Piano HQ

Glen Barkman's Muse on all things piano.

As Good as Old??? the Big Mess Part 1

Posted by glenbarkman on October 9, 2009

Vintage Steinway

Vintage Steinway

The piano market seems scattered… people are more confused than ever.  The pricing seems all over the map.  Name brands are being traded and ‘re-invented’ and in general the whole scene is ONE BIG MESS!  Why is it more of a mess now than 20 years ago? Why, i’m glad you asked that question.  2 things have changed: one is that the ‘old pianos’ from 1900-1930 are now even older.  A piano built in 1925 – 60 years later takes us to 1985.  A 60 year old piano could still be a viable instrument.  But now, fast forward to 2009 (almost 2010) – that same instrument is 85 years old.  When you meet an older person who is 60 or one who is 85 – they’re quite different aren’t they?  What happens if the piano was built in 1905? That instrument is now 105 years old!  Without question it needs restoration.  Is it worth it? Well… the answer is a definitive MAYBE!  Some pianos at the point of manufacturing were cheaply made.  Some were the Rolls Royce of pianos.  When restoring, you need to have a great candidate for restoration before starting.  What that means is – a good soundboard and bridges, a good cabinet (one that has been taken care of) and also a decent name…. now what’s in a name? Pianos, like every other product have some provinence.  If you have an old Steinway or Bosendorfer, those reputations are valuable because they manufactured the VERY BEST instruments in the world.  The thing that every consumer NEEDS to be aware of is cost.  Sure you can restore an old piano…but at what cost?  Take an old upright piano for example… the piano might be able to be purchased for $500.  The parts, however:

  • hammers $1200
  • bass strings $1000
  • dampers $500
  • bridle straps $250
  • key bushings $450
  • refinishing $2000

Tally that up and including the instrument, you’ve spent nearly $6000!  So why would anyone want to do that?  Well… simply put – 2 reasons: one is that you quite often can’t buy the quality or size of instrument for even $6000 at new.  A taller piano made by Yamaha in CDN$ lists at $14,500.    Second reason, is that you have a unique vintage instrument.  They sound different, they look different and overall, they’re just beautiful not only to look at and listen to, but they’re quite often artistic in the approach to design of the cabinet.

The second thing wrong in the marketplace today and why it’s one BIG MESS… i’ll leave you hanging… that’s for another day…

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