When graduating from high school, music was my main interest in life. Unfortunately, I had only grade six piano under my belt but did manage to pass the audition to attend the music program at Mohawk College. This was a difficult time for me, as most others had a greater knowledge of music. After two years, I acquired a grade ten Royal Conservatory of Music diploma.
From there, I decided to switch careers and pursue piano tuning service. It was a way that I could stay connected with the music business and was something I could excel at. I attended the piano technician program at George Brown College in Toronto. It was a two year program that involved tuning, regulating, repairing and rebuilding upright and grand pianos. I was taught by Ted Sambell, a highly respected piano technician, who tuned Glenn Gould’s piano at his apartment, and at the finest concert halls in Toronto. I graduated in 1984. This program taught me how to tune by ear, which is the most accurate method of tuning. Although I was able to perform a quality tuning, it was still taking about two hours to get the job done. I spent the next year in Markham, tuning Young Chang pianos for eight hours a day! It was mind numbing but was able to get my tuning time down to about an hour.
Piano tuning service requires a great deal of patience and integrity. During the process of tuning, checks must be made by comparing intervals and their speeds, to ensure that the tuning is correct. If these checks are not made, guesswork comes into play and the tuning quality will likely suffer. A high quality tuning should take about an hour, as it takes the time to sound the tuned strings and make comparisons with previously tuned strings. When they match, the tuning is correct. This process continues until approximately 220 strings are tuned.
Another aspect of tuning is known as “setting the pins”. This is the technique of tuning, where the string is pulled a little sharp and the key is given a heavy blow to lower the pitch into tune and to equalize the string tension throughout the string. At this point, the tuning pin torque is also equalized- not tending to go sharp or flat over time. The tuning pin is “settled” and the string will hold it’s tune.