In my early 20’s I was teaching a bunch of music lessons. They were mostly in-home piano lessons in Bethany. A good portion of my students' pianos were out of tune. I started to wonder, is piano tuning a good career? I could only teach students when they were home from school, but in theory I could tune pianos all day and then teach my regular lessons during after school hours. So is piano tuning a good career?
Yes! The average income for a Piano Tuner/Technician is $40,000 to $60,000. This is a solid income in most places in the United States. Being a piano technician requires dedication, persistence, people skills and in most cases an entrepreneurial spirit.
So you're thinking about becoming a piano technician, but the first question you should ask is what exactly does a piano technician do. Piano technicians can do a wide range of things when it comes to working with pianos. This can be everything from tuning pianos in people's homes to repairing people's pianos. Or even working on pianos for a symphony orchestra or a local piano gallery.
Some of the most common problems with pianos would be, sticking sluggish keys, pianos going out of tune and he's not even working at all. There's also the ever-present problem of notes buzzing in a strange way when the key is struck. And even damaged or dirty keys pianos. There are all sorts of things that a piano technician has to do. If you are curious how much it costs to have your piano tuned check out this article:
The first thing piano technicians have to do is be a decent people person. You'll be going into people's houses doing this job in most cases, unless you end up working for a piano factory. When you think about it there's no situation or at least very few situations where someone will be bringing their piano to you to work on. This is not like being a guitar repairman where everyone brings their guitar to you. You're basically a door-to-door technician, much like an electrician or plumber you will be entering people's homes. So it's extremely important for you to develop some level of interpersonal skills.
This might seem like a silly requirement and that the main requirement is to be very good at servicing pianos. But the unfortunate truth is, it is a little bit of both. If you are not a pleasant person to be around chances are your customers will not refer you to other potential clients. Granted if you don't do a good job repairing their piano they won't refer you either but both are very important.
This is often overlooked by most piano technicians. They think skill alone is enough to keep them busy. But no one likes a grumpy person coming into their house no matter how talented they are.
So, should you become a piano technician? There are a few things you should think about before going into this profession.
As I discussed earlier in this article it's important that you get along with people and make a good first impression. If you aren't an awkward or shy person this will be a very difficult job for you in most cases. Of course there's a chance you can find a job working for a larger company and they will deal with all the scheduling in marketing and getting you clients, but either way you'll be going into people's houses. Unless of course you work in a piano Factory. so think long and hard if you consider yourself a people person.
Are you good at selling yourself? If you decide to become a piano technician chances are you'll be working for yourself. This can be really great and really fulfilling but you also have to remember that you will be in charge of getting your own work. This means you have to have the drive and know how to get clients. The toughest part is always getting the first 10 clients. Once you establish yourself in an area and show that you are capable, people start to refer you and slowly you can build up a decent sized clientele. Until that point though it will be an uphill battle to get people to want to hire you. The first client is always the hardest, unless it's just a friend.
Believe it or not, not everyone is good at working with their hands. You should think long and hard if you have a knack or talent for working with your hands. Because he will be doing that all day. Pianos are very delicate instruments and you will have to establish a feel for how to repair a piano. Sometimes you'll be sticking your hands in tight spaces and having to do very meticulous work in a very cramped space. So think long and hard about if this sounds like the kind of work you enjoy. For many people it is extremely enjoyable.
Piano technician is one of those jobs that even though you are around people most the day you're not actually with people. You're going into people's homes but you're not necessarily working with the people that you're surrounded by. Oftentimes someone will let you into their house and then they will go into the other room and you will be alone. So make sure that you are comfortable being alone with your thoughts all day.
It can take anywhere between two to five years to become a piano technician. So you have to think really hard before starting down this road, it's a long path. You have to really like doing all the above things listed and then you have to follow through and learn how to do it. If it is something you really think you would love, it certainly is worth pursuing, but that is an awfully long time to work on one thing. You don't want to get 2 years into it and realize you don't like it.
A very common way to become a piano tuner or piano technician is to have an apprenticeship. This is where you become an apprentice with an experienced piano technician. You can also participate in specialized training programs. And of course you could undergo rigorous self education. I strongly caution you against taking that third option. Pianos are very valuable instruments and often carry a lot of sentimental value. You should think twice before teaching yourself how to repair them, you don't want to break or hurt someone's piano. And it is certainly embarrassing if you are tuning someone's piano and their house and you're getting it more and more out of tune and they are hearing this.
I have an acquaintance who went through a piano tuner apprenticeship. It worked out okay for him but he started tuning customers' pianos too early. He ended up losing a lot of his initial customers and starting to spread a bit of a bad name for himself around the community.
I would strongly suggest making sure you are more than qualified before you take on your first client. Also think really hard about who will be your mentor. You want to mentor who is dedicated and committed to you. You don't want someone who will teach you the basics and then say you're ready to go out and do it yourself. When looking for a mentor it's often good to find someone who's not an autodidact. Sometimes autodidactic people aren't the best teachers because they learn things very quickly themselves.
The average piano technician charges $100 per hour. This is a really solid income. It's important to remember though that you will not be able to necessarily work 40 hours a week as a piano tuner. There is travel time, client acquisition and paperwork that is involved such as billing. You will most likely not be making six figures doing this job but it is still a very solid income.
Just remember that it does take entrepreneurship and drive to become a piano technician. You also have to be comfortable billing people, this can actually be a problem for some people.
Thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you have found it helpful. I really enjoy writing articles about teaching piano and piano maintenance. Please check out some of my other articles on this site.