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Monday, 21 May 2012

Tuner or Magician?

Tuners are often asked to work some kind of magic on an unpromising piano for a concert. It is surprising pianists don't complain about the condition of the piano they have to play! Perhaps they do - but after the event it's too late for anything to be done about it.

This kind of thing should not happen: 


A celebrity singer and her accompanist felt the piano they were given to use was not up to scratch. So, at very short notice, the tuner was given 30 minutes to work some kind of miracle with a woefully out-of-tune piano. 


Or, for a New Year's Eve event - a Piano Concerto, complete with orchestra... The piano was to arrive 28 December but could not be unpacked until New Year's Eve itself, and the tuner given one hour to tune it for the concert!


A major American comes to town with his band and entourage but need a local tuner to prepare the piano. The day before the gig, organisers ring for a tuner and reckon the job could be done in 45 minutes.

I remember as a very young tuner being sent to tune an elderly piano for a concert by an established pianist. After my initial tuning I was to tune it again after his rehearsal. Alas, he announced the piano was not good enough to play his program. Fortunately my tuning was acceptable but the piano was found wanting.

Why does this kind of thing happen? Surely, anyone who puts on events like these should have some appreciation of what is involved in preparing a piano for a fully professional concert and ensure the piano is up to the task. 

We live in an age when an instant response is expected for any request. In this respect, the piano does not belong in our modern 'instant-fix' world. Every piano is unique, it does not like rapid changes of environment, and even worse, every piano takes its own time to settle down. A pianist taking their own piano on tour has to accept a less than perfectly tuned piano - unless proper arrangements are made well in advance.


Hiring in a piano is not easy when there is little choice and/or limited funds, but who really wants to pay good money to hear good artists doing battle with an inadequate instrument? 


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