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#3134130 07/03/21 03:51 PM
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I've always thought that one of the most valuable skills for piano techs is translating what the client says into a diagnosis. The first step is often trying to hear what they hear!

Case in point: New client today with a small Yamaha upright. When they made the appointment, they included the note: "Piano was tuned in September. Previous tech tuned it too high. I had it adjusted but I still think the higher registers are not right."

If you are like me, you might immediately think:
1. floated pitch?
2. older aural tech that got lost and tuned the treble too high?

What else could it be?
How did they hear "too high"? Measured? Octaves? Melodic playing? What to ask to try to understand??

When at the piano, they pointed out a few general notes and thought the melody section might sound a little high, or sharp? No hearing aids. Ok...

Then they said they stopped playing it because they just didn't like it. They are string players so don't like it sharp, actually prefer it more flat sounding... Hmmmm...?

Finally realized they were talking about tone, rather than pitch! It had gotten brighter with playing and needed some voicing work to tone it down!

What confusing statements have you heard from clients?

Ron Koval


Piano/instrument technician
www.ronkoval.com


my piano videos:
https://www.youtube.com/user/drwoodwind/videos

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I had a similar thing happen a couple years ago now. An elderly lady (92 years old) in a retirement community, that allows pianos of course, had had her piano tuned (Wurlitzer spinet) by the two other tuners in town and wasn't satisfied. The other techs are very capable so I wasn't sure I could pull this one off... She got very frustrated trying to explain to me what she wanted to hear. As it ended up, she wanted the piano voiced to sound more mellow. I used my usual first step of a wire brush and she was ecstatic! She's been a good customer ever since but getting there was quite a journey!


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Of course there's always the "sticky" key that can mean all kinds of things. Damper isn't working correctly, something stuck between the keys, sluggish jack, key front to close (a clue is, only the white keys do this), front pin is too tight...on and on...


"That Tuning Guy"
Scott Kerns
Lincoln, Nebraska
www.thattuningguy.com
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Originally Posted by That Guy
Of course there's always the "sticky" key that can mean all kinds of things. Damper isn't working correctly, something stuck between the keys, sluggish jack, key front to close (a clue is, only the white keys do this), front pin is too tight...on and on...

This times 1000 ☝️

Also when a client says they hear a "buzz" or a "ringing". I usually think of mechanical buzzes and stuck dampers respectively, but I've had both of these terms applied to: out of tune unisons, inharmonic longitudinal modes (bass strings), notes with one harmonic that completely dominates the tone (for instance a really strong 3rd harmonic), and of course actual buzzes (junk on soundboard, loose hardware, etc.)


Anthony Willey, RPT
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Originally Posted by RonTuner
I've always thought that one of the most valuable skills for piano techs is translating what the client says into a diagnosis. The first step is often trying to hear what they hear!
Ron Koval

Lately, what I hear is "I have a piano that hasn't been tuned in over ten years. Could you give me a ballpark number on getting it in tune?"

Got that question yesterday. It's a Winter and not tuned in over 10 years.
Almost feel like telling them to go see a fortune teller.

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I quote a basic rate, saying that it is for pianos that are not badly out of tune, and add that it is badly out of tune, it will be "more."

For repairs, I say that if it is something simple, it might be included with the tuning, but I cannot make estimates without seeing the piano.


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For the life of me, I can't understand why any musician, in particular a string player with any serious level of education and experience, would use words commonly used to describe PITCH to describe TONE QUALITY.

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I post prices on my website for basic tuning, and for preliminary pitch adjustment. I set my prices high enough that I can afford to be wrong a few times per year.


Floyd G RPT
www.floydgadd.com
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Originally Posted by Floyd G
I post prices on my website for basic tuning, and for preliminary pitch adjustment. I set my prices high enough that I can afford to be wrong a few times per year.
I had a look at Floyd's website.
Great job, sir!
I really like this page where he lays out his services and fees.
FWIW - In the spirit of Kaizen, I think it could be even better and more comprehensive if he added some additional things for "full regulation" and "full voicing" to his regulation and voicing packages, but it really is very good just as it is.


Andrew Kraus, Pianist
Educated Amateur Tuner/Technician
I Make Music that Lifts People Up & Brings Them Together
Rockville, MD USA
www.AndrewKraus.com
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1929 Steinert 6'10" (Close copy of New York S&S "B")
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I tell them that initially I charge by the hour:

Service charge plus $xxx per hour. Then I suggest that from what they've told me thus far (plus I have them play a few notes over the phone) and from what I have heard thus far, my guess would be between 2 & 3 hours. This assumes no additional problems resulting from neglect. Then I let them do the math.

After the piano is in "maintainable condition" the normal fee is $xxx.

I have found that charging by the hour is the fairest and most understandable way to deal with stuff I've never seen before. They "get it".

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK0T7_I_nV8

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