Author Topic: Old pianos  (Read 14102 times)

Old pianos
« on: November 29, 2010, 03:16:10 pm »
Mrs Tom M has expressed an interest in aquiring an 'old Joanna' to reaquaint herself with the tinkling of the ivories whilst on maternity leave. With baby on the way money is not exactly spouting forth in Irish economic bailout proportions.

However, it seems as though there are a good lot of pianos on Ebay that are basically free (maybe a few £) to a collector. I would guess that unless being used they're the sort of thing that does get in the way somewhat and folk just want to be rid of them. The cost is going to be getting it moved and the tuning.

I would not expect anything of great quality obviously, but most seem sound enough looking anyway. I understand that it would need tuning after removal anyway.

Anyone in the know got any ideas on names I should be on the lookout for? Any good/bad things? General advice/warnings?

Ta.

 

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2010, 03:26:53 pm »
The tuning pegs can rust into the frame, making them impossible to tune. I had to get rid of one for a friend following her Father's death in order to make room for the wake. They produce a reasonable amount of kindling and some cast iron to be weighed in, but it does feel wrong to be smashing them up.

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2010, 03:29:36 pm »
The advice I got when I asked an expert this question  was..."expect to spend as much on a s/h piano as on a s/h car".

Do your research. The little I know is that good makes include Bechstein, Steinway, Bluthner, Challen, yamaha. Look for a steel frame, and "overstrung" design. (Wooden frames often warp).

Expect to invest a few £hundred  in moving and tuning.... I have helped move a piano as a DIY job but you'll need several people's muscles + a set of (piano) "wheels" to do it, and a runaway or dropped piano is a nightmre (as are stairs etc.

Good advice is befriend a tuner etc and get any prospective purchases looked at by them first, unless you know what you're about. NB refelting restoration etc may cost you £00s anyway. Don't be taken in by fancy cases...but a crappy case may conceal a messed up instrument.

That all said you may get lucky.

Good luck!

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: Old pianos
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2010, 03:30:04 pm »
As with bikes, really, you want to be getting the best you can afford.  Make sure it's structurally sound, and nothing out of alignment.  

Of course, ideally you want carbon fibre, and some people would insist on Campag keys, though I'd prefer Shimano.

A Brooks stool sets off the finest classic piano nicely.
Getting there...

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2010, 03:35:08 pm »
Quote
some people would insist on Campag keys, though I'd prefer Shimano.

Ebony and Ivory, living together in harmony....

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: Old pianos
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2010, 03:36:25 pm »
No room for SRAM...
Getting there...

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Old pianos
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2010, 03:51:03 pm »
Get your strongest man to lift and shif the bass end, which is much heavier.
The philistine in me wonders if it's really worth the hassle when electronic keyboards are cheap, lightweight and stay perfectly in tune...

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2010, 03:58:00 pm »
The philistine in me wonders if it's really worth the hassle when electronic keyboards are cheap, lightweight and stay perfectly in tune...

For about a year, I had on loan a quality studio (as opposed to stage) electric piano with weighted keys and everyfink.
The similarities between playing that and an upright were galaxies apart. Having said which, I can see why people might sacrifice the feel and tone if they don't have the space etc....

Torslanda

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Re: Old pianos
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2010, 03:58:58 pm »
The philistine in me wonders if it's really worth the hassle when electronic keyboards are cheap, lightweight and stay perfectly in tune...


 . . . and will be on sale in Lidl/Aldi VERY soon.

Bargains! Much cheapness!
VELOMANCER

Well that's the more blunt way of putting it but as usual he's dead right.

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2010, 04:00:01 pm »
Going back a long time ago sound boards were fashioned in wood and wood can and did split making the piano un-tunable.Probably very few remain.

