What is a Registered Piano Technician (RPT)?

There are two levels of membership in the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG).

A Registered Piano Technician (RPT) has voluntarily taken and passed a series of rigorous examinations, demonstrating competence in the tuning, maintenance, repair, and regulation of pianos. The Piano Technicians Guild sets high standards and administers these comprehensive examinations in order to ensure that technicians with the RPT designation are equipped to offer high quality piano service to clients who are interested in hiring professionals at the top of their field.An associate member has not passed these exams. In some cases they may be working toward taking them.

Why should I hire a Registered Piano Technician (RPT)?

The piano service trade is unique in many respects. The one that affects you most as a consumer is the fact that it is an unregulated trade. This means that literally anyone can list his or her name in the phone book or on the internet as a piano tuner or technician. Consequently, competence levels among tradesmen in this industry vary widely. Some do excellent work, while others actually do more harm than good.The Registered Piano Technician examination process, administered by the Piano Technicians Guild, is currently the only comprehensive and objective assessment of a piano technician’s skills. Consequently, when hiring a Registered Piano Technician, you can be confident that he or she has the necessary training and skills to provide you with the highest quality service for your piano. Also, when you hire a Registered Piano Technician, you can be confident that you will be working with someone who will abide by the highest code of ethical conduct.

What types of pianos do you service?

We service acoustic pianos of nearly every type and make. This includes grands of all sizes, full-size uprights, studio uprights, consoles, and spinets. We are sorry, but we do not service electronic instruments such as digital “pianos,” organs, and electronic keyboards.

How much will it cost to have my piano tuned?

Our basic tuning charge is $155. Along with the tuning, we also check and adjust pedals, tighten accessible pinblock bolts (and rim bolts in grands), tighten bench bolts, clean the keys, and screen the piano for additional service needs. If your piano has not been serviced regularly, or if it has been exposed to extreme environmental conditions, it may need an additional service called a pitch adjustment. Our standard pitch adjustment charge is $55 and covers pitch changes up to just under a quarter semi-tone. It is typical for pianos that have been neglected for an extended period to be a quarter semi-tone or more off pitch. In these extreme situations, the pitch adjustment charge rises incrementally from a minimum of $70 to a maximum of $150, depending on the severity of the pitch change that is needed. Also please be aware that a piano that needs an extreme pitch adjustment will require a follow-up tuning in one month in order to stabilize the piano at the new pitch level.

What forms of payment do you accept?

Payment can be made by cash, check, and credit or debit card. Please note that there is a 5% surcharge for payments made by credit or debit card.

What days are available for scheduling appointments?

We schedule appointments Monday through Friday, excluding major holidays. Because we stay quite busy, new clients should expect a wait time of two to four weeks. Of course, appointments do occasionally get cancelled or rescheduled. So if you need to have your piano serviced right away, please call us to inquire about scheduling availability.

Is it possible to schedule an evening or weekend appointment?

No. We are sorry, but evening and weekend appointments are not available.

Do you offer any discounts?

We offer a $5 Multiple Piano Discount when we service more than one piano at the same location and in the same appointment. This discount applies to all but the first piano serviced.

I’ve called some piano tuners and noticed that prices vary considerably. Why is this?

There are wide variations in quality, training, and experience in the piano service trade. The ability to produce a professional quality tuning that holds for an extended period of time is something that requires years of training, practice, and experience. Most piano tuners know what their work is worth, and charge accordingly. With few exceptions, you will find that those charging the higher tuning rates are Registered Piano Technician members of the Piano Technicians Guild. These are craftsmen who have received the very best training, and are in a position to offer a higher level of service to their clients.

How long will it take for you to tune my piano?

Most tuning service calls take between 1.5 and 2 hours. Repairs and other work, when needed, will require additional time.

Is it really necessary to adjust my piano’s pitch?

Yes, it is. Consider the following facts:

  • Your piano was designed to sound its best when tuned to the international standard of A=440 hz. At this pitch, power and tonal range are optimized, and your piano will match the pitch of other instruments.
  • The structural components of your piano were designed to bear a combined load of approximately 40,000 pounds. When the piano’s pitch is allowed to sag, this load weakens, and the structural integrity of the piano is compromised.
  • It is especially important, if children are listening to the piano, that it be tuned to pitch. Children begin to develop their sense of pitch at a very early age.
I’ve heard that strings will break if a piano is raised to pitch. Is this true?

Actually, string breakage during tunings and pitch adjustments is rare. However, it does happen from time to time. One of the biggest factors that can lead to string breakage is heavy rust on the strings. The more rust that is present is on the strings, the higher the risk of breakage. Another risk factor is loss of elasticity in aging piano wire. The older the piano wire, the higher the risk of string breakage. These risk factors are compounded in pianos with high tension scales.If when we service your piano we sense a higher than normal risk of string breakage, we will bring this to your attention. Should strings break in the course of tuning or pitch adjusting your piano, additional repair costs will be unavoidable.

Can’t you adjust pitch and tune the piano at the same time?

A common question is “Why is a separate pitch adjustment necessary?” It is impossible to raise the piano’s pitch, and do an accurate tuning, all in one step.Here’s why. When a piano’s pitch is raised, increased tension is introduced not only in the strings, but also in the load-bearing structure of the piano. Tightening one string causes that string to pull harder on the plate and frame, which causes the plate and frame to flex a little. As the plate and frame flex, neighboring strings lose tension and their pitch drops.The end result is that as each string is raised to pitch, the added load causes previously tuned strings to change, making it impossible to achieve a fine, accurate tuning in a single step. A pitch adjustment is a fast, carefully calculated tuning that when completed leaves each string so close to its final setting that only small changes are needed. These small changes, performed in the fine tuning, are so small that they do not disturb the tuning of neighboring strings.

