What kinds of skills and capabilities do I need in order to successfully be a student at The Chicago School for Piano Technology?
Self-motivation, good organizational skills, patience, stick-to-it-ive-ness, normal hearing, good hand-eye-ear coordination, general physical fitness, and an open mind are some of the basic skills one should bring to the task. It will also be necessary for you to have developed some learning strategies for the theoretical material, and good reading and study habits. You must have a high level of communication skills in reading, writing, speaking and understanding the English language. In addition, you need to be prepared to spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy perfecting the actual practical skills involved in working on pianos, particularly the diagnostic skills involved in aural tuning. Imagine how long a concert artist practices before taking the stage.
Is it necessary to know how to play the piano in order to become a piano technician?
It is not necessary, but certainly a plus. At CSPT, we will present you with all of the fundamentals of music theory you will need to know in order to understand how to tune. For example, at the very least, you will be required to learn the structure of intervals on the piano, and the partial structures of vibrating strings.
How many hours a week will I need to devote to my studies, and how long will it take to complete the course of study?
Although you will spend only 8-10 hours a week in formal classes, from the outset, you will also need to dedicate yourself to at least another 16-20 hours a week in monitored practice, including repair, regulation, tuning, and other class work and projects at the school. The amount of time you devote to practice will increase over the year as topics get deeper, and as you approach tuning the whole piano. Overall, you can expect to spend upwards of 1000+ hours of study, class time, and monitored practice over a period of a year. We have found that without your own will and plan to practice at the school (which is open to students twenty-four hours a day), you will not succeed. This argues very strongly for locating in or very near Chicago so that you can travel to the school on a regular basis.
If you live in the Chicago metropolitan area, commuting is doable within reason, weather and traffic permitting (you may not miss classes, and must be on time for them). As noted in the question above, you need to plan to be at the school for many hours a week outside of the formal class day. If you live at such a distance that you cannot reasonably do this, you need to plan to move to the area, preferably as close to the school as possible. If your time of travel to the school is more than an hour or so, you should seriously consider relocating for the period of time in which you are enrolled.
The amount of tuition can be found on the Tuition and Fees page on the web site. Note that the total tuition may be paid by quarter, but that payments are due, by invoice, prior to the beginning of classes for each quarter. While we prefer that you avoid using credit cards for payment, that option is available through the PayPal link on the Tuition and Fees page. Financial aid is available in a variety of forms--federal Title IV grants and loans, private Sallie Mae loans, VA and GI Bill. See the complete Financial Aid pages here. Please be aware that disbursements from any of these sources generally happen after the beginning of classes, and you should be prepared to pay the first quarter's tuition payment, due in mid-August, by whatever means you wish. You are welcome to consult with us on a payment schedule if necessary.
Do I have to buy all the tools and books before I begin my studies at The Chicago School for Piano Technology?
You must bring to your first classes what those classes require both in books and tools. When you are first enrolled, we will give you advice on your initial tool and book purchases in the form of required tools and books lists; you will have to begin purchasing your tools at least in the month prior to the beginning of classes in order to have what you need to begin. Later, you will be purchasing the remainder of your tools as you need them for your studies, with guidance from your instructors. We have structured the curriculum so that you are able to accumulate your tools and technical library along with your knowledge base: one step at a time. But your major tool purchases must be prior to the beginning of classes and you must be prepared on the first day with tools.
Do I have to take the full curriculum all at once, or can I take courses as I like and when I like?
The curriculum at CSPT has been thought out and constructed with the idea of presenting the most logical and intensive study of piano technology available for the novice to the field. It would not be advisable (nor do we allow) for you to pick and choose your coursework. As well, we encourage students at CSPT to find employment in areas other than piano technology while they are studying at the school in order to concentrate on what they are learning and what we are teaching. By the beginning of the 4th quarter, it will be entirely appropriate for students to begin exploring job opportunities and experience in the field of piano technology. Only in absolutely necessary cases will CSPT grant students extensions of study, and only for a second year. Beyond that, the student will begin to lose the interconnections of study that have been designed into the curriculum.
If I decide to study piano technology at The Chicago School for Piano Technology, what kind of career options do I have, and what kind of income can I make?
