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December 18, 2014

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Piano tuner has lifetime of hitting right notes

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Cassie Tomlin

Ed Blanton, 91, has tuned pianos for 60 years. He uses a metal tuning fork in the key of C.

Updated Wednesday, March 18, 2009 | 6:11 p.m.

These days, it's easier for Ed Blanton to communicate with the piano than the pianist.

At 91, Blanton's ears don't do well with soft voices, but after 60 years of piano tuning, he hears the strings just fine.

Tuning a piano is a mathematical craft of learning vibrations and listening for "beats," the throbbing of inharmonious strings, he said.

After so much experience— many thousands of pianos tuned— his skill has stayed with him.

Blanton's always had a thing for pianos. In Wyoming, in the 1920s, his mother played in silent movie theaters before the "talkies," as he calls them.

In about 1945, Blanton and his wife, Maxine, bought their oldest child, Lorene, a second-hand upright piano.

Tired of selling insurance, Blanton sent away for a teach-yourself tuning course and took classes and seminars.

It took awhile, but he learned to synch the piano's 88 keys to a tuning fork with the subtle twist of the tuning lever. The tuning fork is a two-pronged metal tool that, when struck, hums at a vibration equal to the key of C.

The piano tuner strikes the tuning fork and plays the key of C. When the two blend perfectly together, the key is in tune.

Blanton established a name for himself in Wyoming and Nebraska and later Colorado, before retiring to Boulder City 30 years ago with his wife. They've been married for 72 years in August.

Now that Ed Blanton is retired, his son Robert Blanton, who lives in Henderson, is the one making a career out of tuning pianos.

The elder Blanton said tuning is a craft outside musical knowledge. It's actually easiest to teach somebody who isn't a musician, he said.

"People think you should be able to play if you're a tuner," he said. "Piano tuning has got nothing to do with piano playing. It's an art in itself."

Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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