Late last year I learned that the Piano Technician's Guild was having their annual conference close to where I live. I'd been thinking of joining the Guild but my chapter's meetings are on a night that I already work so it wasn't a high priority. However, I jumped at the chance to go to the conference at a discount and soon my Guild membership packet was in the mail. I am now an Associate Member, meaning I have not passed all their rigorous testing, but can attend classes and meetings to make progress on my skills.
The conference was a week long event, but I traveled to Lancaster for just two days of it. There were more than 600 attendees, including piano service specialists, manufacturers and suppliers from around the world. All week there were classes, hands on demonstrations, and concerts. Many piano technicians play piano along with a plethora of other instruments.
I tried to make the most of my time there by attending classes that would give me hands on experience. One room was completely devoted to this with over 12 stations set up to practice different piano technician tasks. Some people spent all day going from station to station, having their work checked and signed off by master technicians. I didn't devote all day to this, but I did make it to four stations. I adjusted hammers to make sure they hit the strings squarely. I learned about adding tiny pieces of paper to various points in a piano action to adjust how a key played. I worked at one station learning how to bend damper wire for a grand piano so that the damper would sit just right on the strings (represented by a nail and damper head below). The wire was straight when I started and I had to use my hands to put the right bends into the middle of the wire. It is going through a hole in the top piece of wood, then feeding down into another hole in the action part below. I was using a hair straightener to get the dowel out of a hammer head when they had to close the room for the day.
Bending Grand Damper
I also had a one on one lesson on tuning with a former Piano Technicians Guild president. He gave me some new tips to try out to better my tunings and train my ears to listen more accurately while tuning. He recommended I try out a different kind of tuning hammer, which I picked up later with some other new gear.
I am amazed every time I talk to master technicians with how many household tools they use (like a hair straightener for melting wood glue) and what a craftsmanship skill piano tuning really is. I am hoping that I can get to know my area chapter and start learning more from them this year.
If you want to see my new impact tuning hammer in action on your piano, send me an email through the contact button!