Piano tuners are responsible for the care and musical maintenance of pianos.
Musicians of all kinds use pianos for composition, accompaniment, or enjoyment. Nothing can halt a musical experience as quickly as an out of tune piano, especially in vocal, choral, or ensemble settings where musicians rely on the pianist for an accurate starting note. Pianos are larger and more complex than many other instruments, with an array of specialized parts, pieces, and mechanisms that must all work together seamlessly to produce the right tones. Expert piano tuners and technicians use their expert knowledge of pianos to help keep them in good condition. They are often musicians themselves, with a precise sense of pitch and a delicate touch.
Since piano tuning is fairly solitary work, it can be a fantastic option for those who prefer music to small talk; however, maintaining a client network is the key to success, so it's not a job entirely without human interaction. It does call for a lot of specialized knowledge; piano tuners must know the anatomy of the instrument like the back of their hand and know how to use an array of specialized tools like treble mutes and tuning hammers. It's also important to understand how an instrument can be affected by its environment, and piano technicians must account for changes in temperature and humidity in their work. Some technicians specialize in tuning other large instruments that require specialty care, such as harpsichords or organs.
Work as a piano tuner may include...
- Using instruments such as a tuning fork to determine precise notes
- Traveling to various clients
- Restoring or repairing pianos
- Identifying the cause of a bad note
- Maintaining relationships with clients
Most piano technicians are self-employed and work independently, though some are employed by piano repair companies or specific music institutions. Since pianos are so large and delicate, piano tuners and technicians usually travel to each piano's location to work. A tuner's day could take them all over town, from one client to the next. Some institutions, such as schools, piano showrooms, or conservatories, have multiple pianos that a technician needs to service regularly, and tend to have a professional on hand. Concert halls and live venues in particular require frequent piano tuning, which may be carried out by a staff tuner or a touring technician who accompanies a performer on a live tour.
There is no standard educational requirement for becoming a piano tuner, but the majority are trained professionals with a musical background. It also helps to have some understanding of woodworking or carpentry, which are essential skills for many piano repairs. Most technical training takes the form of an apprenticeship, typically a two to five year period of time where aspiring piano tuners learn the trade under the guidance of a more experienced mentor. Completing an apprenticeship or training program like this usually comes with an opportunity to become a certified piano technician who can take clients of their own.
If you're patient and precise, with an ear for music and a strong work ethic, you might find fulfillment and purpose in a career as a piano tuner.
The Piano Technicians Guild is the authority on becoming a certified, professional piano tuner.