Canadian Musician - July/August 2017 - Page 26

KEYBOARDS Lauded for his skills as a ragtime and traditional jazz pianist, Max Keenlyside has performed for CBC Radio and head- lined at festivals across North America. Max’s debut album, KeenlyStride, was met with critical acclaim and his latest release, Mostly Max, puts emphasis on his own piano compositions. Max also engraves and transcribes music and offers piano tuning, servicing, and restoration. Find out more at Max Keenlyside A Piano Tuning Primer An Interview with Pianist & Technician Max Keenlyside CM: How did you first get into piano tuning, and how did you develop your skills to the point that you were comfort- able offering tuning as a professional service? MK: I began tuning pianos out of necessity! I’ve been piano-obsessed since I was nine years old, and having played ragtime since day one, I’ve always had a penchant for the older instruments. Over the years, my par- ents were gracious enough to support me in collecting numerous pianos; I think at one time I had as many as seven instruments in various locations. I doubt I paid more than $200 for any of them. The internal workings of pianos are absolutely fascinating, and as a kid I would take them apart, study them, and try to figure out how they worked. I also immersed myself in any piano history and information I could dig up on the internet. While owning one or two pianos is fi- nancially manageable, owning any more can become an expensive proposition. Turn- ing once again to the internet, books, and some tools purchased online, I learned the fundamentals of how to tune and repair a piano. For several years I continued to do this for every new piano I acquired, constantly searching for ways to improve the instru- ments I owned. Two years ago, I reached the point where I felt comfortable enough with the quality of my work that I could offer it as a part-time professional service. Very rapidly, however, I found that I enjoyed the job of tuning and restoring pianos so much that I decided to make it my full-time “day-job.” I reached out to other piano technicians in my region, particularly Tyrrell Pearson of Sussex, NB. Tyrrell is a registered piano technician and 26 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N the chapter president of the Piano Techni- cian’s Guild, the leading organization of its kind in North America. I’m very fortunate to have benefited from his generous support and guidance over the last two years. I am also an associate member with the Piano Technician’s Guild, and have trained with that organization at seminars in Las Vegas. CM: How often should a piano be tuned? I’d imagine this differs from case to case, but are there some basic guidelines you can offer? MK: The average home piano should be tuned at least once or twice a year, depend- ing on conditions and how heavily it’s being used. If a piano is left a year or more without being tuned, it will likely need a pitch-raise or pitch-lower tuning, which is more costly than a standard tuning. The extra cost of a pitch adjustment is incurred because the tuner must essentially tune the piano twice in one session, so as to balance the tension on the instrument. CM: