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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Beware of Old Pianos

An antique piano with enormous sentimental value presents the owner with a considerable dilemma! Should you be guided by your heart, or by your head? Antique pianos are often wonderful pieces of furniture - superb examples of exquisite woodworking craftsmanship, but they are really not suitable as a working instrument for a keen pianist.

Different tuners and technicians have their own default position on this kind of scenario - some would rebuild the thing, hoping that the finished piano will play and sound well enough to justify the expense. Others would think twice - knowing how brittle these old actions can be. The chances are pretty high that there will be many added workshop hours simply repairing broken parts or making good the extremes of prolonged wear and tear.

In the course of a normal year's tuning, tuners meet with plenty of rebuilt pianos and while there is no doubt these pianos are better for the work having been done, the piano is still an old piano.  

Meeting a rebuilt piano for the first time, a piano tuner can have an awkward time trying on the one hand to be kind, and on the other hand, to be honest. Invariably, the truth is not easy to convey. The piano can have all new parts fitted, new strings and felts, it can look like the classic showroom piano, but get it delivered back to your home, play it for a few weeks and all too often, small problems become too large to ignore.

Are there exceptions to the rule? Fortunately, yes, but the conditions are hard to meet! Firstly, the piano has to be one of the top names. Secondly, the piano should not be too old. Anything manufactured before 1900, and you are really wasting your money on any work beyond regulating. Rebuilding a piano made in the late 1800s, should be done purely for serious sentimental reasons. 

Pianos are to be used and enjoyed - they should be an absolute pleasure to play. You cannot enjoy one that has a heavy action and is unresponsive or stays in tune for less than a couple of weeks. The idea that 'Old is beautiful' does not apply to pianos - unless of course, you really don't care how it plays, and are interested only in what it looks like. 

The Piano World

© Steve Burden 

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