Am I expecting too much from my piano Tuner?

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NewAge
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Am I expecting too much from my piano Tuner?

Post by NewAge » 30 Jan 2012, 13:39

Just had my Sauter tuned, and very pleased (brought up from 439 to 440). Last tuning was May 2011 and I had originally planned to have 2 tunings/year, although since the aftermarket installation of a Dampp-Chaser in 2010, the piano is (to my ears) now very stable.
During this last visit of the tuner I was a little surprised that the lower access panel was not removed for a quick inspection, at least to check for ingress of dust/debris, and for a eventual quick vacuum. (When I was a young kid I remember our tuner at the time used to perform a vacuum clean at specific intervals - although cannot remember what these frequencies were).
To be fair to the tuner, he knows the piano was new in 2008, and it was he who installed the Dampp-Chaser in 2010 so perhaps thought a check/clean for debris was not really required. However:
i) He knows we own a dog (always locked in the kitchen when he's tuning), and the presence of animals is a known source of debris/hair loss etc.
ii) He always gets good coffee together with the trimmings, Hobnobs etc.
iii) He always finds time for a 10min or so 'musical chat', discuss technical aspects etc, so lack of time is rarely an issue.

The day after his departure I opened the lower panel myself, and noted that a layer of dust was present especially along the lower ribs of the frame, and in the bottom of the cabinet. This cleaning of course I could perform myself with care.

Am I expecting too much to think that this cleaning should be done periodically by the tuner? If so, at what frequencies do you perform this with your regular clients?
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 30 Jan 2012, 15:21

Good point you have raised there.

This sort of "extra cleaning & vacuuming" service is always available to my customers - depending on whether they have a contract with me or not. Although its a 'light way' of charging a little extra, I always offer a "clean/ brush & vac" after maybe their 2nd or 3rd tuning (after making a note in my diary for the reminder). However in most instances, some customers are embarrassed to ask "will it cost more?" .... so they say.... "Oh, just the tuning will do" !!

I wouldn't really class a tuning combined with a vac aswell - and argueably, if they get the vac out, then the job should be done properly.... and charged appropriately - as extra labour is involved... hence, removing the keys to vac underneath (will be several doggy hairs there aswell) - vac the key frame/ back touch aswell.... and also remove the action, take it outside (on a nice day) - and bellow out any dust.

I occasionally offer this service - put as a complete package. Therefore if your tuner starts to remove various panels/ keys etc without your consent.... then maybe the customer thinks.... "whats he after now" ?? !!

So perhaps it's not such a bad thing - I see what you mean - and maybe next time your tuner calls - and less time on tuning (depending on if you are charged per job or per the hour).... I would just have a word with him prior to his call.

When I was a kid, I never once saw my piano tuner with his Dyson - even at schools, however if my punters enter into a six-monthly contract, its part of the service - a full tuning/ vac/ tidy up regulation/ keys cleaned.... and depending on the wood finish, a quick dust over & polish.... it does look good, and more professional.

I tune a U3 regularly - they have 2 dogs.... 2nd visit is the vac, however sometimes the punter is in a rush to get out - shopping! .... and "how long are you going to be?" I am asked.... so I sometimes quietly just leave the vac in the boot of the car!

I think it all depends on what "service" you require, on the day. ??
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Model V » 30 Jan 2012, 16:12

NewAge wrote:….it was he who installed the Dampp-Chaser in 2010 so perhaps thought a check/clean for debris was not really required. However:
i) He knows we own a dog (always locked in the kitchen when he's tuning), and the presence of animals is a known source of debris/hair loss etc.
ii) He always gets good coffee together with the trimmings, Hobnobs etc.
PMSL. Funniest post I have ever read on this forum. The guy installs a Dampp-Chaser and less than 2 years later you’re whingeing that he hasn’t vacuumed the piano out! What does your dog do - scratch his knackers on the small aperture at the top of the lower panel? How much dog hair and dust are you expecting gets in there in the space of a year? What effect will that have on the sound? I have some possible suggestions to alleviate your situation as this has clearly made a gibbering wreck of you:

1. Vac it out yourself ffs.
2. Offer him fewer hob-nobs or (worse) instant coffee next time and see if he gets the message
3. Grow a pair of balls and ask him to vac it for you (once he stops laughing)
4. Shoot the dog

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Gill the Piano » 30 Jan 2012, 18:06

If you can take the bottom door out to have a look, you might as well hoover it while you're looking....job's a good 'un. :)
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 30 Jan 2012, 18:22

I think its also a matter of discussing with your tuner what is included & what isn't.
A mechanic - say - about to tackle a major oil leak; would be best to jet-wash the engine & parts first - although it may not be included in the job, it would also be of interest to the mechanic to maybe spot the leak.... and a cleaner job!

