Piano Man: Mark Krall Takes Piano Tuning Talent to the Next Level with Bridgeport-Based Business

By Julie Perine on September 23, 2018 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Whether you’ve listened to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in the United Hospital Center lobby or The Maynard Ferguson Big Band at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, you’ve enjoyed the talents of Mark Krall. A lifelong instrumentalist who holds a musical degree – and who has worked in professions including food service and construction renovation – Krall is the area’s own piano tuner; serving clients from several North Central West Virginia counties and beyond.
 
Though he’s done the work on the side since 1987, Krall is letting his business - appropriately named Mark Krall Tuning - take center stage.  Piano tuning, he said, is an art which requires a good ear – but plenty more.
 
“It’s a science and mechanical idea. It’s kind of the law of physics in a way – what causes strings to go out of tune,” he said.
 
It’s all based on center octaves between middle C.
 
“You set a temperament which is a tempered scale as they call it - between F and G, surrounding middle C - and once that temperament is set and in tune, then you tune the rest of the piano based in octaves off of that center octave and that center octave basically is where most of the action is on a piano -  at least for people of average proficiency,” Krall said.
 
Though he does some of his tuning at his home, most of it is done on the road; about 50 percent of his business and other recent stops including Alderson-Broaddus College and Pete Dye Golf Club.
 
Krall grew up in Monongahela, Pa. in the “Golden Age of Rock and Roll.”
 
“The sax was kind of like the rock and roll instrument of the late-50s and beyond, so I wanted to study saxophone,” he said.
 
Then came a shift in rock and roll music. 
 
“Of course, Elvis started it all,” he said. “I can still remember vividly the first time Elvis played The Ed Sullivan Show, then a few years later, The Beatles were received in the same way. There was then a little less market for saxophone, so I learned electric bass, a strong instrument of four-piece string ensembles.”
 
As his other hobby – baseball – interfered with the Carroll Township Junior High School Band marching season, athletics had to go. He stayed absorbed in music throughout high school and then decided to major in music, choosing Salem College, where he was one of 75 music majors.
 
“I really studied sax and got into jazz once at Salem College,” said Krall, adding that Ernie Osborn and Guy Remonko – both jazz directors at the college – were quite an influence and piqued his interest.
 
Among his personal favorite jazz pianists were Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.
 
“They were guys I liked to listen to and bought their records,” Krall said. “They kind of took jazz in a new direction along with Miles Davis and John Coletrane, more of my favorites.”
 
Krall graduated with a BA degree in music education, thereafter serving as music director of Harrison County Catholic School system and has subsequently done work at West Virginia University.
 
It wasn’t until 1987 that Krall’s wife Pam (Pinti), founder of Pam’s Musical Studios, saw an advertisement for a piano tuning course, suggesting a way to make some extra money.
 
“It was the American School of Piano Tuning out of Morgan Hill, Calif., which offered a home study course,” he said. “They sent out a teaching manual containing individual lessons you could do at your own pace. They also sent a basic array of tools that you would need to get started tuning and doing minor repairs.”
 
Krall said he basically studied the written material, looked at the diagrams and utilized pianos he had at his disposal.
 
His wife had a little Baldwin Spinet and within the family were a couple of Wurlitzer Spinets.
 
“So, I kind of rotated taking pianos out of tune and tuning them back up as best I could on a cyclical basis,” he said.  
 
The ad which the Kralls discovered stressed that it was not necessary to have a musical ability to take the study course, but Krall believes his background makes his profession much more rewarding.
 
Krall services some of his clients twice a year, when heating and cooling systems are first turned on and off. Others get serviced more regularly. Krall tunes the Steinway Grand in A-B College’s chapel – used for regular recitals and performances – every two weeks or so. Local churches, including Simpson Creek Baptist, and other clients such as UHC are on a seven-week rotation.
 
It takes between one and two hours to tune most pianos, depending upon just how out of tune it is. Sometimes tuning to precision takes repitition. It's always a nice feeling, he said, to have a customer pleased with the improvement. 
 
Thirty-one years ago, when the Kralls first talked about the piano tuning course, Pam said perhaps one day it would turn into something bigger.
 
While listening to the albums of Miles Davis and John Coletrane in the late-1960s, who knew he would one day be tuning a nine-foot Steinway Concert Grand for an up-and-coming jazz musician Chuck Mangione.
 
That piano was one of 10 he tuned at Nemacolin in the early-2000s for a jazz festival and a highlight of his piano tuning career.
 
Krall also utilized his musical talent through the band, "Secon Street," for which he was a member from 1982 through 2015 when the group disbanded. 
 
Krall can be reached at 304-838-2524. 
 
Editor's Note: Krall is shown tuning the Baldwin piano at Simpson Creek Baptist Church. Photo is courtesy of Pam Krall. 



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