when I go to the occasional PTG meeting, I don't hear, "you can't do this." I actually hear the opposite. The PTG members are positive and encouraging.


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051489 12/01/20 01:36 AM
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My tech encouraged me to think of voicing as a process, rather than a single event. It is an outlook that has served me well. Many factors go into what makes a piano sound well in a home music room. The room itself, the furnishings, the placement of the piano, the location from which the piano will be heard (it's not always from the bench), and the continuing maintenance of the instrument.

Most of all, is the education of the ear. One comes to value and understand a number of different aspects as the years go by. I've recently awakened to the loveliness of the precision with which my piano places every tone. I don't know if I can explain it very well. The makers have really got it figured out; I probably never will catch up with everything they have put into the manufacture of this amazing object.

My tech has preferred that we make modest adjustments as time goes by. Too drastic a touch can lead to big trouble, but I think that occurs most often in the context of a neglected piano, perhaps in a room that might be very different from the one it was adjusted for in the past--- if it was ever adjusted. Too many are never really given the service they need.

My tech doesn't overpromise. And, he doesn't work without understanding the technical specifications of the manufacturer; he mentions referring to them every so often. I feel very safe with him; I only dread the day he retires. But, should that day arrive, I feel confident that he will give me to someone who can carry on with the work.

I admire people who can work on their own pianos, but I personally find that managing the roles of composer, performer, sound technician, recordist, editor, and piano student is already pretty overwhelming. I don't work on my own car, either; I'm happy that Subaru knows what to do.


Clef

Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051498 12/01/20 03:35 AM
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Only .01 % of customers are willing to have their pianos voiced "properly". Before you can voice "properly" your piano might need a deep full regulation, refurbishing, rebuilding, restoration, touch weight considerations, action geometry changes. Few people are willing to spend the money it takes to get a piano prepped "properly" for a "proper" voicing.

Seems to me if no technician is able to voice the piano "properly" there are some issues going on with the piano that need to be addressed. Or maybe it's time just to buy a new piano that can be voiced properly

Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
Retsacnal #3051548 12/01/20 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
But re-addressing caliber, I also think the right sort of person will take to this work very naturally (and the wrong sort of person might struggle with it forever). One of the long time PTG heavy hitters who sells "how to tune" CDs said that his son-in-law was tuning as well as he did after only a month.
What would expect from someone who sells a "how to tune" CD talking about his son-in-law?

Well, since he's won the PTG's Golden Hammer award, and in their Hall of Fame, and that his materials are still all over the PTG site, I'd expect pretty high quality. And other than being sort of old fashioned, they are.
I was talking about his claim that someone could tune as well as he did after only a month.

Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051587 12/01/20 10:00 AM
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Maybe the best solution would be that if the OP cannot find anyone to properly voice his piano to his satisfaction, then take the road that Rickster and Emery Wang did and learn piano tuning, voicing, and regulation and voice his piano exactly as he wants it.

I’m nowhere near as busy as Jeff Clef, but I trust well trained professionals to take care of my pianos, truck and SUV, and most especially any medical procedures. I have years of experience with injections, drawing blood, and could easily give myself vaccines and run an IV. But I prefer to leave that to health professionals.

BTW I’m certainly not going to be mad at you Rick or Emery. It’s your pianos and whatever you can do to your own instruments is your business and certainly not for me to judge. I watch my tech’s work on my fairly pristine piano and it has takes a lot of skill and effort. If anything I admire your hard won skill.


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051610 12/01/20 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by j&j
BTW I’m certainly not going to be mad at you Rick or Emery. It’s your pianos and whatever you can do to your own instruments is your business and certainly not for me to judge. I watch my tech’s work on my fairly pristine piano and it has takes a lot of skill and effort. If anything I admire your hard won skill.

Thanks for your kind words, and your understanding, j&j. I honestly hate to see these DIY piano tech discussions come up, and I'm always torn between participating, or remaining silent. It has been an ongoing, two-sided, and at times, contentious, discussion for as long as I've been a member here at PW, since 2006.

At times, the back and forth can get more heated, and more intense, and perhaps lead to harsh words, or even name calling. I've been called an ignorant dabbler here before, and probably a lot worse behind my back. When people say things like "only a fool would represent themselves in a court of law, and only a fool would work on their own piano", or, "only a fool or an idiot would try to diagnose a medical condition or perform brain surgery on themselves, and only a fool would work on their own piano". I see absolutely no correlation at all between the two, particularly when comparing matters of life and death, or our freedom or imprisonment to tuning our own piano. What is see, and hear is basically an insult.

