My name is Mac Potts, and I was born blind. How blind you ask? My vision level is zip, zilch, and nada. I was blessed with the God given gift of music, as well as the blessing and curse called perfect pitch. As a young piano student, I always noticed when pianos were out of tune. As I grew up, I began to examine the machinery of the instrument, and also, the number of strings per note.
One day, I was rocking out on the Potts family piano, when a note knocked out of tune to the point of being unusable. I made a makeshift mute out of Braille paper, a step up from my original paper napkin idea. However, blocking out that string made the note dead, so my dad put together a ratchet tool and tightened the string until I said, “Alright stop. Beautiful.” Naturally, you can guess what happened next. I got a hold of the tool and started trying to tweak other notes.
Immediately after that, I took a two day class on piano tuning and piano repair from the Piano Hospital in Vancouver, WA. I had it in mind to take some summer classes or get some training on weekends. Upon learning that I was only fifteen, the Piano Hospital informed me that I actually had to graduate high school first. They still let me take the course, and by the time the training had finished, I had almost tuned a whole piano.
With no one to teach me how to properly tune a piano, I purchased some actual tools, so I wouldn’t have to use a ratchet and mutes made of paper or foam. Little by little, I learned how to line up the 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, and octaves. I had many opportunities to practice, make mistakes, and pick up my speed. People in my small hometown of Kalama were eager to let me have a go at tuning their pianos. By the end of June, I had tuned both pianos at my church, all four pianos at my high school, and a few neighbors’ pianos. Most of my tuning throughout my high school life was not for money, but rather for myself. I couldn’t stand doing a gig without doing some touch up tuning on the piano first.
I was the youngest person to take an evaluation class in tuning from the Piano Hospital. So it was no surprise to them that after graduating from high school, I enrolled in the course and zoomed through the tuning lessons, passing the test in three weeks. Although it took more time to complete the repair sections, regulation was the other easy concept for me. Because I had been playing piano my whole life, I understood how the instrument was supposed to respond. I even had to be told to mellow out on the piano playing, because after tuning or regulating a piano, I always had to jam out. It was both my way of testing the piano for any mistakes and rewarding myself for all that hard work.
In my first year of being a certified tuner, I have been asked to tune Grands, Uprights, Spinets, Consoles, and even ex-Player Pianos. I have been very successful in satisfying customers, although sadly, some pianos are beyond repair. This can be sometimes avoided by regular tuning by a certified technician.