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Hi everyone. This is my first post. sorry if it is long, It's kind of a rant.. I've been working as a tuner/technician for more than 15 years in argentina, and there is something that It seems it will never improve, and it's starting to worry me. It takes me too much time to finish a restoration, and I don't know how to deal with it. Maybe you can give some thoughts about it.

For a little bit of context, the situation in argentina is always crisis. I'm middle class/poor, students don't have too much money to spend on their piano (and they need it), so for a decade I haven't had too much work and I had some other works including a professional career as a musician, and now I added a part-time job as a secretary, because I can't keep up with my bills (again, argentina issues). The thing is that now, specially after pandemics, for some reason I have a ton of piano work ahead, people won't stop calling me and I'm just too tired because the time I have is not enough. I work as a special technician, not the kind of "I clean it and then sell it" , with the most difficult pianos, the ones that other technicians here often scratch their heads over, or they don't want to take because it's too much job and they think It's not worthy if they can choose to work with new "easy" pianos. So my attitude is always (kindly ) "ok, I do a fine work, it takes me some time, so deal with it, or you can call somebody else"

the thing is that I might be mistaken, and It's starting to embarrass me.. I kind of patologically procastinate doing other things, the workplace needs constant attention since it's an old house full of old house problems, it's hot in summer and cold in winter., I hate being in the workshop all alone, I'd rather sleep all day. And I don't really know how to deal with it. Lately I've been doing Instagram Live broadcasts while I work, so I don't feel so alone and It forces me to work without distractions.

Does somebody else here has a similar problem? or am I lazy? maybe I lack motivation to work, knowing that It's kind of useless that I have such a special job that I've been studying for so many years and I know I can do well, and I can't pay my medical bills or have a nice meal from time to time.

thanks for reading my post..


ps: the clients are always happy with my job, some of them understand the time issue, I continuously apology for it.. but some others, even though they like the result, they want me to return the piano faster, and I think they are right..

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Hello Laura,

It sounds to me like you may have what we refer to in the US as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Maybe you're familiar with it. I can certainly relate to some of what you wrote as it can take me quite a while to complete certain projects (unnecessarily so). This often comes from starting too many things concurrently and trying to work on them all. Then there's the problem if getting it about 80% done and taking "forever" to complete the final 20%.

So yes, you're not the only one with this problem. One thing that MAY contribute to this is if you quote a price ahead of time and then it takes longer than anticipated...hard to keep going...you may know what I'm talking about. If this is part of it, then setting an hourly rate (one you're happy with but higher than anyone else in your trade area) and making sure that your client(s) understand that your initial estimate is based on a "best guess", but that it may very well take more time and effort (for which they must agree), this may motivate you to stick with it and "git er done" as we say here sometimes.

This is just ONE suggestion from someone who can certainly identify with you. I will doubtlessly suggest a thing or two more, as will others I think. FYI I am right now trying to finish a personal piano project that has stretched into years (I won't say how many).

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Last edited by P W Grey; 06/30/22 02:55 PM.

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Sorry, hope the current situation improves frown

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Hi Laura,
Are you a perfectionist? Often people who are perfectionists tend to procrastinate. And they tend to do good work whenever they finish their work, like you do. Or it could be many other things such as ADHD as mentioned earlier. I know a tech that is a perfectionist and takes a lot of time, and her work is amazing. When I want some detailed work such as voicing and regulation, she is my top choice.
If you feel like your personality traits are affecting your ability to function, I recommend that you seek help from a mental health professional.


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I offer this, maybe it will help, maybe not.

We tend to see everything, any task, as a linear process.start at point 1 and end at point X.
It can help to see that a given task lays out like an octave on the keyboard. So we can say start at Do and finish at do octave higher. Looking at the piano keys we see two places where there is no "sharp" or black note to help us get to the next note. Mi Fa and Ti Do. It's at these points where we need to recognise that we need an extra "something" to get to the next note, an additional energy if you like. We get over mi fa fairly easily but ti do is more difficult. Remember, the vibration rates are logarithmic ( the piano key board is the first log table). So Ti to Do requires a specific attention to where we are in the process of the task.
Mapping out the task in advance on the scale can help us recognise this moment/ place and ask (nature/god, insert your vision of choice)for the energy required. Just seeing that this is where it's needed can solve it.

The keyboard was originally laid out to illustrate this, that nature works in octaves and is not linear.

If this seems like gobbledygook then please accept my apologies and ignore me.


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Another thing I have found helps me (especially near the end) is to make a detailed list of EVERYTHING left needing to be done. Then, as I accomplish each one I cross it off the list. This does at least three things for me:

1) Relieves me of having to continuously think and remember the tasks which relieves some anxiety

2) Gives me a clear sense of progress (plus if I happen to think of a new thing to do I just write it on the list and not try to remember it).

