Who tunes your Steinway? Not Steinway any more. They've sacked the tuners.

Who tunes your Steinway? Not Steinway any more. They've sacked the tuners.


norman lebrecht

November 22, 2011

I’ve just received the following shock letter from the proud owner of a Steinway grand.

Note the well-tuned use of the 2011 term ‘moving forward’. It means someone has been laid off or something shut down.

Steinway ‘moved forward’ from its chief executive a couple of weeks back. I wonder if these ‘flexibility’ cutbacks are connected to his departure.

They should keep us informed.


  • Barry Johnstone. says:

    Moving forward, out sourcing, down sizing etc are all corporate euphanisms for getting rid of people!

    • AVI says:

      I the interests of accuracy, “down-sizing” is a euphemism for reducing headcount (!), yes.
      Out-sourcing often isn’t; and “moving forward” means, and has never meant, any such thing. It may be used to try to impart a positive spin on whatever process is being described, but it isn’t in any way a euphemism for ‘getting rid of people’. (I’m not sure why it is used in this letter, as it would read perfectly well without it.)

      • MWnyc says:

        “Moving forward” and “going forward” (the more common usage, in my experience) are simply the current locutions in the US business world for “from now on (until the next time we change our minds)”.

        To most Americans, “henceforth” sounds too antiquated or lawyerly, “from this point/day forward” sounds stilted or pompous, and “from now on” brings back memories of scolding parents and schoolteachers. “Going forward” is simply the phrase on which the collective hive mind has settled for the time being.

        But we do all understand Norman’s point – Steinway’s letter says “We’re firing all the service reps who tune and maintain your piano, but we don’t want to seem crass by saying so in so many words.”

  • bill eddins says:

    Steinway used to be a company dedicated to lovers of music/ That’s how it survived and that’s how it prospered. No more – it’s all about the bottom line. That’s why I’ll stick with my 1900 B and my local tuner, thankyouverymuch.

    • Dr. Marc Villeger says:

      Same here in Vancouver!

    • Jenn says:

      Hi Bill,

      First, I would love an opportunity to hear your 1900 Steinway B. I recently listened to a lovely 1924 Model L.

      In your opinion, how has Steinway’s attention to “lovers of music” changed over the years? Could you please expound on this?

      I thought they’ve always been a business savvy and artist friendly (catering?) organization–from what I know. Steinway worked with Horowitz to improve the action and still calls upon musicians to try-out their pianos and get feedback.

      Thank you,

  • In the future, all instruments will be factory-tuned with no need for later adjustment…

    Just kidding! I’m the guy who still uses an actual tuning fork, having noticed that all my guitar students who use the electronic ones always seem to be a tad sharp.

  • Don Drewecki says:

    What I’ve been told, by someone in the know, is that Steinway has sacked its tuner/technicians in order to make the firm attractive to a prospective buyer from South Korea.

    Still, the fact that an American firm is downsizing some of its most essential personnel confirms what many of us on the political left have siad for years — America is Dead as a self-sufficient economic entity. We no longer make anything of value to the world’s consumers — except bombs, wars and Wall Street fraud. The American Empire is over.

  • Sam says:

    I learned of this first from a concerned friend. Apparently at least some of the techs on staff do not have extensive private clientele. One Steinway tech, a single mother, was given notice. She now has an empty calendar, so I hope the “referral service” in the letter gives her enough opportunity to be a “flexible” “option”.

    I don’t know if the move is to reduce payroll obligations, if there are any union ramifications, or if this is a precursor to Steinway Hall eventually closing. With 4-5 dealers in the surrounding communities and Astoria used for factory selections, does a customer really need to head into Manhattan to buy a new … Essex upright? $60 parking, $20+ in tolls, and now when you get there, who’s left to keep the pianos in tune?

    Steinway’s focus on sub-lines have reduced Steinway Hall’s value as a sales venue. Recent investor Samick sold most of their original property in Korea and pocketed the money. The question is whether public reaction will make it a sacred cow.

    I really hope Steinway can make some moves that look more like long-term commitments. As a brand icon, they get more attention than their revenues warrant, but as a symbol of the piano industry, their health is good for more than just their investors and employees. But right now, getting rid of employees whose daily services pay for their salary seems like a short-term strategy to cater to some investors moreso than others.

    • Thanks, Sam. Is there, do you know, an association of piano tuners that offers better back-up than Steinway now provides?

      • Sam says:

        Ultimately, your best source will always be personal referrals from satisfied friends and neighbors. But for those feeling a little lost about where to begin, start with the Piano Technicians Guild or PTG.org. Through their website, you can search for Registered Piano Technicians by zip code and start with a list of technicians who have undertaken certain tests and training for certification.

        Many of Steinway’s best former technicians used their time with Steinway to launch a private career – not that they have a choice anymore. Experience is wonderful, but the most overlooked quality in finding the right technician is finding a good communicator. The highest level of technicians don’t just set the piano to “factory specs” but are able to translate the desires of the pianist into the piano’s behavior. And communication of these hard-to-describe desires is the biggest challenge.

  • Adam says:

    I was at the Steinway factory in Queens only last week, and was show around by a guy called Bob Bernhardt who has worked there 38 years ( I think he said??) and it was very impressive. Anyone who hasn’t been and can wangle a tour should do so when they are in town. Their order book seemed quite busy!