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Landed an opportunistic job!

  • 1.  Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-09-2019 14:31
    Edited by Cory Jacobson 02-24-2019 03:35
    Hello everyone. Cory Jacobson here and I am so very glad to be here!

    I recently won the bid for a job opportunity at UW Eau Claire in WI. Their previous piano tuner/technician gave his notice over the winter break and some curious coincidences lead me to submitting a bid for the position and they selected me (Mine was the lowest  bid $$). I do really see this as an amazing opportunity an overall experience. It's a higher regarded campus with great resources. My daughter is in her second year at UWEC majoring in choral music education. Just completed the first week of work (22 Tunings) and it has been great fun to run into my daughter in the hallways and practice rooms! Love it.

    I live about 3.5 - 4 hours of a drive from the campus so I had to relocate myself in order to carry out the work. I'm planning on commuting home once a month to return to my wife who is very supportive of this endeavor. She is so great, I love her.

    The job outlines a minimum of 165 tunings for the spring semester and it does seem as though they will want more work done. The pianos are all in need of regulation and some repairs. Most all of the instruments deserve those improvements and I would love to do the best I can to help them out. I have encountered several Steinway A's, B's, D's, and one L and there is something to improve with the regulation on all those instruments. Of course all the practice room pianos also could use some help and have bobbling hammers, loose hammer heads on shanks, messed up pedal trapwork...ect... This is crazy. I really jumped into the deep end of the pool, but what an opportunity to get the experience that is good for me to have and help hone those skills. It is also a good opportunity to give back in a way as so many people have been very gracious in what has been provided for me along the way. Thank you PTG!!

    I am an associate member of the PTG and have made it a goal to attain RPT certification...planning on taking the exams sometime before and probably at the convention in Tuscon this year. If I can stay focused and keep learning it will happen eventually. Really enjoying learning about piano technology.

    I just wanted to share a little about my story. Please feel free to interject any comments, insights, suggestions and stories of your own. I have so many specific topics I'm trying to research and figure out more about. I did attend the convention in St. Louis 2 summers ago and am really looking forward to this year in Tuscon. Man, what a great experience the convention is. So much information and so many amazing people.

    Thanks everyone! Best to all.

    Cory

    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    pianotunr@gmail.com
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-09-2019 17:34
    Welcome to the "club"!

    It is, above all else, an opportunity to learn, if you make it so.
    Regards,
    Fred Sturm
    "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." Brecht






  • 3.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-10-2019 12:56
    Congratulations, Cory! I like your attitude!

    One little tactic I've used for years: if upright hammers are loose on the shanks, put a little bit of white glue on the pinky of your right hand, reach in, and smear it into the seam where the hammer meets the shank, most of it being toward the strings. Then check to be sure that none is dripping down the shank into the hammer rest rail felt. (I glued a hammer shank to the felt once.) Within a few minutes the hammer should be firm on the shank.

    It's easy enough to flex all the hammers, right thumb against the tail and right index finger against the strike point, and see if they move just a little bit. The treble ones seem especially prone to getting loose. I've found this fix to be fast and easy and permanent.

    It did take me awhile to figure out that I should keep a small bottle of white glue (Elmer's) in my kit, instead of a larger one.

    Enjoy your new adventure, and all the professional growth and satisfaction it can bring you! Concert tuning, especially, remains highly rewarding year after year.

    ------------------------------
    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-10-2019 18:13
    Thank you Susan. That glueing tactic should be very handy! There's so many things one could address with all these pianos. My job is specifically outlined as just "tuning" but I am making the improvements I can within reason so far and uploading notes to a spreadsheet about all the instruments. It's hard for me to leave repair and regulating work undone, but to do it all would be a sizable stack of hours. Seems much of it has to do with their budget and I have mentioned and offered to do some work as a donation. Hoping that can be a way to get more accomplished and be beneficial all the way around.

    Perhaps someone could help to clarify something else for me too. Most of these practice room and class room pianos are well below standard pitch. Some are 20-30 cents below pitch. In people's homes I have been doing my best to "float" the pitch with the humid and dry seasons. In the University Arts building they should have a decent climate control system running, and it is more important to be at standard pitch A=440 for a number of reasons. I'm doing a lot of pitch correction during my first week and just really wondering not only about the stability of these tunings, but looking forward if they don't keep up with their climate control, over the humid summer months or even as spring gets underway these pianos may end up going sharp and then would likely have to all be pulled down for the fall semester?! Do these thoughts make sense? I have spoken with my main contact some about this and he said he's been trying to get them to keep the AC running during the summer just for the pianos sake but hasn't been met with an understanding about that. To me it seems to be a pretty important factor accordingly to all I've learned about pianos and just considering the investment they have in pianos alone. I'm newly coming into the fold here just trying to do the best job I can. I don't want to make too many waves, but I also am trying to be conscience about how what I do or don't do will reflect on myself or even the Guild for that matter. Your insight is greatly appreciated. Thanks again.

    Cory

    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-10-2019 20:03
    Cory,
    I wouldn't assume there was any humidity control in the building unless specifically told there was, and even then I would not assume it worked well. Public buildings are required by code to circulate air at a pretty high rate, as in replacing the entire volume of air multiple times an hour. Some of this air will come from outside, so outside conditions will be reflected inside pretty quickly.

    It is entirely normal to see 20-30¢ pitch changes seasonally, and, in fact, that range is moderate. You should purchase some kind of electronic hygrometer - typically an electronic device that measure both temperature and humidity - and track humidity levels as you tune. You need to know what the conditions are, simply for your own sake in understanding what is going on, and predicting what will happen in the future.

