Piano Technology Curriculum

Both Piano Technology programs attract students who share a passion for music, problem solving and mechanics, and the hand skills used to restore and care for beautiful musical instruments.

Our facilities include two bench rooms and sixteen individual practice rooms, outfitted with a variety of pianos. Combined with business instruction, you’ll have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge to become a successful technician.

Basic Piano Technology (PT)

The PT program covers all phases of aural piano tuning, including the concepts on which equal temperament is founded. You’ll learn to tune, regulate, and repair the actions of both upright and grand pianos. Classes include hands-on work, lectures, and field trips to such venues as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mason & Hamlin Factory in Haverhill, the Steinway factory in Long Island City, as well as various workshops and collections throughout New England.

Advanced Piano Technology (PA)

The PA program focuses on the entire piano and comprehensive piano service. This includes advanced tuning and regulation practice, and resolving service problems that occur in the field—an example of which is the School’s 72-piano service contract with the Boston Public School system. Each year, PA students work in teams of two or three to dismantle, rebuild, and repair grand pianos.

In addition to the Full-Time program, we occasionally offer an introduction to piano technology course through our Continuing Education Department. View CE courses here.

Basic Piano Technology Curriculum

  • Elementary tuning procedures
  • Supply house catalogs
  • Basic tool familiarization
  • Elementary woodworking

On a variety of pianos, students will tune in equal temperament by various aural methods at a professional standard. The following topics are arranged around daily guided tuning practice.

  • Musical acoustics
    • Elementary acoustics
    • The vibrations of music wire
    • The phenomenon of beats
    • Perfect and tempered intervals
    • Intervals used in tuning
    • Pitch designation
    • Inharmonicity
  • Aural Tuning Procedure and Practice
    • Tuning stability
    • Tuning hammer techniques
    • Unison tuning
    • Pure octave tuning
    • The circle of fifths
    • Comma of Pythagoras
    • Overview of historical temperaments
    • Principles of equal temperament
    • Various approaches to tuning equal temperament
    • Calibration and use of tuning forks
    • Bass octave and unison tuning
    • Treble octave and unison tuning
    • Raising pitch and lowering pitch
    • Whole piano tuning
  • Use of Electronic tuning devices
  • Optional preparation for Registered Piano Technician (RPT) exam through the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG)

Students will identify and explain the function and operation of modern piano parts.

  • Piano types (grand, vertical, console, spinet) Case nomenclature and functions
  • Disassembly and re-assembly of case parts
  • Materials commonly used in piano construction
  • Overview of historical keyboard instruments (clavichord, harpsichord, fortepiano)
  • Major piano parts
  • Plate and frame
  • Soundboard and bridges
  • Pinblock
  • Impacts of string scale
  • Keyboard and action
  • Damper system
  • Pedal system

On grand and upright pianos, students will perform with accuracy and quality workmanship regular repair and replacement tasks encountered in routine piano maintenance.

  • String replacement
  • Service and repair of action centers
  • Service and repair of keys and key bushings
  • Repair or replacement of frequently broken and damaged parts
  • Hammer resurfacing
  • Screws and fasteners
  • Glues
  • Lubricants
  • Troubleshooting
  • Interior and exterior piano cleaning
  • Optional preparation for the RPT technical exam through the PTG

On grand and upright pianos, students will use common adjustment procedures to regulate the action for proper function and uniformity of touch.

  • Function and design of a piano action
  • Regulation tools and their uses
  • Measuring techniques and conventions
  • Regulation of grand piano action
  • Regulation of direct and indirect vertical actions
  • Comparison of various regulation procedures
  • Introduction to tone regulation (voicing)
  • Introduction to touchweight concepts and terminology
  • Optional preparation for the RPT technical exam through the PTG

Students will understand the professional considerations necessary for success in a variety of piano technology professions.

  • Business Card, Resumes & Cover Letters, Letterhead
  • Marketing your business
  • Record keeping
  • Databases and client care
  • Ethics
  • Tax considerations
  • Insurance considerations
  • Evaluations, appraisals, and estimates
  • Customer interaction scenarios

As students approach a professional standard, we arrange field work at local institutions. Many of our graduates earn internship positions at summer music festivals, including Tanglewood and the Aspen Music Festival.

Read more about recent Piano Technology internships.

