Volunteer Piano

Piano Tuner vs. Piano Technician

A piano tuner strictly tunes.

A piano technician can tune and:

Can do minor, medium, major repairs

May be able to do a full restoration of your piano

Can replace broken strings

Can and will suggest that you have the interior of your piano cleaned

Will adjust your pedals so that they function properly and engage/disengage at the correct time

A piano technician may be able to extend the life of “keeping your piano tunable” longer than a tuner so that you do not need a restoration for a few more years.

A piano technician understands more of the mechanics of the piano and more than likely has been through extensive training.

A piano technician has more than likely been through an apprenticeship/mentor program where as a tuner does not have to.

A piano tuner will more than likely spend about 30 minutes and give you little or no advice on how to improve your piano and prolong it’s life.

A piano tuner may charge less than a technician, but you get what you pay for.

So would you rather have a piano tuner or a piano technician work on your piano?

Contact Josh Gaither

Owner, tuner, and techinician at Volunteer Piano



865.765.TUNE (8863)

*We are veteran owned and are insured*

Piano Tuning Incentive Program- SAVE money on your piano tuning!

Open Grand Piano with Tuning Hammer

We are introducing our Piano Tuning Incentive Program.

Having your piano tuned annually is important to maintain your piano’s integrity and preserve it for future generations, and for that reason we are giving you an incentive to have it done!

How you can SAVE on piano tunings:

  • We will contact you annually to let you know it’s time to have your piano tuned. If you schedule immediately or call back within 1 week to schedule an appointment within a reasonable time frame, you will receive 20% ($25) off of your next piano tuning!
  • Word of mouth is vital to small business development and growth.  For every referral you make to Volunteer Piano, up to 4 per year, you will receive 20% ($25) off of your next tuning.  Just have them mention your name when they call and schedule a piano tuning!
  • If you refer four people AND contact us within a week of your annual call to schedule your tuning, then your piano tuning is FREE!
  • If you prefer to have your piano tuned every six months, up to 8 referrals per year can be applied to secure your FREE piano tunings.

*After your first piano tuning, we will contact you annually to remind you that it’s time to have your piano tuned.

We want to thank you again for your business and look forward to working with you and your family!

Thinking About Finding a Piano on Craigslist?

There are thousands of postings on Craigslist offering affordable or FREE pianos. How do you know if the piano is worth your time and money? Most of the pianos that you will find on Craigslist, especially the free ones, have several minor problems and some of them have major problems. These pianos may be okay for a beginner or child, but for an experienced piano player, this is not the route to go. There’s nothing worse than having spent $200 to move a FREE piano into your home, only to find out that it is not tunable, and having to pay another $200 to get it out of your house. You just spent $400 for absolutely nothing.

There are many things that you need to be aware of when purchasing a piano.

  • The cost of the move. Quality pianos should only be moved by professional piano movers. They are licensed, bonded, insured, and they have the experience necessary to move the piano without damaging the thousands of intricate parts. It is NOT the same as moving a dresser. If you are thinking about moving the piano yourself, you may want to reconsider due to the physical harm it can cause to your body. Pianos weigh between 500-1200 pounds. If you hire a professional piano mover, they charge between $200-$400 depending on the size and weight of the piano and the number of steps involved.
  • Cracks in the soundboard. The soundboard is made of wood, mainly spruce. Cracks are caused by major fluctuations humidity and extremely dry conditions. A crack in the soundboard is similar to a punctured lung. It causes the soundboard to lose its crown and it will not vibrate correctly, thus causing it to produce a muffled tone. Repair of a soundboard can cost between $5,000-$10,000 and replacing it costs even more.
  • A cracked cast iron plate. If you have a cracked cast iron plate, the piano is useless, except for repurposing. If you have a piano that is sentimental or has a beautiful case, we can repurpose it into a bar, desk, aquarium, or other piece of art for your home.
  • Broken or missing strings. If a string is broken or missing, replacements strings run from $5-$45 depending on if it is a treble or bass end string.
  • Broken or missing hammers. Hammers will not strike the strings correctly if there are deep grooves in the felt hammers. This is caused by repetitive striking of the strings. Repair is $15-$20 per hammer. Replacement is $25-$50 per hammer.
  • Pedals that do not function. The pedal trap mechanisms become worn overtime and parts of the mechanism may break. Repair or replacement can cost hundreds of dollars.
  • General flaws in the action. Over time, the thousands of intricate action parts become worn and have a tendency to break. This is one of the most expensive repairs that the piano requires. The expense is not due to the cost of parts, but the amount of labor involved.