    For me, I have lowered pitch of every single piano prior to fall semester, and raised pitch a significant amount at least twice during fall semester and at the beginning of spring semester for 33 years. That is my normal. Humidity ranges up to 65% end of summer and down to below 10% in winter, and the tuning follows it like clockwork.

    When I worked contract (non-employee), I worked by the hour rather than by the tuning, which made it at least possible to go ahead and do the obvious things (tighten action screws, glue loose hammers, replace broken strings) without the need to negotiate. When working for a private school, based on my university experience, I got them to agree to a certain number of "services" per year, defined as a tuning plus 20 minutes (should have been at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour). That worked pretty well, as, again, it gave me the leeway to bank time and focus it where it would have the most impact.

    It sounds like you are simply hired to do a certain number to tunings, which shows the utter ignorance (not necessarily their fault) of those making the decisions. You are coming into a situation where all they have done is pay for tunings, and the results you describe are what one would expect. Pianos need constant service, especially pianos used as much as they are in universities, and with high expectations. So your long term task is to educate them, and change the mind set and system from X tunings to adequate budget for ongoing service.

    ------------------------------
    Fred Sturm
    University of New Mexico
    fssturm@unm.edu
    http://fredsturm.net
    http://www.artoftuning.com
    "We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same." - Carlos Casteneda
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-10-2019 20:31
    Edited by Cory Jacobson 02-10-2019 20:31
    Thank you with immense gratitude Fred. That information is so useful for me and all of us involved here.

    I do also in fact, " Take the upright seriously". Thank you for doing those articles! Yours was one of my first classes at my very first convention!

    Cory

    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-11-2019 17:38
    Cory,
    Your description of conditions in your new job reminded me very much of when I first entered the university service world. I started in late summer, and couldn't for the life of me understand why my predecessor had tuned everything to 445. Three months later, when pianos I had tuned earlier were now at 435, I began to understand.

    I spent a lot of time gluing loose hammerheads. I was lucky enough to have purchased the pliers style head removers (works for grands also, with a little extra jig you screw on), so I just popped them off, put glue on both surfaces, and replaced - being careful that the grooves lined up to the strings precisely. Another first thing to do was to tighten butt plates on our Yamaha U1s, first having made sure all the center pins were centered. On grands, a big thing was raising capstans, particularly because the checks were catching the lower shoulder felt in the tenor section of the Steinways, on the way up (another definition of "sticking key": 'it is sometimes very hard to press the key' from rest position). And lowered damper up stop rails (underlevers clicking against the sostenuto bar). Them was the days :-)

    Eventually I got them to hire me half time instead of contract less than 1/4 time, and I could actually begin to make noticeable progress. But it was a slow process.

    You say you are working toward RPT. Please bear in mind that once you have passed either the technical or the tuning test, you are eligible for the PTG Foundation's Associate Scholarship, which will pay the fee for your final test plus convention fee (test to be taken at the convention). It's a great opportunity, and means you just have to come up with travel and board expenses.

    ------------------------------
    Fred Sturm
    University of New Mexico
    fssturm@unm.edu
    http://fredsturm.net
    http://www.artoftuning.com
    "We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same." - Carlos Casteneda
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 12:18
    I'll echo Ed Sutton's preference for RCT, with an emphasis on its use in creating stable tunings quickly. This is due to its quick and easily interpreted response (especially in "concert" mode, but in other modes as well). The "blush" factor, together with rotation, shows minute differences in pitch very clearly. This lets you see whether pitch is just starting to drift with your first test blow, and correct the tuning pin before the pitch has had a chance to move perceptibly. When I say "test blow," I don't mean a FFFFF whack, but rather one of a series of normal forte repetitions, looking to see the display remain at rest as an ideal, and watching for any tendency to drift in either direction.

    My other extended ETD experience was with SAT, and it was quite good at that also, but RCT is more refined. Expensive, but worth the price. Like Ed, I have no connection with any company. simply reporting my own experience.
    Regards,
    Fred Sturm
    "I am only interested in music that is better than it can be played." Schnabel






  • 9.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-10-2019 22:17
    Even Oberlin (in the 1960's) turned the heat in the Conservatory way down during Christmas vacation, even though some instruments were still being kept there. My cello got a crack, when I'd left it there to avoid having it damaged on a bus trip home. I hope they got over that. I should have found someone living in otwn who would keep it for me till I came back.

    The pianos have to stay where they are. DC systems would be a chore to install and maintain, unless the people running the place were behind the idea. If they cared that much, they probably wouldn't allow the HVAC to be turned so far down during the summer.

    One possible answer -- does the place have a summer session? If some kind of university summer course or high school camp could be held during the summer, it would pay for the air conditioning, and would represent a better use of facilities.

    ------------------------------
    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-12-2019 23:03
    Cory,

    Please do not volunteer to do repairs without pay. This sort of thing has been known to backfire. You think you're doing the right thing, and I understand your zeal to make things right, but once you do that, you set yourself up to be taken advantage of. I think there is a better way to approach this.

    You say the contract is for "tuning only." Are they monitoring your work that closely? I'm assuming not, since the administrators don't seem to be up to speed on what university pianos need, which is comprehensive service, not just tuning. You don't mention what tuning method you use, but if you're using a good pitch raise program, go through the piano only once, as quickly as you reasonably can. (If you're not using Cybertuner or one of the other pitch raise programs, you should invest in one. It will save your sanity.) It won't be perfect, but it will be a big improvement, taking care of the low tenor fluctuations, the treble break wackiness and lousy unisons. If that takes you 25 to 30 minutes, you'll have another 30 or 45 minutes (the amount of time you would have spent on perfecting a tuning) to put out other fires, like loose hammer heads, bobbling hammers, missing strings, pedal problems, etc. Once you get the repairs under control, later you can do better tunings.

