February 2, 2021
Hello! This month I interviewed a piano tuner, Jerry Chambers.
Feature Article: Interview With Piano Tuner, Jerry Chambers
One time I was playing the grand piano at Cedar Park Church in Bothell and saw Piano Tuner, Jerry Chamber’s business card taped to the piano. He has been the best discovery! Over the years I have experienced many different piano tuners. Some were recommended by local piano stores and yet gave very poor results. Since I have appreciated Jerry's care and expertise on my own piano for many years, I thought it would be fun to interview him for this article.
Pam: Are you a musician?
Jerry: Yes, it is my full time job as church music director at Meadowbrook Church in Redmond. I went to college to study music theory and composition with the intention of being a church or school musician. In addition to playing the piano, I also play the trumpet and direct a hand bell choir.
Pam: How did you get started as a piano tuner?
Jerry: Piano tuning is the perfect combination of science and art. As a freshman in college there was a concert pianist offering a one month piano tuner course for free. That was just the start. Just like playing an instrument, tuning a piano requires many hours of practice. After you have tuned 50 - 100 pianos, then you can look into working with an experienced technician and learning the trade. I have now been tuning pianos for over 40 years.
It takes 3 skills to be a tuner,
Pam: So tuning pianos is not your main source of income? (This was news to me!)
Jerry: It has always been a side income and ministry. I typically tune about 7 pianos a week and it takes about 1 - 2 hours to typically tune a piano. Longer if it hasn’t been tuned in many years. I tune many church pianos in the area, all the pianos in the Lake Washington School district and a few in the Bellevue school district. Here’s a fun fact! Bellevue High, with 14 pianos, has the most pianos of all the schools on the Eastside.
Pam: What are your favorite pianos to tune?
Jerry: Yamaha, because it is extremely consistent with how it is built, and Kawai - because of their tone and sound.
Pam: Least favorite?
Jerry: Ha ha! I don’t want to tell you, in case one of your students has this piano! All pianos can be tuned, but there are mechanical differences that make each piano unique. Some pianos require a lot more maintenance, which is different than tuning, but still requires frequent visits.
Pam: Do you have any interesting stories or experiences as a tuner?
Jerry: One of the hardest pianos to tune was located in a mental institution. The residents were quite loud, banging things around and randomly yelling. This made it quite difficult to hear the piano as I was tuning it.
Another time I was tuning for an elderly, recently widowed lady. I took the bottom cabinet off and found a half used bottle of whiskey! The woman responded, “yeah, I knew he hid that there.”
Once I had to tune a piano in an old country church when the temperature was 39 degrees! The temperature does not affect the tuning, but rather humidity change is the big culprit!
Pam: What do you wish people knew about piano tuning?
Jerry: It is more important for the student than for the piano itself. When a piano is tuned every year, the sound is more inviting and alive, which is then more encouraging and motivating to the student.
It is also important for pianos to be tuned to the right pitch. Other instruments that are being tuned to the piano are created to have their pitch at a certain place. When that is off, the whole instrument is off. Additionally, students are also learning a sense of pitch. As they play, their ear is developing and their sense of pitch should be centered around the correct pitch. This would be similar to a student learning to play basketball. If they practice on a low hoop, they will struggle making baskets at a hoop of the correct height.
It is so important that students learn to play on a “real” piano!
Electronic keyboards mimic a piano but they are not accurate. The mechanics of a piano is different. There are more parts in a piano than there are in a car!
Pam: How can a person find a good piano tuner?
Jerry: The piano technicians guild will accept anyone that pays their fee. This is not a good source! The best way is word of mouth and 5 star ratings. You want a tuner that has a good balance and understanding of the science and art of tuning. There are machines to assist in the tuning, but they only rely on frequency, not in how the individual note sounds in comparison to other notes. That is the art of tuning a piano. A good tuner knows the limitations of technology and has a developed ear to hear the notes in relation to each other.
Jerry Chambers (425) 466-5063 (text or voice), email@example.com
Each week we showcase a different student from our classes. Thanks to Kevin, Ishaan, Riley and Lucas for sharing their music with us! Like us on Facebook to see the new student each week. Watch videos
Upcoming MOM Events
FREE Online Piano Party! Our first online piano party was quite successful! Students shared their own music as well as participated in interactive musical games. Our next piano party will have a sun and beach theme and will feature a different instrument, the guitar! Come, meet our piano teachers, play some music, and have fun! All ages and musical levels are welcome. Click the link to sign up.
Piano Party Sign Up
Saturday, February 27, at 11:00 am. RSVP required.
Parent Information Meetings - Have questions about our online piano class program? Want a tour of our practicing app? Click the link to schedule your meeting with Miss Pam. Parent Info Meeting
February's Video/Mini-Private Lesson Session begins Tuesday, February 9. This is a great way to start your child's musical education and begin or continue piano lessons. Students are put into one of 4 classes depending on their age and musical ability.
Video/Mini-Private Lesson Subscription
Pre-Reading - Ages 3 - 5 years, or students not yet reading,
We use a color-coded method for the students to match their five fingers to five keys on the piano. New songs using only those 5 notes are given each week.
Primary - Ages 5 -7 years or older and brand new to music,
This group is for the very basics of piano playing. Students learn to play simple rhythms, correct hand position, and the names of the white keys on the piano.
Beginning Elementary - Ages 7-12 years or younger and reading notes,
This is for students just starting to read notes on the staff. Students are taught how the staff relates to the piano and how to translate the notes to making music. Also, having the students memorize a few key notes on the staff will help greatly with their ability to read music.
Advanced Elementary - Ages 7 - 12 years with previous piano lessons
This group already reads notes on the staff and can immediately identify many of the notes by name. They will learn more advanced technique and music theory beyond the initial basics of learning to play.
Parents Ask Pam
Have a question for Miss Pam? You can email, text message, or message on Facebook your questions. She will respond immediately to you, and your question might be featured in future newsletters.
Q: May we schedule more than one lesson each week?
A: Yes! In fact I highly recommend this! When starting a new routine, extra encouragement is always recommended. Piano lessons help to motivate students and keep them focused on learning their new piece. Also, if regular practice time is a challenge, having additional lessons can work in your child's favor. Our Mini-Lesson package comes with four 8-minute lessons, but you can always purchase additional lessons for $8 each.
Your Comments And Questions
Contact Pamela Cornell, Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-227-1611