Ever played a funny-sounding old piano? Chances are it is just out of tune, and could be sounding like new with the help of a keyboard technician. There aren't any educational requirements for those who wish to become keyboard technicians; certification in the field can be obtained.
Keyboard technicians, often referred to as piano technicians, technologists or tuners, adjust and repair pianos. Keyboard technicians can own their own business or work for universities, large orchestras or piano manufacturers. A few academic programs in piano technology and repair exist through technical schools and universities.
|Required Education||None required|
|Other Requirements||Certification options available|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||-1% for all electrical and electronics installers and repairers*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$36,330 annually for musical instrument repairers and tuners*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Keyboard Technician Job Description
Due to the size of the instrument, keyboard technicians often work independently, visiting customers' homes, churches or concert halls. They adjust the parts within the instruments, primarily the strings and the action, to ensure the piano is properly tuned and working optimally.
Keyboard technicians are trained to identify mechanical problems in pianos and fix them. They can improve the sound and touch of the instrument using industry tools. They could also offer reconditioning and refurbishing services for used pianos. Keyboard technicians usually need to know how to work on multiple types of pianos, such as upright, grand or square instruments.
Duties of a Keyboard Technician
A keyboard technician might work according to their own schedules, attending to instruments on a regular or as-needed basis. Even at their best, pianos can fall out of tune within weeks, requiring maintenance of heavily used instruments or periodic service when a piano is moved or has been unused for some time. Keyboard technicians could purchase and maintain their own tools, though some companies might provide equipment and testing tools for employees.
Some advanced keyboard technicians service instruments for concerts, which could require a higher level of workmanship. They also work in university music programs to ensure both the practice and performance pianos are maintained and properly tuned. A keyboard technician could be called upon to diagnose sound, function or physical problems of a piano. They use different types of tools to perform tuning, string adjustment, repair and refinishing work.
Keyboard Technician Requirements
Keyboard technicians might be musicians drawn to the trade for the convenience of being able to work on their own instrument. Additionally, others might enter the field through technical avenues. Trade schools and universities with keyboard technician or technology programs train students in modern piano maintenance, tuning and acoustics. These programs can take a few days to a couple of years, depending on the level of education sought. Students gain an understanding of the design and function of different types of pianos, as well as receive education in advertising, business and ethics.
There is no academic standard for keyboard technicians, and very few programs specific to piano technology exist. However, many schools and departments of music include repair services or faculty with training in piano tuning and repair. Students could participate in a short apprentice training opportunity or pursue a degree program in music that incorporates instruction in keyboard technology.
Becoming a Registered Piano Technician
Professional keyboard technicians can choose to earn certification from the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG). The organization confers a Registered Piano Technician designation on those who pass a written and two practical exams. The written exam covers key knowledge of piano design, tuning theory, repair and related topics. The hands-on portion tests tuning aptitude, assembly knowledge, technical abilities and repair skills.
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), home entertainment equipment installers and repairers are expected to see shrinkage in employment from 2018-2028. These professionals are responsible for a wide variety of home entertainment equipment, which could include electric instruments, such as keyboards.
As of May 2018, the BLS reported that home entertainment equipment installers and repairers earned a mean annual salary of $39,800. Additionally, musical instrument repairers and tuners, who are responsible for piano repair and tuning, earned a mean annual salary of $39,110 as of May 2018, according to the BLS.
While there are no formal requirements for becoming a keyboard technician, the Piano Technicians Guild offers certification, which may attract customers or employers. Keyboard technicians might work for a piano company or a university, but most often they are hired on an individual basis to service personal instruments.