    At some point it becomes hard to do a good tuning when there are so many technical shortcomings. The pianist suffers just as much (or more) from mechanical failures as from an out of tune piano.

    Bottom line: make this job your own. You are the expert, not the administrators. You determine what each piano needs. It won't make any difference to you or the administrators in terms of time and pay, whether you're tuning or repairing. Assuming they're not looking over your shoulder, take the bull by the horns and make big improvements to the pianos. Little by little, you'll get there.

    Margie Williams
    pnotuner@pacbell.net

    "We, the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing." (Unknown)




  • 11.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 00:14
    Hello Margie.

    Thank you for the response and suggestions! I am using Tune Lab for all this pitch correction, not quite as fast as what you described though as I am taking some time to work on the unisons as well. Definitely helping to preserve my sanity! I realize things are going to drift, but unisons are something I needed practice on and after almost two weeks of pitch correcting I am noticing my technique has improved. I'm happy with the tuning results I'm getting with one pass using the app.

    Quite valid points and I believe I understand what you are saying. I would like to make the improvements on these instruments. The students deserve it. I think the University should want that. I know the faculty does...just no funding to pay for it all. Just moments ago I slightly bent up the mid section let off rail on a studio upright. It was a quick improvement on the action of the entire midrange. Thank you Keith Akins!! The piano also has loose heads on shanks....quite a few...and the pitch is -30 cents with unisons all over the place.  What you are suggesting is make the improvements and spend less time on tuning unisons for now. I understand.

    There is an online inventory spreadsheet and I have been asked to upload the dates I tune each piano and include notes about the instruments...They'd like to know what work they need and I am also noting any work I am doing like that let-off rail adjustment I mentioned. The impression I get is that there is never enough funding in the budget for the arts building/program. So if they're not willing to pay for repairs and maintenance, my thought was perhaps any donated services I provide could be a tax deduction on my end and they could get the instruments back in better playing shape without having to battle for more funding. Still keeping in mind I certainly must take care of my agreed on responsibility (170 tunings!)...Things are going well so far...I am new...perhaps I am a bit naive and too optimistic about things. Being here has my gears turning though... There does seems to be some interest in piano technology and tuning... Considering proposing a presentation or sort of class as an extra curricular. Maybe an "Introduction to Piano Technology" ?? There are so many resources here. As you all have stated, the pianos will always need maintenance. What if they offered an internship program and some select student could assist a Tech in the upkeep of the pianos? Maybe learn to tune? Maybe there are some future Guild members here? I don't know. Maybe I'm just jazzed with being here around all this cool stuff. Isn't it just crazy that for so long it has mostly been that piano players know so little about their instruments? It's like people are afraid to open the lid and look inside. It's too technical for a lot of people, and I get that too. Perfectly fine. But the door has been shut it seems like forever almost and there is so much distance been the Tech and the Musician. I think Audio people would be good candidates for some piano technology background. In many ways the piano action is like an audio mixing console. From the key all the way to the string to the soundboard....ect...Its repeated 88 times exactly the same way...like the channels on a mixing board. Not so crazy after all. There's a lot of parallels there it seems to me. I had a professor call me. This person is on sabatical for the semester, but she was expressing to me that she feels ashamed that she knows nothing about the piano. All these years been playing and know nothing about its parts, the action, tuning...She asked if we could sit and have some coffee and just talk about things. Also that she has had "voicing" work done but felt the sound just ended up "muffled". I get it. But, it just makes me feel like I'm in a position to share some things and open some minds and get the thoughts rolling....or I'm just a naive young (middle aged) pup... Ha....

    So I went on a tangent. Thank you for listening, and thank you for sharing your thoughts. So, do I just do these repairs, spend less time tuning and speak nothing of it? Do I keep documenting and let them decide how they want to handle it? Do I speak my mind about sharing more or offer more of myself and be vulnerable to being taken advantage of? I'm not exactly clear on who makes the final "decisions" around here yet. I don't think the main "funding" decisions are done in this building. Everyone here has been very kind and very helpful to me. I have tried to reach out to my predecessor via email and phone (left a voice message) with no luck. He is listed here as part of the Guild. Chris Terski is his name. I hope all is well with him. All I know is he gave his notice over the winter break.

    Thanks again you guys. I really appreciate the conversation.

    Cory


    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-14-2019 04:11
    Cory and all,

    I checked into the issue of donated labor some years ago, and got an unequal answer: donated labor is not a legitimate tax deduction, at least in the Federal tax code. Later saw it in the IRS brochure about charitable feductiond.

    ------------------------------
    Israel Stein RPT
    P.O. Box 68141
    Jerusalem, Israel 9168002
    510-558-0777
    istein248@gmail.com
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-14-2019 10:00
    Cory-

    Congrats again, and you have received some excellent advise.  I only wanted to extend on offer sometime to come visit our program, if feasible, down in Northfield since we're only about 90 minutes away.  Your Department might even approve the trip on their time during the week.  I started here myself as the first staff technician ever with an embarrassing piano inventory 31 years ago.  It's a big job with it's share of frustrations, but once you see it through the rewards are well worth it.  My wife is from Wisconsin and we go through that way often ourselves to her home town up north in Park Falls. I look forward to meeting you.

    best,
    Dennis Johnson
    St. Olaf College
    Northfield, MN

    ------------------------------
    Dennis Johnson, R.P.T.
    St. Olaf College
    Music Dept.
    Northfield, MN 55337
    sta2ned@stolaf.edu
    (507) 786-3587
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-14-2019 10:27
    I thought I should comment on the fast, one pass tuning idea. I do that myself, for almost all tunings, but a little slower  than 30 minutes (45 - 75 minutes), with an emphasis on both unisons and stability. The fast speed is somewhat less unison quality than the slower, but in each case stability is king. It's a good idea to do the fast tuning, and at least some of the time go back through and quickly tweak what is worst - you see better what your results were, and you provide a better final result. That usually takes me 5 - 10 minutes tops, but if I did my first pass faster, the second would probably take longer.

