Rick Butler, RPT, CTE, TEC | Member ~ The Piano Technicians Guild

~ Providing Tuning, Service, and Performance requirements for Steinway Pianos ~

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Steinway: The Most Impressive Name in Pianos!

Service | Restoration | Sales

Washington D.C., Maryland, Virgina

Steinway technician?

Every Steinway has its own distinct flavor of tone. When maintained regularly by an experienced and certified aural piano technician, one who knows Steinway pianos in and out, your piano will be a continual source of delight and inspiration. Every time you play, the tuning and voicing will be beautiful, full, and have a singing tone. Not only will it gratify your ears, but when the keyboard action is maintained, it will feel wonderful underneath your fingers. It will be responsive, smooth and have an even touch that makes it a pleasure to play. Steinways are unique and special pianos. A Steinway specialist who not only services Steinway pianos but is also trained in touchwieght Metrology is the way to go!


The Steinway piano is a world-class instrument, and it deserves the very best care. A well-maintained Steinway can be expected to live in your home for generations.

Rick cared for Steinways in the homes of amateurs, professionals, and various important venues in the Washington D.C. area for over four decades.

He was associated with the Steinway dealer in Washington, D.C., since 1979, and for many years represented Steinway as one of their Concert Artist Technicians. As such, he came to know many world-renowned artists and made many friends.

Over the years, he spent much time at the Steinway factory in New York working with various factory employees. His passion for Steinway and the piano business in general led him to teach aural piano tuning and service. He has students from around the world.

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About Rick Butler

Rick has been a member of the Piano Technicians Guild for over 50 years. His piano rebuilding experience encompasses work on all components of the instrument, including re-stringing, bridge and soundboard repair/replacement, pin block replacement, keyframe and key manufacture, and complete action, underlever, and trap work repair, replacement, and regulation.

Within the Piano Technicians Guild, he has served his Chapter (Washington D.C.) as President, Vice President, and Secretary, as well as on various committees locally and nationally.

He has also lectured at local, regional, and national meetings on subjects such as Tuning, Voicing, Regulation, and various aspects of Rebuilding. He also is very involved in administering the Piano Technicians Guild's tuning and technical examinations.

Rick's main focus today is teaching. He operates a school (The Butler School of Piano Technology) whose main objective is to prepare students to pass the Piano Technicians Guild's certification exams and become a "Registered Piano Technician". (RPT)

His sons John and David, both members of the Piano Technicians Guild, handle all the tunings and restorations. But he still helps out in the restoration shop as time allows. He particularly enjoys the final stages of tuning, voicing, and regulation on the pianos we restore and the ones we have for sale.

The Magic of Touch and Tone

The two most important things affecting your performance and overall playing experience are the tone and touch of your piano. Read on to learn more about this very important aspect of piano service.

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Action Regulation

In order to keep your piano's action as responsive as it was designed to be, it will, from time to time, require the attention of a professional piano technician.
In normal use, your piano's action will eventually depart from the evenness established when it was originally regulated in the factory. The need for regulation is, to a certain extent, a function of the use to which the piano gets. A piano that gets normal home use will probably need regulation every 2 to 3 years. This is, of course, subject to individual judgment. Keep in mind that the action of a concert grand is regulated as a matter of routine before every performance.
It goes without saying that tone and action regulation are jobs for a specialist. The two are usually done at the same time. Once again, we recommend that you consult with me for advice when you think your piano needs to be regulated.

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Every piano has its own distinct flavor of tone. When maintained regularly by an experienced, full-time piano technician, your piano will be a continual source of delight and inspiration. Every time you play, the tuning and voicing will be beautiful, full, and have a singing tone. Not only will it gratify your ears, but it will also feel wonderful underneath your fingers when the keyboard action is maintained. It will be responsive, smooth, and have an even touch, making it a pleasure to play. Pianos are unique and special instruments. 

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The New Touchweight Metrology

As piano builders and rebuilders, we have inherited a crude and archaic system for measuring the balance of the action mechanism. The weight of the hammer, which sits out on the end of a long lever arm and has such tremendous influence on touch and tone, is measured in weight to the nearest pound of a sheet of felt from which many sets of hammers are made.  We assume the proportion of key to hammer movement is roughly 1:5, but have no reasonable means for accurately measuring this ratio or detecting leverage problems. The keys are "balanced" using downweight as a primary indicator but "balance" implies a state of static equilibrium and downweight is taken from the moving key.


We know that when a piano is built, the weight of the action parts sitting on the back of the key exerts an upward force at the front of the key which is too high without the addition of keyleads to the front of the key. What is the effective weight of the action parts?  How does their weight translate to an upward force at the 
front of the key?  How much is the downward force at the front of the key?  Conventional wisdom simply does not provide answers to these important questions.

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Every Piano has a Touch Design... .What is a Touch Design?

In the 1990s David C. Stanwood of Stanwood Piano Innovation Inc. carried out extensive scientific studies of piano actions. Stanwood found that the former methods of measuring and creating the "feel" of pianos were inadequate, so he invented a whole new system of units and measures to explain why pianos "feel" the way they do.

'Touch Design' is a meticulous process that determines the unique feel of each piano's touch. It involves precise measurements of leverage and friction in every key, using the innovative touchweight metrology.

David Stanwood's studies found that Touch Design recipes vary widely from piano to piano and that when touch design parameters are very consistent from note to note, the response of the keys will be very consistent as well.

Stanwood also discovered that the combined levels of touch design parameters will indicate if the piano will feel too heavy, too light, or just right. In addition, he found that touch design parameters will tell if a piano is producing full tonal energy.

He learned that when the touch design of one piano was reproduced in another, the "feel" of that piano is reproduced as well.

Stanwood calls this "Touchweight Cloning". Butler & Sons is a licensed Precision TouchDesign (tm) Installer.