How to Help Your Technician Do His Job
There are several things you can do to make the technician's visit faster, easier and in the process receive a higher quality tuning:
Noise is by far the worst enemy of piano tuners. When a tuner tunes, he listens to very high frequencies, most untrained ears are not even aware of, called overtones. Anything else that produces these high frequencies, such as music, television, running water, vacuum cleaners, clanking dishes, yelling children and loud talking, makes it much more difficult to tune accurately. The technician can still tune a piano through all of this, but it will take longer and be a poorer quality tuning.
Adequate Light in the area of the piano is greatly appreciated, as it can be difficult to make proper repairs without good lighting.
Clearing off the top of the piano before the tuner's visit is also greatly appreciated. The top must be cleared so the tuner can open the lid and get into the piano to tune. Not only does this save time, but technicians are always fearful that they may break some knickknack of importance if they have to move them.
Consistent humidity about 35 to 45%, as discussed earlier, will make the piano more stable and it will not go as far out of tune between tunings. Each time the technician returns, he will be able to achieve a more detailed, higher quality, more stable tuning, because the piano will not have fluctuated as much.
Identifying problem notes can be a problem, because that sticky key that had been sticking for months isn't sticking when the technician arrives (of course!). It's a law of nature; just like the squeaky brakes that don't squeak once you finally get the car into the shop for service.
The best thing to do when there is a problem key, is to write down the number of the particular key(s) in question on a piece of paper. Also, note the problem with each key, and put the paper in the piano bench until the technician arrives. He/she will then know exactly which key to look at during the next service call.
Missed appointments can be very exasperating for technicians, because they schedule their appointments very tightly together and often drive large distances only to find no one home.
If a cancellation or postponement of an appointment is unavoidable, it is a good idea to give at least twenty-four hours notice. If even that is not possible, it should be expected that there will be a minimum service call fee, even if there was a good reason to cancel.
If there is a complaint or question about the work that was done on a piano, the best thing to do is go to the source; call the technician and consult him. He will probably want to know about it, rather than wonder why he never heard from you again. Usually complaints revolve around failed communication between technician and customer, as they sometimes have different ways of saying the same thing. A "wobbly note" to the pianist may be "insufficient aftertouch" or an "out of tune unison" to the technician. In any case, the technician would rather talk to you and/or make another appointment to rectify the problem, than lose you as a customer.
The Piano Technician
It is usually best to use a piano technician, as opposed to a piano tuner. The difference is that the technician not only tunes, but also understands the maintenance, repair, regulation and voicing of pianos and is able to carry out these services, as well as tuning.
Whereas a few tuners are hobbyists, most are professionals and support themselves and their families solely as piano technicians. It can take three years or more to become adept at piano tuning and maintenance, and several years beyond that to build up enough clientele for a business. Many people do not realize the level of skill involved in doing a fine piano tuning, which is why many consider piano tuners "unseen artists".
There is no licensing for piano technicians. Anyone can say they're a tuner, and hang out a shingle. The best way to find a qualified technician is by referral from a piano store, pianist, teacher or friend. The other way is to seek out a registered member of the Piano Technician's Guild (explained in more detail below). Of course, if you just bought a piano from a store, the technician who first serviced your piano after delivery hopes to keep your business for many years to come; so if you are happy with him / her, you need look no further.
The Piano Technician's Guild
The P.T.G. is an international, non-profit organization of piano tuner / technicians, who meet regularly to learn more about their craft from each other.
The guild also offers testing for its members to set standards and prove competency in tuning, repair and regulation. There are three rigorous and comprehensive tests, which when passed, entitles the member to use the title of Registered Piano Technician or R.P.T. Only R.P.T.s' are entitled to use the logo displayed below, and if you see these logos, you can be assured of a qualified technician, who has passed these examinations.