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Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

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Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Arpangel » Sun Jun 07, 2020 8:30 am

OK, my partner has a Bluthner baby grand, it’s great, and it’s what we’ve been using for all of our recordings.
However, it’s getting a bit worn out, the cation is suffering from hammer bounce, and is becoming uneven, and the bottom couple of actives are on permanent sustain, along with this then tone is getting a bit dull. It was serviced about 20 years ago, and from what a I can gather, pretty badly.
We have a good local piano shop, very nice people, Carstairs Pianos in Canterbury, he’s our tuner, and we got him to give us an estimate for a complete overhaul, he quoted £3,000 that was for rebuilding the action, some new strings where applicable, new hammers, re-felting, and restoring and re-polishing the case to its original colour and finish. All work would be using genuine Bluthner parts.
I think this is a very reasonable price, we got a quote from a Bluthner specialist and they quoted £15,000 minimum.
Now this is the dilemma, before I moved in with my partner I had my own mid-range Yamaha upright at my place, I loved it, sounded very good, it was £2,000 and only a few years old, a very different sound to the Bluthner, but good for an upright.
I’m wondering, for £3,000 we could get a very decent new or secondhand piano, or, get the Bluthner repaired, which has a much higher value all round, and would sound superb restored.
Just wondering what to do, as it’s getting urgent now.
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby IAA » Sun Jun 07, 2020 12:07 pm

My take as a pianist is,
Do you both love that piano? Has it a strong musical attachment to you? Does it have potential to sound superb again (I think you’ve answered this), does it still inspire despite the current technical issues?

If yes to all of the above I’d renovate it assuming a competent technician agrees with 3.

Just my take!
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Arpangel » Sun Jun 07, 2020 12:19 pm

IAA wrote:My take as a pianist is,
Do you both love that piano? Has it a strong musical attachment to you? Does it have potential to sound superb again (I think you’ve answered this), does it still inspire despite the current technical issues?

If yes to all of the above I’d renovate it assuming a competent technician agrees with 3.

Just my take!

Yes to all your questions, I don’t think we have any alternative, it’s been in my partners family for years, and it’s a great piano, potentially.
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby zenguitar » Sun Jun 07, 2020 12:47 pm

Stick a TVR badge on it...

That will make £3000 for a repair/rebuild sound like a bargain :angel:

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Jun 07, 2020 1:29 pm

It's a no brainer to me too, get the Bluthner fixed, even disregarding the family connections and sentimental value it'll be a much better piano than you could buy for £3k one it's sorted.
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Arpangel » Sun Jun 07, 2020 1:58 pm

OK, so that’s that sorted out!

:thumbup:
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Kwackman » Sun Jun 07, 2020 2:03 pm

zenguitar wrote:Stick a TVR badge on it...

That will make £3000 for a repair/rebuild sound like a bargain :angel:

Andy :beamup:

You should consider a new career as a life coach! :)
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby The Red Bladder » Sun Jun 07, 2020 3:55 pm

zenguitar wrote:Stick a TVR badge on it...
That will make £3000 for a repair/rebuild sound like a bargain :angel:
Andy :beamup:
Brilliant!

Get the damn thing renovated! Though £3k does sound rather cheap. But if you really know and trust these people, go for it!
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Folderol » Sun Jun 07, 2020 4:06 pm

Exactly! If you don't you'll never forgive yourself. It's clearly special in its own right.

FWIW. I still miss the wood framed upright that I first learned to play on. Although it was well worn, it still sounded good when properly tuned. It had to be tuned to C=256c/s as the frame wouldn't take the stress of concert pitch. The keys were genuine ivory, and yellowed with age. I could tell where I was on the keyboard just by the feel of them. Oh, and it still had the brass candlestick holders :)

I was 12 when we moved and left it behind (I was promised a nice new one - which never arrived)
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Arpangel » Sun Jun 07, 2020 4:35 pm

Folderol wrote:Exactly! If you don't you'll never forgive yourself. It's clearly special in its own right.