We supplement instruction from our master faculty with visits from industry experts who provide hands-on lectures, as well as occasional off-site field trips. Past speakers and field trips have included:

  • Allan Winkler, Harpsichord maker
  • Matthew Onigman PT ‘06, PA ’07, Sing For Hope internships
  • Mario Igrec, The Juilliard School
  • John Cavanaugh PT ’86, PA ’87, Oberlin College piano technology program
  • Don Mannino, Kawai America
  • Larry Fine PT ‘76 pianobuyer.com
  • Michael Collins PA ’94, Mason & Hamlin parts
  • John Gallen, business taxes
  • Greg Cheng, electronic player system maintenance
  • Dan Levitan PT ’75
  • Chris Storch, PT ’08, PA ’09, professional acoustician
  • Anne Garee, Florida State University (retired)
  • Barbara Renner, PT ’78
  • The Frederick Collection of Historic Pianos, Ashburnham, MA
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston historic musical instrument collection
  • Steinway Factory Tour, New York City, NY
  • Mason & Hamlin factory tour, Haverhill, MA
  • Fisk Organ factory tour, Gloucester, MA
  • Regional Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) conference for Mid-Atlantic or New England region

Advanced Piano Technology Curriculum

Students will make informed decisions for providing high-quality service on instruments of varying types and conditions. With instructor approval, students can accept piano service work in the Boston area. Work comes to the school through our website, or through the service grant set up with the Boston Public Schools. Daily roundtable discussions create a support system for students as they enter the field.

  • Customer relations
  • Common field service problems
  • Evaluating the condition and needs of the piano or client and how best to allocate time during a service call
  • Review of fundamental tuning techniques
  • Tuning pianos within a professional timeframe
  • Introduction to advanced tuning techniques for improved consistency, control, and efficiency
  • Approaches to pitch correction in various settings
  • Appropriate uses of electronic tuning devices
  • Referring work to other technicians

Using appropriate tools and industry best practices, students will perform fine action regulation of grand pianos to a professional standard.

  • Evaluating the condition of existing action parts
  • Setting realistic goals for improvement within a given timeframe, factoring in condition and client needs
  • Estimating repair and/or rebuilding costs
  • Selecting and installing new action parts
  • Fundamentals of grand action geometry
  • Touchweight analysis and adjustment

Students will demonstrate an ability to use hand tools and machine tools safely and appropriately.

  • Setting up and using woodworking hand tools (chisels, planes, scrapers, etc.).
  • Safe practices in machine operation.
  • Setting up and using electric powered hand tools (drills, routers, sanders, etc).
  • Setting up and using electric powered machine tools (drill presses, bandsaws, jointers, planers, table saws, etc.)

With faculty guidance, students will repair, restore, and rebuild pianos in groups of 2-3 
to a professional standard. This is done with goals of supporting their abilities to appropriately service pianos in the future, and achieve professional standards of work on the current projects.

  • Theory of various rebuilding procedures
  • Documenting disassembly
  • Measuring techniques and conventions
  • Repairing and/or rebuilding keyframes, keyboards, and top actions
  • Repairing and/or replacing damper actions
  • Repairing and rebuilding pedal lyres and trapwork systems
  • Gaining an understanding of repairing and/or replacing pinblock and soundboard systems
  • Fundamentals and evaluation of string scaling
  • Analysis of action geometry and touchweight
  • Restringing, chipping, and tuning
  • Finish repair—polyester and lacquer style finishes

We supplement instruction from our master faculty with visits from industry experts who provide hands-on lectures, as well as occasional off-site field trips. Past speakers and field trips have included:

  • Don Mannino, Kawai America
  • Michael Collins, Mason & Hamlin
  • Greg Cheng, case finish repairs
  • Anne Garee, Florida State University, retired
  • Larry Fine PT ’76, pianobuyer.com
  • Ryan Messier CF ’11
  • Mason & Hamlin factory, Haverhill MA
  • Steinway and Sons factory, New York NY
  • Absolute Piano, Lowell MA
  • Symphony Hall, Boston MA
  • Regional Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) conference for Mid-Atlantic or New England region

Many of our graduates earn internship positions at summer music festivals, including Tanglewood and the Aspen Music Festival.

Read more about recent Piano Technology internships.

Questions?

Contact Rob O’Dwyer, Director of Admissions, at 617-227-0155 x111 or admissions@nbss.edu.