Five Go Mad in Dorset

Does anyone remember the amusing Enid Blyton parody from The Comic Strip Presents starring Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders? I do. That’ll be me in 12 days time as I prepare for a delightful holiday in Dorset, a locality I’ve longed to visit for many a year. As such I shan’t be taking quite so many bookings until the 10th of October or later, at which time I’ll have returned to piano tuning all guns blazing.

I leave town at Friday the 1st of October (after an afternoon of piano tuning in Sheffield) and arrive in Dorset late in the evening. I will then spend a week eating what I like, drinking, playing the guitar, watching films, walking in the countryside and not even thinking about piano tuning or Sheffield! Actually, I will still be accepting calls and bookings but I might be a bit more difficult to get hold of between the 2nd and 10th of October. I’ll have my diary with me at the hotel, and will check emails every day. Sadly my usual offers of ‘last minute piano tuning bookings’ won’t be available until I get back to Sheffield.

Upcoming availability:

  • Friday the 24th of September @ 7 PM
  • Monday the 27th of September @ 10 AM
  • Tuesday the 28th of September @ 9 AM
  • Thursday the 30th of September @ 8 PM
  • Unavailable between the 2nd and 10th of October (holiday in Dorset, still able to take calls and emails)
  • Monday the 11th of October @ 11 AM
  • Tuesday the 12th of October @ 9 AM
  • Tuesday the 12th of October @ 11:30 AM
  • Tuesday the 12th of October @ 2 PM
  • Wednesday the 13th of October @ 2 PM
  • Wednesday the 13th of October @ 5 PM
  • Thursday the 14th of October @ 11 AM
  • Thursday the 14th of October @ 2 PM
  • Thursday the 14th of October @ 5 PM
  • Thursday the 14th of October @ 7:30 PM
  • Friday the 15th of October @ 11 AM
  • Friday the 15th of October @ 2 PM
  • Friday the 15th of October @ 5 PM
  • Friday the 15th of October @ 7:30 PM
  • Saturday the 16th of October @ 11 AM
  • Saturday the 16th of October @ 2 PM
  • Saturday the 16th of October @ 5 PM
  • Sunday the 17th of October @ 11 AM
  • Sunday the 17th of October @ 2 PM
  • Sunday the 17th of October @ 5 PM
  • Sunday the 17th of October @ 7:30 PM
  • Monday the 18th of October @ 10:30 AM
  • Tuesday the 19th of October @ 11 AM
  • Tuesday the 19th of October @ 2 PM
  • Tuesday the 19th of October @ 5 PM
  • Wednesday the 20th of October @ 9 AM
  • Wednesday the 20th of October @ 11:30 AM
  • Wednesday the 20th of October @ 2 PM
  • Wednesday the 20th of October @ 5 PM
  • Wednesday the 20th of October @ 7:30 PM
  • Thursday the 21st of October @ 9 AM
  • Thursday the 21st of October @ 11:30 AM
  • Thursday the 21st of October @ 2 PM
  • Thursday the 21st of October @ 5 PM
  • Thursday the 21st of October @ 7:30 PM
  • Friday the 22nd of October @ 9 AM
  • Friday the 22nd of October @ 11:30 AM
  • Friday the 22nd of October @ 2 PM
  • Friday the 22nd of October @ 5 PM
  • Friday the 22nd of October @ 7:30 PM
  • Saturday the 23rd of October @ 11 AM
  • Saturday the 23rd of October @ 2 PM
  • Saturday the 23rd of October @ 5 PM
  • Saturday the 23rd of October @ 7:30 PM
  • Sunday the 24th of October @ 11 AM
  • Sunday the 24th of October @ 2 PM
  • Sunday the 24th of October @ 5 PM
  • Sunday the 24th of October @ 7:30 PM

Weekly Piano Tuning News Report

As a matter of course, your illustrious Sheffield piano tuner has had another long week of paying careful attention to such frequencies as 440, 156.82, 104.66, and 131.87 for twelve to fourteen hours each day (I must be good at this by now surely?) and tweaking/tuning musical notes to such frequencies to set a piano to equal temperament in a musically pleasing manner. As such I haven’t been able to update my availability page since last Friday, but hasn’t been by choice. I’m not quite as busy next week, and have lots of availability after the 20th of September. Most customers don’t book that far in advance, but I’m happy to work around your schedule. If you’d like a last minute booking it might be easier to arrange that via phone call (07542667040) as slots that were advertised via text can soon be snapped up.