Is there anything else I should know about pitch adjustments?

Yes. After an extreme pitch adjustment (a pitch change of a quarter of a note or more), you should not expect the piano to be in perfect tune when our technician is finished. What you hear will be a vast improvement, but it will be a bit rough. Realize that the pitch adjustment completely upset the apple cart, introducing a high degree of instability into the piano. Starting immediately, and continuing over the next several weeks, this instability will work itself out as the piano settles.This is why we recommend, following an extreme pitch adjustment, that the piano receive a follow-up tuning in one month. When he returns for the follow-up tuning, our technician will be able to tune your piano with much greater precision.

How often should my piano be serviced?

That depends on how much use the piano receives. In our temperate Southern California climate, most pianos that receive light to moderate (normal) use should be tuned every six months. This is, in fact, what most piano manufacturers recommend.If your piano is subjected to extreme environmental conditions or use demands, it may be necessary to service it more frequently than this.

My piano sounds good to me. Should I still have it tuned?

Yes, you should still have your piano tuned even if it doesn’t sound out of tune to you. Your piano will sound its best, and the tuning will remain more stable, if it is serviced on a regular, recurring basis. For most people, if they wait until their piano sounds like it needs to be tuned, they will have waited too long. The piano needs to be tuned again before it loses its tuning “memory” or the next tuning will not be as stable.

What if my piano seldom or never gets played? Should it still be tuned?

Yes. The structural components of your piano were designed to bear a combined load of approximately 40,000 pounds. When this load is allowed to weaken through neglect, the structural integrity of the piano is compromised. For this reason, we advise our clients in this situation to have their pianos serviced at least once a year.

I have my piano tuned often. Is this harmful to the piano?

No. Your piano can be tuned as often as you like. Frequent tunings will not harm the piano as long as proper tuning techniques are used.

Should I have my piano tuned after moving it?

If you’re only moving the piano across the room, probably not. If you’re moving it across town, probably yes. If you’re moving it across the country, definitely yes. If the piano has been handled properly during the moving process, it will be affected less by the move itself than by environmental changes that it encounters in transit. Because it will take some time for the piano to acclimate to its new environment, it is a good idea to wait three to four weeks after a long distance move before having it tuned.

When is the best time to have my piano tuned?

There is no compelling evidence to suggest that any particular time of the year is better than any other for tuning a piano, especially if the piano is in a stable environment. The important thing is that you have your piano tuned on a regular, recurring basis, at least once a year

Why do pianos go out of tune?

There are two reasons why pianos go out of tune. First, there is the natural tendency of piano wire to stretch over time. This is especially true of new pianos, and also the reason why piano manufacturers recommend that new pianos be tuned at least four times in the first year. But this is not the biggest reason why pianos go out of tune.As surprising as it may sound, the biggest reason why pianos go out of tune is changes in relative humidity. As relative humidity increases, the soundboard absorbs moisture and expands. But because the soundboard is held securely at its outer edges, the only direction it can move is upward (in a grand) or outward (in an upright) toward the strings. As the soundboard moves upward or outward, the bridges which are attached to the soundboard, and over which the strings pass, move with it. This upward/outward movement of the soundboard and bridges increases the string tension and causes the pitch of the piano to rise.The exact opposite occurs when relative humidity decreases. The soundboard shrinks, causing the soundboard and bridges to move away from the strings, lowering both string tension and the pitch of the piano.Now, if these changes happened evenly throughout the piano, there would be no problem. The pitch of the entire piano would change in equal amounts, and the piano would still be in tune with itself. Unfortunately, this is not what happens. Certain parts of the soundboard are more flexible and move more than other parts, causing some strings to move more than others and throwing the whole piano out of tune.

What can be done to prevent my piano from going out of tune when the weather changes?

Yes. A Dampp-Chaser Piano Lifesaver Humidity Control System installed in your piano will create a stable microclimate inside the piano, keeping the piano at a constant 45% relative humidity, plus or minus 5%, year round. It’s important to realize that a humidity control system will not eliminate the need to have your piano tuned the recommended number of times each year. (Remember, strings still stretch.) But it will prevent your piano from going horribly out of tune every time the weather changes. For more information about humidity control and your piano, please visit our Humidity Control page.

What else, besides tuning, is included in a tuning service call?

Your piano needs more than just to be tuned. This is why with every tuning service call we also check and adjust pedals, tighten pinblock bolts (and rim bolts in grands), tighten bench bolts, clean the keys, and screen for additional service needs, all at no additional charge.

Do you do free estimates for repairs and other work?

When you hire us to perform a tuning service call ($135), as a part of that service call we will be happy to prepare, at no additional charge, a written estimate for any repairs that may be needed.

What if I don’t want to have my piano tuned? Will you just do repairs?

Yes. However a $135 minimum charge will apply. This charge covers travel within our service area and up to 90 minutes onsite. Additional time will be billed at the normal hourly rate.

I’ve heard that a piano should not be placed next to an outside wall. Is this true?

This used to be true back in the days when homes were not well insulated. These days, however, if you live in a modern home, this is not something that you need to worry about.Here are some things that you should keep in mind when looking for that perfect place for your piano: Your piano should not be exposed to direct sunlight. If it does receive direct sunlight, you should either cover the offending window or move the piano to a different location. Your piano should be located away from heating and cooling vents. At the very least, air flow should be directed away from the piano.• Although this is not as critical in our area as it is in some other parts of the country, it would be best if the piano was not located near an outside door, especially if you like to leave the door open for air circulation.