    Being in a university situation provides you an irreplaceable opportunity to examine your stability, since you can get into the space where you tuned last week, last month, three months ago, and see where your tuning ended up. Not something you can do with private tunings, so you can be blissfully unaware of your problems for years. Of course, using an ETD helps tremendously, as you can use it to find out where you are to at least a large extent, by merely playing the note a few time forte and watching the display for any tendency to drift. But sometimes a few blows aren't enough to predict what will happen over not too long a time (including during a concert).

    One wild unison is something almost everybody will pick out, and say the piano is out of tune. Keep that in mind at all times. That is where your reputation will be built or destroyed. And the better your tunings last, the less work you need to do in the long run.  

    There is also the sound of all or many of the unisons being on the edge of noticeably bad, but that is more of a concert and recording studio realm issue. In those situations, you get into the nitty gritty of how tiny a change you can make, and nail it tight so it will stay. Gaining that skill will also make you faster at doing the fast and stable tuning.

    Regards,
    Fred Sturm
    "We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same." - Carlos Casteneda






  • 15.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-14-2019 11:21
    Cory,
    You have mentioned the piano prof wanting them to keep the AC over the in summer for tuning stability. This might or might not be useful, and might be counterproductive. If the AC actually removes moisture from the air, it will help (midwest summers being reliably humid). If not, it will make things worse. If you just cool a room filled with static air, the RH will rise, while if you heat it, the RH will go down - you are changing the capacity of the air to hold water vapor.

    So actually it might be better to let the rooms get hotter in the summer, cooler in the winter, if the system is doing nothing to control RH (probably referred to as dew point by the HVAC engineers). That will slightly even out the RH fluctuations by making the bottom a bit higher, and the top a little lower. It is counterintuitive to most people, who tend to think that controlling the temperature is the real issue. It is not.

    As I mentioned earlier, having a thermo-hygrometer and keeping records will tell the tale, though asking questions about the system is also a good idea. There may be a reasonably good system in place, but not well controlled and calibrated, for instance.
    Regards,
    Fred Sturm
    "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." Brecht






  • 16.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 01:12
    *** Well....I just did it. A 30 minute pitch correction using the app. Really does not sound terrible at all!?!? Feels kinda good knowing that is possible. Ha....Thank you. Does that qualify as a "tuning"?? I think so...and now I can try Susan's loose hammer head glueing techniques on all these clicking hammers...

    During that process, I was thinking about our conversation...and I want to express again how grateful I am to have all the Guild members as a resource.  Our Milwaukee chapter has provided so much for me in these first few years. What a great set of people I get to call colleagues and friends. I want to do what I can to make them proud and give back.

    Cory

    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 13:00
    Cory,

    See, now was that so hard? Nothing like 170 tunings to focus the mind, and the tuning arm...In my experience, lots of pianists don't pay that much attention to how perfect the tuning is, especially on practice instruments, as long as you make a sizable improvement. They do get annoyed by mechanical issues, however. This job will be a huge growth experience for you. Just bomb through those tunings, for now, until you can do a more thorough job a year from now.

    I think it would be difficult to count labor contributions as a tax deductible donation. How would you come up with a number? Consult a tax professional, if you really want to do this, but I strongly recommend against it. I know from experience that even donating what's called a gift-in-kind (such as new piano parts) is very tricky.

    I retired about 6 months ago from SFSU, after 14 years, first as part time and then full time for the last 3 years. Paul Marshall, my successor, was worried that he would have trouble with many aspects of the job--for which, by the way, he was more than qualified--but he just emailed me last week to report that he is settling in well and enjoying the work. He especially thanked me for painting the big picture about paying attention to more than just the salary, which at $30K annually for 20 hours a week sounds low, especially for the Bay Area, wherefrom emits an enormous shrieking sound over the cost of housing. (Haven't you guys in the rest of the country heard it? It's very loud..) But the benefits are gold-plated, for current employees as well as retirees, which he is finally beginning to understand. Adding in all the benefits (health, dental, vision, defined benefit pension, employer contributions for SS and Medicare, etc.) boosts the total to more like $50 to $55K, for half-time work. The position at SFSU is a staff position, as opposed to contract work. At SFSU, instructors who work over a certain number of hours per week are eligible for benefits, even if their position is not a permanent one. (Meaning that the job had been posted publicly and multiple candidates were interviewed.) There is a downside to that arrangement, as any downturn (as happened in the 2008/2009 recession) can have a bad outcome on the number of hours available to work.

    After things settle down, you might want to investigate whether this avenue of squeezing benefits out of the University is available to you.

    I wish everyone in the entire country had the assurance of never having to worry about being bankrupted from medical costs. It is a huge worry lifted from the shoulders.

    Margie Williams
    pnotuner@pacbell.net

    "We, the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing." (Unknown)




  • 18.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 16:45
    Hi, Cory,

    I will echo what Margie said about donating any work. Do NOT do it for any tax benefits (and there are many other reasons on the list besides taxes).

    I know this for sure. My husband David Vanderlip and I have purposely donated work before - in one specific instance, to fix up a pretty bad upright in a shelter for abused women and children. One of the moms could play a bit, and wanted to use the piano for Christmas carols with the kids, a few rudimentary lessons, etc. We didn’t bother with any tax deductions at all, knowing it would only amount to pennies.