In a way, its also a bit like taking your dog for a groom, then expecting the groomer "while they are at it" .... to clean the dog's teeth, or clip their toe nails.... so how far do we go as piano tuners & technicians?

Yeh.... maybe important to vac a combi boiler first (seen that a few times) .... it lengthens the job.... is it really needed during a service? OK.... sucks up the odd cobweb, bit of grit entering the flue and maybe prevent dust & debris getting onto parts.... but everyone is to their own.

However.... I think the crunch comes when your piano tuner arrives. Personally I think around 8 months is rather too late to leave a piano that is under 3 years old (or thereabouts) .... and for all new pianos I tune, I recommend every 3-4 months for the first 3 years. I tuned 2 X Kawai K2 pianos recently - had all intentions to give them quick dust over/ clean keys.... but because they were horrendously out of tune - I had charged the appropriate rate (under their contract) - dont want to lose their custom.... so after spending just over 3 hours - my time was up - I have a social life aswell!!!

If you buy a tin of Quality Street now - about £4 a tin? They used to be about £10 a tin.... bargain!!!!! .... but not really.... the tin is much smaller, and much less sweeties for your brass!! ....

If the customer asks though - and they are there - "could you possibly vac my piano out" .... no prob, but for a full job - just like vaccing a car - prob a min. of £15 added to the bill. A window cleaner charges about £6 for 10 mins work where I live .... but he doesn't clean the window frames!!!! - just the glass!

There are loads more ...... !
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by NewAge » 30 Jan 2012, 18:29

Colin/Gill,
Many thanks for your coherent feed-back. Your comments noted.
I was playing the piano in a zoo, when the elephant burst into tears. I said, "Don't you recognize the tune?" He replied, "No, I recognize the ivories!"

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by mdw » 31 Jan 2012, 19:30

I remember speaking to a tuner in Stuttgart a few years back and he said they only do the extended 100 euro tuning with a clean and a bit of a regulate thrown in. I guess you only need 2-3 jobs a day and you get to work on clean pianos which is nice. :D

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by MarkGoodwinPianos » 01 Feb 2012, 18:22

NewAge wrote:Colin/Gill,
Many thanks for your coherent feed-back. Your comments noted.
Great self-restraint shown there.
There's no way I could have resisted biting back at Model V there :lol:

Some customers expect more than others. Some folk would LIKE you to vacuum behind the bottom panel whereas other customers would say "don't be daft leave that to me, you get on to your next job quick".

Some customers will phone the shop to say thanks for the piano but will you ask the movers to come back as they've left some finger prints on the piano. Other customers will send the movers on their way with fruit cake, 2 litres of Orange juice and 2 bottles of Belgium beer.

Some customers ask 3 questions before buying a piano and show no sign of anxiety. Other customers ask around 100 hundred questions before buying a piano and are greatly stressed before, during and after the sale. Last week a lady asked me to take back the piano she had received so she couldl come back to choose a different one instead because the practise pedal felt was hanging too low and was catching the hammers. I talked her through a DIY fix of this common issue and she was happy again.

Some customers ask more questions about the piano stools available than the piano itself. Others just say "by the way, please send a stool too"

So all customers are different and it's impossible for a dealer or technician or mover to know what is going on the customer's mind unless they speak up and let us know what they expect. For my part I'm always happy to adjust my usual approach to tie in with expectations of a customer. But I can't do that unless they tell me what they want.

I'm waffling now. Best leave it there.

I love customers. All of them. Even the ones who bring 4 generations from their entire family, most of who speak no English and all of whom try to get the price down whilst smiling ear to ear. I tend to need a 1 hour power nap after those type of customers leave the shop.