Your career options are numerous. Most piano technicians are "independent contractors", running their businesses as sole-proprietors, or as S-corporations or LLC's. Very few either wish to be, or find themselves as, "employees" in the classic corporate sense. Even College and University technicians are not generally full-time employees of their institutions, retaining an entirely independent status with the school by negotiating that when hired. These technicians are also some of the best in the country, with years of experience. As you gain competence through experience, you can successfully run your own business as a private tuner/technician; you may also find employment with a dealer or manufacturer to work on or represent brands of pianos, or find employment with a college or university or music school, or work with other technicians who may be running more involved kinds of businesses such as piano rebuilding or finishing, or a mix of all of the above. CSPT does not "place" graduates; the graduates place themselves! We teach a full 10-week Business course which addresses all of these questions in great detail. The nature of your career and the income you derive from it will depend on how you wish to structure your business; generally, full-time, experienced piano technicians can average between $35,000 and $75,000 a year depending on initiative, the geographical location of their business, and the quality of their work.
If I already have experience as a tuner, is it necessary to take the whole CSPT curriculum?
No. You can "advance place" out of portions of Tuning I and/or II by taking the appropriate tests. This will gain you some minimal financial benefit. How much you may have to "unlearn" may also be an issue, but you will be expected to take the entire remainder of the curriculum in order to gain a Certificate from CSPT. The curriculum for the school has been structured to be a cumulative gathering of information and experience for the student; no part of it can be bypassed.
Will I be able to pass the Piano Technicians Guild examinations when I have received a Certificate from CSPT?
By the time you complete the entire curriculum at CSPT, you should be able to pass all of the exams for Registered Piano Technician (RPT) in the PTG. As far as aural tuning, you will be prepared with all you need in order to pass the (aural) tuning examination; if, however, you pass our exams, you should be able to pass the PTG exam as well. We will give you all of the skills, knowledge, and the foundation upon which to build toward passing the exams and being successful in a piano technology career. In terms of the knowledge base you will carry away from study at CSPT, it will be significantly more extensive than what the PTG tests cover. For those tests, you only need to pass at 80%; an 80% tuning is audibly marginal. In order to pass the examinations at CSPT, you will have to achieve scores significantly higher than the equivalent PTG requirements. If you can pass the CSPT exams, you would measureably be achieving more than the equivalent of passing the RPT exams for the Guild. You will have the capability (only experience and practice creates the ability) to tune much more than marginally when you graduate from CSPT; it is your application and practice of that capability that will carry you far past the tests.
Do I have to join the PTG in order to study at The Chicago School for Piano Technology?
No, we do not and cannot require you to join the PTG as a pre-requisite for attendance at The Chicago School for Piano Technology. But the benefits of joining the Guild far outweigh the costs. Passing the tests of the PTG to attain Registered Technician status (RPT) is a worthy but only partial goal and a "marker" along the way. All of your instructors are long-time RPT members of the PTG, and active in their respective chapters. One program of the Chicago Chapter is a piano donation program called A Gift of Pianos. Only members of the PTG are allowed to work on the pianos being donated, and several of these pianos may be in the facilities of the school for repair and reconditioning. Students who have opted to join the PTG may work on these particular pianos as well.
When I receive my Certificate, what will I be prepared to do?
You will be prepared to enter the field of piano technology immediately. Toward the latter part of the third quarter, you will find yourself already "out in the field" getting practical, but protected, experience with clients and pianos, and the problems that arise. You will have us to come back to in order to learn from that experience and share your experience with your fellow students. When you are done at CSPT, we will follow you with interest and with as much support and help as we can. We urge you never to hesitate to call for assistance. In the field of piano technology, we call this aftercare.
You will also find opportunity at the end of the curriculum to apply to participate in several possible summer seasonal and highly competitive internships around the country such as the Eastern Music Festival, Tanglewood, and Aspen. This will depend entirely on you, your skill level and drive to become a truly high quality technician; these internships represent extraordinary learning opportunities, as well as the direct application of the skills you have already developed. There is more information about these programs here at the school, and your instructors can give you guidance in applying.
For further information, as required by the Department of Education, go here.
Can I work part-time as a piano technician until I want to make more of it?
Yes, but we would discourage this while you are studying at the school, at least until the fourth quarter. Many piano technicians start out by working at piano technology on a part-time basis. Your studies at CSPT will give you a head start in doing so. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish in developing your own business. Our goal is that you do it as competently as possible, and that your clients are satisfied with the level of work you bring to them.
In our business course, you will learn how to structure your own business in whatever fashion you wish in order to be successful at it.
Once I finish at The Chicago School for Piano Technology and perhaps even pass the exams in the Piano Technicians Guild, do I need to do anything else to be a good piano technician?
On average, among the faculty at CSPT, we have each tuned probably 20-30,000 plus pianos in our careers so far. Each of us is an RPT in the Piano Technicians Guild. Each of us is still learning how to tune. Every piano and every tuning is a new learning experience. Taken as a whole, the piano is an endless source of new information; the science and "art" of being a piano technician will never end.