Ten Reasons Why My Prices Are Higher Than Discount Piano Tuners

Posted: February 26, 2014 in Piano

I am shown here tuning a Schimmel piano.

I am shown here tuning a rebuilt grand piano.

When the first question a customer asks is “How much do you charge?” I am very careful about how I respond. I know that everyone is on a budget, and it is tempting to select a service or product based on the lowest price. There is so much more than price to consider when you select a piano tuner. It takes many years to become a good technician.

When I first started tuning pianos many years ago, the going rate was $40.  That was a long time ago. The gentleman who taught me how to tune pianos concluded his instructions by telling me, “Go out and tune 100 pianos and I will give you another lesson.” REALLY? It took a long time, but I tuned 100 pianos, and he was right. I needed more lessons. This time though, I had some experience and his words held more meaning for me. And then he said, “Now go tune another hundred pianos.”

I am mindful that you have a choice. I would ask that you consider these things I have listed as you make a determination about who you will select to maintain your piano.

Well, that was many years ago. Some people tune those hundred pianos and others don’t. All I can tell you is that I tuned them. And  you know what? I am still learning. It would amaze you to know how much there is to learn about pianos. It sure amazes me!

Today my prices are a little higher than my competitors because I have a lot of experience working on pianos. I think you want someone who is experienced, so I think it would be unfair to me to charge what a less experienced technician or hobbyist might charge.

Here are ten things I considered when I created my price list.

When I am not working on pianos, I practice my woodworking skills.

When I am not working on pianos, I practice my woodworking skills.

1.  Experience is hard to acquire. I have a passion for music that has endured my whole life. I started in the musical instrument industry in 1974.

2. I share the knowledge I have gained from hundreds of people in the industry. I have experience working at the retail, wholesale and national sales levels. I have literally met thousands of customers and associates who also have a passion for music and for learning. Sometimes my customers will want to buy a band instrument or have a question about violins or tubas. If I don’t know the answer, I can direct them to people all over the United States who can help them.

3. I have attended industry trade shows since 1982. A trip to Los Angeles costs me about $1,000. I love going to those shows because it rejuvenates my passion for music and my industry. When I come home from those trips, I bring all the knowledge that I acquired walking from booth to booth talking to all kinds of people, learning about all kinds of products. For my customers, I am the first point of contact for information related to musical instruments. I think that adds value to what I provide as a piano technician.

4. I confer with many piano technicians. Over 40 years I have learned a lot, but I do not know everything! I have had associations with two chapters of the Piano Technician’s Guild, and am currently a member of the Master Piano Technician’s Association.  Clubs tend to be political and social. For advanced technical challenges I rely on a small group of national technicians and rebuilders I have known for many years.

A comparison of old and new hammers I installed on a grand piano. Note the loss of wool on the older hammer.

A comparison of old and new hammers I installed on a grand piano. Note the loss of wool on the older hammer.

5. It is easier to go down on price than it is to go up. I never know what condition a piano is going to be in when I first visit the customers home. Customer’s do not understand why it is important to perform preventative maintenance on pianos. That is hard to explain on the telephone, but it is easy to demonstrate on a piano. It does happen sometimes that I can lower my price if a piano is in good condition. I do not like to up sell a customer. If I find that a piano needs a little more work than I expected, I do not tell my customer that I have to charge a little more. Some discounters do that. They quote a low price, and then charge you extra when they encounter additional problems.

6. My work is guaranteed. I feel it is important to commit to a higher level of performance.  Piano maintenance can be extremely challenging. I enjoy that aspect of my work.

7. I have a full-service shop and can tune and repair any of the 6,000 name brand pianos on the market today. Pianos are very similar of course, but every once in a while I will encounter a piano that has special needs. When the needs of your piano exceed what I can do, I may refer the work to another technician, or ask someone to assist me.

8. Community service has always been important to me. Like others, I contribute time to the community effort. Since I live close to my customers, I am able to offer to fix a key or retune a note or two any time during the year. I usually do not charge for that. If you have tuned your piano in September, and a key gets stuck right before Thanksgiving, it is no problem at all for me to stop by and fix it. Piano tuners who live far away cannot provide that level of service easily. New customers do not know that I will do that. I support the idea that it is important to support local businesses when possible.

9. Your piano deserves the attention of a professional and highly qualified technician. Piano tuning and repair is a full-time endeavor for me. I am always trying to improve and increase my qualifications.

Pianos in my shop are undergoing repair.

Pianos in my shop are undergoing repair.

10. I have a broader base of experience in the musical instrument industry than any of my competitors. Some technicians have more experience in specific areas, but I feel a broader base of knowledge is more beneficial to my customers. If your piano requires the attention of a technician that excels in a specific area of expertise, I can help you contact that person, and will even  monitor the progress of the repair if you desire.

These are some of the things I considered when I set my prices.  I do not have the buying power of Wal-Mart. I do not have a 30% coupon like J.C. Penney. I am just an independent craftsman who is practicing an art that is 300 years old. I love what I do. I charge a little bit more than my competitors because I believe my services offer more value to you — my customer.

I am mindful that you have a choice. I would ask that you consider these things I have listed as you make a determination about who you will select to maintain your piano.

Thank you.

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