The only approach to take is the over-used old cliche of "the customer is always right". I never let a customer end on bad terms, whether they buy a piano or not, whether they keep it or want to send it back or not, I'm always thankful of their interest in my shop and happy to whatever they ask... apart from lower the price :mrgreen:

This post was way too long. Sorry about that
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by NewAge » 01 Feb 2012, 21:01

Thanks Mark,
Let's keep this thread going - if nothing more than to keep some readers smiling. :wink:

It's a fact that some piano service techs here on the continent discourage piano owners from cleaning the inside themselves, due to sensitive parts that can easily be knocked out of alignment such as dampers to the strings etc. Some specifically state, “Best to let the tech do it on the inside, while the owner takes care of the outside.”
It’s no surprise either that quite a number of piano service techs use portable vacs - which when the bag is removed also allows for full-power blowing in order to get into difficult areas that cannot be reached with the vac nozzle. These may or may not be used or even available in UK, but they certainly are here, and in the US particularly. MetroVac is a popular name which I recall, and needless to say I don’t have one! Hence my original query.
I know that some techs even superglue felt to the end of their vac attachments so they won’t scratch up clients pianos while cleaning internally. But I’m sure some readers knew this anyway…… :wink:

Some things I learnt at the start of my professional career many moons ago were, ‘treat everyone the way you would like to be treated yourself’, and ‘there’s no such thing as a stupid question.’ Simple rules, which pay dividends!
I was playing the piano in a zoo, when the elephant burst into tears. I said, "Don't you recognize the tune?" He replied, "No, I recognize the ivories!"

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 01 Feb 2012, 23:13

Tuning here and tuning in Germany is not the same As I understand it, a tuner in Germany spends about 3 to 4 hours in fact spends more time doing other things than tuning

in the UK most tuners look at tuning as Tuning, regulating as regulating and Cleaning the piano out is something you do every 5 year or so Not every six months

And that reflect the fact that the UK is the cheapest place to get your piano tuned in the EU so I have been told

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Model V » 01 Feb 2012, 23:54

Cleaning and hobnobs aside...

Where I work an elderly local tuner used to do all the pianos. When I got there I found the pedal on a C3 was so far out of regulation that the dampers didn't quite clear the strings. This despite the piano being tuned regularly (and recently). I ensured this particular waste of space never worked in our establishment again. It took me about 1 minute to put right btw. No matter how good the tuning, if the instrument doesn't work properly, it's no good. Mind you, pedal regulation actually matters!

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Bob Pierce » 05 Feb 2012, 12:00

Yes you are.
An upright should be serviced every 3 (ish) years. This will involve removing keys/action etc and cleaning.
Talk about paying for this extra work with hobnobs is silly, try paying to have your car cleaned during a MOT with a bag of humbugs a see what the mechanic's reply is!!!!
The tuner should make you aware that there may be a regulation problem during the tuning but not clean your piano.

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by sussexpianos » 15 Feb 2012, 12:12

Yes, as many people have said, in the UK, a tuning is just that, a tuning. Its not regulation, or polishing or vacuuming!( for heavens sake).
A good tuner will ask a few questions at the start of tuning like" any problems?" "do you need it at concert pitch?(if its quite a bit below)"
At the end of a tuning, a tuner will tell you what problems they have found during the tuning, and give you a rough quote to do the work for another day as most tuners have 4-6 tunes a day.
I do check the pedals, if they are not working well, I do adjust them as it does not take long. But some pianos, regulating the pedals is a pain, gluing felts etc, so a small charge should be added but discussed first with the customer.
I do also have a small bottle of polish and a cloth for polyester pianos so i don't leave finger marks as they do show up easy.
Regulating should be done every 3-5 years depending on the amount of use, and is an extra cost. If you want it vacuumed then ask but that will be extra.
I have never been asked to vaucum a piano when I have turned up to tune, the customer does this while I am trying to work :evil:
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by NewAge » 15 Feb 2012, 16:02

Excellent feedback from most. And appreciated.
I was playing the piano in a zoo, when the elephant burst into tears. I said, "Don't you recognize the tune?" He replied, "No, I recognize the ivories!"

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Model V » 17 Feb 2012, 21:24

NewAge wrote:Excellent feedback from most. And appreciated.
Glad to be of service. :roll:

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by MarkGoodwinPianos » 22 Feb 2012, 02:42

sussexpianos wrote:I have never been asked to vaucum a piano when I have turned up to tune, the customer does this while I am trying to work :evil:
Brilliant! :lol:
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by crispin » 02 Mar 2012, 10:03

Dear NewAge

Whether the tuner vacuums out the piano or not is something I cannot really comment on... but not to remove the bottom panel when he had previously fitted a Dampp Chaser system seems a bit lax. Surely he would want to look at the pads etc and that all the cables etc were still secure etc etc. In addition - my tuner always checks the pedals for correct operation and squeaks, and has a good look around the whole piano. But then : he is Swiss - and does charge the swiss rates for the job. And he too has time for a little musical chat and discussion on the tone of the piano.

