How I became a piano technician

My midlife change of course started with buying a beautiful used 7′-6” Kawai grand piano, shiny black finish and ivory keytops. It’s barely fits in my smallish living room, but it’s definitely worth it.

My piano tuner friend was pleased with it, and during one tuning session I got into a long conversation with him. Steve is a master of the art, and he loves to tune pianos. And he loves to talk about pianos. So rather than spend an hour and a half tuning the piano, he spent three hours tuning the piano and discussing every detail that came up and answering all my question.

At the end, I said, “Maybe I’d like to do this.” And he said, “You’d probably be good at it.” And so it began.

I bought a craigslist Baldwin console (medium-sized upright) as my first project. I worked through all the reconditioning and regulation (action adjustments) on it and tuned it. Steve came over a couple of times to consult and answer more questions, and charged a negligible fee for the service.

As I wrapped that job up and sold it, I asked if he had any shop work for me and said I’d be happy to work for free in exchange for the experience and training. Maybe you’re thinking “sweatshop”, Steve described it as a “real apprenticeship”. It’s cool. Let’s just say there was no work schedule, no deadlines, I came and went as I chose. And when customer jobs came up, I got paid.

And it worked. I brought a fair number of ailing pianos back to life, clearing up an inventory of old pianos that had accumulated in his shop—Steve likes tuning more than repairing. And I’ve discovered the world is full of free old pianos that nobody, including me, has the heart to send to the dump.

It’s been a great ride so far. I’ve got my own customer list now, and I enjoy going out and fixing up and tuning people’s pianos. Piano people are good people, and they’re so happy when their piano sounds good. Best job ever!