Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Piano Tuning Quotes - What To Look For

Continue reading below, but I no longer give quotes. I cannot quote on something I've never seen.

Like most people nowadays, we are always trying to get the best value for our money. How do you know which piano tuner/technician to choose?

Here is a list of items that I would look for if I was a customer.

1. What are the tuning fees:
For fine tuning, my fee is $140 GST included. That price is for Vancouver, Richmond and North and West Vancouver. For outlying areas, the charge is more.

For pitch raising or lowering (above or below 10 cents. The spacing between each note is 100 cents), my fee is $30.00 (GST included) extra.


2. Qualifications: Make certain that the tuner/technician has credentials or trade papers. My trade papers are here. If they cannot produce documentation proving they are a skilled tradesman, look elsewhere. When somebody just says that they are certified and professional, it does not mean that they are. Anybody can say that.

3. Make certain that they are tuners and technicians. If they only know how to tune a piano and something goes wrong, they have to have the knowledge to repair things that are broken or recommend a colleague who can.

4. After fulfilling the first 2 requirements I have mentioned, you might want to choose the tuner/technician who lives nearby. I am amazed at the number of people who hire out of town tuners when an equally qualified technician lives only a block or two away.

5. Word of mouth is excellent for referrals. When you have done good work for a number of people, your name gets passed along and no other advertisement is necessary. Other people do the advertising for you.

6. Be very wary of tuning quotes that seem too good to be true. Some of these people get into your house at a cheap price only to add things on as they start working. If you insist on a quote, make sure you get it in writing before any work is started!

Monday, January 4, 2010

How To Buy A Piano

NEVER BUY A PIANO without an inspection from a Registered Piano Technician! Once you buy a piano from the general public, you have no recourse to recover your money. This situation is known as "caveat emptor" (Let the buyer beware). In my opinion, it should be "Let the seller beware!"

Two of the best piano buying information books BY FAR can be found at www.pianobook.com. There is also an additional link on that website to www.pianobuyer.com.

The used piano market is far worse than the used car market in my opinion. If anyone tells you that you "must act now", run as fast as you can or hang up (if you are on the phone)! Almost always, these people are desperate to get rid of the junk that they have.

How much are you willing to pay for expert advice on purchasing a piano? Most people I have encountered would rather save some money than spend a few extra dollars guaranteeing they get good value for their money.

Typically, there are piano selling ads that state something like: "Old piano in perfect condition - only one or two notes need to be fixed. Perfect for a beginner!" Using an analogy about cars, the same ad might read: "80 year old car in perfect condition and refinished - brakes need to be fixed and tires are worn. Perfect for a beginner!"

Does that ad (about a car) make any sense to you? Well, it doesn't to me either but when the word 'piano' is substituted in the sentence, the general public seems to accept the ad as genuine.

Please! Go to www.pianobuyer.com, get informed and TAKE YOUR TIME when looking for a new or used piano. When you have selected something that seems to be okay, make certain you hired a Registered Piano Technician to do the final inspection before you spend your hard earned money.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Piano Tuning By Ear Or Machine

There has been so much misinformation about this topic; most of the public is now completely confused. When the customer notices that a piano technician is using an electronic device to tune their piano, they assume that they have not been trained by ear.

That may or may not be the case. If the technician has trade papers (Registered Piano Technician Member of PTG), they most certainly have aural tuning skills.

Let me explain again using an analogy.
You go to a doctor's office because you have a feeling of chest pain. The doctor might use a stethoscope and listen to the beat of your heart from the front and back. Suspecting something (perhaps nothing), the doctor might decide to use:

1. An electrocardiogram to further study your heart's activity.  *At this point do you stop your doctor and tell them to not use a machine and only listen to your heart by ear!? They might be lacking valuable information!
2. Chest X-Ray to further diagnose any heart abnormality. *At this point do you again stop your doctor and tell them to not use a machine!?
3. A CT scan which gives incredibly detailed information about the heart. *At this point do you stop your doctor from using a machine!?

From this perspective, you can now see how a fully qualified, accredited technician should be using every tool (electronic or otherwise) at their disposal to produce a truly exquisite tuning.

What kind of piano tuner are you?
I am known as a "hybrid piano tuner". I tune both aurally and with a machine. While the machine gets the work done much faster, I find that I MUST still make refined aural adjustments to arrive at the best tuning possible. If I was to tune strictly with the machine without making minute adjustments, mistakes could be made - such as those made by unqualified machine tuners with little or no aural tuning skills.


What happens when my machine breaks down?
No problem! Since I'm fully trained by ear, I simply continue where I left off. That has happened about a dozen times during the last 5 years or so. If you find that your tuner is not able to continue without a machine, I would get someone else who has complete aural training.


Are tuning forks accurate?
These are just pieces of metal which are influenced by temperature changes. If a customer requested that I tune the piano aurally, I would first set A440 with a machine and then turn it off and tune the rest of the piano by ear. There is no question that setting A440 with a machine (then tuning the rest of the piano aurally if requested) is the most accurate way.

When taking an exam to become a piano tuner, how you set A440 is extremely important! Guest what? To determine how close you set A440 on the piano with a tuning fork, the final result is measured BY MACHINE!! The mark (for setting pitch) is an indicator of two things.
1. The technician may or may not have an accurate tuning fork (they should have taken readings of their fork with a machine and made minor adjustments by filing).
2. The person may have an accurate fork but may not be able to accurately transfer the pitch to the piano.

Piano Tuning Fee: Fine Tuning - Pitch Raising

For fine tuning, my fee is $140 GST included. That price is for Vancouver, Richmond and North and West Vancouver. For outlying areas, the charge is more.

*I do not service Surrey, Delta or New Westminster areas.*

Piano Tuning as described (in Wikipedia) is: "The act of making minute adjustments to the tensions of the strings of a piano to properly align the intervals between their tones so that the instrument is in tune."

Many (but not all) pianos that have been neglected for long periods of time require a pitch raise or lowering so that the piano is at A440.

If you do not understand what a pitch raise is, think of this analogy.
You need somebody to cut your lawn because you are having an outdoor party. The lawn cutter comes over and notices that the grass in your yard is 2 feet high! He immediately tells you that his service will take much longer because he will have to cut the lawn several times to get it down to the standard height. Naturally, the fee will be more expensive because the original time quoted, will be much longer.

You could probably find a lawn cutter who is less experienced at a smaller fee who will simply cut the lawn just at the height it is, making only minor adjustments. The only problem is, the lawn height will not be appropriate for the party you expect to give.

It the lawn height is properly cut down to normal level, the grass will be brown and very stressed because of the amount of work done on it. Similarly, pitch raising or lowering the wires on a piano is very stressful and it will take a period of time before the piano settles down. Almost certainly, after major pitch adjustments of this nature, pianos will require tuning again within a few weeks to several months. There's absolutely no way around it.

For pitch raising or lowering (above or below 10 cents. The spacing between each note is 100 cents), my fee is $30.00 (GST included) extra.