1.  Low Vision RPT, Is It Feasible?

Posted 07-17-2017 14:54
I am considering pursuing a new career as a piano technician.

In 2010 I began experiencing issues with my vision as a side effect of RK surgery that I had about 20 years ago.  Reading speed has become a significant challenge due to my distorted vision.  I am able to get by using assistive technology to magnify text, but the reading comprehension required with my past career in I/T as well as other jobs in that field provides quite a hurdle for me even with assistive technology.  I worked for a little over 25 years as an I/T operations manager and business architect.  After the company was sold late last year my organization was dissolved and my position was eliminated.  So that's kind of the background as to why I am exploring new career paths.
I actually looked into piano technology about four years ago when I was considering leaving my job due to my vision issues.  I researched training programs, received information from PTG and even reached out to some local piano technicians to inquire about apprenticeship opportunities.  One of the those contacts was very interested in taking me on as an apprentice.  He was planning to retire soon and was interested in finding someone to buy his business in the near future.  Unfortunately, I wasn't quite prepared financially to leave my job and take that significant of a pay cut.  I did email him recently, but received a reply from his wife that he had passed away.  Today, I am much more prepared to take that sort of step.  The changes with my employer actually came at a very good time for me. 
My background with music has been as a hobbyist.  I took piano lessons when I was younger, once as a kid and then for a year in my early 20s.  Guitar has been my main interest which I get into playing fairly often, still as a hobby.  That said, I do have a descent understanding around music theory, the physics of music and how instruments work.  I've always had a strong interest in playing music.  So I guess that am not coming in completely as a novice. 
From a path standpoint my thoughts are that I would first join the PTG and enroll in a correspondence training program (ie. the Randy Potter School).  It looks like I would need up to six months to acquire the basic knowledge and skills to work as a piano tech apprentice.  For hands on experience, I would purchase a used piano to work on, and I would also seek out a mentor.

I have two questions related to the above.

1.  Does anyone know if the Randy Potter's course is accessible for someone with low vision?  As I mentioned, I am able to read with the assistance of magnification tools.  If the material is available in softcopy that would be ideal.  I'm just curious if anyone with low vision or blindness would be successful completing the course
2.  Is it even feasible for someone with low vision to become skilled in piano technology.  The man who tuned my family's piano when I was growing up was legally blind, but I'm not sure that he did much more than tuning.  Although reading is a challenge I am able to do other tasks that require hand eye coordination.  For example, I am an amateur radio operator and I am able to do electronics repairs.

Anyway, I'd love to hear back from some who are experienced with the trade who might have some good input.

Thanks ahead of time.

David Wagner
Lexington Ky

2.  RE: Low Vision RPT, Is It Feasible?

Posted 07-17-2017 15:43
Ron Poire, RPT, is the chair of the PTG Visually Impaired Concerns Committee (612) 788-0489
The PTG store offers PACE Lesson Books by Bill Spurlock and Michael Travis, Grand and Vertical Regulations Curriculum Workbooks by LaRoy Edwards, and The Guide to Field Repairs by Steve Brady. These are remarkably low priced, and written by top teacher/technicians, all RPTs.
 A new learning resource under development are the Piano Technician Tutorial iBooks by Jim Busby RPT and friends. Perhaps the iBook format would be adaptable to your visual needs.
Jim Busby | Piano Technician Tutorials
Pianotechniciantutorials remove preview
Jim Busby | Piano Technician Tutorials
Tutorials for repairing and tuning pianos
View this on Pianotechniciantutorials >

Ed Sutton
(980) 254-7413

3.  RE: Low Vision RPT, Is It Feasible?

Posted 07-17-2017 17:39
Yes David, it is definitely possible for you to learn piano technology!

I know several completely blind technicians who do it all -- except refinishing, for obvious reasons. You can learn too. Even though I see, I still felt the need to learn to do most things by feel, and I'm very glad I did learn by feel. It has been a tremendous help.

I would seriously consider the material Ed recommended. It is great and at a very good price. Also consider the Exam Prep books from PTG. The first articles are test centered, but the rest are very good explanations of some of our most common jobs.

With those, I would also read the "Your business: yesterday, today and tomorrow " article series by Tim Barnes, which began in January 2017 to present in the Journal. You must be comfortable with building a business. If you can do that, have the nerves of a cat and the ears of a mouse, then you have what it takes to be a piano technician!

P.S. I don't believe the RP course is available in soft form.

Benjamin Sanchez
Professional Piano Services

4.  RE: Low Vision RPT, Is It Feasible?

Posted 07-18-2017 12:59
I apprenticed with a graduate of the Piano Hospital, where many visually impaired people were taught to care for pianos. Unfortunately, it is now closed. I am sighted, my mentor was not. I would say that the status of your vision is mostly irrelevant to whether you should be a piano technician or not. Of course there are challenges most will not face, but they can all be overcome with knowledge, tools, and occasional help. The same is true for all of us in one fashion or another.

The important thing is not what you see with your eyes, but with your mind. It is more important to excel in spatial reasoning / mechanical ability than to be sighted. I have met plenty of sighted people who cannot grasp how a piano action functions. Most of us get it after studying it for a while. If you are gifted in seeing things with your mind, it will help you in many of your other challenges, as well.

There is a presumption by many that "blind people hear better." Mostly, they just pay more attention to what they hear. The rest of us hear things without noticing them. In the same way, focusing on mechanical things will sharpen your mind to deal with them.

Look through some of the other discussions on this forum, and you will hear others talk of why they love the profession. If those things appeal to you, we would love to have you on board.

David Stocker
Olympia WA

5.  RE: Low Vision RPT, Is It Feasible?

Posted 07-18-2017 20:36
Thanks for the replies and encouragement.  All good information.  I'm learning more everyday and the input helps with my confidence.  By the way, browsing through the discussions here, current and archived, what a rich community and what a wealth of knowledge.

I fully expect to continue exploring.  I feel to be successful with my path I really need to find a good mentor here locally in Lexington.  I believe the RP training course is doable, but to have the nagging expectations and passed on knowledge from an experienced mentor would be invaluable.  So..., I'm reaching out.  I don't get the impression that Lexington is a perfect economy for piano techs, but hopefully I can find the right win, win situation.

Thanks again for the input.


David Wagner
Lexington Ky

6.  RE: Low Vision RPT, Is It Feasible?

Posted 07-18-2017 23:00
Edited by Benjamin Sloane 07-18-2017 23:04
In over 30 years of experience in piano technology, I guarantee you as a man to this day 20-20 able to pass his drivers lisence vision test without glasses, your vision don't mean jack. Only means you have to pass the technical exam to be an RPT twice as fast, and not much else.

I'll never forget the day I sat down with a half-blind tech in front of a Steinway D I regulated over a half decade ago. He put on his thick glasses, glanced at it for, God as my witness, less than a millisecond, and began screaming at me.

Good vision isn't worth a pot to piss in in this business, regulation included. You'll be better off blind as a bat than rumored to be harboring a hitherto undiagnosed mental disorder. Get a good psychologist, worth 100 times more than a good optometrist in piano technology.

Benjamin Sloane
Cincinnati OH