Over the years, comments like that tend to create animosities, and hard feelings. That is why I made the comment to Emery, whom I admire, and respect, that his comments regarding how others might consider learning to tune and service their own pianos, would make a lot of people here mad at us, who was not already mad at us.

So, j&j, thank you for not being mad at us! smile

In all honesty, I would not want to be a piano technician full time, or work as a piano technician. It is hard, tedious work, and there is nothing about it that is musical, until the work is done. It can be damaging to our hearing, unless protection is used, and hard on the body, physically. Professional piano technicians earn their money, and they deserve respect.

It would be nice if a little more respect were shown to those who choose to work on their own pianos, without being considered ignorant dabblers, regardless of how good they are at it. Oh yea, and one more thing, while I'm on my soapbox ( smile ) in the music videos I watch, of people playing the piano, most of the time, the pianos are horidly out of tune. I'd much rather hear, or play a piano that is well tuned. smile

Rick


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051635 12/01/20 12:02 PM
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Thanks j&j and Rick for the kind words. If anyone is unhappy with piano DIYers, that's fine with me. Your perspective is valuable and informative, no matter what side you fall on. If PW ever has another get together, I'll buy the first round of beer for everyone. So it's all good. Just know that the point of DIY is not to undermine the techs. Techs are rock stars to us, and we are grateful for every morsel of advice they are willing to dole out. If I ever get to meet any of the techs I've interacted with on this forum, don't be surprised if I ask for an autograph and a selfie.

Perhaps another way to look at it is DIYers make the stupid mistakes and ask the dumb questions so you don't have to. At the very least, you can learn what not to do, and that in itself has value.

The vast majority of people on PW will continue to hire professionals to work on their pianos, and that's great. But for those few who want to work on their pianos, or for those who want their piano fixed but can't afford to hire someone, perhaps our presence on PW will have some value to you.


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051646 12/01/20 12:40 PM
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Going back to the original post, how many technicians can voice.

This forum seems to me to be something of a rarity in that there are many competent technicians gathered here. Unfortunately where I come from and from what I have observed in many other places, the over all quality of piano technician has declined dramatically in the last 30 years.

When I was young, the local piano tuner was experienced and qualified, and would take care and pride in his work. Each piano was treated in the same way - there would be a good, solid tuning put on the piano, and running repairs in terms of regulation would be done as and when. Screws and springs would be tightened, hammers would be aligned (individually) and then once every so often there would be a full regulation and voicing, which wasn't all that much more expensive at that time. I'm talking here about the domestic tuner, rather than the concert technician. The domestic tuner would be happy to do the odd tuning for an important concert but he'd also be ready to recommend that someone far more experienced than him should be called in for the regulation of a concert grand.

Nowadays, I find it difficult to find a tuner who can even put a stable and solid tuning on the piano, and I don't know what qualifies as regulation and voicing for many technicians out there, but I've had many deeply frustrating experiences with piano technicians over the last 15 years. The other thing is that many pianos being purchased these days are also much older, and the newer ones are often of much lower quality (note: not saying new pianos are of inferior quality, I'm saying there is a flood in the market of rather rubbish pianos), which compounds the problem.

Even amongst some of the good technicians, they don't want to take a piano and completely change the voice. I get that, I understand the reasons, but if a piano is sitting too bright, their advice is usually to trade the piano in for something else if you don't like it. They don't want to needle the hammers too much because it's a difficult job to get it properly even, and obviously there's no guarantee a customer will like it.

So three things in short:

1. An objective decline in quality of the piano tuner in general

2. A decline in the quality of instruments through either the flood of low-priced poorly made pianos or simply some beautiful pianos ageing out of useful life

3. The perceptions of the customer/pianist

Tastes have changed over the years, there has definitely been a move to a preference for brighter instruments which honestly, I hate, but that's the way it is. Thankfully again instruments are improving, the Chinese factories are making far better instruments than they did five years ago let alone 15 years ago, but a lot of these cheaply made older Chinese instruments are kicking about in schools and colleges unfortunately.

Unfortunately though, I can take you to several excellent pianos - Steinway Ds, Bösendorfers, Blüthners, German Feurichs, Yamaha grands - that are simply in a mess because the tuners have done a careless rush job on them, or don't know how to do a good job on them. I know that's not a nice thing to say on this forum, and it may be that there are more excellent tuners out there that I don't know about but the situation in Scotland is literally dire.

Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
Joseph Fleetwood #3051664 12/01/20 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Joseph Fleetwood
Going back to the original post, how many technicians can voice.

