Enhancing the Melodies – The Importance of Piano Technicians

Enhancing the Melodies – The Importance of Piano Technicians: Insights from the 2023 Sydney International Piano Competition 

The world of classical music is a realm of timeless beauty and transcendent emotion. It is a space where the harmonious blending of instrumental sounds weaves intricate tapestries of melody, rhythm, and expression. In the heart of this musical universe, the Sydney International Piano Competition stands as a testament to virtuosity and artistry. The pianists take center stage, but behind the scenes, an orchestra of dedicated technicians and piano companies collaborates to ensure that each note resonates with perfection. 

Recently, The Guardian shed light on the often-unseen world of piano tuning and the technicians who make it possible. As an essential element of the 2023 Sydney International Piano Competition, we took the opportunity to talk to discover the perspectives of piano experts from Fazioli, Steinway, and Kawai – companies synonymous with these masterpieces of craftsmanship. 


The Multifaceted Role of Piano Technicians: 

Piano technicians, often referred to as piano tuners, have a diverse array of responsibilities that extend beyond mere tuning. David Kinney, a piano technician representing Fazioli, emphasizes that these technicians form a vital pit crew that maintains and prepares the instruments for optimal performance during high-stakes competitions. This includes ensuring that the pianos are responsive to changes in atmospheric conditions, which can significantly impact their sound. David notes that pianos are akin to living beings, reacting to weather, humidity, and even the mood of the performer. 



The Piano’s Voice: A Unique Character: 

Piano technicians work tirelessly to bring out the best in each piano, as every instrument possesses a distinct voice and character. David Kinney mentions that manufacturers and technicians choose pianos for specific qualities, such as boldness or warmth, in accordance with their intended usage. While instruments can be standardized in terms of quality, they maintain unique voices that resonate differently with various pianists. Vahe Samarzian, representing Steinway, explains that even minor adjustments can bring out vastly different tonalities from the same instrument. 


The Dynamic Relationship Between Pianist and Instrument: 

One of the most intriguing aspects is the interplay between pianists and their instruments. The pianists who succeed in coaxing out the best sound are those who work in harmony with the instrument, adapting their playing style to its nuances. David Kinney mentions that some pianists effortlessly find the instrument’s voice, while others may struggle or expect the piano to produce something it isn’t capable of. This symbiotic relationship between the artist and the instrument is a cornerstone of exceptional performances. 


Adapting to Varied Environments: 

Piano competitions often involve multiple venues, each with its own acoustic characteristics. As the instruments move between spaces, technicians face the challenge of maintaining the pianos’ optimal sound across diverse environments. Vahey Samarzian discusses the complexity of preparing a piano for different sound spaces, like transitioning from the intimate Bruggen Hall to the grand Sydney Opera House. This adaptability demonstrates the pianos’ versatility and technicians’ skills in managing the instruments’ sound profiles. 


Technological Advancements and Tradition: 

Despite technological advancements in piano manufacturing, the role of technicians remains fundamentally human. Warwick Baker, General Manager of Kawai Australia, notes that while CNC machines and advanced materials enhance production, tuning is a process that requires human judgment. Artificial intelligence might impact manufacturing, but the nuanced art of tuning, involving both mathematical accuracy and musical sensitivity, remains firmly rooted in human expertise. 


Piano technicians play an indispensable role in the world of piano competitions. They navigate the complexities of piano preparation, adapting instruments to varying acoustics and working closely with pianists to achieve optimal sound. These technicians are the custodians of an instrument’s soul, preserving its unique voice while enabling pianists to create magic on stage. The insights from the 2023 Sydney International Piano Competition shed light on their dedication, artistry, and essential role in shaping the musical landscape.