3) Helps me gauge my timing to completion.

4) Allows me to review and reassess with far less mental effort.

I really like the feeling of crossing stuff off the list. Feels good.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Last edited by P W Grey; 07/01/22 03:24 PM.

Peter W. Grey, RPT
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I do have, actually, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive disorder, and also chronic depression, for whay I'm being treated with meds and psicotherapy. It has helped me a lot, but it wasn't enough to solve this issue. I don't know why I didn't say it in the post, maybe I'm embarrased by it, or maybe I am thinking that even though I have a disorder, I still have to deliver the pianos on time and clients won't give a damn about me, they just want their job done. And besides It's not like I can approach every client with "look, I will lie to you about the time estimate, because I'm crazy."


So, you are right about being obsessive, and it seems kind of obvious, but as somebody already asked, I'm also a perfectionist and the fear of not getting it perfect, or the work I see ahead to get it, just overwhelms me, so I start looking for reliefs (aka, whatever distraction gets in the way).

I might add, also, that I've recently found out that I have an autoinmune disease that makes me very tired all the time and It makes my whole body hurt, so lately I even work less than before and It is very frustrating. I kind of told that to the last client that is asking for her piano, so she at least understands that I'm not doing it on purpose.
I felt so embarrassed having to do this, that In my head I already started to say "see, you keep finding excuses not to do what you have to," and that's why I came here for advice.. maybe in hopes that It's common, which I can see that it kind of is, because the job can be overwhelming for perfectionist people, even if they don't have an illness like I do..

anyway thanks to all for the kind replies, I've read them all carefully and taken into consideration.

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I am! almost pathologically. If I can't do the job perfectly then I don't want to do it. It's kind of difficult on this trade, right? I feel like things need to be done in a certain way and If it's not I will be judged by it. Because I know I will, with malice by other colleages, which actually aren't very good technicians and I keep working undoing what they do all the time. Sometimes I'm the last resource of a problematic piano, so It takes a lot of intellectual and emotional effort to solve that kind of issue, besides the component of overstepping the job of somebody else, which I often feel like wrong doing, but It can't be helped. Either the previous technician didn't do a good job because he couldn't, or he made it on purpose because they don't care and they just want to get their money and be done with it.

It's like I have a lot on my shoulders, not only the work ahead, every time I approach a piano. The extra stress of "this has to be done perfectly because they are trusting me I can do it"

I just want to run away LOL

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How are your tuning skills, and is there a decent market there for that?

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
How are your tuning skills, and is there a decent market there for that?

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

I think I have fine tuning skills, or at least I'm very confident at that area. Tuning is the activity that gives me some quick money.

But the market here is a disaster, there are lots of pianos to tune, but there are lots of tuners without experience or knowledge (or lots of experience but they are not great) that have better marketing skills than me.

So mostly people call them first. Then some of them call me. Then I have to tell clients e.g: "these bass strings are rusty and the sizes are all wrong".
Who sold you this? -"a tuner that calls himself the tuner of (x famous people)"

Then I have to charge for a tuning that I know it won't be good, because the client won't have the money to fix the piano, he has already been ripped off.

There are good tuners here, but the rest, the majority are cuacks. I think that happens everywhere. I've been in the uk and I've also seen bass strings spliced in the middle (the copper part), etc. So nothing new..

Also on a positive note, I've been working by being reccomended, and I had a slow start the first ten years but then the clients grew exponentially, and they trust me before I even start..which is great for my mental health. I still have some clients that tell me "I expected a man, not a young lady" or "where is your boss?" or " where is your dad?" (I'm 36 btw, but I look much younger), but they are few now, and they usually calm down when I start ro ramble on technical stuff so I can prove I know what I'm doing.. Not that they could tell the difference anyway..

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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Another thing I have found helps me (especially near the end) is to make a detailed list of EVERYTHING left needing to be done. Then, as I accomplish each one I cross it off the list. This does at least three things for me:

1) Relieves me of having to continuously think and remember the tasks which relieves some anxiety

2) Gives me a clear sense of progress (plus if I happen to think of a new thing to do I just write it on the list and not try to remember it).

3) Helps me gauge my timing to completion.

4) Allows me to review and reassess with far less mental effort.

I really like the feeling of crossing stuff off the list. Feels good.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor
I've done this, and it's true it's a great help. I'v also made pretty boxes to keep al the parts tidy when the parts start to acumulate, and I have special furniture that is empty for that purpose

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Laura-
I wonder if you are charging enough for your work.
It's possible to love our work, and also be chronically depressed because we are giving too much for what we are paid.
If people won't stop calling you, try raising your prices.
You already have more work than you can do.
Those who really want your work will pay more for it, and those who are taking advantage of your generosity will look elsewhere.
Do what you must to re-connect with happiness in your work.
When you know you are well paid, you will feel free to give more to your work.