    You can not deduct for volunteer labor. (At least that knowledge will save you the trouble of trying to put a value on it.) You can deduct any real costs, whether for parts or materials you provide or buy, gas mileage etc. But if you’re there anyway doing paid work, you can’t even deduct mileage.

    I also echo what many other people have said about the position as you describe it. A huge part of what we all do, whether with institutions, private clients, dealers, and all who would have us work on pianos, is education. Almost no one in the everyday world understands the overall care of a piano. A general rule of thumb is that in the overall life of the piano, the amount that goes into good care and maintenance adds up to at least double the cost of pure tunings. I usually figure that, over the years, tuning cost is really closer to one-third of the cost of excellent maintenance, when you figure in all the details - cleaning, regulating, repairs, hammer-filing, key bushings, and so on. I tell university piano students that every time they tune their home piano, they should put twice that into a fund for the piano; it will get used up when the piano needs real service.

    And yes, the CAUT Guidelines document is a valuable resource for you, if you start trying to offer any gentle education on piano service. What it means is that you are not just offering your single opinion, you are offering the combined opinions of PTG and its resources, about 3000 voices and their experience. It is endorsed by real technicians in a broad collection of colleges and universities. I think it makes a more credible statement to department heads, “bean-counters” trying to sustain their inventory, and so on. On occasion, a department head may agree with you, and be eager for any documentation that can help them in their future requests for money.

    Good luck.

    Kathy




  • 19.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 17:20
    Thank you for the input. I won't donate or work for free. In fact, I just had a clarifying conversation with the Piano professor. This Friday we are going to meet with the music dept. head and I can then give a broad assessment of things I've found and propose a way to take care of some things and get paid to do so. Then they can make a decision on how they'd like to appropriate funds.

    It has really helped me quite a bit receiving everyone's take on things here. Thank you!

    Cory

    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-14-2019 01:59
    I know Alan Eder and Cathy Smith.  They both started with unsatisfactory programs and built them into something much, much better.  In my mind their advice in priceless as both have been through the bath of fires.  I have more to say but what you have received is quite enough.  In any case, I wish you all the very best.  My Mom was born and raised in Wausau.

    Ed Whitting, RPT
    Sent from my iPhone





  • 21.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 17:50
    Cory, some further thoughts, especially regarding your meeting on Friday.

    Without getting too technical, tell the department head that tunings are ephemeral, at best, but repairs are more long lasting--bigger bang for the buck. No point in trying to do perfect tunings except for concerts and perhaps the teaching studios.

    It sounds like your meeting is going to be about the condition of the pianos. I would advise you to definitely stick to that topic, and don't mention the other things you've told the list about--piano technology class and/or demonstration, hiring students, etc.

    It's good to dream about what could be, but don't get ahead of yourself. Prove to the administration that you are competent, focused, and have a plan to improve their piano stock. If you can demonstrate to them that you've got this, and that this is one worry they can take off their collective plates, you will be a hero. Administrators have lots of stuff to oversee and worry about, but piano care needn't be one of them.

    By all means, cultivate good relationships with the faculty. They can be a big help and champion of your piano work.

    One step at a time. The pianos are on fire, and you're just the person to put out the fires. (Without dousing them with water. Teehee.) OK, I'll shut up now.

    I hope you'll write the list occasionally and tell us how things are going. All the best to you!

    Margie Williams
    pnotuner@pacbell.net

    "We, the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing." (Unknown)




  • 22.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 02:53
    Dear Margie,

    Your wonderful quote was well known in the U.S. Army Aviation Section 50 years ago... I must have heard that from someone
    and not lived it.

    - - - Ed Whitting





  • 23.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 06:06
    Cory, wonderful advice from Margie! I highly recommended TuneLab piano tuning app. It’s $300 for a onetime purchase. I tuned aurally for over 30 years. Purchased TuneLab about 7 years ago. It does a pretty nice pitch raise.

    Good luck

    Stephen R Duncan
    Piano Technician, CVPA,
    UNC-Greensboro
    336-847-6310




  • 24.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 07:47
    Cory,

    Allow me to jump on the band wagon in endorsing ALL of Margie's sage advice. Yes, let your admins know what is needed and what is possible (given current resources), but do NOT simply give it all away. Dong so would denigrate yourself and weaken your bargaining position. No matter how much you are learning and how exciting all this new-found opportunity is.

    Best,

    Alan

    P. S. And yes, students can be a big help, if you choose the right ones and properly marshal the resources. WARNING: SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION (well, not really, but the PC police demand the disclaimer)… If you are considering shop help, you can reap the benefit of my thirty-five years in that realm by taking my class "Shop Help: A Guide to Effective Selection, Training, Supervision and Management of Piano Shop Assistants" at the national convention in Tucson. Many of my student assistants (and other apprentices) have gone on to have celebrated careers in piano tech, and several have become long-time members of the Guild as well as valuable colleagues.

    ------------------------------
    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
    ------------------------------



  • 25.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 10:48
    My take on CAUT work is that it can be very fulfilling, but I've also seen technicians chewed up and spit out by universities. So, let me add the following and support some remarks already made:

    1. Study the Guidelines for Effective Institutional Piano Maintenance. It's a good basic guide for piano technicians to get an understanding of all the things that CAUT work entails. 
    2. Check out the CAUT companion site on my.ptg.org. Lots of good information there. Unfortunately, it isn't always kept up-to-date, but it's still a good resource, especially to a person new to CAUT work.
    3. Don't give your work away. It not only hurts you, it hurts the profession. At a job interview for a full-time staff position I once was told by a university administrator that the university couldn't pay me what I was making at my current job, but that working for the university would open up lots of outside work.  So I was being asked to work 40 hours a week at a reduced rate so that I could make more money working overtime on outside work. That's very typical of university attitudes.
    4. Document what you do. If you're giving service above and beyond what you're being paid, the university needs to know. Universities love documentation; it can lead to squeezing more money out of the system. If it doesn't, you may have to walk away. 
    5. Your work at the university is on public display. If the pianos aren't in good shape, your reputation may suffer. 
    6. Although the pay scale for university work is generally lower than for private work, you can plug into some nice benefits (health, retirement) that add up over time. It's easy for private technicians to delay putting money away for retirement, which results in extending the number of work years beyond age 65. That can be okay, but it's something to consider.

