A Guide to Pianos at SMTD

This guide is designed to help acquaint you with the work of the Piano Technology Staff and help clarify some questions about procedures and responsibilities that you might have. From time to time you may see us in the practice facility or working in the concert halls or making our way through the corridors of the school with our work cart. We’d like to get acquainted, so let us know who you are and how you are doing!


If you have any suggestions for this guide, please feel free to reach out to us. You may email us, or drop us a line in our mailbox on the 2nd floor (we’re listed under “Piano Tech”). We will respond directly to you if you include your name, phone number, or locker number. This will enable you to have input on how we can best serve your needs. Please feel free to contact anyone on the staff if you have further questions not covered here. Our group email is [email protected].

Contact Us

Randy Bibri, Director of Piano Technology
Room 1245
[email protected]

Sanju Sebastian, Assistant Piano Technician
Room 1245
[email protected]

Josh Gardner, Piano Tuner/Tech
Room 1245
[email protected]

Claire Heath, Piano Technician
[email protected]


General Policy

  1. All pianos at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance are intended solely for the use of faculty, staff, and currently registered SMTD students.
  2. Pianos may be used for university-related activities only. Non-university related activities are coordinated through the Office of Concerts and Events.
  3. Pianos located in various performance venues may be requested for use by other University of Michigan units or outside groups who are renting those venues. In most cases, a fee for rental and tuning will apply. A list of venues with pianos available for rental, along with our current rental and tuning rates, may be found at the end of this document.

Policies Regarding Use of Practice Facility Pianos

  1. Practice facility pianos are intended for piano majors, piano principals, instrumentalists, singers, and all other SMTD majors requiring facilities for piano practice or research purposes. They are also intended for sanctioned activities or responsibilities related to the duties of GSIs or instructors in SMTD programs, such as the Piano Pedagogy Laboratory Program (PPLP). Non-SMTD students who are enrolled in a SMTD class requiring the use of the pianos for practice may also use our pianos.
  2. Grand piano practice rooms are reserved for the exclusive use of currently enrolled SMTD piano majors or principals. Access is limited to members of these two groups through magnetic keycard and is subject to restriction or forfeit if the privilege is abused. Consult with the SMTD Facilities staff about access privileges. Exceptions are made for auditioning students and other rare circumstances as determined by the Piano Department.
  3. Grand piano practice rooms are to be used for practice, rehearsal, or GSI instructional requirements (including PPLP). Room assignments for piano principal students are coordinated by the Piano Department Chair.
  4. Upright practice rooms are available for use by all SMTD students, including piano majors and principals in the event of overflow from the grand piano area.
  5. Food or beverages (including water) may not be placed on any piano at any time, for any reason. Please understand that the results of even a seemingly small spill can be catastrophic. The replacement cost of the least expensive upright piano in our facility is over $10,000, and the replacement cost of the least expensive grand piano is $86,000 (as of 2023). For the sake of our pianos, keep both food and beverage far away from the pianos at all times.
  6. Students may not share room access privileges with any other students, or with members of the community at large for any purpose, including by loaning or swiping their magnetic ID card in the grand piano room locks for access. Abuse can result in restriction or forfeit of grand piano privileges.
  7. Students are expected to practice reasonable decorum in the practice facility at all times. Conflicts over room access or other issues should be handled in a considerate and polite manner. Conflicts that cannot be resolved satisfactorily or amicably should be referred to the piano faculty or to the Piano Department Chair.
  8. For your safety, practice room pianos are not to be moved, even within the room. Only professional movers are authorized to transport or move SMTD pianos. Consult the piano technology staff if you feel that a piano is not positioned correctly or if something falls behind or under the piano and can’t be reached.
  9. Upright piano practice rooms can now be reserved through the ASIMUT scheduling system. The same is true for 1215, which is equipped for due-piano rehearsals. It is advisable to make a reservation in ASIMUT prior to using any of the practice rooms, in order to ensure you have a time to practice as well as avoid any potential scheduling conflicts.


Usual and Customary Services

The following information is intended to define the circumstances where tuning and maintenance can be considered “usual and customary” for all of our pianos throughout the year. Please note that this serves as a general description of services, and there may be circumstances not discussed here for which service availability would have to be assessed at that time. Certain tuning requests that are beyond the following circumstances may be subject to a tuning fee.

