Tuning & Repair
George Winston played to a sold out house at the Normal Theater in Normal, IL a few weeks ago. He may be the only 3x Platinum artist on solo piano alone! His style is unique and he is loved and followed by a devoted base of fans, which is evidenced by consistently playing to sold out houses wherever he goes.
Concert jobs usually start out the day before when the piano is tuned and checked out wherever it "lives." This particular piano is a Yamaha Artist Series that is reserved for concert purposes. It was delivered to the theater the evening prior to the concert and Mr. Winston played it for an hour or more that night, just to get the feel of it.
The day of the concert started at 1:00 pm with the first tuning of the day. The piano had adjusted to the conditions of the theater by that time and needed the tuning. The artist had left notes about certain keys he wanted “lightened” or changed is some way, so that was done at this tuning.
Following that, you wait. And wait. And drink coffee. And wait. The artist will do a sound check later in the afternoon to set the lighting and sound settings for the theater. He’ll check the tuning and touch of the piano and make any further desires known. After he leaves the set, the technician tunes it again and makes any changes necessary. Then, you guessed it. You wait. And wait.
There is a term in the industry called “doors.” “Doors” is the time at which the doors will be opened and the audience is allowed into their seats. The technician is allowed 15 minutes before doors to make any last minute adjustments. Sitting under lights will slightly change the tuning ever so much so that gives the tech a chance to tighten things up at the last minute.
The concert begins and then…..you wait. About 85 minutes pass and there’s intermission. The technician goes back to the stage and checks the piano once again and makes changes. What could possibly change, you ask? Humidity! There are now hundreds of people in that room and they are all breathing which raises the relative humidity which has an effect on the piano! Most people in the audience wouldn’t be able to notice the difference, but the artist definitely can! It’s for the artist’s benefit that the intermission tuning is done so that his concentration isn’t broken by something as simple as a note slightly out of tune.
Following that last tuning, the technician is free to leave for the evening. Once the piano returns to its “home,” however, any changes that were made must be undone in preparation for the next time.
All of this and much more goes on behind the scenes at any concert you attend, piano oriented or not. The details are seemingly endless but the results are magnificent!