A Registered Piano Technician (RPT) has passed a series of rigorous examinations on the maintenance, repair, and tuning of pianos. That’s the definition from the Piano Technicians Guild website ptg.org.
It is more than that though. The RPT is the only recognizable credential in the piano technology profession. These exams are the only exams that exist in the US market today that test the practical and hands-on knowledge of the piano technician.
The exam consists of a written test, a technical exam, including vertical and grand regulation, and ten common repairs, and a tuning exam. These tests have been well crafted and refined over decades to determine if the examinee has the knowledge of the most common skills in our trade.
The written exam consists of 100 questions designed to test our theoretical knowledge in various sections of our industry. The exam has questions about tuning, regulation, repairs, recommendations, and history. This is the first test in the exam process.
The technical exam is broken into three parts and tests vertical regulation, grand regulation, and repairs. The repairs consist of basic tasks such as string replacement, center pinning, key rebushing, and other common field repairs.
The tuning exam is broken into parts including temperament/mid-range, bass/treble octaves, unisons, and a stability test designed to test tuning lever technique. Each part of the exam is scored electronically and verified by a panel of three qualified RPTs and certified examiners. These exams are by no means subjective in any way.
The tuning and technical exams can be taken in either order and retaken in parts individually depending on the section, so you don’t have to repeat the entire process if you pass a certain section and fail another. During each exam, the examinee is given a set of instructions and must complete the tasks in a certain time limit. The time limits are generous for proficient technicians.
It is important to achieve this level for proficiency in the trade - not for the title, but for the learning experience. There is not one exam I have been a part of that did not provide me away of learning something new about the piano and the processes of repairs, maintenance, and tuning. I personally continue to learn new things through the exam process.
Today, colleges and universities consider RPT status a qualification for employment. In my personal experience as an employer, there is a serious difference in the proficiency of new techs who had taken RPT exams, and those who had not.
Becoming an RPT is telling the piano community that you are dedicated to your craft, skilled to a tested level and passionate about the trade. Most importantly, it is proving to yourself that you have reached a point in your career and education with a proven credential. Being a piano technician is a journey of constant learning, having the RPT credential is just one of the steps along the way. There are so many things to learn beyond becoming an RPT, the depth is unbelievable. The more you learn the more you realize you have to learn.