Piano tuners maintain and tune pianos by loosening or tightening strings with a tuning hammer, to achieve the correct pitch and balance. In order to obtain the correct touch, piano tuners need to adjust moving parts. They may also perform mechanical repairs and restoration work on pianos.
Piano tuners perform minor repairs such as replacing broken or worn strings, and also major repairs such as recovering keyboards, replacing wooden bridges and rearranging components. Piano tuners adjust the pedal action assembly on keyboards after testing and assessing pianos for restoration. A piano tuner may also repair barrel organs and service accordions.
Before a piano tuner can perform the actual tuning, it is necessary to determine whether the instrument needs any mechanical repair:
- the felt-cover hammers can wear out or reproduce bad sound quality, they need to be replaced or scoured off
- the tuning pins to which the strings are attached sometimes have to be replaced with a thicker set ? piano keys need to be bleached or treated to regain the original colour
- when one of the steel strings breaks, it has to be replaced.
After the piano is cleaned and repaired, the actual tuning can start. Tuning-forks, hammers and felt wedges, which are pressed between the strings, are used. When piano keys are struck, felt-covered hammers strike steel strings in the piano, which cause the strings to vibrate. The number of times that the string vibrates per second is called the pitch.
Piano tuners adjust piano strings to the proper pitch by using tuning forks. A steel pin is turned to tighten or loosen the string until its pitch matches that of the tuning fork. First the pitch of the ‘A’ string is adjusted and then the pitch of each of the other strings is adjusted in relation to the ‘A’ string.
A piano is a very complex instrument. It contains about two hundred and thirty strings, eighty-eight keys and more than four thousand working parts, depending on the size and model.
There are two types of pianos - the upright piano and the grand piano. The largest concert-type grand piano has the longest string, which is about two hundred centimetres long, while the shortest is approximately five centimetres long. Strings are tightly stretched and exert a pull of more than ten thousand kilograms in the frame to which they are attached.
- at least 16 years old
- good musical ability and tonal discrimination
- good hearing
- able to concentrate while tuning the piano
- patience and determination
- finger and manual dexterity
- present a neat, well-groomed appearance
How to Enter
Schooling & School Subjects
- Grade 10 Certificate.
- National Senior Certificate is preferable
What to Study
The only comprehensive and formal training in South Africa is the diploma course offered by the Department of National Education, at the Pioneer School for the Blind in Worcester.
Only blind and partially sighted persons are considered. Strict selection procedures have to be undertaken. Although the ability to play the piano is useful it is not essential.
Note: Sighted persons can only be trained as piano tuners overseas. An experienced piano tuner may provide in-service training.
- piano repair shops
- music dealers
- piano manufacturers
- provincial administrations
- self-employment, with the necessary experience, can start own business
20 Adderley Street
Tel: (023) 347-2745
S A Association of Professional Piano Tuners
36 Jeanette Street
Tel: (021) 981-5551
- try to obtain vacation or part-time work at a musical shop
- arrange to speak to a piano tuner about this type of career