So look inside before you buy. If everything is constructed with metal and rust free there is a good chance it will be OK. Better still pay a Piano tuner to check it before you part with your pennies.
"100% PURE FREAKING AWESOME"

Woofage

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Re: Old pianos
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2010, 04:01:22 pm »
Do your research. The little I know is that good makes include Bechstein, Steinway, Bluthner, Challen, yamaha. Look for a steel frame, and "overstrung" design. (Wooden frames often warp).

In our quest for a piano, I found out that the main feature is the damper design in an upright. There are 2 types: under-damped and over-damped and these terms refer to the position of the string dampers relative to the hammers. Under-damped is far superior; over-damped is found on budget models.

I suggest you look at a few in dealers' showrooms so you can learn enough to be able to tell a good one from a bad one. I did this and it paid off. We bought an unloved German upright for £550 plus £150 to have it re-polished. Moving and tuning were about £50 and £40 respectively (but we only moved a short distance).

One other thing to look for is shrinkage of the peg holes. Although pianos have steel frames the pegs are held in a wooden sleeve. Modern houses with central heating cause this wood to shrink back making the peg slip with the resultant honky-tonk sound to certain keys. We have this problem on one of ours and our tuner suggested removing that string if it becomes a major problem. If you come across a piano with this problem on many keys then avoid.
Pen Pusher

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2010, 04:12:42 pm »
When MiniQ wanted to learn I picked up a free one from Freecycle and moved it in a mate's van for the cost of a few beers for the friendly labour.  The donor let us have a tinkle on it and confirmed it was tune-able before we took it away.  It was as ugly as a slapped bulldog but worked okay for three years until MiniQ had demonstrated sufficienct commitment to the craft to deserve me spending a few grand (no pun intended) on a decent piece of kit.

We've got a Knights upright now - a solid British make.  There are tonnes of 2nd hand Yamaha's out there as the Japanese tend to always buy new, so the 2nd hand ones are exported.  General rule is that a decent 1980's Yamaha is better than a new one anyway as they are now built to a price to compete with Chinese imports.

Visit your local piano shop - 90% of the UK market is 2nd hand.  Econonically the shops aren't interested in touching piano's much under £1500.

Top Tip:  best to buy during the summer hols - I got a 10% discount for doing that as this seems to be a dead spot in piano sales while everyone is off-school/away on holiday.

Q

rwa.martin

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2010, 07:10:12 pm »
Bought a casio cdp100 for my daughter last Christmas http://www.dennistoddmusic.com/keyboards.html. Very pleased with it. Casio are well thought of in the electronic piano world for their excellent "feel".  I would recommend getting the stand. Dennis Todd music (as per the link) were competitive in price and very helpful.

By the way, if she gets the urge to learn the violin don't risk buying a cheap one. It might be a fiddle.

Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
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Re: Old pianos
« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2010, 07:25:00 pm »
Woofage is right about underdamper.

Also, cross-strung (where the longest strings cross over the shorter ones, in different planes) will give you a better tone.

Arcoleo: I have never heard of a piano whose sound board was made of anything other than wood. Frames should be iron.

Another perfectly acceptable make not mentioned is Rud. Ibach Sohn. I had one of these, given to me by a friend's mother, when I was in my teens. I got up to about Grade 7 on it, but being an overdamper model it wasn't as good as the pianos at school so I generally practised on them as well. Overdamper pianos are generally less responsive and you won't be able to play very fast pieces on them, especially if there are rapidly repeated notes, because the mechanism takes too long to return to its resting position.

Bechstein are wonderful and you won't find a cheap one. You can look up the frame number on the Bechstein website and find out your piano's age. ICBA to look inside my piano atm 'cos it's covered in crap, but IIRC it's from 1891. I think you might be able to do this with other brands as well.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

clarion

  • Tyke
Re: Old pianos
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2010, 09:20:21 pm »
Here's some advice from <a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/T6ahzLGK_VY&rel=1" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/v/T6ahzLGK_VY&rel=1</a>

And, whatever you do, ensure you check <a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/rN5V-6yCbpg&rel=1" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/v/rN5V-6yCbpg&rel=1</a>
Getting there...

