History of the Company
by Doug L. Bullock
I began tuning other peoples' pianos at the age of thirteen, tuning a church full of pianos for free because my church could not afford to have it done. I attended Baylor University to receive a Bachelor of Music degree in music history and literature.
While there my major instrument was Pipe Organ with Dr. Joyce Jones, who was, and still is, a renown concert organist as well as a composer/arranger of organ music for church services.
I assisted the piano technician, Danny Boone, with regulation and restoration of the Music School pianos. I also began assisting the Baylor organ technician with his tuning and maintenance of the numerous Baylor instruments. In my last year there, the technician was stricken with illness for several months, at which time I was required to take over all organ maintenance. This also included the complete moving and installation of a practice room instrument of 5 ranks. After that time, as long as I was there, Dr. Jones was known to ask me to do special voicing and other technical odd-jobs that she could not get the regular technician to bother with. At the time I left Baylor, I had been a professional piano technician for around ten years, and so, I continued and became a full time tuner. However, jobs having to do with organs began turning up, so finally in 1980, I took the name of Dallas Pipe Organ Service, and added it to my own name which I used as a piano tuner. In the intervening years, I have tuned and serviced well over 400 pipe organs and several thousand pianos, player pianos, harpsichords and other historic instruments. I have experience with making some instruments work very well without a rebuild..Even instruments that had not worked in over a decade. Many of my instruments have been completely rebuilt. My instruments are scattered through forty states. Dallas Pipe Organ Service is now a part of Piano World Enterprises
Pianos and Player pianos
As a pre-school child I was taken by my parents to a house that had a red painted player piano, I thought it was very interesting and enjoyed the music. When I began piano lessons in third grade I found I had an intense desire to hear and play the music I heard on records by "Slugger Ryan." I devoured my piano instruction and tried to pick out tunes on my own, which got better and better. When I attended the local fair, I found a display booth by a local store that rebuilt and sold player pianos. I was there every day after school listening to that fair booth playing those player pianos. I began pestering my parents for a player piano. They said no and they thought that was the end of it. ...In their dreams.
I got pretty good at playing the piano and discovered that I was seldom happy with the sound of the pianos I played. I found out that they all needed tuning. I then pestered my father for a tuning hammer. When I was 12 he got me one, and handed it to me. I began tuning the piano without any instruction. I thought it sounded better after I finished, though I doubt it actually did. I still was not happy with it so we had a real tuner come and tune it. I watched him closely and learned much that day. I later found a local piano re-builder who got me the rest of the tools and a Strobotuner and showed me what else I needed to know. I spent several years learning how to do it right. By then the parents were tired of hearing that I wanted a player piano, and we finally got one. The Princeton Simplex upright was electrified with an Electrolux vacuum cleaner and played well. I, however, wanted to pedal it, so I had to disconnect the Electrolux and then I pedaled away. I had to pedal furiously since it was not in that good of a shape and it leaked like a sieve.
It was not long before the parents were being pressed for supplies and book. My poor Mother, was positive that the piano would never play again when she saw the player mechanism scattered all over the house. My beloved train table was soon devoid of electric trains and covered in player mechanism. However, they all became converts to my way of thinking when the piano appeared one day back in one piece and playing very well and with only normal pedaling needed for music. I then began to rebuild players for friends and later customers all through high school. The first 25 dollar reed organ for rebuild appeared at that time, as well.
By the time I reached college I was tuning and rebuilding for real money. At Baylor University School of Music, I met Danny L. Boone, the in-house piano technician. Actually I credit myself with getting him his job, because I got his two predecessors fired by constantly complaining to the dean about their shabby work or lack thereof. I had never been happy with my tunings to the Strobotuner, so he taught me tuning to the C-bar. I sold the strobe soon thereafter. While there I also learned his particular brand of grand regulation, which I continue to practice. I found a few years ago he actually wrote a book on grand regulating and now I find that it is THE book on grand regulating available at all piano suppliers ("Regulating Grand Piano Touch and Tone"). Regulating is a complex art that is seldom practiced except by the fussiest of technicians. Read the book and you will know why.
I have installed and regularly maintained neo-baroque, classical, concert, as well as orchestral and theatre organs. I have learned to not impose my own personal tonal prejudices onto an instrument, but rather to find out what the builder had in mind and try to use that as the standard for each organ. I have been able to satisfy many top musicians with my tuning, voicing, and technical capabilities.
I have friends in the business who refuse to service any organ that is not of mechanical action (tracker), or one that is not of classical voicing, or not of neo-baroque voicing, or not of low enough wind pressure, or even not of high enough wind pressure.
In the Theatre Organ field some people think it can't possibly be any good if it is not built by Wurlitzer.
In the piano field some feel the last word is Steinway and nothing else will do. This is because people are influenced by 100 years of media hype and may close their eyes (and ears) to what they do not know about. I feel that all organs and pianos have their own personality. Each of the styles of organ building have one or more styles of music that they play best. All styles of organ are necessary to be able to play the past several hundred years of organ literature. The same is applicable for fortepianos, from Mozart's era to the square grand to the modern grand with a double escapement action. My job as a service person and re-builder of an earlier instrument is to work with what the builder built and preserve the best qualities of the instrument. Only rarely would I discard the weakest link. Instead, I try to build it up and improve it. In the rarest of cases, the way the builder engineered something, it just cannot work right. Only then does it get re-engineered or replaced.
Doug L. Bullock Founder Piano World Enterprises