Outside the world of piano tuning, I have still been recording local musicians and singer-songwriters in my spare time as mentioned before. I love sound and capturing combinations of sounds but that can be a distracting and time-consuming hobby. After all my long hours of piano tuning in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Chesterfield I have been able to afford a few microphones that were once outside of my budget. I may use this piano tuning blog to link some of my recordings, recently using a Neumann u87 and a vintage ribbon microphone in the future. Moving them around the room and closer or further away from the source is what I love doing at the moment, trying to master the art of recording is something I will be pursue for many years.

The busy bee that is me (business matters)

The last few weeks have been… different. When it comes to finding new clients, I’ll be the first to admit that haven’t always been the most merchantable nor the most sedulous; thus I have had to get used to other piano tuners taking the lion’s share of new work in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. At first I didn’t complain about this: after a few years of due diligence, my perseverance had since paid off when satisfied customers began recommending me (this was particularly helpful when piano teachers recommended me to students looking for a Sheffield-based piano tuner). Word of mouth was enough to make piano tuning a viable enterprise.

Around 2017 – 2018, some saddening personal circumstances focused my attention back towards my piano tuning pursuits and my lack of visibility online. This led the to question “could I be doing more?” Unlike my early lacklustre efforts, I began utilising the internet with new rigour, ensuring my presence is conspicuously ever-present rather than a footnote on the bottom of a google search. I have steadily made myself known and this has resulted in an abundance of calls & emails which are very much welcome. Honesty is the key: all the relevant information one could want can (hopefully) be found on the website and if it can’t be found, I’m always quick to answer emails, texts and phone calls. I can safely say I’ll never be one for “hidden charges” and the like – that much is obvious at a quick glance of the website.

The light has began to shine on me again and I am most grateful for the continued interest in my work – this is still a growing piano tuning business after all, and new patronage is needed for its continued operation.

– Richard Lidster,  Piano Tuner Sheffield

Pianoversary

This month marks the 10 year anniversary of my piano tuning “career”, when I enrolled on my piano tuning and repair course back in August 2011.

What made me decide to become a piano tuner? Long, long ago back I was a youth not long out of school, deciding what I wanted to do as a job, I was watching my own piano being tuned and serviced by another Sheffield piano tuner. I was interested in his technique and had questions about how he learned such a unique skill. I knew I wasn’t the archetypal piano man, but I’d always had a good ear for music and the moving mechanical parts interested me. At the time I wasn’t doing very much apart from reading books and listening to music, but the clock was ticking and I knew I should learn a profitable skill as soon as possible to avoid drifting. I thought piano tuning be a nice way to earn a comfortable living doing something moderately enjoyable and that not too many other people could do.

Was becoming a piano tuner a good decision? It depends on the day you ask me. The work itself is rewarding, but building a clientele in a declining industry has been a long, difficult slog and the battle is not yet won. Some weeks the money is very good, but suddenly there’s a drop off and it’s not always easy to predict when and why. I think it would have been a more satisfying job in the 1980s or earlier when pianos were ubiquitous and taken more seriously. However, there are signs of a piano revival which is nice to see.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how expensive piano parts would be to have in stock. I generally like to have back up action parts with me to avoid any second visits to the customers home and have been successful in this regard. But the sheer number of felts, hammers, springs, flanges, screws, glues, files, bridle tapes, strings, jacks, wippens, key coverings that I need to have in the car has taken years to build up. Unfortunately there isn’t an ‘industry standard’ for each part, as each piano is a different size and many are built in different countries and by different brands.

Commission for piano sales

While I’m primarily a Sheffield piano tuner, I occasionally sell pianos (usually ones in the £500 – £1000 range – perfect for upgrades). I’m particularly drawn to ‘Chappell’ and ‘Challen’ pianos from the early to mid 20th century, as they tend to age significantly well and keep their tone. In an ideal world I would have a workshop set up to do repairs on both the action as well as more aesthetic improvements (polishing and refinishing pianos), but I live in a small flat without a garage so this isn’t practical at present.

Sometimes I receive an enquiry from someone who wishes to sell a piano, but would like to book a piano tuner beforehand. This is an excellent idea as it allows me to look over the action/mechanism and give it a worthy assessment. Minor TLC can be performed if the customer is pushed for time, and more extensive repairs can be done (my fee for repairs is £20 per hour).

