Counting to 100: 31-40

(If you're new to this series, I am writing about my tuning journey, counting my first 100 tunings. Check out previous posts here: 

With two kids keeping me busy, finding time to rehash every tuning I do just isn't happening. Here's a review of the last 9 for anyone who may be keeping track with me. You might remember that I finally got an electronic tuning device (SAT I - it's a really old school one) to help me! It has definitely helped me improve my tunings and my speed as well. 

Piano Tuning #31: Our church's Baldwin upright with the SAT.

Every piano is slightly different in the way it needs to be tuned because of a lot of different factors (pianos are pretty complex). I consistently had trouble getting some of the G#'s and B's to fit when tuning this piano. Having the SAT helped me get them set in just right to fit the scale. I'm not sure why they were so much more tricky on this piano than others, but I was glad to finally start fixing the problem.

Funny note: I am pretty hyper aware of slightly out of tune B's because of my own struggles with them. Our church recently got a brand new grand piano and due to contract obligations it was tuned by someone else. I noticed immediately that a few of the B's weren't quite where I would want them. It makes me feel better that I am not the only one with this B tuning problem! 

Piano Tuning #32: a friend's Kimball spinet

  This piano has a double hitting problem, but because it is a spinet it is not an easy fix. Every time I tune it I look into it some more and try to fiddle with it to fix the double hitting. But I suspect I need to take it apart to really solve the problem. Since I am tuning it as a favor to a friend with both our little kids running around, I usually don't have the time to give it my full attention. Someday I'll take it apart and see what I can do. 

Piano Tuning #33: a student's Baldwin Acrosonic Spinet

These little pianos are workhorses. They don't always sound the prettiest, or play the smoothest, but they seem to last forever and hold up to abuse well. If you are looking for a used piano for your kid's lessons, a Baldwin Acrosonic spinet is not a bad choice. 

Piano Tuning #34: a friend's Kranich and Bach upright

This piano is old and not holding up well. The top notes were slipping this time that I tuned it. Sometimes pegs and pegboards just get worn out and won't hold a pitch as well anymore. That is a sign it is time to get a new piano.  

Piano Tuning #35: my own piano again. 

Yes, I tune my own piano, although it is a little like the cobbler's children. It is hard to schedule my own work in my own house. 

Piano Tuning #36: a Schumann upright

"Schumann" is not a quality name for a piano like it is for composers. This piano had several strings that were untunable, a broken flange, and badly needed a pitch raise. I did the best I could for it but advised them their piano did not have much life left. If your tuner ever has to tell you that, don't shoot the messenger. I understand it is disheartening to hear. However, better they tell you, than you continue to  pour money into an instrument that is just going to keep getting worse. 

Piano Tuning #37: Otto Altenburg spinet

I did a pitch raise over the course of 2014 when I first started tuning for this family. Now this piano is holding well and serving their needs perfectly. A little TLC for a piano goes a long way. 

Piano Tuning #38:  Kimball Upright 

This piano has been moved several times in the past 2 years and not happy about it. It takes a few weeks (or even longer) for pianos to stabilize after being put in a new environment. This affects pitch and necessitates more tunings for a time. 

Piano Tuning #39:  Back to my friend's Kimball spinet

This piano is still double hitting. I have several notes on it and I am going to make time in a few months to check it out more thoroughly. Since we have a special tuning arrangement, I haven't spent too much more time working on it.  

Piano Tuning #40:  Young Chang professional upright

I accompany a community choir and we hold our rehearsals and concerts at a local church. The church primarily uses an organ, so the choir hired me to tune the piano before our concert. I love being able to tune AND play pianos. Did you know that a lot of technicians don't actually play piano themselves? 

Phew I am almost up to date for this year. Stay tuned for pianos 41-50, coming in the next month or so. 

