Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Piano Technicians Guild?

The Piano Technicians Guild is the largest nonprofit organization serving piano tuners, technicians, and craftsmen throughout the world, organized to promote the highest possible service and technical standards among piano tuners and technicians. PTG sponsors meetings, seminars, workshops and conventions, and publishes a monthly technical magazine the Piano Technicians Journal which features a wealth of technical information ranging from useful hints to in-depth instruction on tuning, repairing and rebuilding.

What is an RPT?

To attain the RPT classification, a PTG member must pass three examinations. A written exam tests basic knowledge of piano design, tuning theory, repair techniques and various other topics relevant to piano technology. Two separate practical, hands-on exams test tuning and technical skills. The practical exams are administered by panels of RPTs under the leadership of examiners trained and certified in standardized exam procedures.

On the tuning exam the candidate must match as closely as possible a “master tuning” created by a panel of examiners who have agreed – after painstaking experimentation and analysis – on an optimal tuning for the test piano. The exam is scored by using extremely sensitive electronic equipment to measure the deviation of the candidate’s tuning from the standard thus established. Candidates who use electronic tuning devices in their work must nevertheless demonstrate their ability to tune by ear, unaided by electronics.

The  technical exam requires the candidate to demonstrate professional-level skills in assembling a grand and a vertical piano action (the mechanical component of the piano) and in making all the complicated adjustments (called “regulation”) so that they function properly. The candidate must also demonstrate facility in various common repairs involving wood, cloth, felt, piano wire and other materials commonly used in pianos. All the procedures on these exams must be completed in prescribed time periods – thus demonstrating the fluency required of a professional.

Why does a piano go out of tune?

Even if a piano is rarely played, it will not stay in tune. The relative changes in humidity and temperature are constantly making the wood expand and contract. Pianos also have thousands of pounds of tension in them. It is therefore very important to keep your piano away from the sun or hot rooms. Also cold and damp rooms, especially basements and draughts can be detrimental to stability. Ideally, moderate temperature and humidity is best.

How often should a piano be tuned?

At least once a year for most pianos, however every 6 months is the ideal to maintain a fine tuning. The reason for this is that Ottawa has 2 big season changes. We have a very dry winter and a very humid summer. Each season change knocks out every piano in the city. A piano will generally need tuning after moving it to another house, but not moving it within a house. It is a good idea to let a piano settle for a couple of weeks after moving it to another house before being tuned.

What can be done if the action is too heavy or light?

The “touch-weight” of a piano is a critical component to overall performance. A heavy action is usually caused by too much friction or heavy action parts, especially hammers. This can be adjusted to your satisfaction. An action that is too light is sometimes seen in old pianos as well as very short pianos. This is caused by the moisture in the wood of the action parts evaporating over time. As water is heavier than wood, the action will feel lighter. The problem is corrected by adding lead weight to the back of the keys. This returns the proper touch weight as well as allowing the keys to return effectively.

My Neighbour has offered me his piano for free. Should I take it?

Maybe. If you think about it, someone giving a piano away hasn’t been using it. If they haven’t been using it, they likely haven’t  maintained it – it hasn’t been tuned in a long time. While a piano that hasn’t been used will show less wear, particularly throughout the action, neglect can present a myriad of problems. My best advice is to have me come and assess the piano before making arrangements to have it moved. There is no charge for this.

I want to buy a used piano, but I know nothing about them. What can I do?

Call me first! You can find pianos for sale online or from a poster or word of mouth. You should then go and see the piano. All that is important is that you be happy with the way it looks and generally how it plays and sounds. The appearance of the piano is important as it should look nice in your house. If you are happy with the appearance, the sound and the price then I will go and inspect it for you. There is no charge for this service. I will tell you what overall shape the piano is in. I will comment on the action,
the evenness of tone, touch-weight, the condition of the case (scratches, marks, etc) and the price.

Is it OK to put my piano against an outside wall?

Yes! The idea of not putting your piano against an outside wall was true in the distant past, before modern construction techniques and insulation rendered this irrelevant. As long as you keep your piano away from direct sunlight and a heating vent, you are fine.