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 within a few years, I typically charge $225 for a thorough basic service. Tuning to “A=440 concert pitch”, and additionally includes interior cleaning, tightening bench legs, adjusting the pedals, and minor action and voicing adjustments. If the piano has been neglected for many years, a remedial “pitch-raising” tuning may be necessary. The first tuning appointment then becomes a “rough tuning”, then a follow up appointment is needed in a few months to obtain a stable and fine tuning. Some pianos are so old or rusty they cannot be tuned properly. If significant repairs are needed, I will discuss the cost before starting work. Fine pianos deserve regulation (adjustments for touch) and voicing (adjustments for tone quality and evenness) periodically 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 demonstration of how the piano works, though.
Don’t adjust the heating or cooling much within an hour of my arrival… I don’t want the piano temperature changing while tuning. Please remove your collections of photos and treasures from the piano 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 space around 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 accountants, there’s no official requirement for piano technicians. Wherever you live, I suggest choosing someone who has voluntarily passed all the entrance requirements to be a full RPT Piano Technicians Guild member: continued in training, who has earned the trust and respect of professional teachers, schools, and musicians for a long time. I have often followed up after poorly trained technicians, witnessing dirty, out of tune pianos that were just supposedly “tooned”. Paying again after getting the lowest price isn’t economical. Professional level piano service requires a trained, skilled, experienced, and ethical technician.
Q: What is the PTG (Piano Technicians Guild)?
A: The main professional organization for piano technicians. Tom is an active long time Registered Piano Technician (RPT). Most piano tuners are not. Read all about the PTG at their website: www.ptg.org
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 humblest 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 tune them. The old pump type, paper roll players are a complete specialty unto themselves, and very few are worth complete restoration.
Q: What areas will you travel to?
A: I spend most of my time working in the Monterey Peninsula area, serving all of Monterey 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/
Note: Valuation for IRS tax and legal purposes require a “certified appraiser” to make the report. Some tuners claim to give free appraisals, but they are casual and won’t stand up to legal scrutiny. I can make a detailed evaluation report of a piano and take photographs for a fee. I will refer you to Leon Holder, an out of state professional. My fee is typically $150-$200, while his is an additional $375 for the certified appraisal.