Archive for January, 2013

How to Prepare for your Piano Tuner’s Visit

So, you’ve scheduled tuning, now what?


The reason for this post is because even though there is usually not much to do to prepare for the piano tuner’s visit, I am often amazed at how many customers don’t do much, if anything.  After all, they usually don’t have to prepare anything for the A/C repairman or plumber.  Why would they need to for the piano tuner?

Prepare?  Like….what kind of prepare?  I thought the piano tuner just comes in, sits at the piano, plays a bunch of enharmonic non-sense for about an hour, then leaves, and my piano is now somehow, almost magically, in tune. What do you mean prepare?


Well, as I said, there are not a lot of things necessary to prepare for your tuner’s visit, but there are a few things that can make a big difference.  Here are a few of the basic things would help me if I came to your home or organization to service your piano.


1) Prepare your schedule before the tuning. Try to be there before the appointed time. I will try to honor your time, and I expect the same courtesy.  If emergencies come up, please try to contact me and I will do the same.


2) Prepare your schedule and activities during and after the tuning.  Allow plenty of time for the tuning and for any unexpected things that might come up.  This basically means, don’t schedule a tuning 2 hours before you have to leave for a wedding.  Not good planning. It puts a lot of pressure on me to finish early lest I spoil your outing.  Besides that, if a repair issue does come up, there will either be no time to do the repair at all, the repair gets rushed and is done poorly, or we have to schedule another trip for the repair.  Also, if you do have somewhere to be later, please let me know up front so I know how to plan.  From my experience, there’s nothing quite like working merely along thinking you’ve got plenty of time, when out of the blue the family starts rushing around, looking at their watches, and giving you the eye that you’d better start wrapping it up….like yesterday….only to find out that they have a dinner date in 15 min. that they didn’t tell you about.  Well, that’s embarrassing!  Especially since I was ahead of schedule according to how long it normally takes, however, they never bothered to find out before hand how long a typical tuning takes.  That lack of planning put both of us in a very tight spot.

Also, it’s a good idea to plan your activities during the tuning…(or around the tuning might be a better thought).  Some “normal” household activities and chores that you’re accustomed to doing at that time may have to wait because of the noise they produce.  Try to plan activities that are considerate of the quiet I need in order to do my best job for you.



3) Prepare the piano by clearing the piano top completely of lamps, nick-knacks, doilies, figurines, books, sheet music, and such (both grands and uprights). I can’t count the number of times I’ve arrived and have had to either wait for the customer to clear off the piano, or have had to clear it off myself.  Some pianos have as little as a lamp on top, and others…..well, at Christmas, for instance, the entire town of Bethlehem…in fragile, ceramic figurines!   I prefer the customer to have done it before I arrive so that I can get right to work, and so I am not responsible for any broken items.  I am always nervous handling other people’s things because invariably, I will pick up the figurine that looks like it’s all one piece, but actually it’s two pieces, and they seem to want to separate in mid air somehow.  Not too good for customer relations.   Grands are just as important to clear as uprights since I usually like to lift the lid to give clearance for my mutes behind the dampers in the treble areas.

Note: It is usually not necessary to move the piano away from the wall.  Sometimes I will on a first visit to inspect the back of uprights, or I may need to move them an inch or two so the lid will not bind against the wall when opened, however, I am accustomed to moving them if I need to.


4) Prepare the area around the piano, and provide a bench.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve come to pianos that had no bench, and all the chairs in the house were of the odd type (ie: bar stool, lawn chair, etc.)  A bench or hard chair of about 19″ or so will usually suffice.  The area around the piano should at least be tidy.  I live in my home too, so I know that things can get disorganized when you live there…however, I try to tidy up when I know someone’s coming to visit.  At the very least tidy up the area immediately around the piano so I have a place to walk without tripping, and so I’ll have a place to set my tools and the piano case parts when they are disassembled for tuning and inspection.  Adequate room lighting is also helpful.  I do have lighting if needed, but it’s always helpful if there is already adequate room lighting available.