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2010, 09:28:17 pm »
Bechstein are wonderful and you won't find a cheap one. You can look up the frame number on the Bechstein website and find out your piano's age.

My parents have an upright Bechstein with the most gorgeous tone (and beautiful casing) which I learnt to play on throughout my childhood and teens. I'd spend hours and hours playing Brahms and Chopin, and I love that piano deeply. I have always thought that one day I'd own a house large enough to take it, and would once again play for hours.

It has been living in their current abode, a large modern house, for the last 10 years. It's wrecked. Some notes sound like a hideous old pub piano. It's not an overstrung model, and to restring it would apparently cost upwards of £10k, and (understandably) they won't shell out for it. When my mum told me this I actually cried.

I'm thinking of saving up to rescue it. Insane, isn't it, but it feels like a death in the family. and I'm crying all over again just thinking about it.

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2010, 09:39:02 pm »
Alex, reading that makes me weepy.
And I prolly shouldn't post this  :-[

Wowbagger

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Re: Old pianos
« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2010, 09:51:14 pm »
I wonder about that amount, LMM.

My piano was one of a batch of Bechsteins with a design fault which didn't come to light until the 1920s or 30s, when the pianos were 40 or so years old. The pegs are supported only in the sound board and of course the huge stresses tend to pull the pegs downwards and make the holes oval. From about the 1920s the pegs were supported by the frame as well, resting within a fibre bush.

James Dace & Son, the specialist music shop in Chelmsford, quoted me £1700 to do the work (replace all the pegs with oversized ones, fit fibre bushes and new strings). That was about 5 years ago. I decided that I no longer play the piano enough to justify the work.

My guess is that your piano is from the same era. Look up the serial no on the Bechstein website and it will give you the age.
   Willkommen bei Bechstein
refers. Mine's 31080 - 1891.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Wowbagger

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Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Re: Old pianos
« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2010, 10:45:48 pm »
Right, I'm going to look into it myself.
I'll check the frame no. and take some pics at xmas to share with the Bechstein fans - maybe we need a 'Gratuitous piano pics' thread  :)

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Old pianos
« Reply #20 on: November 30, 2010, 09:53:15 am »
Back to the OP (although interested in the discussion of Bechstein pianos. I have a Raymond & Co grand piano which was London made and I think has a lovely tone - it's rather un-PC though, being made of mahogany and with ebony and ivory keys; it's from the 1930s...)

Anyway, I bought myself a Roland Stage Piano back in 1989 when I went off to Uni. It was loadsamoney then but made an excellent sound - it was far more pleasurable to play than any upright of the time. It still works fine although is currently languishing under the spare bed as it isn't as nice to play as my grand piano. I think they can be picked up for around £300ish now second-hand and might be an option - your wife could play with headphones on (to not wake the baby). My Roland doesn't have its own amplification, it has to go through the hi-fi which does mean decent quality sound.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Torslanda

  • Professional Gobshite
  • Just a tart for retro kit . . .
    • John's Bikes
Re: Old pianos
« Reply #21 on: December 03, 2010, 12:51:51 pm »
One of our number has a Kawai Organ (Fnaaarrrr!) in General Classifieds . . .

VELOMANCER

Well that's the more blunt way of putting it but as usual he's dead right.

Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Re: Old pianos
« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2010, 01:57:42 pm »
Back to the OP (although interested in the discussion of Bechstein pianos. I have a Raymond & Co grand piano which was London made and I think has a lovely tone - it's rather un-PC though, being made of mahogany and with ebony and ivory keys; it's from the 1930s...)