Using OneNote as a Tool for Tuning and Teaching

When I first got my laptop for college, there was a widget that allowed you to put virtual sticky notes on your desktop screen. I LOVED that widget and used it all the time. Now it is 8 years later, and with Windows 8, that isn't an option. However, Microsoft does have a new tool that way surpasses those little sticky notes: OneNote. 

With Microsoft OneNote you can write yourself notes, turn them into to-do lists with little check boxes, and neatly organize data or lists. You can also draw on your lists (which is more helpful if you have a touch screen). OneNote will sync with any device you have, and you can share your notebooks with other people. (That's just a quick description. If you want more info, check out this link: https://www.onenote.com/) The best part that I love about it is that you can open up a new page, click to write anywhere, and then move your text boxes around with ease. It's just like using little sticky notes, but now you can have tons of them, archive them, and see them anywhere (as long as your devices are synced)!

OneNote has seriously changed my note taking system, and makes life easier on a daily basis. I use it to keep track of my tuning clients and tuning history, to write down to-do lists so I get things done, to keep track of where my students have been and where they are going, to plan out meals (and then I open up my list at the grocery store and just cross things off), to sync to-do lists with my husband, to plan out blogs..

More specifically, here's how I use it for Tuning and Teaching.

Tuning 

My tuning course said to use cards for each piano and take these with me. This system is seriously outdated and was not working for me. Now I have a "notebook" for all my business related things. In that notebook, I have a section called "Tuning". In each section you can have different pages. I have a calendar page first, and then a page for each client. On the calendar page I list out every month and list clients under the specific months I tuned their pianos so I can see it at a glance. This tells me the months I don't have many clients, when to call people to remind them about upcoming tunings, who missed a tuning, etc.   

For the client pages, I list the piano make and serial number. Then I list the first time I tuned their piano. After that I write my notes for each tuning, and the date of each tuning. I add each new tuning at the top of the page so I can see the most recent one first. I then organize the pages alphabetically (I wish OneNote would do this for me, but the drag and drop feature isn't too hard). These notes sync with my phone, so when I go to a client's house, I can simply pull up their page and add any new notes. 

As I write this, I realized I don't have a page for my piano! So, here's what a page looks like, using my piano as an example. I haven't transferred over all my notes from my note card yet. I'm not even sure I still have it. I don't remember when I first gave my piano a proper tuning, but I just recently tuned it again. It's had too many practice tuning to even count! 

Teaching

I use OneNote similarly for my teaching. I keep a purchase lists section with notes of books I need for the future so I can snag them when they are on sale. 

I also have a section called "Piano Planning" which I use for planning out studio events. I used this extensively when I was planning for the 40 piece challenge , since I needed to keep track of a huge list of books and pieces for each student!  I actually wound up changing how I structured my challenge from my original idea, but you can see the planning process here:

Finally, I keep notes on each student I teach. It is hard to keep extensive notes on everything they've learned so  I try to keep it as a quick review. I list:

  • Books they are currently using
  • Current struggles I need to remember to work on
  •  Books completed (so I can know where they've been)
  • Concepts learned (this one is really hard to keep up with!)
  • When they began lessons
  • Future music ideas

I got this idea of at-a-glance student notes from Joy Morin at Color In My Piano.  I do keep week to week lesson plan records, especially for my beginners, in my teaching binder. Those eventually get thrown out, but these digital notes help me keep long-term goals in mind.  

 

Disclaimer: Microsoft OneNote doesn't even know I wrote this post. This is just what I think, and an attempt to help you learn about the technology options out there for your business. 

Counting to 100: #20

Woohoo! This is my 20th tuning post on the blog. I am 1/5 of the way to 100! 

If you want to go back and read more tuning posts, here's some others: 

For this tuning I went back to the Kranich & Bach piano from tuning #10. It had been a few months past 6 months because we were having a hard time coordinating our schedules, but the piano still sounded pretty good. There's nothing unusual or new to tell you about this piano, or this tuning. So instead, for my 1/5 virtual party, I'll tell you how tuning is going now vs a year ago when I really started tuning seriously after finishing my course. 