5) Prepare the family.  Please let your family know ahead of time that you’ve scheduled the piano tuning and let them know the expectations on them during the visit.  It is crucial that they all know that video games, CD players, Radios, TV’s, and all other noise producing items will need to be kept OFF, or their volumes at a bare minimum during the tuning.  Even though I am playing loudly, I am listening to minute changes in beats, pitch, etc, so I need it pretty quiet.  It’s also probably not the best day to invite the neighborhood friends over after school, nor the day for dad to be running the table saw in the adjoining workshop or garage!


6) Prepare your pets. Not sure how this works, but it would be nice if we could!  You know your pet(s), and you know what that may mean for each of them.  I get along good with most pets, and one thing that is sometimes helpful for many pets is if you will allow them to meet me first, even if they are going to be kept in a back bedroom, basement, etc. during the tuning.  Usually after meeting me, their curiosity is satisfied, then all is well.  For those pets who are more curious than some, please know that my tuning kit contains some chemicals and such that can be harmful to pets and children if they were to get into them.  While I try to keep a close eye on that, it is always helpful if you can help me keep an eye on your pets, and children too for that matter.  Nuisance pets I’d just prefer be kept in another area of the home until the tuning is completed.


7) Prepare the neighbors! You think I jest? While it’s not always necessary, possible, or practical, sometimes it is appropriate to notify the neighbors before my visit.  I tuned for a lady one time that opened all the windows as soon as I got there. Yippee for the neighbors!  I know she was trying to save running the A/C, but I really didn’t feel comfortable tuning her piano as the neighbors were out in their yards mowing (which was a distraction to me with the windows open), walking their dogs, planting flowers, etc. and I’m sure they didn’t need to hear me!  Should she have notified her neighbors? Not necessarily, but she might have at least thought a little more about the situation and have closed the windows and maybe turned on the A/C.

I do, however, often tune in condo’s or apartments where there are more than one family present in the building.  One time as I tuned, I noticed a person on the other side of the wall (in the adjoining apartment) that decided to practice their bass guitar while I was tuning. When they heard me tuning, they tried to match the notes I was playing. While I’m sure it was a neat learning time for them, wow, what a mess it was for me.  This might have been avoided if the customer had just politely notified the adjoining household that I would be there for a span of a couple hours.  By letting them know ahead of time that it would only be a couple hours could have potentially saved the neighbors from getting too upset as well, because as at least they would have had an idea of about when the monotonous pounding might be winding down.


8) Churches/Organizations – Have temperature of the sanctuary, etc. at operating temperature several hours before I arrive.  It is important to have the piano tuned at the temperature that it will be used.  Also, janitors vacuuming in the sanctuary while I’m tuning is not a good thing.  Don’t ask me how I know!  I know they have a job to do, but a little planning could avoid those awkward moments.


8) Prepare your method of payment. It’s always a good idea to have your method of payment thought out before I arrive.  I don’t accept credit cards at present, and we could be in an awkward situation come billing time if that was the only method of payment you had planned on.  I’ve had clients run to the bank or ATM while I finished the tuning because they had forgotten to plan for it or their checkbook was lower on funds than they realized.



I’d better stop there.  The more I write, the more things I think of.  Please know that my goal is to service your piano to the best of my ability as well as to satisfy you as a customer, not to hold you to a list of things I need in order to tune your piano.  Not at all!  Through many years of doing service calls I have learned that it is super important for me to be flexible because every situation will be unique. which is good.  However, with a little planning and preparation, many average service calls could have been superb service calls.  It is my hope that these tips will help you when planning your next tuning, whether with me or someone else, so that everyone involved has the best tuning experience possible.


Until next time….make a joyful noise!

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Why be Quiet? After All, the Tuner is Making Quite a Racket!

So, today’s question….”is it really necessary to be completely quiet while the tuner is tuning my piano?”

After all, the tuner is making quite a racket.  With all the pounding of notes and all the noise they’re making, surely it doesn’t matter, right?  I don’t have to be quiet when the A/C guy comes to fix my furnace, or when the plumber comes to fix my sink.  Why do I have to be quiet when the tuner comes to tune the piano.  He makes much more noise than those other guys do!


Tuners play loudly to equalize string tension and stabilize the piano.

