The “Little Things” Matter

To quote Aristotle:

“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

This is a statement that certainly rings true in the field of piano service and maintenance. To put it simply, the little things matter. The following is a list of some of the little things I do when servicing a piano for my customers:

  1. I start by taking off my shoes in the customer’s home. This is a sign of respect. I treat everyone’s home how I would treat my own.
  2. I make sure when taking apart any piano to put all case parts out of harm’s way, making sure to not scratch the floors.
  3. When opening the piano lid of an upright I put a towel or rag between the lid and the wall so there are no scratches.
  4. I always do a pre-tuning inspection. The condition of the piano is thoroughly evaluated to best determine the appropriate course of action. Before beginning any work I consult with the customer, collectively deciding what should be done and quote the price of the job.
  5. The cast iron plate holds the string tension of the piano. It is important to check/tighten the plate screws and plate bolts as this ensures greater tuning stability. This is something many technicians overlook.
  6. I check/tighten the bench bolts/wingnuts. I consider the bench to be an extension of the piano. Player safety is a top priority.
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  8. For older pianos or pianos with rusty strings I apply lubricant to all the string bearing points with a paintbrush. This lessens the likelihood of string breakage.
  9. All pedals and trapwork are adjusted appropriately.
  10. I don’t “nickel and dime” my customers. If there are only a few sticking keys or if a couple of adjustments are necessary such a moving a damper wire to quiet a ringing note, spacing a hammer so it contacts all three or two strings, tightening a hammer butt screw to prevent clicking noises, regulating a note to prevent a bobbling, double-striking hammer, eliminating a pedal squeak; these minor repairs are included in the cost of the tuning. I take care of my customers. I know I like to feel that I am taken care of if I am spending my hard-earned money on someone else’s services.
  11. In addition to evaluating the piano’s needs it is equally important to gauge the customer’s needs and desires as well. It is important for me to know who plays the piano, how much they play the piano and to know what is the piano’s intended use. There are so many other services that will improve the piano’s performance beyond tuning. I believe one of my roles is to educate the customer about their piano’s potential based on a conversation of their needs and desires rather than needlessly upselling my services.
  12. I always look up the year of the piano based on the make/model and serial #. I consider this a very important piece of information. It is not wise, for instance, to try to tune your grandma’s family piano to concert pitch if it is from 1916, has rusty strings and is a whole tone flat.
  13. I am prompt with my communications. Calls, emails or texts will be returned within the same day.
  14. I am reliable and courteous.

There are many other “little things” that I do when I service a customer’s piano. When done in isolation each of these steps may seem like you are “splitting hairs”, but when the sum total of all these individual parts are put together, it can make a “whole” lot of difference!