Do you offer any incentives?
I do. I offer some discounts as insentives or as a thank you for certain things. For example, when I can group people together in one area in one day, it helps me out tremendously with travel time. So when you schedule on a discount day for your area, you recieve $10 off. You can find the discount days listed on the calendar. When it says 'Suggest Your Area', that means that if you are the first person to schedule on a certain day, then your area becomes the discounted area. When a client can schedule several pianos in the same day, then it is $5 off for each piano in the group. So if you have four pianos in your institution, then $5 x 4 is deducted from each of the four pianos. This also works if you schedule with people in your neighborhood; just let me know that you are scheduling together. I also offer teacher discounts and non-profit organization discounts.
How long should I plan for the tuning visit to take?
This answer varies from technician to technician and piano to piano. If you don't need a pitch raise or additional repairs, then we like to plan to be with you and your piano for about an hour and a half (more or less) for a traditional tuning visit. Being prepared for a two hour block in your day is playing it safe. The tuning itself doesn't usually take much longer than an hour, but we like to have extra time to answer any questions you have or attend to additional details; sometimes it's a small adjustment, other times it might be light dusting. Please tell us in advance what else your piano needs so that we can plan our schedule accordingly.
How do I go about learning to become a piano technician?
There is a wealth of information on the PTG website, www.ptg.org. The PTG has local chapters who each have chapter meetings. At each meeting, there is a ‘technical’, which is a seminar about topics of interest to piano technicians. If you are feeling shy about coming to a meeting, you should know that many piano technicians are shy, so you will be among friends. You can find a list of chapters at the PTG website and someone to contact if you would rather touch base with someone before showing up for a meeting. At meetings, you may find someone who is able to mentor or guide you.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like to come to a DC Chapter Meeting. I am at every meeting. We usually have them in suburban Maryland. On occasion, I also attend the Northern VA Chapter meetings, if you would like to arrange to meet me there.
In addition to reaching out through the PTG, another good start is to read The Piano Book by Larry Fine. This will provide you with a good base of knowledge regarding pianos. Another resource from Larry Fine is at www.pianobuyer.com.
If you would like to learn how to tune in order to maintain your own piano, my humble opinion is that it usually doesn’t work out to your advantage. There are hundreds of hours of learning, hundreds of hours of practice, and hundreds of dollars in tools and equipment. Another hobby might be more satisfying. But if your piano needs to be tuned daily due to performance or recording schedules, then maybe it would be worth it. Although in that case, I would think you’d prefer a professional.
How do I buy a piano?
Given that you probably will have this piano longer than you will own your car, I would like to suggest that you invest some time in the purchase. The Piano Book by Larry Fine is an excellent resource. After you’ve read that, you will have a wealth of knowledge from which to eliminate a lot of clunkers. But it is best to still have your narrowed-down potential purchase evaluated by a professional piano technician. They will be able to find what you might have missed and will be able to evaluate the pinblock, which you won’t be able to judge without the proper equipment and experience. You can also go to www.pianobuyer.com for an online version or to order the hybrid magazine / book that is similar to The Piano Book.
A free piano offered on the internet is sometimes someone else’s hassle that will soon become yours if you’re not careful. The expense of having a piano evaluated is often less than the cost of a tuning and will potentially save you hundreds of dollars in moving expenses for a piano who's needs far exceed the value of the piano.
Are there special care instructions associated with a Disklavier or Piano Disc Player System?
Modern player pianos are essentially run by a computer. So, just as you should have a surge protector for your computer, you should also have your player system plugged in through a surge protector. Yamaha likes their Disklavier owners to be registered with them so that they can send updated software. I also carry updated software. Player systems are not able to be whisper quiet like a radio, but sometimes software updates and calibration of the system can help them play more quietly. In addition, a knowledgeable piano technician can voice the piano to your specifications or add material to help quiet the sound. A player system is dependent on the piano being properly regulated, so do not neglect regular maintenance in that area.
What is a Registered Piano Technician?
An RPT is someone who has passed a series of exams given by the Piano Technicians Guild. Not every piano technician is a member of the Guild, and not every member of the Guild is an RPT.
How do I choose a piano technician?
Many people don’t know how to choose a technician by any criteria other than price. It’s the only thing they know how to ask about.
To find a technician, you can ask neighbors or a piano teacher if they have a recommendation. Or you can find a list of Registered Piano Technicians in your area at www.ptg.org, which is the Piano Technicians Guild website. In the DC area, you can go to www.dcptg.org.
To choose a technician, I would suggest that you select someone who vigorously pursues continuing education. Do they attend seminars and classes on a regular basis? I would also suggest someone that you feel you can grow to trust; someone that you communicate well with. Your piano will only suffer in maintenance if you never feel right about saying yes, when the time is right for you, to additional suggestions for your piano.
Once you have found that person, it is better to minimize changing technicians every time your piano needs service. Like a doctor, there is a benefit to a long-term relationship.
Does my piano need to be cleaned?
Usually a piano that is periodically regulated is cleaned at the same time, depending on the technician. Given that most pianos are not periodically regulated, then cleaning is needed as a separate service. A piano with years of dust can become sluggish and lack responsiveness. Hygiene also plays a part, especially when there are rodent droppings lingering inside (sorry to break the news to you).
What are the other maintenance issues associated with a piano?