Well, actually, it matters a great deal!  If you’ve read my other posts, you might recall me explaining the reason tuners play so loudly when tuning. Rest assured it’s not that they are deaf and can’t hear what they’re doing. The purpose of their loud blows is to equalize the tension along the entire length of the strings. If that is not done, the piano will not stay in tune when you go to play it moments after the tuner leaves.  So, if your tuner doesn’t play somewhat loudly, and if they try to convince you that they can tune very softly so as not to bother you… might want to begin looking for a new tuner.


The tuner is actually listening to beats and relationships between different notes.

With that said, through all the seemingly thoughtless “banging” of the same notes…over and over… is important to realize that the piano tuner is actually listening very intently to the beats, or “wah-wahs” that are produced when two strings are played together.  The tuner is either counting beats between two different notes (intervals) to make them “wah-wah” at the correct speed for that interval, OR, the tuner is listening in order to eliminate any beats, as is the case when tuning one string to another of the same note (unisons).  It may appear as though the tuner is not paying much attention, and sometimes tuners can even carry on basic conversations while tuning or look around the room at pictures, etc, but the fact is that he/she is still listening and making judgements based on those little beats.  Most customers don’t even know the beats exist unless the tuner makes mention of them and/or demonstrates it to them.  Then they become very obvious.


What about tuners that use an Electronic Tuning Device (ETD)?

Good question.  After all, it appears that all they’re doing is stopping the lights, and not really listening, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong!  At least they’re not supposed to just tune by what they see.  ETD’s when used correctly can be a tremendously accurate instrument intended to verify what the tuner is already hearing.  It helps the tuner get very close, very quickly, but where the string finally stays should be determined by what is heard……always!  So, even though your tuner may use an ETD, they should also be listening, and what they hear should “trump” what they see.


Silence is golden!

So, noise that seems like no big deal to the customer is a HUGE deal to the tuner.  He/she must have a certain level of quiet in order to concentrate and hear those beats.  For me, some conversation (even conversation with me) is sometimes acceptable while tuning, so long as it’s at a very low level and not all the time.  An occasional comment, question, etc. is no big deal. I will occasionally speak with clients while tuning, so long as it’s not a lengthy, deep conversation.  One or two people in a room asking a question of the other is also usually not a problem as long as they are being considerate.  However, if it becomes a lengthy conversation, volume level raises, the topic becomes heated or argumentative, if there are several people in the room, or there are kids hollering and playing noisily, then it becomes very distracting.  I don’t do it often, but I’ve had to stop tuning at times and ask for quiet when it started to interfere with my concentration.


Other things that are very disruptive to a tuner’s concentration are:

Running dish water, blenders, washing machines, some dish washers, and things like that.  The occasional coffee grinder, especially if a cup is intended for me, is not as bad as the continual running of water and clanging of cups and plates for 25 min. while washing dishes.   TV’s must be kept at a very low volume, even if in the other room or another floor, and OFF if in the same room as the piano.  TV’s, CD, Radios, etc. are VERY hard to concentrate with if they can be heard at all.


Another thing, almost off topic, that  most don’t think of is ceiling fans. While they don’t make much noise, in and of themselves, they do beat the air like a helicopter and it really messes with the sound waves that are emitted from the piano. It beats those soundwaves all over the place, and creates new beats that mix with the beats of the piano that the tuner is listening for.   So, on a hot day, even though it doesn’t seem to make good sense, don’t be surprised if your tuner asks for the ceiling fans in the room to be turned off.  I’ve learned that I’d rather sweat to death than be frustrated with all those weird beats are produced by the ceiling fan.  If you don’t believe me, try humming into a regular box fan sometime and see what you hear! ; )  Same type of thing!


How can you help your tuner…and get a better tuning?

In short, do your tuner (and yourself) a favor, and give them an hour or two of silence so he/she can do their best job. Sure, your tuner will benefit by not being so stressed, but you will benefit the most since the tuner will be able to do the very best tuning possible for your piano, which you will be enjoying for weeks after monotonous pounding ceases!  We know the tuning process is usually not much fun for you, but last I checked, that’s the only way to tune a piano!


Until next time, make a joyful noise….(but think quiet during the next tuning)!




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