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Chaz Hawley - Tuning, Regulating & Repairs in the Bay Area    Since 1977

•  Background »
•  Technique »
•  Voicing »
•  Pitch Raise »
•  Reviews »
•  What to Expect »
•  Prices »
•  Restorations »



      I learned the piano craft as an apprentice back in the mid 70's in a prestigious rebuilding shop. I worked there 2 years with local Piano legend Bob Burton. I mastered all possible kinds of repairs, adjustments, complete rebuilding everything from historic nineteenth century antiques to modern top-quality concert grands. Since starting my own business in 1977, I have tuned and serviced all styles, sizes. While on my own, I have completely rebuilt and refinished many Steinway, Bechstein and Bösendorfer grands. I am also one of the few technicians who will work on Square Grands and Birdcages, the now rare antiques that have lasted from the mid 1800′s.  I always endeavor to make my customers happy!img


      I am tuning with a combination of ear and advanced digital tuning devices. My ear is always able to detect situations where I will override the digital info. With this combination, I can achieve the most stable and pleasing results – creating a special Temperament & 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 were tuned within 2 years, and/or don't need a Pitch-Raise.) I will gladly come back and "touch up" individual notes if they have drifted during that time. I have rarely been called back. I spend a full 2 hours and carefully set each of the 230+ tuning pins for optimal stability. These tunings will sound quite good for a year or two, unless big shifts in humidity occur.


      I can also expertly Voice a piano... 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 quickly solve all issues concerning regulation, hammer alignment, uneven string height, malfunctioning or sticking keys, unwanted noises, pedal adjustments, etc.   I can even remove many false beats.

 Pitch Raise:

    Over the years I have perfected a technique to deal with those most neglected pianos that have been unused for decades, are a note flat, and I can do the extreme Pitch-Raises they require [50-100 cents] with a tuning all in one pass. I may go over a few notes twice but I get everything within a couple cents. This kind of tuning usually takes up to 3 hours. But instead of insisting that the piano needs 2 or more tunings that same day, I can save the second tuning for 3 to 6 months later when the piano will have settled down and that next tuning will then be quite stable. Read more on Pitch Raise...





Spring-Loaded Tunings:

      I am keenly aware of the various stresses on strings in different locations and can therefore "spring load" my tunings. To explain; the non-speaking areas where strings are between the bridge to the Hitch Pins, also between the Capo Bar to the tuning pins, these are the non-speaking areas. See illustration below, the areas in RED. In the Alto section, the strings have more non-speaking length than speaking length. By slightly raising tension in these silent areas, I can tune each string in such a way as to maximize its stability. Because of the bending of a string during loud playing, the 160 lbs of tension on a string is increased by a few pounds. diagramSo when that tension exceeds the non-speaking area's tension, and when the friction of the capo bar and bridge give way, then the string will go a little flat each time the note is played loudly. By slightly increasing these non-speaking area tensions, the speaking length will stay much more stable, and will only become flat from the effects of metal fatigue, stretching and age.

More on Pitch Raises:

      When all notes have all gone significantly flat in pianos that haven't been tuned for years or decades, a pitch-raise is needed. Generally I can do that in one tuning. That tuning may take longer. A later, second tuning, will be required for optimal stability, and that second tuning should not occur for at least 3 months later, to allow for all the new tensions "settling in". The piano will still sound amazingly sweet after this first pitch-raise compared to it's sour sound before my visit. Where many of my competitors would require two, I can get that initial tuning accurate within 2 or 3 cents with just one tuning! Even when pianos have had 2 tunings, they will still go out during the next few months. This will save the owner the cost of an extra tuning!piano

      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 there are 100 cents. A serious pitch raise is anything more than "25 cents" (a quarter semitone) so the subsequent tuning will be important. After that tuning,, the piano generally needs only one tuning per year. I sometimes choose to not raise pitch if some strings appear to have been replaced, due to age, moisture, heavy playing, etc. String replacement can be expensive, as the time it takes to replace a few strings can double the time for servicing, and also new strings will need several additional tunings before they stabilize.

