DiscoverBiographies & Memoirs

Behind the Scenes


Loved it! 😍

Atlanta piano tuner's memoir is a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll and a lot of love for the grand instrument and its players

Like the country doctors of yore who made house calls, Steve Duncan made piano calls and witnessed history through the tines of a tuning fork.

Behind the Scenes reads more like an autobiography than a memoir, but author Duncan manages to create harmony in his notes from being a piano player, piano mover, piano repairman and piano tuner for forty years in Atlanta. Between stories of encounters with just about every famous musician from the 1960s to the today, Duncan sprinkles personal tidbits about his upbringing, education, love life and family.

Behind the Scenes is conversational and fast-paced, especially in the beginning and end (definitely worth hanging in there for the jokes towards the end). In the middle, Duncan gets a little inside baseball with descriptions of the Charles-Louis Hanon piano method by which he learned to play, the metronome, piano history, several different piano brands and their construction, the science A-440 (standard pitch for an American piano) and even how to move a piano (and how not to).

His career in piano tuning begins when he lands a job a Jim’s Piano Shop, owned by his mentor Jim Scaglion, for whom Duncan’s affection shows throughout his storytelling. “Upon stepping inside the large one-room shop on North Highland Avenue, I knew that I wanted to work there – the smell of sawdust and lacquer paint was somehow strangely intoxicating!” Thus began an engagement where he learned to play the piano in the morning and how to work on them in the afternoon.

“There are two primary factors in being a piano tuner,” Duncan writes. “First, one must learn how to listen. To listen, one must be silent. … The other vital ingredient? Patience!”

The patient reader will delight in Duncan’s stories of various venues around Atlanta and the musicians who played them: rock bands, country singers, jazz keyboardists, including Yul Brynner, ping-pong player Bob Seger, the “Far Out” John Denver, “What’s Your Name” Lyle Lovett, “Princess and the Pea” Fiona Apple and more. Among interesting details, Duncan says he taught Kerry Livgren of Kansas how to finger-pick a guitar.

Naturally, since a piano can’t be dropped off at the store for tuning, Duncan was exposed to a lot of different piano owners including a butcher, an entitled socialite and a naked woman. He also reveals some interesting stuff found inside pianos and shares a few harrowing stories of driving around Atlanta, which might sound familiar to anyone who’s done it.

Behind the Scenes captures a bit of history we won’t see again, thanks to the modern synthesizer, which does not require tuning, but anyone who has ever owned or played a piano will appreciate Duncan’s obvious respect for the instrument.

Reviewed by

An independent author who has written five books, Monica Lee also edits and designs books for other self-published authors. A huge fan of memoirs and true life stories in particular. Her most recent work is a biography of her grandmother: Fruitful Labor: How to Live to 104 Gracefully, Gratefully.

"When I Was Young"

About the author

The most pertinent fact to be known is that, as a piano tuner for many years, I have tuned for concerts and in studios for just about any musical act that can be named. view profile

Published on October 28, 2021

100000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by