Anyway, I bought myself a Roland Stage Piano back in 1989 when I went off to Uni. It was loadsamoney then but made an excellent sound - it was far more pleasurable to play than any upright of the time. It still works fine although is currently languishing under the spare bed as it isn't as nice to play as my grand piano. I think they can be picked up for around £300ish now second-hand and might be an option - your wife could play with headphones on (to not wake the baby). My Roland doesn't have its own amplification, it has to go through the hi-fi which does mean decent quality sound.

My younger son is in possession of two keyboards, a relic from when he was In A Band. One's a Korg something-or-other and the other's and 88-key weighted Technics. Both require amplifiers. He also has a Hammond organ which used to belong to the Suzi Quattro Band.

The Technics is actually very good fun to play. The keys feel convincingly piano-like and the "Steinway Grand" sound is also pretty authentic.

The keys are absolutely horrible when you put it in harpsichord mode, though. It still feels like a piano but sounds like a harpsichord and that's all wrong!

But yes, a Gratuitous Pianos Pics thread would be excellent.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Old pianos
« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2010, 02:13:09 pm »
Back to the OP (although interested in the discussion of Bechstein pianos. I have a Raymond & Co grand piano which was London made and I think has a lovely tone - it's rather un-PC though, being made of mahogany and with ebony and ivory keys; it's from the 1930s...)

Anyway, I bought myself a Roland Stage Piano back in 1989 when I went off to Uni. It was loadsamoney then but made an excellent sound - it was far more pleasurable to play than any upright of the time. It still works fine although is currently languishing under the spare bed as it isn't as nice to play as my grand piano. I think they can be picked up for around £300ish now second-hand and might be an option - your wife could play with headphones on (to not wake the baby). My Roland doesn't have its own amplification, it has to go through the hi-fi which does mean decent quality sound.
My younger son is in possession of two keyboards, a relic from when he was In A Band. One's a Korg something-or-other and the other's and 88-key weighted Technics. Both require amplifiers. He also has a Hammond organ which used to belong to the Suzi Quattro Band.

The Technics is actually very good fun to play. The keys feel convincingly piano-like and the "Steinway Grand" sound is also pretty authentic.

The keys are absolutely horrible when you put it in harpsichord mode, though. It still feels like a piano but sounds like a harpsichord and that's all wrong!

But yes, a Gratuitous Pianos Pics thread would be excellent.
Yep, my Roland has weighted keys (weighs five stone!) and velocity sensitivity so it does give a pretty authentic feel. It's grand piano sound is very good but some of the other sounds aren't so useful (it only has eight sounds, one of which is terribly 1980s). It doesn't have very many buttons, it was just meant to be a piano, but it is great and did sterling service as a piano for a church for 15 years.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Wowbagger

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Re: Old pianos
« Reply #24 on: November 20, 2012, 10:47:50 am »
Resurrection time.

I was inspired by my son, who has recently moved into a lovely house and has bought a lovely piano to match, to start playing my piano again. The tone is good and it keeps in tune but the case has definitely seen better days. I've spent quite a bit of time on line looking at piano websites and the most informative I've come across is http://www.robertspianos.com/. They have a couple of very useful pages, firstly on different brands you are likely to meet, and how good they are likely to be, here:-

http://www.robertspianos.com/top-makes/common-piano-makes-in-the-uk/

There's another page giving advice on how to tell one model from another.

http://www.robertspianos.com/piano-advice/sell-your-piano/sell-your-bechstein-piano-sell-my-bechstein-grand-or-upright-piano/

From that, I've concluded that my piano is a Model III and not the Model IV I was led to believe it was.

I've also had a conversation with Marcus Roberts about whether it is worth doing anything about the hole ovalisation and I've concluded that it's not: it would be a massive job costing £lots (replacing the pin block). My piano is keeping in tune and has a good tone but if it does deteriorate I will simply trade it in and get something else. I actually think it will see me out as it's only 120 years old.

Having said that, Mr. Roberts invited me to come to their showrooms in Oxford for half a day and play a lot of their pianos. That sounds to me like a very good offer.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.