Welcome to Charles Hawley’s “Bay Piano Tuner”
I’ve been tuning, regulating, restoring, rebuilding pianos in the Bay Area, and have been based in San Carlos since 1977. I learned the craft while apprenticing for 2 years in the rebuilding shop of local Redwood City Piano legend Bob Burton. While there I worked on everything from historic nineteenth century antiques to brand-new pianos. Since having my own business, I have tuned and serviced everything from spinets to concert grands. I have completely rebuilt many Steinways and even Bechstein and Bösendorfer. I am also one of the few who would even work on “Square Grands” and “Birdcages”, the popular antiques that had lasted from the 1800′s.
Tuning with a combination of ear and advanced digital tuning devices, I can achieve the most stable and pleasing results– a Temperament and “Stretch” which is customized for the unique “Scale” of each piano. Normal tunings are guaranteed to last for 6 months (“Normal” means for pianos that don’t need a Pitch-Raise*) and I will come back and “touch up” individual notes if they have drifted during that time. I have rarely been called back. I can also expertly “Voice” a piano, or soften the notes that are too harsh, or brighten those that are too soft, creating an evenness of expression across the whole keyboard. Having extensive technical knowledge, I can solve any issues with regulation, unwanted noises, malfunctioning notes, pedal adjustments, etc.
Being keenly aware of the various stresses on strings in their different locations, behind the bridge, or near the tuning pins as well as the “Speaking Length”, I can adjust each string in such a way as to maximize its stability. I am often able to remove “False Beats” that plague many pianos in the alto and soprano sections. These problems occur in the treble areas where the strings are vibrating in the thousands of cycles-per-second and the vibrations can pulse between horizontal and vertical directions. Microscopic wear on the bridge pins and nut often creates this annoying phenomenon.
*Pitch Raise: Where the notes have all gone significantly flat. With a moderate pitch-raise, a second tuning will be required for good stability, and that second tuning should be after at least a month has passed.
Degrees of Pitch Raise: The technical term for pitch in the piano is “Cents”. For example, between C and B, a semitone, or half step is “100 cents”. A moderate pitch raise is less than a quarter semitone, or “25 cents”. Even more additional tuning will be needed with a severe pitch raise (more than 50 cents). These situations occur in really new pianos or older pianos when there have been long periods since the last tuning, or when a previous tuner has not raised the pitch for whatever reason. One reason would be if strings have started to break due to age, heavy playing, etc. This problem can be huge, as the time it takes to replace a few strings can double the time for servicing, and the new strings will need several additional tunings almost immediately.
Some Cities I have worked in:
I travel as far north as Marin County and have done tunings in San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, Mill Valley, Ross. I’ve worked on pianos in San Francisco and all the cities of the peninsula–Brisbane, South San Francisco, Millbrae, Burlingame, San Mateo, Belmont, most often in Atherton, Palo Alto, & Mountain View. I also have tuned pianos in the south bay, San Jose, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara. I have serviced pianos in the east bay as far as Oakland, but live closer to Hayward and Fremont.