    I worked for 31 years as the staff technician at the University of Nebraska. It was a great gig and fit me perfectly. But, university work isn't for everyone. 

    Richard West 







  • 26.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 10:55
    Cory -
    Alan E included a disclaimer in his response and so will I: I don't mean to be critical of or harsh with either you or my colleagues.  I hurrying to be less late than I already am, but I've wanted to weigh in for a couple of days.  You are experiencing the thrill of novelty and possibility, which I'm reluctant to rain on, but I have a bit of a problem with the situation, given that you have forthrightly explained that your's was the lowest bid.

    A perfunctory list:
    -  how did you come up with a bid without having a better idea of the situation?
    -  could you describe your experience a bit further?  Concert tuniing, voicing, regulation, etc.
    -  how many performance venues are there, and what is the condition of those pianos (assuming either D's or B's)?
    -  how many hours a week does the job description assign?
    -  does it cover the housing you had to obtain?

    For now, my discomfort comes from the idea that the CAUT  community has, for years, been trying to elevate the understanding of the requirements, both technical and resources ($) of proper piano maintenance.  At this point, it would seem that neither we, nor you, have any 'historical context'.  You (perhaps gratuitously) provided the name of the previous technician, whom I don't know, but who has a fairly impressive website.  Theoretically, you might have contacted him before accepting (or even bidding) the job, and understood the situation before hand.

    From the perspective of your own experience, you won't be able to avoid learning a great deal, but I'm not entirely comfortable with those aspects of your narrative that reflect your assumption of responsibility for those 'higher purposes':

    It's a higher regarded campus with great resources.   (but not $$)
    It is also a good opportunity to give back   
    (to whom?)
    I have mentioned and offered to do some work as a donation.


    At some point, the question will be defining your limits.

    Good luck.


    ------------------------------
    David Skolnik [RPT]
    Hastings-on-Hudson NY
    914-231-7565
    ------------------------------



  • 27.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 13:33
    Thank you David. I am very much getting the point about providing any donated or "free" services. Taking some time to really sort thorough everything and be prepared for my arranged meeting on Friday. I am documenting everything that I'm doing and will have that ready and in good form as I go.

    I'd be happy to provide some information you inquired about.

    The reason I know mine was the lowest bid is the piano professor had told me before submitting the bid that they usually go with the lowest bid submitted for independent contractor work. When receiving word that I was selected for the position, he then again told me that "Mine was the lowest bid." Of course that was no confidence booster, but I had taken a few days to really think everything over and came up with a number I was comfortable with and that works for me. I felt a little bit odd that he gave out that information in such a way. I feel he may share some frustration with the way things are administered and has shared some disappointment in the lack of understanding about things like the climate control...ect... He has tried to convince them to leave the AC on for the summer months but was unsuccessful. The bid was for "x" amount of tunings and that is all. Nothing about hours. The deal does not include housing, but through student housing I was able to secure a hotel room that is converted to student housing which was the least expensive short term situation around town. Before submitting the bid I also I inquired about repair and regulation work and was told that the "technician work" would be something separately to consider. I think they wanted to look over my list of assessments and decide what work they deemed most important to do. So perhaps that is actually a respectable approach for things? I have been making some improvements within reason along the way and documenting it all...squeaky pedals...ect...

    They have 2 concert venues with 2 Steinway D's and one B. Again, initially all that was disclosed to me was that I would be tuning them. This week they got approval for paying me to do an additional 1-2 hours of work preparing one of the D's for this Friday's guest performer. The piano has some undetermined action interference/noise and friction in the bass section and also some bass dampers that are not damping well. Some pretty serious false beats in the upper treble (I likely will not be improving that, just tuning...) I believe this sounds good and fair, would you agree?

    Honestly, this will be some of my very first "Concert Prep" work and I am looking forward to it! I don't want a dark cloud overshadowing what I am doing, so I am also very glad to have arranged this meeting with the piano professor and the head of the music department to gain a better understanding of things moving forward. I take your points and advice very well and put great value on my time and all of our time and experience in our field of work. I won't give it away and I thank you for the insight and guidance.

    My experience I believe would be consider minimal. I have done some mentored action rebuilding, some rebuilding and regulation work on my own, been tuning for a bit more than three years, minimal voicing work.... For most people in general, I'd think the view would be that I have no where near the experience need to perform this job. But a little more about myself may help your understanding here. I have a lifetime of musical background. Took some piano when I was 5-6 years old and surprisingly remember a lot of useful things about the mechanics of playing, although I have a limited repertoire. I come from a bloodline of musicians. Started playing guitar at 11 and still do. Although tuning a guitar does not really compare to a piano, some of it does transcend over into this realm...especially the 12 string. I started working with recording and mixing at 12-13 years and still do Audio production (Recording and Live Sound). In that field the work with frequencies has certainly transfer over into piano technology...listening to the 'sounds within the sounds' as I have when mixing albums is very relative to listening to partials when tuning, or even troubleshooting unwanted noises...ect... I have 23 years of some real landscaping experience doing stonework, antique paver patios and walkways, stone staircases, retaining walls, planting tree with huge root balls...ect...I have "tons" of experiences leveraging weight with pry bars and using my body, machines...ect...You might think that's crazy or irrelevant, but it also has translated over to leveraging tuning pins or even the very fine and sensitive aspects of action work bending wires and such that requires appropriate and safe "amounts" of force for the task at hand. I'm always doing my best to be mindful and careful with what I am doing. I have become very detail oriented when working for clients and they seem to appreciate that.

