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Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Tuning Snob

If a piano is not in tune, surely it is out of tune! A simple 'either/or' choice would make life so much easier. 

Imagine if we piano tuners would turn up to work, flick some kind of switch, tinker about for an hour or so, play the 'Tuner's Waltz', have a cup of tea, get paid, smile and... on to the next job!

But alas, a tuner's life is not so black and white, not so easy. Whatever make the piano may be: Steinway, Schimmel, Schiedmayer - just a few of those beginning with S - but Bluthner, Bechstein etc. and all the rest. All these good pianos, need regular tuning and maintenance to keep them sounding good.

Videos posted online, recordings heard on the radio, programs on the TV, all demonstrate the vast spectrum of ideas about in-tune-ness. The concept of 'in tune' can range from the clinically bland to the ridiculous clang of a poorly tuned street piano. Some people seem to tolerate terrible twangs and jarring noises, oblivious to the blatant affront to musicality, while being quite serious in their playing. Perhaps being a piano tuner cuts oneself off from being able to appreciate the honest effort of sincere musicians wanting to express their musical abilities, but I find it surprising there is not a more widespread appreciation of the concept of being 'in tune'. 

Making the picture as a whole even more bewildering is the fact that among tuners there is a varied set of opinions about in-tune-ness. Even worse, we tuners are often not the most accommodating of people. Negative comments about our work tends to bruise our egos and leave our nerves a little on edge. But no real harm done!

The truth is we can all improve. I'd be embarrassed to be met with some of my earliest tuning efforts. Of course, after so many years, nobody is going to complain now. We can only deal with the pianos we tune today with our very best efforts. Building experience one piano at a time. Who knows, we may yet see at shift towards a wider appreciation of in-tune-ness.  


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