If you would like me to use my contacts in the piano trade to speed up your sale, I charge a commission of 10-20% of the sale (depending on the value of the piano). I am often in contact with people who wish to upgrade their piano and have got in the habit of saving their details for when the perfect piano comes along.

The last time I did significant restoration work before selling a piano (i.e. not the usual repair work undertaken in a customer’s home) was when I still lived with my parents in 2012. They had the room for me to set up a mini workshop and on my time off I would take in free pianos found on Freecycle and restore them to the best of my ability. It was a great learning experience coinciding with my time studying piano tuning and repairs at college, away from Sheffield. I would recommend every aspiring piano tuner and tech to do this while learning their trade, nothing quite compares to throwing yourself in at the deep end this way. This was before I had gathered a sizeable set of tools, so jobs such as re-stringing were especially challenging, forcing me to think outside the box and use household items such as screwdrivers to make a neat coil. Once you have been a piano tuner for several years, you will become quicker at your job, partly through experience and partly due to the useful piano tools that are able to be purchased on the market today.

1966 Chappell upright with piano stool (£580)

Here we have a gorgeous 1966 Chappell upright piano up for sale in Totley, Sheffield. It’s going for £580 (including a vintage piano stool that can also be used for storing sheet music). It was tuned to A440 (concert pitch) and serviced by me on 14/07/21. Collection only.

Beautiful warm British tone. The keys (and key bushings), action, wrest plank, bridge, frame, soundboard and strings are all in a condition I would consider exemplary, with the piano being unused for many years and therefore showing only light wear at all points of friction. The notes work as they should and are regulated to their proper specifications (correct key height, key dip, hammer blow distance, set off, checking distance) making it a joy to play. This piano is perfect for someone looking to upgrade.

If interested please contact me on 07542667040 to discuss or drop me an email at richard@pianotunersheffield.co.uk

 

Now taking early morning bookings

For home bookings I can now book you in for a piano tuning at 8:30 AM or 9 AM on a week day morning. I have hitherto saved early morning slots for professional venues such as schools, churches, recording studios, but those enquires have sadly declined somewhat over the last sixteen months – particularly schools.

From my experiences piano tuning in Sheffield and beyond, I have found people have wildly different views on booking tradespeople to their homes under current circumstances, but rest assured I am taking the covid-19 precautions very seriously, with frequent testing and following all procedures that keep the customer happy. The customer is always right and your wishes will be respected.

I will rearrange a booking at the slightest sign of any symptoms. I’m vaccinated and very careful to social distance and regularly sanitise work hands, car and piano tuning kit (particularly the piano tuning lever and paps wedges that I regularly handle throughout the day). If you have any concerns, I’d be happy to discuss it with you before you book the piano tuning.

 

Building back better

I do love a political slogan. When they pertain to piano tuning they’re particularly useful.

It’s been a tough 16 months for everyone, but I’ve seen my workflow greatly reduced. Partly due to the scary Covid-19 restrictions and partly due to other circumstances. To fight back against the tide I’m lowering my prices marginally for both Sheffield and non-Sheffield piano tuning enquirers. My prices page is now up-to-date. It’s now £5 cheaper than it was before – a remarkable deal. Considering the nationwide going rate is between £60 and £90, you’re looking at an absolute bargain. Great for the customer of course, unfortunately it involves me putting in more hours, but luckily I enjoy my work. I hope this encourages you to book my services.

– Richard, the Sheffield piano tuner.

 

Something that may be of interest to my Scarborough piano tuning customers

Here’s a quick update for my customers in the Scarborough region, or anyone looking for a new Scarborough piano tuner. I will be in your area much more frequently tuning and servicing pianos in people’s homes, churches and other venues. I might even enjoy a quick walk on the beach if I get a lunch break.

The ghastly nature of the pandemic drastically limited my work and my willingness to travel last year. Things are almost back to normal, albeit with careful health and safety procedures in place (regular hand washing and social distancing, and I will also wear a mask on request).

Many residents of Scarborough and Whitby are looking for a piano tuner who is young and highly motivated and willing to go that extra mile. That’s me (except for the young part). I’m always happy to tune ANY piano and value all my customers equally. All done at a reasonable cost.

I greatly look forward to seeing my piano tuning business bounce back to how it was at its zenith (2018 – early 2020).

The big re-opening

Now that we’re all looking forward to the big re-opening, I hope that many of my old customers are looking forward to getting their pianos re-tuned. Be assured I take extreme care when visiting your homes and I’m vaccinated and covid-compliant. Looking forward to hearing from customers old and new.