Do you have perfect pitch? A passion for playing the piano yourself? Or perhaps you want to help musicians achieve soaring heights on their instruments? Whether you’re a virtuosic picker or a melophile looking for their own role in the vast music industry, piano tuning can be a rewarding job.
Beyond your personal motivation, tunings are usually priced at $90-$180, which can make piano tuning a lucrative profession or side-hustle.1
So how do you get started as a piano tech who tunes pianos for perfect pitch?
In this short guide, we’ll conduct our own bagatelle on the art of creating a successful piano tuning business. Here’s how to become a piano tuner.
Understand the job
It might seem romantic to work in the arts alongside talented musicians. However, before you go buying a baby grand to practice your skills, it’s important to get an understanding of what the job actually entails. It requires a specific skill set and understanding of piano types such as a grand piano, upright pianos, and electronic pianos.
- Diligence – No two pianos are exactly alike. Developing the robust skills you’ll need to work on every instrument that you encounter requires extensive training and practice. Are you ready to put in the work before you begin your new professional career?
- Musicality – While you don’t need to be a skilled keyboardist yourself, you’ll often need to rely on your ears to tell you if the instrument sounds just right. If you’re not very sensitive to sound, you may be ill-suited for this trade.
- Dexterity – Piano tuning often involves minor repair and woodworking. If you’re good with your hands and comfortable using tools, this profession could be a good fit. If you tend towards clumsiness, keep far away from expensive instruments!
Once you’re sure you’ve got the skills to succeed, get ready to buy the right instruments for the job.
Get the right tools
You don’t need a piano to get started tuning—but you need access to a piano. Does a friend or family member have a spinet in their salon or a baby grand lurking in their garage? Great!
The tools you need to tune it include:
- Tuning hammer
- Tuning fork or electronic tuning device
- Temperament strip
Some kits will come equipped with a how-to guide. This guide will explain the basics when it comes to using a tuning hammer, tuning fork, or other electronic tuning device. If your loved one trusts you to wheedle away at their precious instrument, have at it!
However, keep in mind that most successful piano tuners undergo apprenticeships or training before taking their skills on the road. Obtaining training and certification can also help you convey professionalism to your potential clients.
Take a piano tuning course & get licensed
How can you learn to tune?
If you know a master piano tuner, you could always ask to complete an apprenticeship. Likewise, some music schools and colleges may offer classes to piano students looking to better understand the instruments they play. Working with a piano string and understanding sound is best learned through a teacher or certified piano technician.
However, there are several bodies that specifically license piano technicians. The Piano Technician Academy licenses Certified Piano Tuners (CPTS), while the Piano Technicians Guild allows members to apply as Registered Piano Technicians (RPTs).
The Piano Technician Academy conducts a tuning course that includes:
- 14 lessons ranging from 8-30 hours
- Hands-on activities (you’ll need access to a piano)
- Quizzes after each lesson
- A final exam
These can help you acquire the basic training you’ll need to successfully tune pianos.
While the Piano Technicians Guild does not offer courses, they link to a variety of educational resources.2 A self-taught tuner can take several exams on piano design, theory, and repair to apply for RPT certification.
Once you’ve developed the skills to make any instrument sing, it’s time to start promoting your business.
Fine-tune your marketing
The next step as a piano tuner is getting word out there about your business. Consider taking the following steps:
- Market online – Create a business website, as well as business pages on Yelp and Facebook. Use keywords related to your local area to make sure you show up in search results.
- Reach out to piano enthusiasts – Make sure that local schools, piano teachers, and musical groups know about your services by reaching out directly.
- In-person marketing – It may seem quaint to post flyers, but remember that your immediate market is within driving distance from your home. You can also attend recitals and concerts to network with music enthusiasts. Bring your business card!
Be sure your marketing reflects any speciality certificates you’ve sought out in order to bring your business more legitimacy.
Establish a legal business
If you’re only getting a few jobs at first, forming a legal business entity might not be the first thing on your mind. However, as a self-employed individual, you’ll need to report your income and pay taxes on it.
Two options for freelancers include:
- Sole proprietorship – If you don’t take any steps to formally register your business, you operate as a sole proprietorship by default. While you don’t legally need to file for an EIN, you might want to so that you can create a separate business bank account.
- Legal Liability Corporation – Apply with your state to form an LLC. You’ll receive an EIN, and will be able to open a business bank account.
Protect your business
Like all professionals, you take on risk in the course of doing business.
What could go wrong while tuning a piano? Consider the following:
- Should you ruin someone’s instrument, they could sue you for property damage, and you could be held liable for the cost of a new piano.
- You work with your head inside a hulking instrument. Should a client trip over your extended feet or equipment, they could sue you for their bodily injury.
That’s why piano tuners need insurance.
Here at Thimble, our general liability insurance is to provide the investigation, defense, and settlement for the third-party claims stemming from:
- Property damage
- Bodily injury
- Personal and advertising injury
With Thimble, it’s easy to take out a policy that suits your specific needs. Only need insurance for a couple of upcoming projects? Take out insurance by the hour, day, or month. That way, you only pay for insurance when you need it. Signing up can be done in less than 60 seconds.
Just click “Get a Quote” or download the Thimble mobile app to get started.
As a piano tuner, don’t play your career by ear
While your keen musical sense is key to your success as a piano tuner, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to succeed in Mozart’s jungle.
To become a piano tuner:
- Assess your skills to make sure the job is a pitch-perfect fit
- Buy piano tuning tools so you can practice your trade
- Acquire training to get familiar with a variety of instruments and issues
- Promote your business in-person and online
- Establish a legal business and get your finances organized
- Take out insurance to prepare for potential liability
Then, stay sharp and make sure your clients’ pianos don’t!
With a little patience and some dedication, you’ll have a successful career making music sound just that much sweeter.