Articles and Information

Including extracts from regular newsletters given to piano clients

BUYING A PIANO
How do you go about deciding which is the best piano for you? First, keep in mind that you will be listening to, and looking at, your piano for a long time. The average lifetime of a piano is about 40 years (although there are many still going that are much older) and you will probably have it long after you have sold your present furniture and car. Pianos depreciate very little. A used piano built 10 years ago and well maintained can cost almost as much as a comparable new piano. So buy the best piano you can afford. Try to resist the temptation to economise on a piano for a child who s starting lessons. Making good music on a quality instrument, tuned regularly and to the correct pitch is the best way to keep a youngpianist interested.

Which type of piano is for you?
Almost since the first piano was built, manufacturers have been trying to make it smaller. This has been no easy task, because good tone in a piano requires certain minimums in length of string and size of soundboard. The size of the original grand piano was initially reduced by the use of stronger frames and an innovative use of cross-stringing, then, in the late 1800s, the space-saving upright or vertical piano was developed. This was so successful, that today, some larger high quality uprights can have equal or better tone quality than many small grands. Eventually, even the upright was shortened and in some cases, ingenious scale design compensates in tone for the loss of size. However, in general, the larger the piano the better the tone.

How much is it worth?
The value of a piano depends very much on how knowledgeable the seller and the potential buyers are. For every piano there is what is regarded as an informed value and an ignorant value . The informed value takes into account the technical quality, whereas the ignorant value does not, being based primarily on how the piano case looks (even if that). Unfortunately the ignorant value is often what the piano sells for. Ultimately something is worth only as much assomeone is prepared to pay for it.

But it is an Antique!
The question is often asked if the piano is valuable because it is an antique . The answer in most cases is no. Unlike say, a Chippendale writing desk or a Tiffany lamp, an old piano is usually just that, an old piano. While restoring a fine piece of furniture usually involves a craftsman restoring the finish, this would only be a starting point with a piano. The piano is a complicated mechanical marvel involving thousands of moving parts, all of which are subject to wear and deterioration. Restoring these many parts to their original condition is a major undertaking, requiring many hours of labour. And even this is sometimes not possible due to the lack of available replacement parts.

Get the Tuner.
Although it is possible to find a piano built over 60 years ago that is still in reasonable playing condition, it is recommended enlisting the opinion of a piano tuner/technician before investing in one and the price should reflect that it is an old piano. The period from 1900 to 1930 was the heyday of piano manufacturing, during which many fine pianos were being built. A piano from this period that has been well maintained, or is in restorable condition, might be a good purchase, but have piano tuner check it out before you invest your money.

Much of the information is from The Piano Book by Larry Fine, with a few additions from yours truly. B.H.

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