Where have all the Piano Tuners Gone?

As the piano became a social necessity, and a mark of respectability, demand spread from the wealthy drawing room to front parlour of the countries homes. The ownership of a piano led to the relatively self-perpetuating matter of supply and demand. Piano sales, the piano buyer the music teachers and the piano tuner.

In the early nineteen hundreds most of the cities larger piano retailers had large workshops combined with the few local piano manufactures produced a steady stream of apprentices. Piano tuners would be sent out to all areas to tune and maintain the pianos. The simple means of making an appointment by mail for the yearly or bi-yearly visit was not an onerous undertaking, as it should be remembered that most house wives were at home during the day. By the early 1930s, the great depression and the popularity of the wireless decreased the demand for pianos and marked a slowdown in piano sales to the extent that the likes of Wertheim Piano Factory in Melbourne closed its doors in 1935.

Cut backs by the large stores workshops. Forced the now excess tuners and repairers to go out to find their own work, to the extent most of the larger cities and towns had at least one or more tuners trying to make a living.

The coming of Television in the late 1950s really saw the further demise of the Piano. Stories of pianos being traded in on TVs and the piano taken to the local tip still resonates with some of the older tuners. Piano tuning and maintenance went into a sharp decline as it became difficult to carry on a business , tuning and repairing pianos Pianos purchased around the turn of the nineteen century were now over the hundred years old and well past a useful life. So not only do we have a gap in piano tuners we also have a gap in newer pianos. Although there will always be a demand for the real piano, electronics are slowly taking over.

As for piano tuners, there will always be the elite tuner that handles the concert and top end quality instruments. And the general practitioner piano tuner will slowly decline added and abetted by governments that offer little or no support to training. This will lead to untrained and unscrupulous people seeing an opportunity to make some quick money to the detriment of the customer and the piano.