How Do I become a Piano Technician? - First Steps
Welcome to our Series on Piano Tuning and Repair.
A question I hear often is, "How do I become a piano technician". This video is the first in a series of videos on what steps can be taken to become a piano technician. In this video, we go through a list of places to receive training, as well as other resources for learning the skills you need to become a piano technician. We also talk about some ways that you can get some practical experience that is needed to build your skills to be able to tune and service pianos for money.
If you want to see more of our Piano Tuning and Repair Series, click here to access the entire playlist.
Welcome to our next video here by Howard Piano Industries. I'm Steve Howard and often I get questions from some of our customers or people on the internet about how to become a piano technician, so we're going to go through some of the things that, in steps, you need to do to start the training and learning how to become a piano technician.
Obviously, with working on pianos there is a whole wealth of things that you need to learn, and a whole list of different tasks, and so forth, that need to be learned, but try to remember when you're starting out you don't have to learn it all, in every particular aspect about piano maintenance before you actually start doing some work. It's kind of a gradual process that you can get into.
There are a different number of avenues that you can go into that you can get your training. One is the more traditional method. A number of colleges around the country have one or two year programs that you can go to which are excellent, which is an excellent way to get your training, but often there are circumstances that won't allow you to get that kind of traditional training. You might not be able to take a whole year or two out of your schedule to commit, or commit the funds, or be away from your home or your family to do that type of program.
Another option is doing a correspondence course which does allow you to study at home. Generally, at your own pace and where you can get the training that you need without relocating yourself to a place that has a college program. The only correspondence course that I'm aware of that is actually comprehensive and teaches a lot of the stuff that you need to know to get started is Randy Potter's course, Randy Potter School of Piano Technology. This is actually the course that I started out with and I had been tuning for a little while before I took the course but it actually certainly helped me to solidify a lot of the information years ago when I first, when I took the course. So, it's still a very good course and had information that's still certainly valid and valuable for somebody wanting to start out.
There are a number of different books that you can use. This book that just came out last year, Pianos Inside Out by Mario Igrec is an excellent resource. We have this available in our online store. It's got 500 and some pages, lots of photos, and very, very detailed information. It's by far the most comprehensive training guide on learning how to work on pianos and teaches how to tune, regulate, rebuild repair, teaches you how to do touch weight analysis and it really goes into great detail. So, getting some training, reading this book in itself would put you away ahead of where you would be just starting out and just because understanding how a piano works and how to all do all these tasks, obviously, you have to get some practice and experience in it, but first, at least understanding some of the basics is the first step.
Piano Technicians Guild
Another great resource is the Piano Technicians Guild. The Piano Technicians Guild has chapters around the country and I believe they even have some in other countries, but you can join a chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild where they have regular meetings and meet several times throughout the year where you can get insight and see examples from other technicians about how to work on pianos The Piano Technician Guild also has seminars and and conventions that you can go to where you can take classes on working on about all the different aspects of piano work.
The National Convention that they have every year in July, it has classes on tuning, rebuilding, regulating, voicing. They have business classes on how to run a piano technicians business. So, there's lots and lots of resources with the Piano Technician Guild. They also have a monthly magazine that they publish and send to all the members, which has articles every month on a number of different topics. So, that's a good resource.
There's also a number of good resources on the internet. If you're watching this video it means you found us on YouTube or on our website where you can, we've got dozens of different videos on piano tuning and repair. I won't say that just watching our videos will make you a piano technician, but they certainly will help you understand things better and then, watching the videos will give you a greater knowledge of working on pianos and some of the tasks that you would do as a piano technician.
So, some of those resources, there's forums that you can read on the Piano Technicians Guild website, as well as on Piano World, which is a good resource. So, just getting some training, and just the fact of being able to to learn as much as you can about the piano.
Get Some Basic Tools
So, those are things, but if you're going to do however you learn, you're going to have to have some basic tools. You're going to have to start out with some tuning tools, which we've got a number of videos that show you what tuning tools you're going to need. You're going to have to probably have a piano because you have to have something to practice on. You can't just read a book and say okay, now I know how to tune a piano, and go and start making money at it.
