What Does “RPT” Mean,
and Why Should I Care?
Piano tuning and repair is an unregulated trade. Unlike members of other skilled technical professions (electricians, plumbers and welders, for example), piano technicians are not required to earn academic degrees or pass tests of competency for state licenses. Anyone can go into the business of piano care, regardless of level of training, skill, or experience. What that should mean to you as a piano owner is caveat emptor – buyer beware.
The Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) is a nonprofit organization with an international membership. PTG sets standards and tests the skills of its members. It is the only nationwide entity in North America that does this in the field of piano technology. For PTG members, the title of Registered Piano Technician (RPT) is earned by passing a series of three examinations.
From the PTG website:
A written exam tests basic knowledge of piano design, tuning theory, repair techniques and various other topics relevant to piano technology. Two separate practical, hands-on exams test tuning and technical skills. The practical exams are administered by panels of RPTs under the leadership of examiners trained and certified in standardized exam procedures….
On the tuning exam the candidate must match as closely as possible a “master tuning” created by a panel of examiners who have agreed – after painstaking experimentation and analysis – on an optimal tuning for the test piano….
The technical exam requires the candidate to demonstrate professional-level skills in assembling a grand and a vertical piano action (the mechanical component of the piano) and in making all the complicated adjustments so that they function properly. The candidate must also demonstrate facility in various common repairs involving wood, cloth, felt, piano wire and other materials commonly used in pianos. All the procedures on these exams must be completed in prescribed time periods – thus demonstrating the fluency required of a professional.”
When searching for someone to maintain your piano, ask about PTG membership and membership status. An RPT has met professional standards – others have not.