As an aural tuner, John tunes pianos by ear.
Steinway, Yamaha, Bechstein, Bosendorfer, & Baldwin factories all use aural tuners exclusively.
Studying with the Greats
John Geist has been tuning and repairing pianos since 1974 and has studied under some of the greatest piano tuners of all time:
“Back in 1979, when the great feisty technician SHELDON SMITH was still around, I accepted a piano tuning of a Steinway O for a mutual recital pianist friend of both of us. Sheldon and I happened to cross each other’s paths in front of Sather Tower on the UC Berkeley campus and he pointed out that that piano client was his and had been his for many years. In a sweat, I listened to his narrative; “There I was, John, trying to set the temperment thinking, ‘wait a minute, what’s going on here?’ Then Earl (the client) told me you had just tuned it.” (gulp) “It was a gorgeous tuning, John.” (whew!)
“I got started tuning in 1974 first studying with DON MORTON, founder of PACIFIC PIANO SUPPLY and a former National President of the Piano Technician’s Guild. Stronger lessons came from blind piano tuner BOB MCCLURE who convinced me that louder is not better for your ears, the piano or your ability to tune well. For a while, I was employed by JIM DONALDSON, the author of PIANO REBUILDER’S HAND BOOK OF TREBLE STRING TENSIONS. New ideas on piano restoration and tuning approaches to the extreme bass and treble were his special gift to me. Indeed, there were many other generous tuners who shared a wealth of important ideas including MARK SCHECTER, RANDY JENSEN, and SID STONE.
The Early Days
In the early days, John would bike to tunings far and wide, up and down the hills of Berkeley and beyond. Now, John is again biking (sometimes in combo with bus or train) to tunings when it’s feasible to do so, or traveling by Prius when a car is required. It’s a deep and growing commitment to his health and the environment, as well as a love of being on his bike that drives this choice.
Award-winning Classical Composer
John is also an award-winning composer who has received two Bay Area Critic Circle Awards, a Nonesuch National Commission Award, and been a California Arts Council Artist in Residence. He has been commissioned to create work for the Kronos Quartet, Margaret Jerkins Dance Co., Chanticleer, and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre among many others. He is also Artistic Director of and Composer for Chaucer Theatre. Commissions are custom fitted to each patron’s request.