But most of all……IS IT TUNABLE???

Almost half of the pianos that I have inspected that were given to someone for free off of Craigslist have not been tunable. How do you know if its tunable? This must be tested by a trained piano technician. To test this, I check several random pins in each section of the pin-block. The tuning pins go through the cast iron plate into a piece of hard rock maple wood, called the pin-block. The pin-block has several thin layers of wood and each alternating layer’s grain of the wood is turned 45 degrees. This helps to grip the metal pin that the string is connected to. Having the pin held in place is what holds the tension of each string. If the pin is not gripped correctly, the piano string attached to the pin cannot be tuned because the pin spins.

The only solution for this problem is to…

  1. Replace the pins with larger pins, which means restringing the piano (which costs roughly $3,000-$5,000)
  2. Replace the pin-block, pins, and strings. The pins are threaded, so you cannot use old pins because they are stripped

So your FREE PIANO is not looking so FREE anymore, is it?

For a nominal fee $50, I can inspect the piano to make sure that it is tunable, as well as look for any and all flaws with the piano that would cost you money to have repaired. I can also give you an exact estimate of what it would cost to get the piano in tune and playing to the standards that you expect.


New York City with Steinway and Sons

So it’s been just under a month since my amazing trip to New York City for part one of my training at the Steinway and Sons factory in Queens. The class was an action regulation and touch seminar. It lasted an entire week, thirty-two hours in total, and covered all of the mechanical processes from the point where you press a key until the hammer bounces away from the string. I was assigned a Steinway Model O grand piano that was fresh off of the factory floor. They have a saying: “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Steinway.” I had already learned the wrong way, and then I learned the right way, but now I know the Stein-”way”! This is a very select class; only four technicians from across the nation are chosen to attend each class. A special shout out to Steinway and Sons of Knoxville, American Piano Gallery, for this unique opportunity!

During the week long class, I had the privilege of taking an in depth tour of the Steinway and Sons factory. My favorite part was the action pounding room. A piano from the factory floor is put into a soundproof booth where a machine with 88 arms plays all 88 keys repeatedly for a day or more just to break-in the action. It sounds like a child just hammering away at a piano. Most people would not enjoy this noise, but it was music to ears!

Another interesting sight was watching the process of bending the rim of a grand piano, which is the typical shape we think of when picturing a grand piano. Several laminates of wood that are about 20 feet long had glue applied to them by 10 factory workers. Then they carried all of the laminates of wood over to a giant press. They bent and clamped the wood around the press a little at a time until the entire rim was clamped. This has to sit for a day for the shape of the rim to be set. To help this image, you should watch Note by Note: The Making of a Steinway. This is a very well produced documentary of a the making of a Steinway Model D concert grand piano from beginning to end, and well worth the watch!

It was amazing how much the Steinway and Sons factory felt like a family atmosphere: everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming, even to the two southern boys! I was wearing cowboy boots one day and a worker indigenous to New York asked, “Are you REALLY a cowboy?” If you know me, you can imagine that my sarcastic response was, “When I’m not tuning, repairing, and rebuilding pianos, yes, I AM a cowboy!” We all had a good laugh. Also, there are over twenty languages spoken within the factory so it’s not uncommon to hear someone walking throughthe factory happily singing a song at the top of their lungs in a foreign language.

And for those of you wanting to visit New York City, Queens was an amazing neighborhood. It felt like a bigger downtown Knoxville and was much less intimidating that Manhattan. Everyone was really nice and helpful, too! Oh, and FANTASTIC authentic sushi and turkish food! Our favorite food spots, though, were The Meatball Shop in The Village andBig Nick’s Pizza Joint right outside of Central Park! Gotta try them both!

