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How To Treat Your Piano Tuner
Having been in the piano tuning business for about four years now, I may not consider myself a pro, but I certainly don't think of myself as a novice either. I have done somewhere in the vicinity of 150 different piano tuning jobs to date, and the ones that I enjoyed can all be counted on one hand. This is do mostly to the fact that piano tuners are not incredibly common, and as such most people don't think to apply "common sense" when hiring one. Piano tuners are being paid for a service, sure, but just like anyone else, the more comfortable they are, the better quality job they will do. So here are a couple of really helpful tips to make your piano tuner the happiest tuner in the world and insure that you get the most out of your money!
#1-Setting The Appointment
The first thing that you should know is that a good quality piano tuning will take between one and two hours, sometimes more depending on the shape of your piano. Try to schedule your tuner to come by during a time where you can hope to have some silence for a couple of hours. The most ideal time would be in the morning when the kids are at school and the football game isn't on. Be sure to give an hour "cushion" to whatever the tuner quotes you over the phone. This means if he quotes you two hours, expect three, just in case. The absolute most frustrating thing in the world for a piano tuner is to have to stop a job unfinished and come back later because you need to get to work, and there is no one else to stay at the house so they can finish the job. So setting the appointment is not something you should be careless with.
#2- Clear The Work Area
The top of the piano.....the most popular place for music boxes, family pictures, porcelain dolls, nativity scenes, travel souvenirs, decorative lamps, and various other breakable things. Your piano tuner will always need access to the lid of your piano, so if you are expecting a visit from your tuner, please be courteous and clear his work area for him. I had one experience where I walked into the room and saw 20 different framed pictures sitting on top of the piano, and when I asked the client if she could move them, she said that I could go ahead and do it myself and just put them on the couch. I was hesitant, but did it anyways. Although I was being as gentle as possible, I ended up braking one of the smaller frames. Even though I was apologetic and offered to replace it, the customer became belligerent and started to insist that I do the tuning for free. The situation became awkward for me and for her, and I wouldn't wish that on any other piano tuner, so please be considerate and clear everything off for them before they arrive.
#3- Keep the Noise Down
Piano tuners need a great deal of silence to be able to give an effective tuning. The quieter it is, the more precise the tuning. I would say that the vast majority of tuning jobs that I have done consisted of me in the guest room tuning the piano, while the family sits in the living room adjacent and watches a movie to pass the time. How they could enjoy a movie with me pounding incessantly on notes for two hours is beyond me, but if they have the ability to ignore that much piano playing, then they shouldn't have any problem with very poor, yet over-priced piano tuning they just received.
#4- Don't Watch
Let's be honest here, can anyone really do a good job at anything with someone standing over their shoulder? It's understandable that you're interested in what's going on, it's a very intricate process. However, I promise you that whatever your intentions are, you are only making the tuner feel really nervous and really uncomfortable. If you want to see how it's done, go watch a video on youtube, don't forget that the more comfortable they are, the better quality job you will get.
I've done more than enough tuning jobs at houses without any a/c in the summer, or heat in the winter, to know that a good job can't be done without the right temperature. It doesn't have to be a perfect 76 degrees, but I can't tune a piano if my hands are shaking, or if the hammer keeps sliding out of my sweaty palms. If you are trying to cut back on a/c to save money that's fine, but just splurge a couple of dollars for an hour or two while your tuner visits, otherwise you are wasting a good deal of money for what will not be a very good tuning.
Getting Your Money's Worth
Piano tunings aren't cheap. The cheapest ones usually go for about $75-100. I can't stress enough how important it is to make sure that your tuner is comfortable while he/she meticulously tunes each one of the 230 strings on the piano individually. A happy, comfortable tuner will likely find other kinks or problem areas on your piano and simply fix them at no extra charge, a gracious gesture for your hospitality. An unhappy and uncomfortable tuner, however, will not only do a less than admirable tuning job, but may also charge you some random fees here and there for his or her general annoyance. Treat your tuner well, and enjoy the beautiful intonation of your freshly tuned piano!