Although tuning is the most frequently discussed piano maintenance item, much more is needed to keep a piano in tip-top shape. The following are some examples of additional service that your piano needs...
Action Regulation is the process of adjusting all of the moving parts of the piano to geometrically operate as efficiently as possible. Think of it like a tune-up for your car’s engine. When the engine is tuned up, the car uses less fuel. When your action is regulated, your hands require less effort to get the piano to play as desired. Examples of when your piano needs to be regulated can include: not being able to play softly or evenly from note to note, keys not repeating, hammers double-striking the strings, keys not being level or the key-dip uneven. There are dozens of steps to regulating so this is just a partial list of what you might find. How often your piano needs to be regulated can vary depending on use, age, time since last regulation, etc. It is not unheard of for a performance piano to be finely regulated at every tuning. A piano in the home may have very different expectations placed upon it. Aiming for a ‘touch up’ regulation every five years from the time it was new is a general gauge but certainly not exactly appropriate for every piano. You can ask your piano technician to show you what might be improved if your piano is regulated.
Tone Regulation is the process of improving the tone of your piano. Hammer reshaping is one of the many steps toward tone regulation. It involves reshaping the hammers so that the grooves that have developed over time from hitting the strings are smoothed out. The shape is also restored from being more flattened at the top to a more diamond or egg shape. Voicing is the process of adjusting the hammer hardness. Voicing can even out the tone from note to note or change the quality of the overall tone such as to be more bright or more mellow, depending on the pianists preference. Replacing the full set of hammers is eventually recommended in a better quality piano. (A lesser quality piano may not warrant the expense.) There are other aspects of tonal regulation, such as string leveling and seating the strings which I won’t go into here.
As a piano ages, repairs and replacement of parts (such as felts and leathers), is usually eventually needed.
What can I do to help keep my piano in tune?
To a person with a very fine ear, the piano can go out of tune with a good rainstorm outside, even if it was tuned the day before. Turning on the heat or air conditioning usually changes the tuning. Even stage lights can change the tuning in a piano. Most pianos prefer an environment of 42% relative humidity. Keeping the environment (or the piano) between 35% and 55% relative humidity is recommended. The piano goes out of tune with changes in humidity and length of time between tunings. If you have difficulty keeping the environment in that ‘safe zone’ of 35% to 55%, then a climate control system can be installed in the piano. Keeping the piano away from open windows and doors is beneficial. A regularly tuned piano is more stable than one that is tuned infrequently or sporadically. Therefore, you can expect a tuning to last longer if the piano is tuned twice a year than a tuning for a piano that is tuned once every other year.
Why did my piano need a pitch raise?
A regularly serviced piano does not usually need a significant pitch adjustment. However, if your piano has gone longer than the recommended time period for tuning, then it might need a pitch raise. A pitch raise is the term used for the additional work required on a piano that has dropped in pitch more than about 20% of a semi-tone. Most technicians charge an additional rate for this service.
How often should my piano be tuned?
The short answer is twice a year. But this is a very general answer for a broad question. Below are specific tuning instructions for new pianos, performance pianos, religious institution pianos, school pianos, and older pianos:
A new piano needs to be tuned frequently (most piano manufacturers recommend tuning four times in the first year). The strings are stretching and the piano is going through significant adjustments during the first years after being built. An assessment can be made by your piano technician as to how well it is settling into its new environment and how often it needs to be tuned for your satisfaction. Even if you can’t tell whether or not the piano is in tune, it is not good for the piano to let it drop in pitch significantly and so therefore should be tuned at least twice in the first year.
A performance piano is often tuned once or twice on the day that it is used for the event. This may mean as often as several times a week or month throughout the performance season depending on the schedule of use and demands of the artists.
A religious institution's piano is often located in a very large space that undergoes significant temperature and humidity changes throughout the week. A climate control system can significantly improve the dramatic shifts in tuning that are a result of such frequent and drastic climate changes if there is someone who can properly monitor and maintain the system (maintenance is fairly simple). Without a climate control system, a religious institution's piano needs to be tuned as often as the budget can withstand. Most religious institutions prefer that their piano be tuned prior to the various holiday seasons although more often is necessary if the piano is expected to be in tune year round and does not have a climate control system.
A school piano is often constrained by budget decisions as well. Twice a year is customary but more often is better. A university piano is usually used by more serious piano students and often needs more frequent service.
An older piano usually has settled in if it has been tuned regularly throughout its lifespan. If there are no structural reasons why it can no longer hold a tune (such as a loose pinblock or bridge problems), then tuning once a year might be "just fine" if the pianist chooses to ignore the seasonal changes that affect tuning. Other maintenance issues are generally more of a concern for an older piano and a focus on action and tone regulation is usually long overdue.
What forms of payment do you accept?
Check is preferred. We do accept credit cards which can be processed at the time of service or sent through paypal on the internet. Cash is fine but not preferred.
Do you tune aurally or do you use an electronic tuning device?
Both. In addition to using my hearing for every aspect of a tuning, I also use Veritune software for professional piano tuners on my portable mobile device. Yes, there is an app for that but it is not your usual 99 cent app. This application is designed for professionals and has the pricetag to match. This professional software helps speed the tuning process so that I can keep my rates lower than I would have to charge if every tuning was strickly by ear. But in addition to using Veritune software, I also use my ears at the same time while tuning every piano.