About once a week, my Piano Division has Repertoire Class. This is a safe environment in which anyone, regardless of experience or technical skill, can practice playing in front of people. For some reason, in this week’s class, the only people who played were beginners to the piano.
When people who haven’t spent years perfecting their technique perform for you, beautiful things occur.
Obviously, however, this is not what this post is about.
After all their sweet little tunes and nervous bows, one of our full-time teachers gave a presentation on piano-tuning. He began rather humourously by telling us that every piano is different, that every piano has personality. I chuckled and said to myself that pianos are people too! It is true, however, especially when you play a vast variety of them.
I’m blessed to go to an All-Steinway School, but one of our baby grands has gotten so bad that we are sending it off to New York, thanks to generous donations from our patrons, to be all fixed up.
Anyways, following that statement, he told us his history of being a piano-tuner and how long it takes to learn. Apparently, you don’t really know what you’re doing until you’ve tuned at least one-thousand pianos, even if those first thousand sounded good.
There are also different styles within different tuning systems, and every tuner tunes differently. Sometimes the piano-owners like what they hear, and sometimes they don’t.
I suppose what struck me most during this presentation is that piano-tuning is not a science after all, even though it includes a lot of physics of sound and acoustics.
No, piano-tuning is an art. And like all art, there is a philosophy behind it.