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Jeffrey Shackell Piano Technician

Why Choose Jeffrey Shackell?

Why indeed.

There are many reasons to consider talking to me if you are looking to buy a Steinway piano or indeed to sell one. I have an unblemished 40 year history of trading and above all my main aim is to be fair with clients.

I offer a friendly and efficient system of assisting clients to buy, restore, repair or sell pianos, if you have a Steinway piano and you are thinking of selling, or wish to buy one please do give me a call. I often have instruments I can recommend that I am working on that are for sale.

Read below how I, Jeffrey Shackell, started in the piano industry and how I have developed the business into what it is respected for today.

Shackell Pianos, Oxfordshire

Jeffrey Shackell formed his company in Oxfordshire, in 1978 - the closing year of a local apprenticeship in piano tuning and piano repair.

Jeffrey's initial training was from an elderly technician who was well past retiring age, he was rather short tempered and possessive of his skills. However, he could see from the outset that Jeffrey was keen to learn and in a short time was telling stories of his younger days when he was the head piano tuner at the famous Free Trade Hall in Manchester and of the many great pianists of the day that he had tuned for.

Piano Restorations

Why Jeff Shackell? Piano Advice

Piano Tuning Background

Jeffrey is of the belief that it was these early days in his training that shaped his own interest and passion for concert piano preparation.

Piano tuning is not something that is easy to teach, you either have an ear for it or you don't. You may consider yourself to be a patient person... until you start to study the art of piano tuning! Jeffrey is open to admit that he was largely self taught in piano tuning. He was given a very tired straight strung upright piano which was taken to his home and practice began... in piano tuning that is!

Within 6 months of working in the piano trade Jeffrey had taught himself to tune, but not without help and assistance from the older tuning staff at the local shop where he was training. Being able to drive and to tune was music to the ears of the company and within no time at all Jeffrey was sent out tuning in the Oxfordshire schools in a Bedford HA van. Being able to tune a piano to a satisfactory standard was high on the scorecard for the young Jeff but more importantly he remembers becoming a 'Kempster pilot'. For those wishing to know more of this and his exploits will have to wait until there is time to write about it.

Towards the end of Jeffrey's 5 year apprenticeship he was unceremoniously dismissed, again details are withheld but it was just the springboard he needed and in October 1978 Shackell Pianos was born. Piano tunings were £6.00 and petrol was 30p a gallon, what more could you ask for? Having gained the basic knowledge in overhauling and restoring pianos Jeffrey set about earning a reputation for careful work with the 3 big makes - Steinway, Bechstein and Bluthner. One of each had been restored before the formation of Shackell Pianos and it was the Steinway Piano that gave the most problems and the most interest.

Visits were made to Steinway Hall, then in George Street - London W1, and any scrap of information from the technicians there including the legendary Bob Glazebrook was stored and written down. Not all of this made sense, books were purchased, meetings with other technicians were arranged and every day was a new adventure in gaining experience in the Steinway Piano. More Steinway pianos were purchased, one at a time and life and finances continued on a day to day basis.

By this time Jeffrey had started to attend classical piano recitals in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, this was all part of gathering information. 'How does that piano stand in tune for the whole concert?' was the burning question. While everyone else was leaving at the end of the concert Jeffrey stayed behind, often in hiding somewhere in the hall in an attempt to witness the piano being moved. The whole episode of the moving was absorbed including watching the piano go into the van and setting off down the road on its journey home. "One day I will have one of those pianos" was the muttering under his breath.

Learning How to Restore a Piano

Jeffrey is again open to admit his big break in gaining further knowledge on restoring Steinway Pianos came in a chance meeting with Tony Field and Peter Salisbury. Both of these well known piano technicians had recently left Steinway & Sons after a decade of employment and training with them. Both of these first class technicians were keen to start their own business and Jeffrey was fortunate to have a workshop and rather too much work at the time. A friendship and business agreement was struck with Tony and information and knowledge was soaked up like ink on blotting paper. Steinway pianos by the dozen were overhauled at that time in the mid to late 1980's by a team comprising of Jeffrey, his brother James who had been working with Jeffrey concentrating on casework restoration, soundboard and plate refinishing, Tony and Jeffrey's long standing business partner and close personal friend, Paul Mildren.

How to Move a Piano

In 1982 Jeffrey did get that Steinway hire piano he had promised himself, a 1920's model B. It was first moved in a horse box towed by a very thirsty 3.5 litre Rover. Often was the case that the rising fuel costs outstripped the revenue of the hiring. Gradually things got better, more important concert hires were offered and it soon became apparent that a better piano was required. In 1984 Jeffrey and his wife made their way to Steinway Hall in London to make the dream come true of purchasing a new Steinway model B grand. Like all of Jeffrey's purchases, it was made when there was enough money in the bank, but only just. In 1985 a used model D grand was purchased and Jeffrey and his team moved into the big world of concert grand moving. At first a team of no less than 5 were on hand to move it, after learning a trick or two about the art of moving a 9ft - half a tonne piano this was reduced to three and later having mastered the job after 25 years it was often 2 men or 1 man and the klavier roller machine!

Preparing Pianos for Concerts

Jeffrey's work on the concert stage preparing pianos for concerts had grown from nervous beginnings as a young man with very little knowledge to an 'older' man with some years under his belt. In 1982 Jeffrey started as the technician at Cheltenham Town Hall and in the years to 1992 when he gave the job up had tuned for many of the world's greatest pianists. This was a time of more experience with every concert, learning what to say, what not to say, when to make certain adjustments and simply when to keep out of the way!

In conjunction with his own growing business in concert piano hire many thousands of concert tunings have been reliably produced. Rarely has Jeffrey not turned out for a concert tuning and many, many sacrifices have been made to tune and attend all these concerts throughout the UK.

The Semi-retirement Plan

After many years growing the business in sales, hire and restoration, Jeffrey is now taking things a bit more easy. Without the stress and time needed for the retail piano business or concert piano hire, he now devotes his working time to on-site tuning and service work.