VIDEO: Master’s apprentice tunes up for piano surge

IT BEGAN as a chance meeting in a hardware store.

A master piano tuner and a young man who knew nothing about pianos, and not a lot about music, bumped into each other in the paint brush section and started a conversation.

Two years later, Myron Doak is engrossed in a career he never would have contemplated, restoring and tuning old pianos.

Myron's interest was woodwork and antiques and he only ever saw pianos as a nice piece of furniture.

That was until he met 88-year-old Kevin Kirwin, the master with a lifetime of knowledge, and his son Terry, who also learned the trade from his father.

Due to their size, the expense of moving them and the emergence of the electronic keyboard, pianos are becoming a bit of a disappearing instrument.

But although their popularity has diminished over the past decade, Myron says they are now seeing a bit of resurgence.

"It's a crying shame," Myron said.

"They are a beautiful instrument with a beautiful appearance.

"By restoring them, we're keeping the instruments alive.

"I don't think the electric keyboards can put out the same tones the piano can," he said.

MAKING MUSIC: Piano technician Kevin Kirwin is passing on his knowledge to Myron Doak, who hopes to make a career as a piano tuner technician.
MAKING MUSIC: Piano technician Kevin Kirwin is passing on his knowledge to Myron Doak, who hopes to make a career as a piano tuner technician. Rokcpiano

Tuning a piano is a complicated process and Myron has been learning the old-fashioned way - by ear with a tuning fork.

"Going from one string then two to the same pitch, then to the treble with three strings to the same pitch… you need to get all the vibrations per second to the same pitch… after two years, I'm getting very close," he said.

Kevin Kirwin has played piano all his life and started tuning the instruments in 1945.

He may have tuned Stevie Wonder's piano but says "he was nothing important to me. I was there for a job".

Mr Kirwin says it takes a lot of patience, a lot of fiddly work and a good ear to tune a piano.

He has no interest in the electronic gadgets preferred by the young tuners today.

With the exception of heavy jazz, Mr Kirwin enjoys any piano music played well.

He is particularly partial to the classical music of Chopin, the old Strauss waltzes and "anything toe-tapping".

"Young people don't know the songs," he said.

"The radio stations don't play that music any more, but when I play it for them they think it's awesome.

"That's the word they all say today, isn't it?"



It costs about $250 to tune a piano

The cost of a concert piano starts from about $30,000

Topics:  apprenticeship careers employment jobs music piano

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