The Butler School of Piano Technology

The Butler School of Piano Technology

The Butler School of  Piano Technology

Rick Butler RPT  -  Registered Piano Technician, The Piano Technicians Guild

rickbutler@thebutlerschool.org

phone: 240 396 7480

Is there a real need for Piano Tuner/Technicians?  

     Yes! Just click here for more information.

     Our long-range goal is to foster the next generation of piano tuner/technicians by providing the foundation for the development of the skills needed to service performance instruments. Your instructor has worked with concert artists from around the world. There is, in fact, a real need for full service, high-level piano technicians!

     Fewer and fewer piano tuners are learning aural tuning skills. Today, the trend for piano tuners is to use ETD's - Electronic Tuning Devices. There is a real need within the Piano Technicians Guild for those with aural tuning skills. We believe that developing your aural tuning skills can lead to a high level of voicing and regulation skills.

     There are those who believe that aural tuning skills are not needed when one uses an ETD. Our response to that is: You don't know what you don't know! Tuning is all about the music. Tuning is as much about the arts as it is about the sciences. The human ear can hear things that machines can't.

     There is something else to consider. Piano sales are not as high as they once were. Nonetheless, the statistics demonstrate that if new pianos are not being sold, the number of existing pianos that would need continual tuning and service will exceed 10,000 per active piano tuner. When you consider that most people continue to tune their older pianos, the potential for new technicians is very bright.

Who qualifies to take the course?

      First, both men and women, young and old, take the course. You should have normal hearing. That being said, some very good tuners use hearing aids. You should be physically fit with normal strength, being able to lift 30lbs. or so. It is helpful if you have a mechanical aptitude with average finger dexterity. It is essential that you have a self-motivating spirit and a willingness to learn. You should have the circumstances and be able to discipline yourself to spend a minimum of 3.5 hours a week in study and practice. Six hours a week or more is ideal. Skills and knowledge of cabinetmaking and piano design are important for those who are interested in piano rebuilding. But new pianos are being sold, and the trend is toward grand pianos. We need qualified tuner/technicians to service these instruments. 

Do I need a piano to practice tuning

     Yes! And it should be in reasonable condition. The tuning pins should be tight, and the tone should not be too bright. If the tone is too bright, we will show you how to 'voice' the piano down in such a way that it will not be permanent. 

Do I need to know how to play the piano to tune?

     No. A musical background is not necessary. The course covers the required information to learn the names of the keys and the intervals used in tuning. Playing the piano is an advantage, in that you will already be familiar with musical intervals and their relationships. 

How long does it take to complete the course?

      The tuning section of the course takes about 9 months to complete. Some have finished it in 6 months. Others have taken 18 months or longer. And to be frank, some have simply dropped out. They didn't appreciate the effort involved in learning this profession. It's a little like playing a musical instrument. You have to practice! You get out of it what you put in.

      One side point. Some students can go out and tune before they complete the course. This offsets to some degree the cost of the course. It also affords them the opportunity to gain experience in tuning other pianos. 

      The technical segment of the course is not separate from the tuning segment. Most students will begin the technical segment after they're at least half-way through the tuning segment. This is a very important aspect of your training. "You can't tune a piano if the notes don't play." Repair and regulation is part of earning your diploma from The Butler School of Piano Technology and obtaining your certification from the Piano Technicians Guild. 

How much should students practice?
 

     Frequency is the most important aspect of practicing. The more practice times in a week, the better; the more practice times in a day, the better. For those who have busy schedules, a minimum of 3 days a week is enough to show improvement. For those who are wanting to complete the course in 9-12 months, seven days a week is necessary. 

      For example, research suggests that it takes virtuosos an average of 10,000 hours to master their skill, but amateurs only 20 focused hours on learning the fundamental basics of a skill. To reach 10,000 hours, one would have to practice 3 hours a day for nine years, 2 hours a day for 14 years, or an hour a day for 27 years. To reach 20 hours, one would have to practice 2 hours a day for ten days, an hour a day for 20 days, or a half-hour a day for 40 days. This is much more manageable, and I suggest students make consecutive goals of 20 hours each (preferably in 10 weeks or less), mastering a subset of skills each time. As a weekly goal, I have found it takes a minimum of 2 hours each week spread over three days to show improvement. Less than that will set a student up for frustration and failure. More focused practice will almost always equal more success.

How much do Piano Technicians earn?

      That depends upon you. The price of tunings vary. In some areas, tunings range from $75 to $125. In the Washington D.C. area, they range from $125 to $295. Income potential for a full time experienced tuner/technicians average between$35,000 to over $95,000 a year or more. 

      Additional income may come from accessory sales, rebuilding, piano rentals, and retail sales. There are over 17 million pianos in the United States, and the need for qualified piano technicians will continue to grow. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and 1999 PTG Member Survey)

Does your course discuss the 'business' of piano tuning and repair?

     Not enough to mention. Keep in mind that this is not a course on business. For the most part, I leave that to other professionals. You should seek training in the operation of a small business, financial management, taxation, marketing, and customer service. 

      Most piano tuners are in business for themselves. They set their own schedules. Keep in mind that it takes time to build any business. Most tuners start part-time, and if they desire, build it into a full-time schedule. Many people have started to learn how to tune while anticipating retirement from their present occupation. A good piano business can be built in about 3-5 years on average.