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Google Translate gives "Piano maker" for Klavierbauer. We might in English, I guess, say piano builder, or even piano rebuilder, as equivalents for what a klavierbauer is in Germany....

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To clarify what Gregor said:

The term 'Klavierbauer' is essentially a title that you are awarded after a 3.5 year formal apprenticeship and during those 3.5 years you are basically learning all the stuff that relates to servicing a piano, from regulation, tuning, voicing to polishing surfaces. It is a strictly formalized training in terms of teaching contents and in that context it is pretty much irrelevant where you do the apprenticeship. This may be a very small workshop with 2-3 employees or a factory with a full production line from scratch. In any case it is a requirement for any shop accepting an apprentice formally to have at least one person on board who is allowed to call himself 'Klavierbaumeister' i.e. master piano builder.

This kind of apprenticeship system applies to Germany, Austria and Switzerland, so whoever may call himself 'Klavierbauer' is required to have gone through these 3.5 years of apprenticeship where tuning only plays a minor role.

It should be noted that basically all manufacturers in Germany have this apprenticeship model in place. That goes for Steinway, Seiler, Sauter, Grotrian-Steinweg, Steingräber, Bösendorfer, Schimmel and of course Bechstein, the company I work for.

Piano tuner is not a formalized term, so anyone with a tuning hammer, wedges and an ETD is allowed to call himself piano tuner and set up a business.

Very few actual piano builders with the formalized apprenticeship are actually freelancers. Most of them work for either a manufacturer or subsidiary of them (which usually also offer apprenticeships), because the qualification in itself already is an indicator for doing good work. The few freelancers that I know are usually specialists for concert service and come with decades of experience under their belt to service concert grands for large halls and recording studios. Most of these have had a close association with one of the manufacturers who actually provide concert grands on a regular basis and keep in touch for seminars offered by them. In the case of Bechstein the seminars are always fully booked, because a central part of these seminars covers working with hammers manufactured in our own factory and that require a slightly different approach in material handling and necessary tools.

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Originally Posted by David Boyce
Google Translate gives "Piano maker" for Klavierbauer.

Be careful. A not so sophisticated translator might say it´s a piano (Klavier) farmer (Bauer).


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Oh, I love the idea of a Piano Farmer!

OE1FEU, thank you for the clarification.

I recall a discussion about this some years ago in the PTG Journal. This very traditional, and solid, apprenticeship system leading to graduating with a recognised, protected designation, has survived in Germany and Austria, but died out in many other parts of the world. Partly due to the demise of piano manufacturing in many places, I suppose, but also that in some places, like the UK, piano factory apprenticeships were never as regulated as that.

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Originally Posted by Gregor
Be careful. A not so sophisticated translator might say it´s a piano (Klavier) farmer (Bauer).
Piano farmers grow baby grands.


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I think piano farmer is a great translation. Klavierbauer don't have to apprentice at factories. They can do it at workshops as well. The way I understand it, the title doesn't mean they they are expert piano builders. In fact, I don't think they are ever required to have built a piano. So, they are more like piano farmers, taking care of the piano than builders.


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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
In any case it is a requirement for any shop accepting an apprentice formally to have at least one person on board who is allowed to call himself 'Klavierbaumeister' i.e. master piano builder.
I would add that the Klavierbaumeister title is essentially a few business courses to qualify someone to run a business. In other words, in order to setup a piano workshop, like a typical GmbH, you need to be Klavierbaumeister in order to do that. You have to be qualified by the government to setup a business. Many Klavierbauer never bother to do the additional study and are more comfortable just working in someone else's company for their entire life. Basically, a Klavierbauer program is for 15-19 year olds.

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Originally Posted by David Boyce
Oh, I love the idea of a Piano Farmer!
I recall a discussion about this some years ago in the PTG Journal. This very traditional, and solid, apprenticeship system leading to graduating with a recognised, protected designation, has survived in Germany and Austria, but died out in many other parts of the world. Partly due to the demise of piano manufacturing in many places, I suppose, but also that in some places, like the UK, piano factory apprenticeships were never as regulated as that.

