A piano tuner adjusts delicate pins and strings inside a piano to ensure that every key will result in the correct tone. Professionals use a number of different tools to tweak strings and check for appropriate pitches, including specialized hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, mutes, and tuning forks. Tuners may also work as technicians, making repairs and maintaining other parts of pianos. Most piano tuners work for repair shops, piano manufacturers, any retail stores, though many experienced professionals operate their own full- or part-time businesses.
Piano strings tend to move around and loosen over time, changing the tones they emit when played. Changes in humidity and temperature can also affect string tension, and constant vibrations cause tuning pins to loosen. A piano tuner is able to identify and correct the problems that pianos experience by carefully inspecting the interior components, testing each string to determine its pitch, and making fine adjustments to realign pins. Since transporting a piano is both cumbersome and presents the possibility of knocking strings back out of tune, most piano tuners perform their work at clients' homes.
A professional piano tuner utilizes a tuning fork to make sure that each string is tightened to the correct frequency. Many skilled tuners rely on manual tuning forks and their trained ears to set a piano into tune, though electronic tuning forks are also used to ensure a perfect job. Professionals also utilize hammers and pliers to secure and tighten pins, as well as many other small tools to make very minute adjustments.
An individual who wants to become a piano tuner can learn about the trade by taking correspondence courses or enrolling in one- to six-month training programs at accredited institutions. Students are usually granted access to the necessary tools and practice pianos so they can hone their skills. Some programs include business classes, so that individuals can learn how to find and please clients who need their services. Once basic training is completed, a new piano tuner usually works as an assistant or an apprentice to an established professional for up to four years to truly master the trade and become more familiar with customer service duties.
After gaining experience as an apprentice, a tuner can apply for jobs at repair shops, piano retailers, and manufacturing plants. Some skilled tuners who manage to create good rapport with clients are able to open their own businesses. Self-employed individuals may work full-time or tune pianos as a means of supplementing their income from other sources. Successful tuners often expand their business to include a repair shop, assistants to help them perform house calls, and secretaries to handle administrative duties.