PianoWorks

Piano Tuning & Repair

Welcome!  My name is Ron Bergeron.  I am a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) and the owner of PianoWorks LLC and Austin PianoWorks.  I tune pianos, repair them, and rebuild them all over the greater Austin area.  Although I work on all kinds, I have a special passion for classic instruments.

Please make PianoWorks your first resource on any piano-related question.  You can reach me by voice, text or email.    

Be sure to visit the photo and video gallery to see samples of our work, view some incredible pianos, or just to learn something about how they are put together!

Thanks for stopping by!

What's an RPT?

RPT stands for Registered Piano Technician.  I can testify that it's not a designation that is easy to attain.  When you search for a good piano technician, you are searching a trade that is unregulated.  That means that Joe Schmoe can make a snazzy website and claim to be a Piano 'Tooner' as soon as he figures out how to hold the tuning hammer he bought off Amazon.  And with modern tuning apps so readily available, how hard can it be, right?  Wrong.  Obviously.  

About four decades ago, sensing that the trade could easily become a place for unethical bottom feeders who want to make a quick buck, the Piano Technicians Guild set its own standards of proficiency to qualify piano technicians as "Registered."  The title must be earned by passing three examinations.  From the Piano Technician's Guild website it says

"...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. Exam procedures are designed to comply with standards of objectivity mandated by US anti-trust legislation, thus assuring that exams are fair and equivalent regardless of where or by whom they are administered. 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...

I became a Registered Piano Technician in October 2014.  At that time I had worked full-time as a piano technician for over ten years!  Yet even with more than 10,000 pianos under my belt, it was the hardest test I've ever taken!  In fact, it was easier to complete the requirements to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (which I was) than it was to become an RPT (whether that also says something unsavory about requirements for therapists is the topic for another blog).  

When you trust your piano to an RPT you are trusting it to a proven professional who has met the highest entry-level standards in the industry. 

Are there good technicians out there who've never completed the RPT exams? Sure.  I know a few myself.  I also know a number of them that routinely do shoddy, unprofessional work.  Just because someone advertises they've been in business for decades, doesn't mean they are any good.  They could have been doing bad work the whole time and never had a professional organization against which to compare themselves.  

Using an unregistered tuner may seem like it'll save money, but chances are it's not worth the risk.  All tuners are not alike.  

An RPT is a professional.  Always, always hire professionals.

Doing More Than Tuning

Over the years, I've developed a philosophy for first appointments.  It's more than just showing up, twisting the tuning pins and picking up a check.  I like to approach first appointments  with the piano (and it's owners) the same way good doctors approach new patients.  They don't jump right in and start prescribing medications.  They take a history first.  They ask questions.  They examine.  

Good technicians, in my opinion, should do the same things.  Don't just open the lid and start tuning.   Slow down.  Find out the history of the piano.  Where has it been?  Who owned it?  How was it used?  Find out how the customer feels about the condition of the piano.  How would they like to use the piano when we're finished with our work?  Will it be used for little Johnny to learn Chopsticks or is it being made ready for a returning college student to practice?  With these, and a few more questions, one can begin to formulate a plan for bringing an old piano back into service, or improving the quality of a new one.  

How to Pick A Mover for Your Piano

I am often called upon to repair the damage that has been done by "Piano Movers" that clearly didn't know what they were doing.  Usually it's a broken leg on a small upright.  Sometimes it's a deep scratch in a high-gloss polyester finish caused by improper wrapping.  Sometimes the movers get the piano to the right house without any overt damage, but then put the piano back together wrong so something doesn't work right -- usually the sustain pedal.  How can you avoid these scenarios when you have YOUR piano moved?  Here are a few tips:

1.  Get a referral from a local piano store.   Piano stores usually have a few local movers that have good reputations in their rolodex.  local piano stores in the area and ask them who they use to deliver their pianos.  But don't ask the piano store to set up the move for you.  Some get a piece of the action for the referral and jack up the price accordingly.

2.  When you talk to the mover, ask them what kind of equipment they have for moving pianos.  They should immediately qualify your question by asking if the piano is a grand or an upright.  If it's a grand piano, they should say that they have a SKIDBOARD.  If they do, ask them "What size is it?"  as skidboards come in 6,7, and 8 foot sizes, each according to the length of the piano.  

3.  Pick a mover that regularly moves pianos and knows how to wrap them up correctly.  And by all means, take a short video of the piano before they pick it up as an insurance policy against any claims you may need to make if they damage the piano in transit.

4.  Ask if they are insured.  Also, find out if they are insured for not only moving the piano but transporting it as well.  If you have doubts, ask for their insurance card or the name of their carrier and contact them.  Granted, if you are only transporting grandma's favorite spinet you may not need to know, but if it's a $100,000 grand...

 

 

Why Another Piano Blog?

Hi!  My name is Ron Bergeron.  I'm a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) and I love pianos!  I see and hear lots of stuff everyday that's just a little too casual or unusual to post on my website, and here's a great place to share them.   I'd love to hear your comments, questions, or angry exhortations!  Welcome!

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