Robert Estrin - piano expert

What Is the Life of a Piano Tuner Like?

Interesting insights from a piano tuner's standpoint

In this video, Robert interviews David Hayes, a professional piano tuner. Learn the secrets and insights of a piano technician's life.

Released on June 17, 2020

    
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Robnert Estrin:
Hi and welcome to livingpianos.com. I'm Robert Estrin, and today's question is what does it like to be a piano tuner? The life of a piano tuner. And we have a real live piano technician with us today, David Hayes, who's been doing this for 20 years, and I thought we'd get some perspective. And before we talk, David, I want everybody to learn more about what you do. But there's a tremendous range that piano technicians cover, from concert technicians. Sometimes you meet piano technicians and they've met with the stars, the` elite, and then there's people who work in stores or all sorts of piano technicians. So it's a really wide range. So tell us a little bit, how did you get into this field?

David Hayes:
I got into it. I walked into a piano store at 15 years old, and I was just mesmerized with it. People rebuilding pianos, working on piano scores. Of course, I didn't get to do that. At 15, I got to sweep the floor. So I started working on pianos at 15. It was the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Robnert Estrin:
Wow.

David Hayes:
And you're right, there's a huge range of what technicians can do, whether they're an on staff university tech, they're a technician that work at stores. Still work in-house on several piano technicians that work solely in the store. And then there's folks like myself. I really like the variety, so I like to do a little bit of everything. So I was doing stuff at concert halls, doing stuff at stores. But the thing that I really absolutely love and I do this to this day, I love going to customers' houses and making their piano magical again. I love it.

Robnert Estrin:
That's great. Of course, you also are an instructor with the Piano Technician Academy. You have a lot of people who want to get into the field. And it's an interesting thing, because we sell pianos all over the world, and after we sell pianos, we find piano technicians generally from the Piano Technicians Guild to service the pianos. And there are some areas where tuners have a six month backlog. There's such demand. So I would think, and correct me if I'm wrong, that somebody who's got even a basic skillset of piano tuning, if they move to the right area, boom, they could just put their business on Yelp and Google and have work from day one. Is that accurate?

David Hayes:
It kind of is, to be honest with you. Everyone knows that there's demand in the trades, plumbers, electricians. Magnify that by 100 for piano craftsmen and piano technicians. There's just not a lot of new blood coming into the industry. And so we found that you're right, these established technicians are booked out six months, months and months for sure. And so we find that our students, after they're graduating the Piano Technician Academy, once they have the tools and the knowledge, they're ready to go.

Robnert Estrin:
Exactly.

David Hayes:
And they're making a living doing this wonderful work and it's just infectious how fun it is. And they're their own bosses. They get to make their own hours. They get to have the freedom that not a lot of careers give you, and they have that.

Robnert Estrin:
And a lot of people might not realize how many used pianos are out there that need work. We know because every single day we get web forums of people who want to sell their pianos and sadly, most of them need work that it makes them not necessarily a good candidate. Yeah, but boy, there's a tremendous amount of work out there right there. The flip side of that is there's a real shortage of really high-end technicians. Like for somebody like myself, when I sit down at a piano, it's got to perform at a high level. That's a whole other subject for another video by the way, which we'll get into, but very, very few concert level technicians, which is a whole other skillset, and to get to that point takes years and years, and I don't even know for tuners out there who already are tuning, but how do they take their skill level up to that level?

David Hayes:
One of the biggest things, and I kind of had to go at that route because I didn't have a lot of technicians that were older that wanted to spend the amount of time it takes to kind of train their competition. And so what I did is I surrounded myself by really high-end players and the demands that they had are just, there's no room for error. And so it would just be me really donating my time and saying, how's this? What do you think of this key dip? What do you think of this base section? Do you want me to? And so it was years and years of just slowly understanding what high-end piano players want, and then that becoming my language.

David Hayes:
And so it really goes back to the old model of how piano technicians have learned their craft through generations, which is mentorships. Of course, if you can find the right person that is golden.

David Hayes:
Oh, yeah.

Robnert Estrin:
But just to get your feet wet where a piano technician even can use you for anything useful, you have to have a certain level of skills. And I think that's where the Piano Technician Academy comes in, huh?

David Hayes:
Exactly. And at the end of the day, a lot of people that are in this field that are established technicians, they wouldn't mind passing on some of the information and helping mentor somebody. But to mentor somebody from the ground up is such a hill to climb.

Robnert Estrin:
Right, right.

David Hayes:
And so we are excited because the amount of content that people are learning through the Piano Technician Academy gets them that foundation and baseline that now they can say, "Oh Mr. Whoever, you're a piano technician, this is what I know so far." And those established technicians are excited to then have somebody that they can now mentor that they don't have to start from the very, ground technician.

Robnert Estrin:
Exactly. Well, hopefully this could be a perfect time for a lot of people who might have time on their hands to learn a new craft or just to learn more about piano technology. Man, it's great talking with me. We're going to do a lot more of these videos people. I think people would be fascinated. The life of a piano technician. You get to meet a lot of people, travel. You can live anywhere. There's a whole lot of pluses on it. If I wasn't already a concert pianist-

David Hayes:
You'd be a perfect piano technician.

Robnert Estrin:
Exactly. Anyway, thanks for joining us. Once again, I'm Robert Estrin here at livingpianos.com, your online piano store. Subscribe if you haven't already and we'll see you next time. Thanks for joining us.
Find the original source of this video at this link: https://livingpianos.com/what-is-the-life-of-a-piano-tuner/
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Wendy on June 17, 2020 @6:46 am PST
I've been playing the piano for 73 years, and have always appreciated the piano technicians who took great care of my 1929 baby grand Steinway with original soundboard. This interview was just wonderful. Yes...I would love more particularly if you get someone to get inside the piano and actually show the techniques and effects of regulating the sound and touch. (Please do not use my name or email address)
reply
Robert Estrin on June 17, 2020 @12:50 pm PST
There are many new videos coming. Thanks for your feedback - we appreciate it!
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