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#3153370 09/05/21 01:39 PM
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Hey Folks, I've been an amateur pianist on and off for most of my life. Getting close to retiring from a career in electrical engineering. What are your thoughts on taking up a second career in tuning/technician-ing? I know it's possible but is it practical? Would a newly minted, inexperienced tuner/technician at the age of 62 or so be likely to get many customers?

I have the resources at this point to invest in good training and high-quality tools. I would probably need to take around 100 cases (very coarse estimate) to recover my investment, but even working part time seems like one could probably do that in year or two.

I would greatly appreciate any thoughts, suggestions, warnings, etc. from those who have been there and done that. Thanks.

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Go for it.
Formal education that costs$$ is fine but I’d suggest checking for a local chapter of the PTG, go to meetings and get to know the members, maybe get a mentor, go to conventions, read the journals, take advantage of the educational materials the guild offers and practice your skills till you can pass the exams.


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One thing to be aware of as you begin: Being a piano player can be a big help with diagnosing and testing action issues, but...

Being a piano player is often little help to hearing the subtle changes in pitch or- matching tones - that's a big part of tuning, even using advanced electronic tuning devices. If you also have band, orchestra or choir experience in matching pitch and tuning to others, that will help!

Your location may have a lot to do with the ability to gain clients. If you happen to be in an area with a lack of quality techs...

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It is usually accepted that becoming a proficient tuner might require 500 to 1000 tunings.

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What Gene suggested is exactly what I did. I started when I was 60 and passed the exams when I was 64. I was working full time in another career while I was learning to tune pianos. I had probably done only 200 or so tunings when I passed the tuning exam and probably 150 were on my own piano. Being part of PTG, having a mentor, joining in a chapter rebuilding project, going to conventions and classes all helped. Another great mentor was my ETD (Pianometer). I probably did 50 or more mock tuning exams using the ETD as the examiner. This forum has also been a great place to learn things.


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These are all great comments.

As Ron Koval suggests, location can have a lot to do with viability. Areeas of relatively high population density and affluence may be more fruitful that very rural and low-income areas where you have to drive hours between calls and people have little disposable income.

As long as you are not looking for an immediate full-time income level, why not go for it. Music is a nice thing in people's lives, and you meet (mostly) pleasant people, some of whom you will build a relationship with over years.

I totally agree with Gene's comments about associating with a local chapter and finding a mentor etc. US piano technicians have a very open friendly attitude to helping learners of any age. In the UK, things were traditionally rather different, with trade skills sometimes a jealously guarded secret!

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Hey Folks, thanks for the insights. Do you have any recommendations for reference books?

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I second those two book recommendations (as I'm sure most here would). Just to mention; be sure to get the new, 3rd edition of the Reblitz. Also worth considering is The Haynes Piano Manual. Not quite in the same league as the other two, arguably, but with the benefit of being in full colour throughout.

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The Reblitz book looks pretty good. Ordered one from Ebay.

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At this point I'd recommend getting a decent tuning hammer and a set of mutes and focus on whether your ears are made to catch as much of the harmonics spectrum as it takes to tune a beautiful unison. The app 'Pianometer' will aid you in that by showing you the tonal harmonics spectrum on the keyboard and lets you find out whether you can hear all these partials or how many of them you don't hear but that the microphone of your device catches.

And then start by muting one of three strings, ignore the correct pitch as shown by the app and start playing around with just a straight focus on harmonics in the spectrum that you can identify as parts of a chord. So, when you play A3, listen to C#5 or C#66 and try to tune the any of these in unisons i.e. without a beat.

Do this over a couple of days and get a feeling of the harmonics spectrum of a single string and then tune unisons on whatever partial you can focus on.

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Just remember that a book is no substitute for experience, nor for understanding how a piano works. Pick up a serviceable piano, dissect it and understand how the action works. Then compare it to the piano you play, and understand how they are the same, and how they differ, and try to figure out why they differ. One piano should be an upright, and the other should be a grand. Understanding will serve you well.

You can get servicing information from some manufacturers. Some are better than others. Kawai has theirs on line, and it is very good. Kawai Support page.


