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The final word on piano buzzes from Israel Stein, master piano technician

Israel SteinPTG logo

Israel Stein is one of a kind.

An award winning, Registered Piano Technician, he’s been recognized nationally by the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) and continues to tune, voice, regulate, re-build and consult on pianos that prospective buyers are considering. He’s also a creme de la creme PIANO EXAMINER at the Guild and gives classes at the PTG Conventions and elsewhere.

Before I moved to the California Bay area, I engaged Israel from afar to check out numerous vintage Steinways for my students. His narratives were comprehensive and valuable to the last detail.

Once I relocated to Berkeley, I happened to spring upon a few dazzling grands that were tonally gorgeous repositories with immaculate, smooth actions, only to discover that Israel was maintaining them. (One was onstage at the Hillside Club; another at the East Bay Jewish Community Center)

Judging by the sonorous output of these pianos, I knew he and I were philosophically and musically on the same page.

As an example, Israel tunes by ear, but uses the latest technology as an adjunct without abusing it. I watched him bring one of my former pianos (a Kawai GE 20) into a ballpark overview range as a point of departure, before he commenced finite INTERVAL EAR tuning. I don’t believe that exclusively tuning UNISONS or matching up octaves works, so that’s why I single out Israel as an exception to the preponderance of time-saving technicians who think they’ve TUNED a piano with the machine, when it’s left with beating notes. (i.e. “sour”-sounding)

And when it came to the sub-constellation of “buzzing” notes that I’d recently blogged about, (https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/piano-buzzes-can-wreak-havoc/) I drew on Israel Stein’s time-honored expertise.

From the sage of Registered Piano technicians:

“Buzzes drive piano technicians crazy also. And you can’t generalize about them – they can be intermittent in all cases and can come and go with changes in humidity – whether they are internal or external. Sound travels along surfaces, and often where the buzz seems to come from is nowhere near its real source. The only sure way to find the source of a buzz is to keep touching various possible places that could conceivably generate a buzz while playing the note or notes that make it happen. It often takes two people – one to continually play the note(s) and the other to keep touching various places. The buzz usually indicates something loose that’s vibrating in very close proximity to something else in sympathy with a given pitch (and its overtones in other pitches0 – screw, hinge, splinter of wood, some loose junk on the soundboard, a crack, a picture frame or light fixture, a caster not in solid contact with the floor (only on uprights – on three legged grands that’s impossible) etc. etc. A change in humidity can cause the two components of a buzz to either move too far from each or to get into tighter contact with each other – in either case the buzz stops. That’s true for both outside or inside the piano. I hope this helps.”

My Berkeley-based Steinway ‘M’ grand is due for a tune-up along with the El Cerrito Hills Baldwin, so I won’t hesitate to call Israel Stein because I trust him more than any other tech in the area.

Piano Technician (contact: 510-558-0777)
San Francisco State University
February 2005 – Present (8 years 9 months)San Francisco, CA

Maintain pianos at the College of Creative Arts, manage piano inventory.
A-Major Piano Services
April 1997 – Present (16 years 7 months) Albany, CA – San Francisco Bay Area

Piano service and rebuilding
Piano Technician
Sherman Clay
January 2000 – January 2005 (5 years 1 month)

Preparation and tuning of pianos for sale, piano troubleshooting, warranty piano service for piano purchasers, appraisal of pianos for trade-in or purchase by company, concert piano preparation and tuning.
Piano Technician
M. Steinert & Sons
December 1998 – June 2000 (1 year 7 months)Greater Boston Area

Concert tuner/technician for Steinway Concert and Artist program. Prepare and tune pianos for sale. Recondition used pianos for sale. Warranty tunings and repair for piano purchasers. Piano tuning and service for regular company clients (mostly past piano purchasers). Inspection of pianos for company purchase or trade-in.
A-Major Piano Services
June 1987 – December 1995 (8 years 7 months)Cambridge, MA – Greater Boston Area

Piano service and Rebuilding
Volunteer Experience; Causes
Committee member and chair
Piano Technicians Guild


Sidney O. Stone Service Award
Piano Technicians Guild – Western Region
March 2012

In recognition of service to the PTG organization in general and specifically within its Western region
Putt-Crowl Member of Note Award
Piano technicians Guild
June 2010

In recognition of recent outstanding service and dedication to the Piano Technicians Guild
Presidential Citation
Piano Technicians Guild
June 2008

In recognition of service on the Examinations and test Standards Committee and as counsel to the President
Examiner of the year Award
Piano Technicians Guild
June 2004

In recognition of outstanding service as Chair of the Technical Examinations Subcommittee and in exam administration.

Registered Piano Technician
Piano Technicians Guild
May 1987 – Present


Piano Technicians Guild
Instructor at National and Regional Conventions/conferences; Co-chair, member – Bylaws committee; Chair – Techncial Exam Subcommittee, Technical Examiner Pool Coordinator.
May 1986 – Present

The PTG is a Trade Association of professional piano tuners/technicians and practitioners of related crafts. The organization seeks to upgrade its members’ skills through educational offerings and an exam program culminating in the Registered Piano Technician certification. It also offers information and resources to piano owners and users.

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