First and Foremost: Plan Ahead!

When contacting our department with a tuning request, a minimum of two weeks’ notice is necessary. If we do not have at least two weeks’ notice, we cannot promise tuning services for your event. In situations where piano rental is necessary, four weeks’ notice is recommended in order to ensure that the type of piano you are requesting is available.

Pianos in the Practice Facility

  • Monitored weekly throughout the year for damage and other major problems
  • Grand pianos are tuned on average every eight weeks.
  • Upright pianos are tuned on average once per semester.
  • Technical maintenance and repair as needed

Pianos in Classrooms and Large Studios

  • Monitored weekly throughout the year for damage and other major problems
  • Tuned prior to the start of each semester
  • Tuned prior to exams, juries, and SMTD audition days
  • Classrooms used for studio classes are touched up weekly as the schedule allows

Pianos in Faculty Teaching Studios

  • Tuned once or twice per semester, depending on use. We may not be able to honor requests for teaching studio tuning two weeks prior to finals and juries, in order to prepare pianos in those venues.
  • Technical maintenance by request during the academic year

Pianos in Performance Venues

  • Concert Grands in Britton, McIntosh, and Stamps are serviced daily during the academic year
  • The grand piano in Hankinson is serviced three times per week.
  • Pianos in Watkins, Cady Room, and Kevreson are serviced twice per week
  • Hill and Rackham are tuned as required per the SMTD performance calendar
  • Power Center and Mendelssohn Theatre upright pianos are tuned prior to performances and/or dress rehearsals
  • Duderstadt Audio Recording Studio is serviced at the start of each term, then as necessary for SMTD class needs
  • Dance Studio 1 (room 1040) is serviced once per week.

Recital and Concert Services

  • Tuning on the morning of performance for faculty and major ensembles
  • Tuning on weekdays for student degree recitals (during the venue’s regularly scheduled piano maintenance time)

Circumstances outside of “Usual and Customary”

For performances that fall outside of the “Usual and Customary” definition, performers or organizers will be responsible for fees for tuning and/or rental of our pianos, depending on affiliation with SMTD and the University. The prices for piano tuning and piano rental are listed at the end of this document. Some examples of performances that fall outside of “Usual and Customary” include:

  • Use by non-SMTD entities of SMTD pianos in performance venues for non-SMTD events. These events are subject to fees for rental and tuning of pianos
  • Projects requiring the rental of pianos in venues that do not already have a piano. Please understand that we cannot accommodate requests to move pianos from one SMTD venue to another, (for example, moving a concert grand from Britton to Hill for an event). If you are planning an event in a venue without a piano, or without the type of piano required, you will need to source your piano through rental. Please keep in mind when planning your project that unfortunately, the pianos available for rental through Kings Keyboard House and The Steinway Gallery are not always of the quality you would expect from SMTD pianos.
  • Performances or projects that span more than one day, or are of such a nature as to require submission to the Events Committee for review.
  • Grant-funded projects for extra-curricular or private purposes.
  • Private Recordings under a private label. 
  • Tuning off-site, or on non-SMTD pianos, such as the University Commons, Kerrytown Concert Hall, or any location operated by another University unit.
  • Recording Projects on SMTD Pianos

Recording Projects

For recording projects, rental and/or tuning fees apply based on your affiliation with the University of Michigan and SMTD.

  • If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member for SMTD and your project is part of a SMTD class, and there is no grant-funding, you may use our pianos without any additional fees for rental or tuning. If a student is doing a simple recording of a live recital or event that would otherwise be considered “usual and customary”, we do not charge additional fees for tuning.
  • If you, the primary artist on the album [or organizer etc.], are a student, faculty member, or staff member of SMTD for a recording project that is grant-funded, for profit, or otherwise outside of the definition of “usual and customary”, you may use any SMTD piano without a rental fee, but you will be responsible for fees for tuning services.
  • If you, the primary artist [or organizer ect.], are not a student, faculty member, or staff member of SMTD, you will be responsible for fees for piano rental and tuning.

Piano Locks

Many of our grand pianos in performance venues and a few classrooms are under lock and key.  Those in need of a key must check out the appropriate key from the Reception Desk located in the Moore Building lobby near the student commons. Permanent keys are available for faculty members teaching a regular class in a venue where a piano is under lock and key, but no permanent keys will be issued to students. Please note that the Piano Tech Staff is not responsible for unlocking and locking pianos at recital time. Performers must make their own arrangements. This pertains to faculty and student performances alike.