1. I don't stress about each tuning. 

I used to worry about each tuning, and practice a little before it, especially if it had been a few weeks since I'd last tuned a piano. Obviously with 20 tunings in about 1 year, I am not doing them every day. I am also teaching, and playing piano, and being a mom and a housewife.  But now I am much more comfortable showing up for a tuning after a month off. 

2. I have an awesome tuning bag!

I used to keep everything in several random bags and felt like a bag lady hauling everything in. After doing some research on tuning forums, I found this bag: The Nantucket Bagg

It is meant for knitting, but is awesome for my basic tuning tools. A lot of technicians have a big (expensive) case that they carry with all their supplies that is designed just for technicians. I opt to just carry the essentials and leave the rest in the car (or at home). Most of the time I don't need them anyway. I've been meaning to write a full review of it eventually, in case other technicians out there are in search of a better bag. 

3. I have an awesome notating system!

The course I completed was written in the 90's so some of the stuff was really outdated, like: how to keep tuning files. Randy's instructions were to keep them on note cards. I started out that way, but I kept forgetting to bring the right card with me, so I'd take notes on one big legal pad and I wasn't good about transferring those notes back onto the note cards. Anyway, I got a smart phone and starting using OneNote. It is so much easier! I'll write a post on how I use OneNote for tuning and teaching soon.  

4.  I still worry about breaking strings.

Strings break. It is part of owning a piano. They get old and less flexible and they break. If a technician breaks a string on your piano, don't assume they are a bad technician. However, I do not enjoy replacing strings. It is a skill I really need to work on but replacement coils are really expensive! Buying a set of replacement strings and practicing is next on my things to do after buying a tuning device. In the mean time, it is always a nagging worry when I do a tuning that I will break a string and have to order a replacement.

5. I am better at fixing small things

I have fixed ringing notes, pushed parts back into place, adjusted pedals, solved buzzing noises... I am getting better at fixing those little annoying things that just need the right pressure in the right spot to end your piano playing misery. And I am not as afraid to try because I know the secret that most piano parts are harder to break than you might think. But, be careful what you push on without the right knowledge to go with it. Pianos are strong, fragile instruments.... kind of like every other instrument!

Counting to 100: # 10

Welcome to the Counting to 100 Pianos series. I am blogging my way through my first 100 tunings. For previous pianos, check out these:

For tuning # 10, I headed to a friend's apartment. We went to school together and she had given me a call asking me to come tune her piano. So far all of my tunings have been for friends, family, or friends of friends, which is a nice way to start out. 

Piano: Kranich & Bach Upright

Although I had never heard of this brand, the Blue Book of Pianos has nothing but high praise for this maker (who once upon a time was apparently a really good company):

One of the oldest, most noted and prominent firms in the piano industry, which, for nearly a century has enjoyed the highest reputation. This business was established in 1864 by Helmuth Kranich and Jacques Bach, both practical piano makers of tried experience. The firm soon became known as makers of distinction, and almost from the start Their instruments have been regarded as among the most reliable made. In 1873 Messrs Kraaich & Bach moved its factories and warerooms to East Twenty-third Street, New York. In 1890 the business was incorporated. This company prides itself upon the fact that it possesses what is considered one of the most complete and up-to-date piano manufacturing plants in the country, equipped with the finest machinery and most modern appliances. They belong to the very small group of famous makers whose pianos are among the highest class made in the world.       Source

However this piano is another that was built between the 1960's and 1970's. It doesn't sound so grand now as it may have one day, but age will do that to most pianos.

The ideal, at least for me, tuning situation involves no noise. No kids, no AC, no leaf blowers, no talking, no construction outside... Now, I know that this is pretty much impossible (minus the leaf blower), so I am learning to work through noise. This time it was a fish tank. You can't exactly ask someone to turn off their fish tank so you can tune their piano.  I'll just have to add it to the growing list of things I have tuned through... Other than that it was a pretty standard tuning.