They German way of apprenticeships is not only a piano thing. All crafts are learned by serving a formal apprenticeship. And the trading professions as well. We call that dual system. Dual, because you have 2 ways to learn: learning by doing on the job and in the vocational school.


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Originally Posted by piano411
I would add that the Klavierbaumeister title is essentially a few business courses to qualify someone to run a business. In other words, in order to setup a piano workshop, like a typical GmbH, you need to be Klavierbaumeister in order to do that. You have to be qualified by the government to setup a business. Many Klavierbauer never bother to do the additional study and are more comfortable just working in someone else's company for their entire life. Basically, a Klavierbauer program is for 15-19 year olds.

This is the way it used to be. A few years ago the cancled that rule for Klavierbauer and many other crafts. But it is still true for other crafts like car mechanic or plumber who is dealing with gas installations. The idea is that anybody who works on things that could be or become dangerous should know what he is doing. Working on pianos won´t cause a damage to the customer. But working on car breaks might do. So you mandatory need the Meister title in these crafts.

Usually the apprenticeship programm is for 15 - 20 years olds. The final exam ends up with a title called Geselle (journeyman). The Meister programm (master) is the next step. A few years ago it was only possible after having worked for 5 years as Geselle. But they changed that. Now you can attend the master school directly after the aprenticeship. The master programm is indeed a scholar training with a great portion of hands on training.

It is true that an apprentice of Klavierbau does not build a piano. In the exam we have to make a bridge for an octave model, string that model, set up the action in relation to the keys, install the key tops, hang the hammers and dampers and regulate that model. We do a tuning exam and a lot of theoretical exams. The master exam is much more complicated. I think they have to construct a piano, but I am not shure. And they have to build a piano, but not completely from the beginning on. I believe....

Last edited by Gregor; 10/15/20 12:23 PM.

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Originally Posted by Gregor
This is the way it used to be. A few years ago the cancled that rule for Klavierbauer and many other crafts. But it is still true for other crafts like car mechanic or plumber who is dealing with gas installations. The idea is that anybody who works on things that could be or become dangerous should know what he is doing. Working on pianos won´t cause a damage to the customer. But working on car breaks might do. So you mandatory need the Meister title in these crafts.
Good to know. It seems the whole world is going through many changes. Can a person just tune people's pianos without being a Geselle? I guess this happens as black money, but is there an official way of doing it as a freelancer these days? I think in Germany, most people call a store, workshop, or something, instead of calling a tuner directly, right? All the tuners I know are Klavierbauer. Are there many non-Klavierbauer tuners around?

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Originally Posted by piano411
Can a person just tune people's pianos without being a Geselle? I guess this happens as black money, but is there an official way of doing it as a freelancer these days? I think in Germany, most people call a store, workshop, or something, instead of calling a tuner directly, right? All the tuners I know are Klavierbauer. Are there many non-Klavierbauer tuners around?

You don´t have to be Geselle or have any other title to tune pianos. And yes, there are some non-Klavierbauer tuners around. Not only as black money workers. But most tuners are Klavierbauer. A few years back, when you needed the Meister title to set up a piano repair business, it was ok to tune pianos without the Meister title. But repairs were not allowed without that title.


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Originally Posted by piano411
That is fascinating information from both chocolatemintking and Gregor. Thank you!

Chocolatemintking, you may want to consider having one fixed person that represents the store/school with great phone skills to contact the piano customers for tunings. I would think that the same friendly voice contacting the customers every year would be an overall benefit to a company. The same person would provide continuity, and would most likely alleviate some stress from your tuners. Phone skills and tuning skills are different parts of the brain. Unless the younger tuners can use LINE, they are probably not going to be very successful over the phone.

My apologizes for taking a while to get back to you, I had a bit of an unexpected busy Friday and just wanted to enjoy the weekend after that! I actually thought of that too before I started this topic and ran the idea past one of the senior tuners; she wasn't too sure it'd be that appealing of a position that someone would want to work as full-time so I don't know how viable it'd really be...

Another obstacle would be when customers need to make changes to their appointments, it's not impossible but it strikes me like they'd just end up being the middleman in the conversation.

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