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Having started a few years ago, I can relate well to what BDB wrote above.
As I worked on an action, for example, I'd start to see how the different parts and movements interact and why there are preferred sequences / iterations to action regulation. I'd see how starting my regulation at the wrong point, or regulating only one item out-of-context, can at best be a waste of time, at worst a rabbit hole. My project upright, for example, had a hammer strike distance well in excess of 50 mm (2"), which I didn't pick up initially and had me chasing my own tail. I'm an advocate of keeping records of what you did, so you can compare and retrace your steps. If you have a mentor or teacher with whom you can discuss your questions and findings, all the better.

With diligent reading and thinking, you might even find a couple of mistakes in Reblitz...

I would also advise you to establish a relationship (perhaps via a mentor) with a piano tools and materials supply house, preferably with a technician who is prepared to field concise, well-thought-through, humble questions. Some are notoriously protective of their turf and turn away non-professionals immediately. Others are quite open to help an earnest beginner on his way.


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KenBake,
I retrained to be a piano technician at age 50. Here are a few thoughts:

-It can take quite a while to build up a clientele list, maybe years. It really depends, as others have said, about where you are. Are there many other other techs? Is it an underserved area?

-You may be tempted by some online or correspondence courses. Tread carefully--some of them make big promises about how well trained you will be and how much money you will make. Just passing a multiple-choice test and being awarded some made-up qualification does not qualify you for anything.

-Tuning is the tip of the iceberg. You really must know how to deal with everything else, or at least have a mentor to help you when a novel situation arises. I still text my mentor "hey, have you seen this before?" If you tune a piano but can't fix something else, that client will look for someone else. Just yesterday I was called to address noisy grand dampers. This implies a full knowledge or grand action removal, and removal and re-installation of dampers, and all the tools that go with that. There are so many things that can go wrong....

--The Reblitz book is good, and so is Pianos Inside out. But there are other, even more useful resources, such as the Grand and Vertical regulation workbooks sold in the PTG online store. So is the Pace series, but I'm not sure if it's still published. Get Steve Brady's repair manual.

Many assume you can work on pianos in a casual manner. You can't. It's a big responsibility, and you should be fully prepared to invest in training, tools, and time.

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Just thought I mention this, because it's true; I've witnessed it many times...

Knowing a particular technical skill, a little, or a lot, and even being very good at it is one thing; but running a profitable business is another thing all together. I've known individuals who were very good at what they did, started their own businesses, and ended up in bankruptcy or worse.

Not because they didn't know what they were doing, but because they just didn't focus on the business management end of the business.

I think most members here know that I have learned to tune and service my own piano, to a certain extent, and have for the last 15 years or so. I won't say I'm good at it, but I will say I've been very well pleased with my own tunings and my own work, on my own pianos.

That said, I've had several individuals over the years ask me if I tuned pianos for others. Although I've done several tunings for others, for free, over the years, my answer is no. I do not tune pianos for others, for a fee or for free (any more).

Also, and this is just a thought, and I mean it to be helpful, when you start tuning pianos for good pianists and musicians, they tend to be real sensitive and picky. Make sure you are good enough to please the picky ones, or have a thick enough skin to take some criticism, along with some dissatisfied clients. I would think that is par for the course, to a large extent anyway.

Good luck and I wish you all the best as you pursue your new career! smile

Rick


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I have started my training fairly recently as a midlife career changer. Once you can tune decent enough, priced accordingly, and have good customer service skills, you can slowly expand the business assuming that your community has enough demand to support another tech. If you are in the us, attending a ptg local chapter meeting is a good way to gauge whether you want to actually take the plunge. Just like any other new career we could get into, it takes some time and effort to gain even the entry level skills.

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"-Tuning is the tip of the iceberg. You really must know how to deal with everything else, or at least have a mentor to help you when a novel situation arises. I still text my mentor "hey, have you seen this before?" If you tune a piano but can't fix something else, that client will look for someone else. Just yesterday I was called to address noisy grand dampers. This implies a full knowledge or grand action removal, and removal and re-installation of dampers, and all the tools that go with that. There are so many things that can go wrong....

Many assume you can work on pianos in a casual manner. You can't. It's a big responsibility, and you should be fully prepared to invest in training, tools, and time."


I really agree with this. The tuning itself is probably the easiest part, especially with good and user friendly software like PianoMeter. The big challenge is all the other stuff. You need to know when you're over your head and have someone else of more experience that you can refer them to. Remember the wise words of Dirty Harry: "A man's got to know his limitations." wink


"That Tuning Guy"
Scott Kerns
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com

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