FWIW. I still miss the wood framed upright that I first learned to play on. Although it was well worn, it still sounded good when properly tuned. It had to be tuned to C=256c/s as the frame wouldn't take the stress of concert pitch. The keys were genuine ivory, and yellowed with age. I could tell where I was on the keyboard just by the feel of them. Oh, and it still had the brass candlestick holders :)

I was 12 when we moved and left it behind (I was promised a nice new one - which never arrived)

I always remember the musty smell of my parents upright piano, and how it fascinated me, I wish it had been possible to record what I did back then, but I didn’t get my first tape recorder until 5 years later, a Ferguson reel-to-reel.
Our Bluthner has quite a history, a member of the Loydd Weber family use to visit my partners parents, and he played our piano, along with John Lill the classical pianist, who used it to practice on.
The repairs quoted are not for a complete overhaul, that would be in excess of £10,000 Our future here is uncertain, and we’d have to think of a new home for it, and find room for it, but selling it is actually unthinkable, I’ve only been here three years and I'm already attached to it. It’s the piano on the BBC improv piece we recorded.
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby resistorman » Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:50 am

Other than the technical chops of the folks doing the work, a possible issue with lowball estimates is the amount of time to completion. I had a friend whose piano sat in pieces for quite a while, sidelined while the tech took on more profitable gigs.
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Eddy Deegan » Mon Jun 08, 2020 1:16 am

Arpangel wrote:
IAA wrote:My take as a pianist is,
Do you both love that piano? Has it a strong musical attachment to you? Does it have potential to sound superb again (I think you’ve answered this), does it still inspire despite the current technical issues?

If yes to all of the above I’d renovate it assuming a competent technician agrees with 3.

Just my take!

Yes to all your questions, I don’t think we have any alternative, it’s been in my partners family for years, and it’s a great piano, potentially.

I think the consensus has been reached but as someone who loves pianos and can make them sing a bit, I heartily concur that the Bluthner should be restored. It's a no-brainer to me.

Once this pandemic business is done and dusted I'd welcome a chance to come visit and play it as well, although that's a different discussion altogther. Zukan will vouch for me! :thumbup:
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Wurlitzer » Mon Jun 08, 2020 1:18 am

How old is the Bluthner, and does it hold its tuning well? Those would be the determining factors for me in how much money to spend on it. If the age and condition of the pinblock is such that it's never really going to function as a professional level instrument, I'd let nature take its course, sad as that may be.

You can get a fair bit of baby grand for 3K, so from a hard nosed economic (and musical) point of view, it would only be worth doing if the Bluthner is a very good example of its kind. (Mind you if it is, it could REALLY be worth doing, as they are really stunning pianos at their best).

I'm not so sure that the £3,000 quoted is particularly cheap. I say that because many of the things you mention are common problems with (often) relatively easy fixes. An uneven action may just need a basic regulation. "Permanent sustain" probably just means the dampers are off kilter and need adjusting. "Tone getting dull" may just mean worn hammers that need fluffing up. All these things are hard to generalise about as in some cases they may just require a few hours of a tech's time, and in other taking the whole thing apart and painstakingly replacing stuff. This would explain the difference in the quotes, if the Bluthner specialist was quoting as a general guide without having seen the instrument (?)

If you have the serial number and thus year of manufacture, you should be able to get an idea from a dealer how much it will be worth after restoration.
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby zenguitar » Mon Jun 08, 2020 1:32 am

Approaching a decade ago a friend of mine had a Blüthner with a split sound board. When he mentioned it to me I explained that a split was a fairly straightforward repair in a guitar soundboard, and he reported that he had been told that it was exactly the same for a piano and had gone ahead with the repair and service already.

Regardless of sentimental factors, my instincts have always been that good instruments deserve to be restored/repaired wherever possible. It honours the craftsmen who built them, and maintains the stock of good instruments for the future.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Piano dilemma, repair or not to repair, that is the question.

Postby Wurlitzer » Mon Jun 08, 2020 3:08 am

zenguitar wrote:. . . and maintains the stock of good instruments for the future.

Well sure, but it's only worth doing IF that's going to be the case, was my point.

A lot of people have a mistaken idea about old pianos being "vintage" and therefore good, the way old wine or a Stradivarius violin can be. But pianos aren't like either of those things; they have far too many moving parts operating under precise conditions with miniscule tolerances, and far too much strain from the constant tension of hundreds of strings upon the soundboard, for age to be anything other than destructive.

Famous concert violinists commonly play on four hundred year old instruments, but you don't see even hundred-year-old pianos in concert halls. Sometimes pianos of that age can be made good enough for home use (actually my piano is about a hundred years old), but even then they're holding up despite the effect of time, not because of it. Once you go older than that the chances of a usable restoration (defined simply as one that will stay in tune) become either remote or prohibitively expensive.
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