This forum seems to me to be something of a rarity in that there are many competent technicians gathered here. Unfortunately where I come from and from what I have observed in many other places, the over all quality of piano technician has declined dramatically in the last 30 years.

When I was young, the local piano tuner was experienced and qualified, and would take care and pride in his work. Each piano was treated in the same way - there would be a good, solid tuning put on the piano, and running repairs in terms of regulation would be done as and when. Screws and springs would be tightened, hammers would be aligned (individually) and then once every so often there would be a full regulation and voicing, which wasn't all that much more expensive at that time. I'm talking here about the domestic tuner, rather than the concert technician. The domestic tuner would be happy to do the odd tuning for an important concert but he'd also be ready to recommend that someone far more experienced than him should be called in for the regulation of a concert grand.

Nowadays, I find it difficult to find a tuner who can even put a stable and solid tuning on the piano, and I don't know what qualifies as regulation and voicing for many technicians out there, but I've had many deeply frustrating experiences with piano technicians over the last 15 years. The other thing is that many pianos being purchased these days are also much older, and the newer ones are often of much lower quality (note: not saying new pianos are of inferior quality, I'm saying there is a flood in the market of rather rubbish pianos), which compounds the problem.

Even amongst some of the good technicians, they don't want to take a piano and completely change the voice. I get that, I understand the reasons, but if a piano is sitting too bright, their advice is usually to trade the piano in for something else if you don't like it. They don't want to needle the hammers too much because it's a difficult job to get it properly even, and obviously there's no guarantee a customer will like it.

So three things in short:

1. An objective decline in quality of the piano tuner in general

2. A decline in the quality of instruments through either the flood of low-priced poorly made pianos or simply some beautiful pianos ageing out of useful life

3. The perceptions of the customer/pianist

Tastes have changed over the years, there has definitely been a move to a preference for brighter instruments which honestly, I hate, but that's the way it is. Thankfully again instruments are improving, the Chinese factories are making far better instruments than they did five years ago let alone 15 years ago, but a lot of these cheaply made older Chinese instruments are kicking about in schools and colleges unfortunately.

Unfortunately though, I can take you to several excellent pianos - Steinway Ds, Bösendorfers, Blüthners, German Feurichs, Yamaha grands - that are simply in a mess because the tuners have done a careless rush job on them, or don't know how to do a good job on them. I know that's not a nice thing to say on this forum, and it may be that there are more excellent tuners out there that I don't know about but the situation in Scotland is literally dire.
In terms of the quality of piano technicians, it seems like you are speaking of personal experience or experience in one country which seems like one data point. I can't recall another single PW post that thinks the general quality of techs has gone done.

From everything I've read in the PIano Book and other sources, the general quality of pianos or lower priced pianos has significantly improved in the last several decades.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 12/01/20 01:44 PM.
Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3051889 12/02/20 06:16 AM
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@Tony3304

What is the current situation with your piano?


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Re: 5% of piano technicians can voice properly?
tony3304 #3052272 12/03/20 01:58 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
What would expect from someone who sells a "how to tune" CD talking about his son-in-law?

Well, since he's won the PTG's Golden Hammer award, and in their Hall of Fame, and that his materials are still all over the PTG site, I'd expect pretty high quality. And other than being sort of old fashioned, they are.
I was talking about his claim that someone could tune as well as he did after only a month.

You asked about expectations, so I explained what mine were and why.

FWIW, here's a thread in which an RPT says these materials helped him:

http://forum.pianoworld.com//ubbthreads.php/topics/1455026.html

Here's another thread:

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/639639/re-temperament-octave.html#Post639639

In it Bill Bremmer describes the two instructors as "famous" and Golden Hammer winners.

Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
In 1979...I saw the famous team of Jim Coleman RPT and the late George Defebaugh RPT (both were since awarded PTG's highest honor, the Golden Hammer) as they demonstrated many tuning techniques and ideas which were new to me.

Bill Bremer himself is no slouch. In fact, he convinced encouraged me to join the PTG to learn more.

I bought the materials on the PTG website. They're legit. The instructors, Coleman and Defbaugh, both Golden Hammer recipients, are legendary in the PTG. These guys aren't hucksters. They're well-respected RPTs and instructors. I don't recall which one made the comment about his son-in-law, but Coleman produced the DVDs, and obviously chose to leave it in.

I see no reason to scoff at the claim. In fact, I found it encouraging. And the comment isn't made in an informercial trying to take your money. It's made within the training material, so there's no reason to exaggerate or lie. The audience is already "sold" on the idea of tuning. BTW, the son-in-law also demonstrates in the DVD.

That can-do attitude resonates with me.


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