It takes lots and lots of practice to get good to the point where you can actually charge money for tuning people's pianos. Back before I started, or around the time that I started I heard one quotation that if you've tuned a hundred pianos you're starting to get the hang of it okay so 100. Once you've tuned 100 pianos you're starting to get a general feel for it and you might be getting to the point where you can actually charge money for tuning pianos. At that point, once you've tuned a thousand pianos you're pretty much a pretty good professional at that point. If you've tuned 10,000 pianos then in general, they would consider that you're maybe at the level that you could be considered a concert technician
Those are generalizations that don't always apply, but it shows you an example of how much actual practice and training that you need in order to get to certain levels. So okay, you may know a piano technician that is very, very skilled and accomplished in his work, but that came with many, many, years of experience and practice and much, much, training. So, certainly there's a lot to learn, but it certainly can be learned by the average person. Now, once you've got a piano if you don't have a piano you can generally get one fairly inexpensively.
You'll have, obviously, learning to tune pianos, you're going to have to invest some money into some tools. You don't have to buy every single tool that's available to get started. Usually, the first thing to learn is how to tune pianos, because that's what pianos need the most in service work. So, that's probably going to be the first task that you tackle and try to at least start to get a feel for is piano tuning and obviously you'll want to learn some basic repairs and regulations before you start working on other people's pianos for money because if you break a string you're going to have to replace it so then you want to learn how to replace a string or if there's a small, maybe a broken damper flange or whatever there might be, small repair things that may need your attention when you're going to tune a piano, because sometimes pianos need more than tuning. They might have other issues involved, so just understanding some of those basic things before you go out advertising yourself as a piano technician.
There are some good things to learn, but tuning is the first step and like, for example, this piano here I picked up on Craigslist. I think I paid $150 for it. It was a good price. It's a piano that was built in 1993 so it's not too old. If you get a piano off Craigslist to do some of your practice work on I recommend not getting something too terribly old that's in really bad shape. I mean, you can buy, you can find free pianos on Craigslist quite often, but often times those free pianos are in pretty bad shape and you don't want to get something that needs too much work because it's not going to function properly for you to practice on, so you want to get something that's in fairly good working condition and that you can start practicing your tuning.
When you do get to the point where you've done practice on tuning, you've maybe gone through and tuned the piano 20 times, then probably the next step is to find some friends, and maybe they've got a piano that is just sitting in their basement or they said, oh, I haven't had my piano tuned for ten years, there are quite a few of those out there, as I've tuned many pianos that the person said well, it's been ten, or fifteen, or twenty years since I had my piano tuned.
So, there's a lot of those out there and you can say well, I'll be willing to tune your piano for free if you're confident, and then you can at least get a relatively decent sounding tuning, and it doesn't take too terribly long to get to that point and obviously, that's relative depending on who you ask, but if you can get the piano sounding generally, relatively good then you can start saying, and this is how I started out.
I had some friends at church, one couple, they had a piano in their basement. It hadn't been tuned for twenty years and it was a little spinet piano and it was in pretty rough shape and the tuning was just all over the place, but it got me a little practice and so I spent two or three hours or whatever trying to do the best that I could with that and found some other people that had pianos similar to that, which I knew that I could at least improve on it. They weren't pianos that were used a lot or at least if I could improve it, it was better than when I left it, or when I got to it.
So, things like that, or maybe you know of a church that has a piano in their basement, hasn't been tuned for four decades or whatever and gets plunked around on by the kids or whatever but they don't aren't really too worried about it. You can ask them, can I practice tuning on your piano and hopefully you can make a little improvement on it and get some practice. There's all those types of things. Maybe a school, they don't have a very high budget, so they don't ever get their practice room pianos tuned.
I've seen that on a number of occasions and you might be able to offer for free and start getting some practice, on some different pianos and that way you get to see some different types of pianos and start to get a feel for tuning and you might even come across some repairs, simple repairs that you can get some practice on as well, but just be able to do that, obviously, that's time that you have to give up, but that's part of the training process.
To be able to do that, reading resources may be doing a correspondence course, or some of these things are really your first step in becoming a piano technician and as time goes on we're going to be offering some additional videos on some things that you need to, you can do to become a piano technician.