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Laura,

I'm familiar with the seriously male dominated society and "rights" structure in your part of the world. Yes, that can be very discouraging, however it sounds like you've developed a strategy for dealing with it with some success. Unfortunately it is an issue you'll always need to deal with. Kudos to you for your positive reaction.

Here is a pointer I've found helpful over the years: When dealing with substandard work by others, avoid getting personal about it. IOW, don't try to find out "who" did it but rather simply point out the problem areas, express regret over the fact that the situation exists, but don't try to "nail" the person who did it. (If anyone is going to do it let it be the piano owner...you stay neutral from a personal standpoint).

You cannot change the culture in which you live and work. You can only change your method of working in it (attitude). I believe you are on the right track already, however you may lack somewhat in the "tact" and "discretion" dept. This is understandable in your situation ad you've described it. Just remember that you will NEVER change these other people and their ways of doing business, but you can gain a highly respectable position by doing excellent work and remaining objective (avoiding personal criticism of others), and being trustworthy. It's a long road but worth it.

NOTE: Chauvinistic men HATE being "threatened" by a "girl". All the more reason for you to be polite and respectful, yet firm for what is correct or incorrect (or "a better way to do it").

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Hire an apprentice? Could be just a couple hours, a couple days a week to see how it goes. And as far as procrastination, what works for me is to just start doing SOMETHING. Even if you are spinning your wheels, it can help you get started. Or, you can just decide to put off procrastination until tomorrow. wink


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Originally Posted by Ed Sutton
Laura-
I wonder if you are charging enough for your work.
It's possible to love our work, and also be chronically depressed because we are giving too much for what we are paid.
If people won't stop calling you, try raising your prices.
You already have more work than you can do.
Those who really want your work will pay more for it, and those who are taking advantage of your generosity will look elsewhere.
Do what you must to re-connect with happiness in your work.
When you know you are well paid, you will feel free to give more to your work.

I also agree with this.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Hi Laura, I'm not a technician but I have some tips/advise. I hope that is okay.

I think the most important one is, try to be kind to yourself. Don't think or say things to yourself that you wouldn't say to your best friends. Treat yourself as your best friend.

When I see everything that needs to be done it's often overwhelming. In my head it was all or nothing and it became nothing more often, because it was so much that I didn't know where to start. I got this advise: two square meters a day. Not more, not even when you have the time. Just focus on the square meters when your workplace or house needs attention. It doesn't look like that is going to help in the beginning, but two weeks is already a lot of square meters.

Do the same with your work on piano's. Divide it into small sections so it doesn't look so overwhelming. If one of the things is replacing bridle straps, pick a number. If you pick 22,then you are done in four days. Stick to it, when you have time left, read a book, play the piano, whatever you want to do.

For tidying up and cleaning I also pick one thing at the time, like the dining table.
I have three boxes, one is for things that have to stay in this place that I'm cleaning, one box is for things that have to be replaced elsewhere in the house, and one is for things I need to throw away.
First, things in the boxes, then, cleaning the table, and after that I bring my belongings from the boxes to the right place in the house. One box at the time.

I need to make things smaller in my head. When I see the whole picture it's just too much and I'm doing nothing.

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Thank you all, those are really good ovservations. I'll try to be more polite about other technicians, even if they talk [censored] about me, I'll just respond with kindness and do my job. Not an easy task, because they say awful lies like "women don't have the strenght to tune a piano"
They say that to clients, so they make sure the client won't call me. Then the client calls me and rells me the gossip. You are right, I shouldn't engage in it..

The boxes method is a great one. I have several in my workshop, I'm glad those techniques work with other technicians.

Charging more.. I wish.. But it's true. I'm working for nothing, and I don't even enjoy it.

Again, thanks a lot for your kind answers

Laura

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Laura, if this that you say
"But it's true. I'm working for nothing, and I don't even enjoy it."
Is really true, I mean really then I think you should consider doing something else more suited to your personality.

I say this in kindness, I'm not being "smart"

Best possible wishes,
Nick


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Are there a lot of not restored old grand pianos of good brands available in Argentina? Maybe you can switch to buying, restoring and selling pianos to the rich people. Just one at the time, it's your piano so nobody can tell you that it takes too long. You say that you are a pianist also, so maybe you can make a good video of you playing the piano once it is restored. When buyers hear it, they want it, because they want to sound that good too. And then you sell it for big money. Or is this a stupid idea?

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If my quick search of tuning fees in your area is accurate, you are in fact working for nothing. I cannot imagine any satisfaction (or economic benefit) from $20-$30 per appt. Correct me if I am wrong here. If it's even less...wow! Subtract expenses and taxes...yikes!

I don't know what the answer could be at this point.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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