Tuning or Tuning and service …There is a difference

written by Brian Wilson
27 9 16

I receive a number of inquiries that ask why do I say my services are different than other technicians. Is my Tuning and Overview service just a gimmick?

I have been advertising the Tuning and Overview service for just a little over a year now; some clients have been amazed with the changes in their instrument but others ask why do I take longer or why am I fiddling with the mechanism of their instrument, as they only asked me to tune it.

I look at myself as someone qualified to tune and service pianos, and I do get irritated listening to “advice” that a piano only needs tuning, or that I am just being fussy. I have been trained to be fussy and technicians are trained to solve problems.  I do care about the instrument that I am working on and I know that if I make an adjustment, it is to improve the performance of the instrument as well as to prevent premature wear.

So what is the difference?
Option A is to tune the strings as the client has requested, and ignore the performance of the action or to ignore the keys that either sound or feel different to their neighbours. Over time, the pedals will stop working, the interior will be dirty, and their piano will not be as enjoyable to play. The good thing with option A is that the technician can get out the door as fast as possible and go on to tune more pianos in the day. Yay! That’s what I call “Tune and go”

Option B is to appraise the instrument, tune and perform what is necessary to keep the piano sounding and performing as it should; advising the client of what is going on under the hood and to prolong the life of the instrument. Complete Piano Service is one phrase used, and it means to keep the instrument at its playing potential through effective maintenance. The good news is that once the instrument is performing well, it is easy to perform regular maintenance than to put it off for another day. My Tuning and Overview service is just that! A tuning and a maintenance program that is designed to keep the instrument in top order.

Here are a few examples of comparing “tune and go” to “tune and overview”:

I have been asked to tune an upright and the contracted pianists tells me the instrument is unplayable. I look inside the instrument and the previous technician had written dates on the keys when the instrument was tuned. Problem is that in the four months since the last tuning, there was seemed to have occurred, a significant loss of touch between the key and action (simply meaning that the key traveled nearly half its required distance before it engaged the hammer). Yes it was unplayable to the pianist. A screw at the back of the each key (capstan screw) needed adjusting so that the key and the hammer moved at the same time. A simple 5-10 minutes every year would have prevented this problem, and the pianist would not have been so frustrated. This loss of touch caused parts to  wear faster in the action so this too could have been prevented. Obviously no maintenance had been performed for a number of years.











There have been times when pedals didn’t work (especially left hand soft pedals) on frequently tuned pianos, yet pedal adjustment is relatively simple. Some of the new pianos have quite refined action set ups, and if these capstan screws are not regularly adjusted, the instrument will be difficult to control. The keys can become tight due to climate and this can make repetition difficult, or make the action feel heavier than it used to. There have been many times when I dismantle the interior only to find moths eating away at the felts.



Grand pianos are beautiful in appearance and a joy to play. I cannot walk away from servicing a grand piano if the interior is dirty. The build up of dust, eraser dust, pencils, hair clips, staples to mention just a few may not affect performance however the instrument just doesn’t look right. It is like getting your vehicle washed and interior vacuumed at the service centre. I have encountered many regularly tuned grands that the pedals hardly work, and my favourite is the soft pedal that has to be depressed all the way through its travel before the action shifts… or not shift. Then there is moth. Once a month I find an instrument that is moth infested and requires cleaning and then advising the client how to maintain the instrument. I know that the moth has not decided to move into the piano from its last tuning.IMG_0925

There have been clients that say to me that the instrument just does’t perform like it used to, and do they need to upgrade parts or even upgrade their instrument. Part replacement or upgrading can be an option and so is spending some time on the mechanism to regulate the action and voice the hammers. I enjoying receiving emails that say the client is now loving their instrument. Tuning simply just won’t fix these scenarios, I am not a piano whisperer… I am just a piano technician.

Everything must have a cost. Yes it does! I have decided to operate my tuning service as a set time on your instrument. My tuning and overview service for regularly maintained instruments is a two hour service on your instrument to tune perform as much maintenance in that time frame. The cost? The same or a little more than the tune and go tuners… and I spend more time on your instrument!

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