    I also appreciate your mentioning that I feel responsible for contributing to the "higher purposes". Perhaps more accurately I am feeling a potential for me to provide more value. I feel there is a possibility of opening a few things up that wouldn't normally be available. Something like an "internship" for students who are inclined for this type of work...Or even just informing the faculty about their instruments...I am imagining either being a guest in a class or doing an extra-curricular presentation/discussion about piano technology to spark some interest and just inform others about the amazing piano we all love. Besides just doing the tuning work, this is kind of what I meant with the giving back statement. People have been some generous in sharing useful information and experience with me, it seems to be a chance to share with some others and pay it forward. What is your feeling about that idea?

    I'd like to again include a personal note and interesting set of coincidences that ended up with me being here. My daughter is in school here as a sophomore majoring in choral music education. While visiting her in the previous year, she showed me around the music building and I quickly noticed that the practice room piano needed work. A light bulb when off in my head and I thought perhaps I could provide some piano service here when I come up to visit her. I sent a message online to the music department and heard nothing back. Over the winter break my daughter, Talia, mentioned to me that she felt lonely and detached being so far away from family and friends (mainly her boyfriend) and is considering transferring to a closer school, but its a hard decision because her current school does have a great music program and she's made some great friends here and has an accapela group that she's very involved in. I'm so proud of her. She's perhaps the sweetest person I know. So, this again prompted me to look into working at the campus. This time I called and the conversation was, " Interestingly enough, our piano technician just gave his notice and we are looking for someone to tune for the spring semester." It was short notice and last minute, but they needed to go through their bidding process...ect... I thought, 170 tunings!?!? Whoever does that is going to need some help! I learned that is not how things work. It would be one person do all the work or nothing. I dismissed it as not possible but the idea was still in my mind. I discussed it with my lovely wife. Thought it over for a few days, came up with my bid number, submitted it and was selected. I would not be here if not for my daughter, and the coincidental happenings make me feel this is where I'm suppose to be. Being able to have this experience with Talia makes me know this is where I am supposed to be. Shoveling her out of snowdrifts is not a problem but actually a parental joy. We are so glad to be in college together!! Ha. It is a fun and unique experience. Life is grand.

    Thanks for hearing my story and all the useful professional advice. I feel well equipped with the PTG on my side. I'm pursuing the RPT certification and I will do my best to well represent our trade and the Guild.

    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    ------------------------------



  • 28.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-13-2019 11:23
    Excellent! I need to hear that stuff. Actually, my daughter had expressed some similar feelings before I even began this post. The point is well taken and I really appreciate everyone looking out for my interests and our trade.

    I have arranged a meeting with the Piano Professor and the Head of the Music department this Friday. So now I'm sorting through my ideas and assessments of things. I feel better prepared to hold my ground and present things more professionally to them. It's week #2 here and everyone is very busy, but there are things I really would like to have a clear understanding about with them. I've relocated and made myself available full time for them. That in itself I can't really imagine many people being capable of or willing to do. I would not be one who would ever claim to be the best, but I will give my best at what I am doing.

    I'd like to talk a little about attitudes and working relationships if we could also. In conversation, some faculty have expressed that in the past their experience with other technicians, and perhaps not at this school, but it seems that often time there are techs that give the vibe of, "I know everything...I am the best technician...ect...". Some arrogance and pretty harsh closed mindedness that to me would seem counterproductive and unfortunate. On the other hand, I've gotten the feeling from some techs that the Universities and those who are making the decisions do not care enough to even try to understand what their pianos (and other instruments, resources...) need or what kind of work goes into maintaining a high standard or even just acceptable standards for the most part....and most certainly they would not approve of any spending in that department. So it seems these two perceptions or attitudes are perpetually pushing each other apart. Again, maybe I'm a dreamer. I want to find something better within ourselves and each other. It feels like there's a barrier. Possibly some misunderstandings. I feel like there is a stigma and maybe some generalizations that people have bought into for a long time that really need not apply. I understand that it is (or can be) a cold hard world out there and reality is what it is. I also know it to be true and prefer to believe in the potential and possibilities that could be attained with a bit more open mindedness, some consideration and some effort to change for the better. I certainly don't claim to have the answers here, I really am glad that you all are helping me think through this. And that is kind of where I'm coming from. I feel that collectively we can come up with some creative solutions that can help encourage a better experience for all. I like working well with others. It just feels right to me. I love how (In my experience) the PTG is such an open community oriented setting rather than cut-throat and competitive like most other fields.

    In other news, where I am right now we've had several feet of snow and we all are dealing with some things that way too. I find it kind of fun and amusing. On day two I invested in a sturdy snow shovel and its has proved to be a sound investment. ​I've been able to help my daughter out a few times with this shovel and with some parking for her vehicle at the place I'm staying which is pretty close to hers. It's really great to have this college experience with her. She's a sophmore. I'm in college with my daughter! Ha.