A note about pitch standard A440

We tune all of our pianos in equal temperament to a pitch standard of A440. In every situation, tuning stability must be our first priority. Thus, for pianos in non-performance situations, we allow for a “seasonal pitch averaging”, meaning we let the overall pitch of the piano to be as low A438 and as high as A442, in line with the humidity at a given time of year. This is because a piano will stay in tune for a longer period of time when the smallest possible change is made to the tuning. Thus, if we find a piano at 437 we will raise the overall pitch to 438, and if we find a piano at 443, we will lower it to 442. We do not allow this much fluctuation in any of our performance pianos, which are kept as close to A440 as possible. If you are a faculty member, and wish to have your piano tuned as close to A440 as possible, we are willing to do so, but please understand that your piano may go out of tune sooner than others, and we cannot promise additional tuning services to compensate.

Regarding pianos not owned by SMTD

One other important situation to clarify is regarding any pianos not owned by SMTD, such as the one in the Duderstadt Video Studio or the University Commons. Our department does have a relationship with these venues wherein we handle the care and maintenance of the pianos. However, we charge the owners for all of the maintenance we perform, and they may choose to pass this cost onto you. Please inquire with any non-SMTD venues regarding any potential costs associated with piano tuning or rental.

Additional Information

When you are scheduling a performance that requires special piano services, consult the piano tech staff.  Needs such as duo-piano recitals, lid removal, piano moving, “prepared” pianos, or recording sessions must be coordinated with a variety of different university agents, as well as private contractors.  The schedules of many people have to be considered, especially in heavy-use rooms such as the Recital Hall or Stamps Auditorium.  Be mindful of the costs!  The School of Music has limited resources.  Special funding is always desirable, and something worth considering.  Acquire assistance to plan your special project through the Events Committee.

Lastly, the George Gershwin Piano, which is stored in Britton Recital Hall, is not available for general use.  Only programs that meet the requirements of the Gershwin Initiative may use this instrument (e.g., a recording project or live performance of all-Gershwin or all-American composers music).  Recitals and performances that include just one solo work of Gershwin do not meet the criteria.  Please check with either Mark Clague, Prof. of Musicology and director of the Gershwin Initiative, or with the Piano Technology Dept. for more information.

A Few Do’s and Don’ts


  • While the Piano Technology staff attempts to tune all pianos in instrumental and vocal faculty studios at least once per semester, we rely upon the faculty to inform us when additional or special tunings are needed in a teaching studio.  You must let us know in writing (e-mail) and we will make every effort to address your piano service needs as soon as possible, usually within a week.  Be sure to include a copy of your schedule so that we can plan accordingly.  We cannot honor requests for studio tunings 2 weeks prior to the end-of-semester exam period, as we begin preparations for juries and exams during that period. 
  • Similarly, students are encouraged to notify the Piano Technology staff of problems they encounter in classrooms and practice rooms.  Efforts are made to monitor these rooms regularly, however reporting problems will help us to address and correct them more quickly.  Please use the pianos service request board across from room 1167 in the practice wing to report problems such as broken strings, sticking keys, damper issues, etc.  You may also send service or maintenance requests to our group email, [email protected]. Efforts are made to monitor these rooms regularly, however reporting problems will help us to address and correct them more quickly.
  • Pianos are delicate and expensive instruments.  Please treat each instrument as if it were your own: with respect. Tuition helps to pay for these instruments but the cost of maintaining them is quite high. Our six-foot grands have an average value of $80,000 each, and our seven-foot grands have an average value of $115,000 each. Our nine-foot concert pianos (five in number) have a current replacement cost of $210,000 each! They are quite valuable and worthy of respect.
  • Should you have reason to believe someone is engaged in destructive behavior toward a piano, please notify someone in a position of responsibility immediately, such as the Facilities personnel or one of the Piano Tech Staff.  
  • If you encounter a piano that has been abused (e.g., liquid spill) notify the Piano Tech Staff immediately. Quick action can sometimes minimize damage.
  • Exercise the proper care of the concert instruments in Britton Recital Hall, Macintosh Theatre, Stamps Auditorium, Dance studios, Watkins, and Cady Room by making sure to lock the pianos and cover them after each authorized use. Also take care not to bump the pianos against walls, chairs or music stands when moving them around. No one likes to see an ugly banged-up recital piano. 
  • Please use consideration and common sense when it comes to making special or personal requests for piano service. We ask that you keep in mind the needs of others for pianos that are available and in good service. 
  • Remember that the Piano Technology Staff is here to advise and serve you with your piano needs. Your cooperation in assisting our efforts is greatly appreciated.


