Career Information: Product/Instrument Technician




Working as a Technician

Several product types warrant a repair/maintenance profession of their own, which may include formal qualifications, while others are learned and developed informally or involve highly specialised skills.

Woodwind and brass instrument repairer

Some makers of acoustic instruments such as violins and guitars also operate repair businesses. For woodwind and brass instruments, however, there are specialised repairers who are not involved in making instruments. Most of the repairs involve servicing, mainly the replacements of parts such as pads, felts and corks — these wear out or fall off even if the instrument is well looked after. For brass instruments, the servicing usually entails cleaning out the pipes that are hard for the owner to get to. Repairers also take out dents and straighten instruments that have been accidentally damaged.

Because of the large number of instrument types and models in use in orchestras and bands, repairers must stock a comprehensive selection of spare parts. Hundreds of tools are also required to do this work. These include screwdrivers of all sizes, grips, pliers, dozens of files, reamers, hammers, mallets, burnishers, mandrels and soldering equipment. A lathe is needed for making obsolete parts — and for making specialised tools.

Skills & Attributes

  • Good hand–eye coordination and metalworking skills.
  • Patience and determination
  • Methodical approach to carrying out particular tasks and solving problems.
  • Design and make tools for particular functions.
  • (Typically) small business management skills


  • Instrument-repairing businesses in large cities often employ a number of repairers on salary, but most repairers work as single-operator small businesses.
  • This is particularly the case in smaller cities, where there is not enough repairing work to warrant employing people.
  • Competent instrument repairers are in high demand in large city repairing businesses.
  • Repairers may get involved in selling instruments and accessories (such as reeds, mouthpieces, straps, etc)
  • In Australia, many repairers are also professional or semi-professional musicians.


  • There are no training courses in available in Australia. However, it may be possible for an aspiring instrument repairer to become apprenticed to a large city-based firm while doing a correspondence course from overseas.

Piano technician

A piano technician tunes and repairs pianos. This involves travelling to the pianos and maintaining a workshop for more substantial repairs and restoration activities.

When technicians get to the piano to be tuned, they first assess the condition of the piano, take up the slack, if any, in the action, do a pitch raise if the piano hasn’t been tuned for some time, and then tune it. An average tuning takes between an hour and a quarter and two hours.
Remedial work may be necessary to deal with problems such as vermin attacking the felts. Other work may also be recommended, such as regulation of the action. This involves ensuring that the hammers are the correct distance from the strings, adjusting the lost motion, adjusting the let off, adjusting the point at which the hammer is caught, ensuring that the key tops are level, and adjusting the key dip and the key drop.

Some clients are interested in restoring their pianos to as-new condition. Also, many piano technicians buy up old pianos, restore them and then sell them. The reconditioning process falls into four main stages: replacing the key-tops and refurbishing the action, restringing the instrument, repairing or reshaping the bridges and the sound board, and case refinishing (the case is the wooden external part of the instrument; the refinishing is applying varnish, French polishing, etc to this).

Piano technicians must maintain an adequate supply of spare parts, as many parts need to be ordered from overseas — they can take several months to arrive. And it is not always possible to purchase a new part; it may be necessary to make it, so a store of materials is needed for this, including the many different thicknesses, textures and densities of felt. A large array of specialised tools is required, and all must be well maintained.

Skills & Attributes

  • Piano technicians must have a finely attuned ear
  • Manually dexterous, mechanically adept, methodical, and good at problem solving.
  • Extreme patience
  • The ability to work under adverse conditions (for example working in schools when there are children playing nearby)
  • Skills in woodworking, tool maintenance and French polishing are necessary; welding is useful.
  • Interpersonal / client relations skills
  • (Typically) small business management skills


Piano technicians should attempt to establish a business in a geographical area where there is not too much competition and there are sufficient people with pianos. They need to advertise to get the business started, but it will build up its own momentum by word of mouth if the technician provides competent service. It is possible to tune around three to five pianos in a day.

Piano technicians who have a full-time schedule of tunings may need to subcontract the repairs that have to be done in the workshop.


  • Piano technicians need an educational background appropriate to the needs of the job. A good selection of high school subjects might be mathematics, physics, woodwork and metalwork. If the technician intends to do piano restoration, training in French polishing is also necessary.

Electronic equipment repairer

Electronic equipment repairers cover a range of products. At the high end there is broadcast television and professional audio and video servicing. At the low end there is consumer electronic equipment such as videos, televisions, hi fi and electronic music equipment. Some operators cover all professional and consumer equipment; others specialise in one or the other.
Repairers usually work in businesses that employ a number of electronics technicians. A repairing business needs a shopfront for the receiving and returning of equipment to be serviced and a workshop in which the repairs are done.

The workshop is equipped with testing equipment such as oscilloscopes, multimeters, power suppliers, and more specialised equipment for the repair of MIDI equipment such as electronic keyboards and sound modules.

Most electronic instrument repairers are aligned with particular equipment manufacturers or importers, and act as service centres for equipment under warranty. In this context the manufacturers provide the repairer with full service manuals and diagnostic software for all their equipment models. They may also provide specialised training for the technicians. These arrangements are set up when repairers make approaches to manufacturers or local retailers. Alternatively, retailers may approach repairers to establish a service centre for the products they sell.

The work of a repairer involves diagnosing electronic and mechanical problems in an item of equipment and being able to follow that diagnosis through to a repair. The process usually also involves making an estimation of the cost of the job, liaising with the customer about whether to proceed or not, and ordering the parts if they are not in stock.

Skills & Attributes

  • Good electronics theory knowledge
  • Good mechanical skills
  • Diagnose problems quickly and efficiently
  • Good communication skills
  • (For self-employed technicians / business owners) small business management skills


  • Qualifications are not mandatory, but most electronic equipment technicians have a relevant VET qualification.

Excerpts (in italics) from ‘Australian Guide to Careers in Music’ by Michael Hannan (2003, UNSW Press, Out of print)