I, too, was having a tune every 3-4 months until a Dampp Chaser system was fitted - now the tuning happens every year or so and it is much more stable.

BTW the technician who fitted the Dampp Chaser wanted to tune and voice the piano (he said it needed voicing badly) - I have had such a bad experience with an expert ruining a piano by doing 'some voicing' that I decided not to let this Dampp Chaser guy touch the tuning or to voice the piano.
Maybe you should be happy that your tuner just concentrates on the tuning and leaves the dog hair cleaning to you.

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 02 Mar 2012, 15:49

I think that the level of work done by a piano tuner to tune a piano only is well and truly justified for the money, without having to perform extra and additional unpaid tasks - however, it also depends on the level of service the tuner offers, and also the level of 'onus' on the customer. Having a life saver fitted is an optional extra - and the customer needs to be aware that if it stops working, it is the fault of the manufacturer and not the tuner.

In some of my contract work, I offer three levels of service to the customer every 6 months, and the level of work alternates each time.
Example: Visit X = Tuning & light refacing of hammers/ check over.
Visit Y = X work as above and cleaning/ bellow action/ vacuum key frame & areas.
Visit Z Full service:- Tuning/ light reface/ cleaning casework & keys/ vacuum (if needed) - regulation/ minor adjustments/ check pedals/ check middle pedal (if fitted or check celeste rail kit) / top up humidifier.

The customer then knows the level of work for each visit. I email them in advance, and state I need around 70-80 mins for X, 90 mins for Y, and from 120 mins for Z.

If for example, visit Z is declined - I therefore advise them that their warranty may become invalid.... and if I carried out visit X or Y instead, and on the off-chance they asked me to check a life saver system - replacement pads may not be carried in stock at the time - unless visit Z was confirmed & booked.... and of course carried out. Many of my customers though just prefer the basic X visit - even after or 2 years after a delivery of a new piano.... its their call, but I always cover myself in case anything goes wrong.

2 weeks ago, I was due to carry out a visit Y on a newish U3 - all booked, and time was estimated between 1.30pm - 3pm. Customer confirmed etc.... I arrived 5 mins early, and the customer then said .... 'How long are you going to be .....? its just that I need to be somewhere for 2.30pm' !!!! ...... so you see how the customer knew about this extended visit - charged at the same rate as visit X (because we have come to an agreement and he is very regular) ...... so if something happened to the piano, would he be covered? ...... and would you then offer your following expertise services another time? ...... knowing that I had to then change my following appointments, and ring the customers to ask if I could arrive 30 mins early.

So...... the customer is always right of course!!
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by vernon » 02 Mar 2012, 21:08

we have an Educational Tender that comes that specifies--" tuning to BS pitch, oiling castors, cleaning interior of piano and regulating throughout."
Our answer is muted but somebody out there is doing it.
Our mission in life is to tune customers--not pianos.

Any fool can make a piano-- it needs a tuner to put the music in it

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 03 Mar 2012, 14:45

vernon wrote:we have an Educational Tender that comes that specifies--" tuning to BS pitch, oiling castors, cleaning interior of piano and regulating throughout."
Our answer is muted but somebody out there is doing it.
Yey right... puts in a tender for £25.00 and spend 25 min on each piano if they are lucky. The amount of schools I have been in that the pianos were so badly regulated you can't tune them.

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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Gill the Piano » 03 Mar 2012, 17:18

BS pitch? Wossat then? Govenment speak for A440?
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by vernon » 03 Mar 2012, 19:21

Gill the
"British Standard pitch aka A 440."
Bit like New Philharmonic pitch(1896) but up a bit one whole tremble.
You could probably use it when you start doing temperaments!
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Re: Am I expecting too much?

Post by Gill the Piano » 04 Mar 2012, 21:08

O right; just good ol' A440 then! I already HAVE a temperament. And it's not nice... :twisted:
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Re: Am I expecting too much from my piano Tuner?

Post by sussexpianos » 07 Mar 2012, 12:09

Lets not go into pitch again please?
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Re: Am I expecting too much from my piano Tuner?

Post by Gill the Piano » 07 Mar 2012, 19:10

O but it's such FUN... :roll: :)
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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