  • Concert instruments are not to be used for any “prepared” piano without the permission of our department. Please reach out to the Director of Piano Technology with any requests for prepared piano so that we can ensure that the intended techniques will not result in short-term or long-term damage to the piano. In cases where the techniques called for are not safe for the piano, we will make every effort to offer an alternative technique that protects the longevity of our most important instruments.
  • Do not use performance pianos for personal practice. If the pianos in performance spaces are used excessively, it results in unexpected wear and tear, and hinders our ability to provide our performers with a high quality instrument. The additional work needed to correct for this additional wear and tear takes time and resources away from other pianos that are in need of overhaul, which can gradually lower the quality of our entire inventory.
  • Do not remove a piano from its assigned location for any reason. All pianos must stay in their assigned rooms at all times, without exception. While it may not seem like a big deal to push a piano down the hallway to the next room, there are significant risks to your safety and to the piano when it is not moved by professionals. If you believe there is a room or venue in need of a piano, please reach out to us and we would be happy to have a conversation with you.
  • Do not duplicate piano lock keys for distribution. We have ample keys for check-out to students and guests who need access to performance instruments. Unauthorized distribution of keys results in increased wear-and-tear, impacting our ability to maintain concert instruments at a high level of performance.
  • Under no circumstances should food, drink, or delicate personal items be placed on the pianos.  (This applies to faculty and staff as well as students.) Irreparable damage results from accidental spills on any part of a piano. The consequences are higher maintenance costs, higher tuition, and fewer pianos to utilize for practice, teaching, or performance.
  • Please take care not to throw piano covers on the floor in recital locations. The covers need to be kept free of dust and dirt in order to protect the finish of the pianos.  Roll them up and place them on a chair or desk. In the backstage area of the Recital Hall, covers may be placed on the harpsichord storage box.
  • Please reserve the backstage of the Britton Recital Hall for piano storage only. Stands and chairs placed in the storage area can cause damage to the pianos’ finish and makes the job of getting to the instruments for maintenance harder.
  • Do not attempt to retrieve lost items from inside a piano yourself! The Piano Technology Staff is available for emergencies.  If you have an immediate need, such as a watch that has fallen into an action, or other valuable item (including rings, pencils, pens, etc.), notify us as soon as possible. It is important to remove foreign items from inside a piano as soon as possible to avoid damage to the piano or the valued item!

In Summary:

DO use common sense and respect in treating the pianos at the School of Music.  Use them as they are designed to be used: to make music.

DON’T abuse or mistreat the pianos by thoughtlessness or ignorance.

Consult the Piano Tech Staff when in doubt.  We’ll be happy to help!

SMTD Piano Technology Department Service and Rental Rates


  • Full Tuning (U of M Units): $175
  • Touch-up Tuning (U of M Units): $90
  • Full Tuning: $200
  • Touch-up Tuning: $100



Upright Pianos are included with hall rental in the following locations, however, a fee for tuning will apply (see above):
Stamps Auditorium, McIntosh Theatre, Mendelssohn Theatre, Power Center, Rackham Auditorium

Steinway D Concert Grand Piano (9 ft)

Locations: Hill Auditorium, Stamps Auditorium, McIntosh Theatre, Britton Recital Hall (2 pianos)

  • Price With Tuning (U of M Units): $1,075
  • Price Without tuning (U of M Units): $900
  • Price With Tuning (Non-U of M Units): $1,150
  • Price Without Tuning (Non-U of M Units): $950


Steinway B Grand Piano (7ft)

Locations: Hill Auditorium, Rackham Auditorium, Duderstadt Audio Studio

  • Price With Tuning (U of M Units): $825
  • Price Without tuning (U of M Units): $650
  • Price With Tuning (Non-U of M Units): $900
  • Price Without Tuning (Non-U of M Units): $700