    Thanks everyone. Love the conversation

    Cory

    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    ------------------------------



  • 29.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 10:48
    Cory-
    Concerning ETDs, I'd like to put in a mention about CyberTuner.
    The Cybertuner SmartTune function will produce an adequate practice room tuning, including a pitch adjustment of perhaps 15-20 cents in one pass, a real advantage in a college situation. It will remember your break entries and inharmonicity readings for the piano, ready for future tunings.
    It will also calculate an automatic mock tuning exam score, and keep track of your exams, something that you could use to good advantage in your situation.
    It also has a very intuitive, easy to read "spinner," which "feels like" the tuning pin, and I believe helps produce stable tunings.
    It can tune Perfect 12th tunings, as well as many other options.
    It can be programmed to follow temperament sequences of your choice.
    I've used both TuneLab and CyberTuner, and this is my opinion. (I don't have a business arrangement with any ETD company.)
    We all tend to favor our own choices.
    People who use other ETDs can give their reasons.


    ------------------------------
    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
    ------------------------------



  • 30.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 12:50
    Thank you.  I certainly do appreciate all of this.

    I looked at purchasing Cyber Tuner and it seems to me that runs on Apple iPhone, iPad...ect... Not being an Apple person it seemed to me I would also have to purchase one of those and the Cyber tuner software. I know it years passed people used a PDA or whatever, or maybe they sold the CyberTuner with with device to use it. Have I missed something about it? Does it run on a PC or Android device? It came down to a price point as well...using Tune Lab now, and it is helping me...not a great graphic or visual as you are talking about, but it's aiding my work.

    Thanks

    Cory

    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    ------------------------------



  • 31.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 13:04
    Only works on Apple iOS. Probably the least expensive option would be a used phone, iPod touch, iPad mini. Once upon a time Reyburn would sell you a used laptop with RCT installed, but those days are gone (and it no longer works on MacOS, so not on laptops).

    It's obviously a financial investment. It took me a long time to take the plunge and purchase an ETD (SAT at about $1000), but once I did it, I wondered why I had waited so long. 
    Regards,
    Fred Sturm
    "When I smell a flower, I don't think about how it was cultivated. I like to listen to music the same way." Mompou






  • 32.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 13:12
    Please allow me to just insert that I was recently able to purchase the Cyber Tuner software and it is a very nice product. I am a very new user and do have a few questions--perhaps another thread... Anyway, hope to save some folks some major grief/HASSLES in recommending that you alway want to purchase software directly from the provider, as opposed to the APP store--particularly with Apple stuff.
    Case in point: the University gave me full approval to purchase the software as it will be used for school of music tuning and maintenance which should have been TAX EXEMPT. I purchased it through the app store and it charged me about 85 bucks for sales tax. After much sending of documentation, emailing, having our "big whig" admins in combination with the tax exempt department at Apple Inc in Cupertino, California--we reached a complete dead end. (Dean Rayburn was SUPER kind and helpful, but his hands were tied since I did not purchase it through him. They send you like a link through e-mail.)    I love Apple products and that is not my point--my point is to encouraged us to always purchase this kind of stuff through the provider/COMPANY. lesson learned!

    ------------------------------
    [Kevin] [Fortenberry] [RPT]
    [Staff Techician]
    [Texas Tech Univ]
    [Lubbock] [TX]
    [8067783962]
    ------------------------------



  • 33.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 14:15
    In North Carolina, the tax exempt institutions such as UNC- Greensboro must make purchases directly to be exempt from taxes. 
    Stephen R Duncan 
    Piano Technician,  CVPA, 
    UNC-Greensboro 
    336-847-6310






  • 34.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 13:46
    Cory,

    I've been pleased with TuneLab. It's fairly adequate for tuning and especially pitch raises. I still do a lot  of aural tuning. I'm very fortunate to work in a university situation with an incredible climate control system. We have 120 pianos in the main music building and the pitch fluctuates maybe 2 cents up or down during the different seasons of the year. Because of the stable environment, I'm able to look after many piano needs beyond tuning. 


    Stephen R Duncan 
    Piano Technician,  CVPA,  
    UNC-Greensboro 
    336-847-6310






  • 35.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 14:37
    I second that Stephen! I have had Tune Lab for many many years now. (On Ipaq PDA for about the first 5 years). It has been a wonderful AID with my ear tunings. Pitch raises and aid in hearing in the high treble are my two favorite features of it.
    I also reach for my Acuu-Tuner III quite a bit still
    (and am just now learning Cyber Tuner-uggh .. learning "curve" no pun intended! - is substantial for me. Plus I really hate the annual fee. 😏😏).
    My 2 cents! (Oops...another pun..)

    ------------------------------
    [Kevin] [Fortenberry] [RPT]
    [Staff Techician]
    [Texas Tech Univ]
    [Lubbock] [TX]
    [8067783962]
    ------------------------------



  • 36.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 15:30
    Edited by Cory Jacobson 02-15-2019 15:44
    Hello. Just checking back in.

    Our meeting went well. Thanks so much for helping me sort my marbles here. With all these classroom and practice room uprights, I am going the route of quicker pitch correction and using the remaining usual time towards repairs. I have a good understanding with them that more charged time will be spent on the instruments that need it so we can improve the piano stock. I am getting paid ladys and gentlemen!!
    They are appreciative and very nice to work with. We will be looking ahead and going through the higher end instruments together and making some more planned decisions on those, but they gave me the go ahead to charge for work I do on the plethora of classroom and practice room instruments. Things are good! Thanks

    Cory

    ------------------------------
    Cory Jacobson
    Campbellsport WI
    262-689-6043
    ------------------------------



  • 37.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 15:45
    Congratulations on your success so far, and wishes for its continuance!

    Margie Williams
    pnotuner@pacbell.net

    "We, the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing." (Unknown)




  • 38.  RE: Landed an opportunistic job!

    Posted 02-15-2019 22:44
    Just filled out my first invoice using Excell. The program was recommended to me by the office staff and it does really seem to do a great job! I'll be able to create all the documents I need moving forward as well. It automatically added up each service and displayed the total which was also quite nice. There is a box near the total for sales tax. Again,