False Beats:

      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 modes of direction. Microscopic wear on the bridge pins and capo-bar, bends in the string during installation, micro variations in diameter, all contribute to this annoying phenomenon. Generally micro repositioning of the string on the bridge pin helps. In severe cases and when necessary, strings may need replacing.bech

What to Expect:

      When I show up to take care of your piano, ideally it will have nothing sitting on it, like vases, books, magazines etc. I can always help remove anything that still remains. But I will need to open the lid, remove the music desk and maybe some other parts depending on the piano. It will take me about 2 hours to go over each of the 240+ strings. In addition to getting each string to the right pitch, I test each one to see if it is likely to go flat or sharp. This way I can create the most stable tuning possible. If any treble strings need replacing, they can be for $100 for each pair.

      If the piano needs cleaning & dusting, I can take care of that with a damp paper towel. More serious cleaning, for example, below the strings in a grand, can be done with a vacuum and several specialized brushes and tools.

      For more serious key set works, (white and/or black key replacement, re-bushings, etc) here are some prices. Once there were many Piano Shops in the Bay Area, however, due to the cost of rent, these shops are all but history.
Price List »

Places I'll travel to
[in red] with no surcharge:
[in blue] Round-Trip over an hour Drive
so I would usually want $35 more...


Some Prices around the Bay:

      Often I get calls from potential customers asking what's the price for tuning. I take into consideration how long since the piano has been tuned, how far away it is, what other problems might come up and try to be very competitive. I've recently researched some other technician's prices, and probably I'm discounting myself too much. Basically I'm asking $180 and I generally spend two hours creating high quality, stability and accuracy. -This is $90/hr.  
      So, it's important to find out how long a tuner plans to take, as I don't think it possible to do a really good job in much less than 2 hours except when the piano is so close to perfect that it only needs maybe half of the strings adjusted. If the piano is 10 to 50 cents or more flat, hasn't been tuned for years, then I need to spend up to 3 hours to do a pitch raise + tuning. $270 It's still one tuning but I often need to go back over many strings as I move up and down the keyboard. Each string being raised lowers its neighbors 10-25%. So getting the overall region to A440 takes just the right overshooting. And it's not like all the strings are the same degree flat. Some areas are twice or three times as flat. If the piano is a note or 2 flat -- these are extreme cases, (100-300 cents) flat -- this may take 4 hours. In that case maybe up to $360 or more.

Some Other Technicians I've sampled:
  "$205.00 for first time customers and $165.00 for repeat customers if the last service occurred within the last two years. Written estimates for repairs and appraisals are $145.00. " - Technician in Oakland       (By not stating how long the tuning takes, this technician is probably charging at least $100/hr, and possibly $200/hr)

"$175 schedules for approximately one hour. The appointment includes basic tuning, cleaning and minor repairs or adjustments. Additional work is billed at $125 per hour. ... first time appointments are scheduled for a longer period and start at $235" - Technician in San Francisco    (This is $150 - 175/hr)

 "$150 Schedules for 90 min.  - Technician in Redwood City   (This comes to $100/hr)

      On Yelp my map shows just the Penninsula and San Francisco,
most the cities of the peninsula -– Brisbane, Daly City, South San Francisco, Millbrae, Burlingame, Hillsborough, San Mateo, Belmont, most often in Atherton, Palo Alto, & Mountain View. I also service pianos in the South Bay: San Jose, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara.


Comments from Yelp* (as of Feb 2016)

Read more reviews »

      Visit the MORE ABOUT PIANOS page here and learn a little of what makes THE PIANO such a special instrument!!

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Here's an example of Key Reworking Prices from a Central California Technician.
For more involved restorations keys, tops, bushings & back checks, keys need to be shipped.
These kinds of services are hard to find, we are currently searching for more vendors in Northern California.


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