This post was originally published on 4/9/2014.
What is the difference between a piano technician and a piano tuner? In most cases, they are one and the same. Many people refer to technicians as tuners. When something breaks on a perfectly tuned piano, one will still say, "Call the piano tuner!" There is a distinction to be made though.
There was a time (before I became a piano technician) when I did an internet search to find someone to tune a piano I inherited from a family member. The word "inherited" has a way of painting a picture in one's mind of acquiring a Steinway or Bösendorfer grand. It was actually an old Kimball spinet that I later learned had tenants at one point and extensive water damage. In any event, I called the guy who was at the top of the search results. He also happened to have the lowest price and I was on a budget. He happily arranged to tune my piano.
I noted that my piano did not have a strip of felt behind the keys, properly referred to as a nameboard felt. I thought it would spruce it up a bit if one was installed. So, I called the tuner back and explained the situation. He told me he did not do any work on pianos other than tuning. I was quite surprised at his response. I thought, "If the piano tuner can't fix it, who can?" I kept the appointment for the tuning.
Immediately after ending the call, I did another internet search and found the website of a technician who advertised rebuilding and repairs. I knew he was probably a better person for the job. I called him and found that his tuning fee was about $35 more than the other guy. I also found that he knew what felt I was referring to and was able to replace it. I was happy to pay more for the tuning because I knew my piano was better off in his care. After ending the call with the technician, I called the tuner (notice the uses of "technician" and "tuner") back and told him I found someone who was able to do the repair and tuning in the same visit and needed to cancel the appointment.
Now back to the original question: What is the difference between a technician and a tuner? The difference for me is that a technician is properly trained to tune, repair, replace, and regulate all parts of a piano. A tuner can do nothing more than tune and I use the word "tune" loosely. If they have not had proper training for repairing or regulating a piano, they likely have not been properly trained to tune either.
So what happens if there are some repairs that need to be made in order for your piano to be tuned and to hold its tuning? If you hire a tuner, they might tune it or they might not. If they do, it will go out of tune very quickly and you'll have to call them to come back and tune it again...and again...and again. If they do not tune it, they will refer you to a trained technician and both of you will have wasted your time. If you hire a technician the first time, they will properly inspect the piano before tuning and point out any problems that need to be resolved prior to tuning so you don't waste your money tuning a piano that cannot hold a tune. They will be able to perform the needed repairs as well.
In older pianos, strings may break when bringing the piano up to pitch. If this happens to a tuner, they will have to refer you to a technician to replace the string. There are many other examples to illustrate why one would choose a technician over a tuner, but you probably get the idea.
Are you looking for a technician in Boise, Idaho or the surrounding area? For tuning prices, click here.