Oh, and a little blurb on a BIG event in my life: I proposed to my lovely girlfriend on the Rockefeller Ice Rink, and she said YES!

Stay tuned for more piano fun facts, interesting stories, and enriching information for piano lovers of all calibers.

Restoration completed on the 1890 Sohmer

The 1890 Sohmer and Company upright has been restored and sent back home to the Westwood Mansion!  The newly restored piano will be dedicated in memory of Frank Hambright, a masterful piano tuner and technician who was prominent in the Knoxville community. Stay tuned for detailed before and after photos highlighting its journey from a state of disrepair to a beautiful and fully functional masterpiece to be enjoyed for decades to come!





And that means it is the PERFECT time to have your piano tuned!

One of the most important aspects of piano care is keeping your piano in tune. Changes in temperature and humidity are the number one reason pianos go out of tune. In the winter, there is an extreme lack of humidity, as opposed to the summer where there is an abundance of humidity in the air. Therefore, the best time to tune your piano is during the spring and fall, where there is a happy medium between low and high humidity levels. When you have your piano tuned when humidity levels are average, your piano will be more stable and the tuning will last longer.

How do temperature and humidity affect your piano?
After winter, especially with the weather patterns we have seen in East Tennessee, your piano is use to a really cold and dry environment. Cold weather and lack of humidity cause the wood in the piano to contract, especially the holes in the pinblock; and the stability of the pins in the pinblock are what keep your piano in tune! Now that the weather is getting warmer, the wood inside your piano is expanding due to the rising temperature and humidity. This causes the pins to slip which decreases the tension of the strings, causing a drop in pitch. We want to help you increase the longevity of your beloved musical instrument! Let us keep your piano sounding beautiful by contacting us today to schedule your spring tuning.

Call us at 865-765-TUNE (8863)
or email us at info.volunteerpiano.com


Restoration Project for Knox Heritage

We are proud to announce our newest project: an 1890 Sohmer and Sons upright piano restoration brought to us by Knox Heritage! It came from the historic Westwood House at the edge of Sequoyah Hills. What a treasure…


This high quality instrument was built in 1890- the same year that the Westwood Mansion was completed. The outside of this upright is absolutely beautiful: no cracking or peeling of the finish is evident, the condition of the wood is pristine, and the decorative hand carved legs enhance the elegance and artistry of this antique masterpiece. However, the inside of the piano needs a lot of work. All of the felt, cloth, and leather have been moth eaten and will need to be replaced and the action will require a lot of attention. But when we finish, it will be restored to its former glory!


Check out this article about the 10 bedroom/10 bath Westwood Mansion rescued by Knox Heritage (there’s a lot of beautiful pictures, too!): http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/sep/17/historic-home-to-be-regional-center-for/

The Importance of Regular Piano Tunings

piano-tuningDid you know that regular piano tunings are the #1 WAY to prolong the life of your piano? It’s like changing the oil in your car! And you may not know that a piano will go out of tune whether or not it’s played regularly. This is due to seasonal changes in temperature and humidity and happens to ALL pianos, old and new. Ideally, a piano should be tuned 4 times a year with the changing of the seasons, but we suggest that you have your piano tuned AT LEAST every 6 months to 1 year, depending on how often it is played. If you have a piano because of it’s sentimental value instead of an instrument you play, keep in mind that value is based on good condition, which is maintained by regular tunings.

You should not bypass regular tunings because it will cause strings to pop, the soundboard to break, and additional rough tunings called PITCH RAISES will be required. But most of all, constant string tension, provided by regular tunings, is crucial to keep all of the piano parts intact, which could be very expensive to fix.

Another bonus to regular tunings is that the piano technician can keep an eye on the thousands of intricate piano parts, thus they can catch a small problem before it leads to major damage- this will save you BIG BUCKS in the long run!

So if it’s been 6 months to a year-OR LONGER- since your piano has been tuned, call me, Josh Gaither, to schedule an appointment: 865-765-TUNE (8863)

*Volunteer Piano also services, restores, and repurposes pianos of all ages, makes, and models! Stay posted for projects, pictures, updates, and more piano maintenance tips.