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48. Piano Tuner- How do I Become One?

In our Online Catalog offer Tuning Meters tested on site and approved by Steve Van Nattan in his piano tuning trade.
ALSO, two Tool Kits are available from us, as well as all the other tools you may need.

Happy customers from Australia to Kansas to the UK!

Piano tuning has been a good trade for me, and I thank the Lord for it. I think it will be good here to stick to the philosophical considerations. Appendix One (only on the CD we sell) will be your next stop if you are sure you want to tune pianos. Try out the techniques I have given there, and if you still think you should tune pianos, blessings on you.

First, let's look at the reasons why
you should NOT become a piano tuner

1. If you cannot work alone and concentrate for long periods, you cannot be a piano tuner. If you use alcohol, crack, or weed, forget it. One large US city has a bunch of professional tuners who all have an alcohol problem, and they hate pianos and rip off their customers to buy booze. There are only about 4000 tuners in the country. You will not be part of any big association, and there will be no invitations to clubs.

2. Piano tuning is a trade where you can make some good money if you work hard at it and advertise. But, you will never become rich. It is a one-man show, and you cannot expand by hiring all your friends to work under you and build a company, etc. Ain't no such thang honey.

3. Ladies-- Keep out. To keep yourself well employed, you will have to enter homes and work areas where you could be easily set up by strange men. You can complain all you want about how nasty they are, but you can't force your way into this trade without peril. There is no ACLU in private homes. Sorry.

I have had a couple of times where I was set up. A sodomite once booked a tuning, and after I got into his home, I realized I was stuck between a panting nerd in a tank top and paten leather slippers on one side and a very big dog on the other. Doggy was merciful, as was the Lord, and I escaped. Imagine yourself in the same place, but the sex maniac  is a 250 pound good old boy. Don't say I didn't warn you.

4. Piano tuning is bound to slow down over the coming years. There are folks who will never tolerate the electronic piano, and they will give us tuners business. But, there are people who will buy the electronic twangers because they are thrilled with bells and whistles and because the salesman tells them they will never have to tune the thing.

These jerk salesmen never tell the buyer what it will cost to have the electronic wonder repaired when it does go on the fritz. One customer recently told me that their electronic piano had to be sent back to the factory at great expense to be repaired. I have heard several real horror stories. Anyway, new acoustical piano sales seem to be doomed to slow down from now on, so you may have to struggle to be fully employed.

5. You will have no one to give you a vacation, and all benefits will have to be earned by YOU. If you are not secure in this way of employment, get a job working FOR someone.

6. There is very little help getting started. Many tuners are threatened by new tuners, and rightly so. Why should a man help you start in a trade that may barely be sustaining him. I cannot believe how naive some folks are. There are courses at trade schools and colleges, but that means money invested and time to stop everything and study.

7. Pianos don't HAVE to be tuned. If the plumbing goes out, people HAVE to call the plumber. If the stock market crashes, or the banks close, you will be one of the first choices to be put off until life returns to normal. This goes for January also. I hate Christmas with a passion. Everyone is broke for two months afterward. Besides, Jesus wasn't born on December 25th anyway.

8. Getting started and known is difficult and involves a lot of advertising. Before you are having a positive cash flow, you may have to spend $4000 or more in advertising. You are not doing a job that is visible in the community like lawn care or house painting. Word of mouth will eventually keep you busy, but the time until it does can run to three years or more. Add the cost also of an (800) phone number to break in on existing competition, and a pager and cell phone will help somewhat.

9. Lastly, if you are not a perfectionist and eager to give people a fair deal, this trade will kill you early. The honest and fair tuners in your area will make you look like the jerk you are. Piano tuning work ethics are rather old fashioned, and we like it that way.

10. Piano owners often draw their tuner into their personal confidence. If you don't like to listen to sweet little ladies tell you about the good old days, and if you cannot keep confidences, you will hate this trade.

You will also have to have your libido under control. There may be opportunities to play the fool and destroy your marriage, while, on the other hand, if you play the hustler just one time in the wrong home, your whole trade could disappear by word of mouth. Go work for GM or something.

Now, here are the reasons to become a piano tuner

1. You are your own boss. In these uncertain days, it is good to have employment in which no one person can fire you. You may lose one customer, even by your own stupidity, but you still have the rest.

2. Tuning keeps you in the homes of caring folks. Potheads and winos still have to call plumbers, but people who have their  pianos tuned are usually not the low lifes of the community. They are often generous to their tuner. I have been blessed to be a bunch of kids alternate "uncle." If you like this kind of relationship with your customers, piano tuning is second to none for personal friendships. In Nogales all the little ladies would beg me to bring my wife so they could trade recipes and gossip.

3. Tuning is fun if you like to see new homes and be mobile. You will not get bored easily. I have been some very sumptuous mansions and dude ranches in Arizona. The very rich are beyond snobbery as a rule, and they can be very loyal friends.

4. Piano tuning requires a very low investment for tools of the trade and inventory as compared to other trades. Still, you should count on a $2000 minimum investment, spread over about six months.  Advertising is over and above that figure. The Yellow Pages is absolutely essential.

5. Piano tuning can be carried on out of your home. You don't need a store or office elsewhere. In fact, no one needs to know what you do in your neighborhood. Also, you can set your own hours to a large degree.

6. There are generally not enough tuners in the country. But, be careful to choose an area or community where there is a tuner shortage, or follow a retiring tuner. If there are enough tuners in your community, target the country side away from town where the tuners don't want to go.

7. There is NO government regulation of piano tuning. There are no OSHA stickers on pianos, and there is no one who can butt in and tell you where to put your left foot. There is no "bonding" or license to tune pianos.  This is a very nice benefit of the trade. Also, most states do not yet require service people to collect sales tax.

8. You do not need to be able to play the piano. It's nice to know how, but tuning has to do only with the mechanics of sound and the regulation of the instrument.  If you do well, you WILL be asked to be on hand at concerts-- even be paid to sit in on some very good music.

9. If you are willing to travel to small towns, you will find that there are vast areas of the country where tuners refuse to go. This means there are areas that can be opened and belong to you exclusively. It is a sort of frontier concept, which is rare these days.

There you are

You figure it out. I can discuss this with you by E-Mail. If you are going to make it as a tuner, you will HAVE to find a friendly experienced tuner near you who will mentor you. When you find this fellow, do exactly what he tells you. Never disagree with him to his face. The tuning trade is still a close knit environment, so you must be careful to make friends within the trade and maintain them without offense. Competition must be developed without the usual American cut throat methods.

I have had a local tuner attack my trade as I started up in my area, and other professionals have seen it. They have mildly turned against him for his unprofessional behavior. Actually, he is probably a pretty good tuner-- just a bit arrogant.

I am glad I am a piano tuner, but I cannot tell if you should be a one. It is not as easy a trade as it might seem, but we have had a good number of people learn to tune pianos using our tool kits and our Tutorial Sections in Appendix One. If you have watched a piano tuner at work, and it looks easy, he has done one of the first things all piano tuning courses tell us-- "don't let the customer in on the mystery of the profession." So, if you want to be a piano tuner, go ahead. The first efforts will be frustrating, but the rewards are an eventuality.

On to task 49