A piano sounds wonderful when properly tuned. However, the person responsible for that great sound doesn't always get recognised. Piano tuners generally work behind the scenes and have extremely rewarding careers due to the flexibility of potentially being their own boss. That's not to suggest it's an easy profession to enter. The skills needed to be a true professional can't be acquired without proper education, followed by testing your skills for registration. Here's how you can get started on that professional path.
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Test your hearing to make sure you possess at least average ability, if not above. Anything less will be detrimental in catching out-of-tune notes.
Make sure you have excellent dexterity in all five fingers since your job involves a number of exacting tasks, along with some minor keyboard playing as you test the pitch of each key. You don't really need to have musical ability, however, in order to succeed as a piano tuner or technician.
Check your physical fitness to see if you're able to sit, squat or lift for long periods of time. Tuning pianos involves assuming all three positions in varying degrees, depending on the type of piano being serviced.
Look into the various schooling opportunities available to learn the craft of piano tuning.
Be prepared to spend at least £7,150 (as of 2012) if you'll be studying piano tuning at an academic institution. Another option is correspondence courses, which cost as little as £650. Expect to spend at least two to five years learning your craft and practicing the art of piano tuning before becoming a professional.
Learn all the essentials you'll need as a piano tuner. This includes tuning theory and procedures, how piano parts work, action and tone regulation, plus the history and design of the piano.
As you progress in the profession, it is helpful to acquire knowledge in more advanced skills, such as tuning specialised pianos or concert hall tuning. These specialities are taught strictly in academic settings and should be considered if you want to take your piano tuning business to a higher level.
Obtain registration as a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) through the Piano Technicians Guild. This title allows you to officially declare yourself a professional piano tuner. Become a member of the Piano Technicians Guild (see Resource 2) and schedule appointments for various tests to obtain your official registration. You can still be a member of the PTG and declare yourself an Associate. That means you're still studying to obtain eventual registration.
Although many music stores and universities employ piano tuners, many piano tuners work for themselves. It's important, therefore, to study self-employment business techniques. Acquire the necessary tools of the trade, including tuning hammers and forks, torque wrenches, digital calipers, tuning pins and punches, string lifters and spacers, bearing check gauges and digital tuners (see Resource 3).
Market your business by advertising in local newspapers. Expect your start-up capital to be at least several thousand dollars. Your salary, however, will pick up after the first several years. You can expect to make anywhere from £22,750 to £48,750 per year as a piano tuner.
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