Piano, Organ, and Keyboard/organ key and power cord replacement
QUESTION: Hi, Thomas,
My name is William Jones, I'm a beginning tuner/technician, and a friend of mine has asked me to take a look at her Conn model 5316. She says it needs one key replaced, and a new power cord, as well as a cleaning.
I'm hopeful that I'll be able to figure out how to open and work inside the organ based on my experience with pianos (I hope), but I'm not sure where to go about ordering new parts for Conn. This might not be the smartest question in the world, but where would I go to order those two "parts"? Any music store?
Also, any information or tips you could give me that you think I should know going into an inspection of her organ are welcome.
Last question: say I'm able to do the repairs, such as they are. What might be a reasonable price to charge her? I'll probably give her a discount on top of whatever you suggest.
Thanks so much,
William G. Jones
ANSWER: Hello William, I am going to rant here partly because this is a public venue and partly because I feel strongly about what I am about to say, which may or may not apply to you.
I am curious, when you say you are a beginning tuner/tech, does this mean you are engaged in formal training? One of the most frustrating aspects of this field is the presence of ill trained people who simply hang out a shingle and call themselves pros.
Organs have keyboards with keys arranged in the same order as pianos but that is where the similarities end. Organs can be extremely complex devices which require formal training in electronics followed by specialized training in the specific technology used by each manufacturer. The technologies can vary dramatically from manufacturer to manufacturer. The parts inventory used to build such instruments can number in the thousands and the parts can be proprietary in nature...available only from the manufacturer. Because Conn and most of the American organ manufacturers are gone, these parts are available from a few parts houses if they haven't already exhausted their parts supplies. Some companies invest in the manufacturing of after market parts which can make the repair possible but can also make the retrofitting prohibitively expensive. The client can end up paying much more than the instrument is worth.
Since your questions surpass the intended scope of this question and answer venue, I suggest you first work with a seasoned tech who is willing to teach you the ropes without having to experiment on people's significant investments, because, a trial by error learning process can lead to sometimes very costly mistakes.
The all too common tenancy is for an inexperienced tech, who has been called in to repair an instrument, to not understand the technology of the instrument and sometimes resort to convincing the owner their instrument cannot be fixed and needs to be replaced...simply to save face. This is a far too common practice, ending with far too many beautiful instruments ending up in the landfills.
Check out http://mitatechs.org/public_splash2
for further help in getting started the right way because people are paying good money for a knowledgeable expert to fix their instrument correctly and competently.
My suggestion is for you to not charge for any instruments you work on until you become confident enough to know you are well past the I-don't-really-know-what-I'm-doing stage. If the repair issue turns out to be intuitive enough for you to successfully repair the current organ, I suggest you chalk it up to gained experience and simply ask for a gratuity for your time. If the client is pleased with your service, you stand to be rewarded handsomely and if not, you've gained the experience needed to make the next Conn a not-so-much learning trial.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Yes, I have formal training (multiple years worth). I would have appreciated it if you hadn't made assumptions about me, took me at my word, and simply answered the question.
The job was easy enough, and prior to your email, I found a parts supply house.
I am glad to hear you were able to make repairs. Because you did not describe what level of training you have and your questions suggested you had never worked on an organ, I chose to take the opportunity write what I did. It still stands. Next time, when asking for technical help as a professional, make certain your support knows the level of training you have had. This may not seem important, but it will make a huge difference in the response.