Q: What’s the difference between a piano and a fish?
A: You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish!
As fall arrives and the weather changes, it’s important to schedule a visit with a piano tuner for annual maintenance. In light of that, we interviewed Jim Dundass, a local piano tuner and technician, to learn more about his profession and why it’s important to regularly tune and maintain a piano.
How long have you been a piano tuner/technician?
54 years and counting. I began training in 1964.
As a child, did you learn to play the piano?
Yes. If I wanted to play hockey, I also had to learn to play piano! I struggled with sight reading because my older siblings had played, and I had already memorized all of the pieces listening to them. I achieved grade 8 in Royal Conservatory.
How did you learn the job?
My uncle worked for Heintzman in Calgary. He was a real character and I was with him at work one day. He realized that I had a real ear for the work, and I became an apprentice. I later spent time training in the Heintzman factory in London, Ontario. Eventually, I came to Edmonton and set up my business here.
In general, how often should our Suzuki families have their pianos tuned and serviced?
Ideally, once a year. Generally speaking, after the heat comes on in the fall and there have been 5 or 6 weeks of dry weather – that’s the time to tune. Over winter, if there is prolonged, sever cold, a piano sometimes will go out of tune with the dry weather. Extreme weather can sometimes mean that a piano needs tuning again in the spring. Ideally, the humidity in a home should be at 35 – 45% to maintain ideal conditions for a piano.
Why is it important for a piano to be regularly serviced?
If you don’t have good tone, ear training can go out the window. There can be a substantial difference in tone on an untuned piano. Tuning and maintenance also ensures a piano remains in playing shape and identifies problems before they become too severe.
A teacher in the Lloydminster area knew one of her teen students was struggling on an untuned piano and asked me to tune it. I did quite a bit of work on it and went on my way. After practicing on it that night, the student called in a panic, because nothing sounded the same. She was convinced there was a problem. She was so upset, and I listened to her play over the phone. It sounded fine to me, but she could not be convinced. Well. A month went by, and I received a note in the mail. She apologized and thanked me for the work. She’d practiced for so long on that piano that was in poor condition that she’d had to retrain her ear.
What is your best advice for families that need to find a piano tuner?
If someone doesn’t know a tuner, speak with your piano teacher and find out who does theirs. That’s a great reference for a good tuner.