Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know if my piano needs tuning? How often should it be done?
A: Pianos go out of tune more quickly when they are new because the strings are stretching more. After the “new string” period they still go out of tune primarily due to variations in humidity and temperature. The climate here is comparatively mild and consistent, so service is typically once or twice a year. Concert pianos are tuned before each performance, even multiple times a day. If your piano hasn’t been tuned for a year or more, it is time. By the time your piano sounds “bad”, it is usually due for a remedial pitch raise, not just a tuning. Think about delaying exterior house painting for a familiar comparison.
Q: How much does a piano tuning cost? Do you offer discounts?
A: If the piano is in good condition and has been tuned in the past year or so, I typically charge $200 for a normal service, which includes tuning, interior cleaning, tightening bench legs, adjusting the pedals, and minor adjustments. If the piano has been neglected for years, the overall pitch is often to the point that remedial tuning may be necessary. In this case, the first tuning appointment becomes a “rough pitch raise”, then a follow up appointment is needed in a few weeks or months to obtain a fine tuning. Some pianos have strings that are so old or rusty they cannot be tuned properly. If significant repairs are needed, I will certainly discuss the cost before starting work. Fine pianos deserve regulation (adjustments for touch and keyboard mechanisms) and voicing (adjustments for tone quality and evenness) every few years in addition to tuning service.
I offer a 10% discount for service calls involving two or more pianos at the same location. I do not offer “neighbor” discounts: it gets too complicated. If I make an emergency call or have to travel far outside my normal region, an additional charge will be made.
Q: What do you need from me when you tune the piano?
A: I need relative peace and quiet, since I will be working for an hour or so intently listening to the sounds from your piano. It may seem a bit noisy as I play notes loudly over and over again, so you may want to find somewhere else to go in your home while I’m there! The washer and dryer, noisy TVs, clanking dishes, playing kids, and barking dogs make my job more difficult. I’m kid friendly (I raised three of my own), but I generally don’t need their “help” while I’m working. I’m happy to give a brief demonstration of how the piano works, though. Most people get bored after five minutes watching me tune.
Don’t adjust the heating or cooling much within an hour of my arrival… I don’t want the piano temperature changing while tuning. If you have a collection of breakables on your piano, I appreciate your assistance in having these removed ahead of time. The piano generally does not need to be moved away from the wall for tuning. I do need a reasonable amount of room to work at the front of the piano, and good lighting is appreciated too.
Q: Why should I call you when someone else is cheaper? All I need is a regular piano tuning…
A: Unlike dentists and electricians, there are no government required certifications for piano technicians. So… choose someone who has passed all the entrance requirements to be a RPT member of the Piano Technicians Guild, and who has earned the trust and respect of professional teachers, schools, and musicians for a long time. Paying a second time to have the same work redone demonstrates that the lowest price isn’t necessarily the most economical. We sometimes follow up after unqualified people work on pianos… this isn’t a do it yourself project. Professional level piano service requires experienced technical and musical understanding, and of course, personal integrity.
Q: What is the PTG (Piano Technicians Guild)?
A: Read all about the PTG at their comprehensive website: www.ptg.org (Tom is an active long time Registered Piano Technician (RPT).
Q: What kind of pianos do you work on?
A: I work primarily on good quality grand pianos. I do have a variety of instruments in my care, including some very old uprights and not so nice spinets. The most expensive instruments I care for cost as much as an exotic sports car, while the lowliest ones are sometimes rescued before going to the dump. Although some pianos do reach that “final destination”, in the meantime I treat each one with respect, since an aspiring student may be developing a promising future on the most humble of instruments. Many of my customers with fine grand pianos started out with lessor instruments, and I am glad to have been there since the beginning. I do not work on old “Square Grand Pianos”, desk shaped antiques that hurt my back after tuning because I have to bend over so far in the process. I do not consider myself a “Player Piano Technician”, although I can tune them. The old pump type, paper roll players are a complete specialty unto themselves, and very few are worth complete restoration. I do have certification on the modern Yamaha Disklavier electronic player pianos.
Q: What areas will you travel to?
A: I spend most of my time working in the Monterey Peninsula area, and serve all of Monterey County and San Benito County. I will travel as far as Big Sur, King City, and Hollister. I try to schedule several appointments before traveling to those areas. I recommend other RPTs for more distant areas.
Q: Do you evaluate or appraise pianos?
A: I can evaluate pianos that are being considered for purchase. The cost will be similar to the price of a tuning. I recommend visiting the “Piano Buyers Guide” website listed here for becoming educated about pianos in general. It’s a relatively non-biased source. www.pianobuyer.com/
**Valuation for IRS tax purposes now require a “certified appraiser” to make the report. I can assist in connecting you with a qualified professional and can make the associated inspection report for the appraiser.**