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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover] #1358327
01/26/10 05:19 AM
01/26/10 05:19 AM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 9,230
France
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Olek Offline
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France
Originally Posted by b3groover


Most of my clientèle are hobbyist or have small children who are just beginning to play. It does't really matter how good or bad the piano is in those instances.


After seen how many of the low grade pianos un regulated and badly voicied are sold after a few years because the childs did not progress, I begin to relate the 2 facts.

I suggest that children, most probably, hear better than us, aniway the one who have a good ear is more annoyed to be obliged to play on a harsh sounding piano than the one that knows how to play a little and can imagine music in his head.



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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Olek] #1359979
01/28/10 02:43 AM
01/28/10 02:43 AM
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 119
Lansing, MI
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b3groover Offline OP
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b3groover  Offline OP
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Posts: 119
Lansing, MI
Today I tuned a Jansenn console.

Wow.

The client was so nice. I felt bad telling her that the pinblock was shot. You could see the cracks from the TOP of the pinblock. And some of the main vertical supports were pulling away from the rest of the frame.

It was fun to tune, let me tell you. smile


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Jim Alfredson
Musician / Tuner
www.organissimo.org
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover] #1936052
08/01/12 09:31 PM
08/01/12 09:31 PM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 2
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Brewski50 Offline
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I have a 1900-era Kimball, style 8, beautiful carving in oak. I 'm considering restoring--any thoughts would be appreciated.

Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover] #1936194
08/02/12 06:42 AM
08/02/12 06:42 AM
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 2,640
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Loren D Offline
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I've worked on a bunch of old Kimball uprights that are still sounding and playing well. I have to say, I never really don't mind Kimball. I keep them in perspective for what they are: a home piano for the average every day piano owner. Yes, I've had some bad ones, but I'd be hard pressed to name a brand that I didn't have issues with from time to time.

Remember those old Marantz spinets made in the 70's-80's? They had a bunch of different names: Grand, Kinkaid, Marantz, etc. I know some techs complain about them too. There are a bunch of them around here from a high profile dealer (now out of business) who sold a ton of them. Really not bad pianos as far as spinets go.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
http://www.digiorgipiano.com
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover] #1936238
08/02/12 08:26 AM
08/02/12 08:26 AM
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 543
Farmington, MO
Ryan Hassell Offline
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Ryan Hassell  Offline
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Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 543
Farmington, MO
I agree Loren! I service several Kimball Consoles. They all have a great tone and very rarely break strings during a pitch raise. I guess I may be a little sentimental though, when I told my parents I wanted to learn to play the piano when I was twelve, the only piano they could afford was a Kimball. Most of the Kimballs I service are consoles from the 1980s. We only have one music store here in these parts. It has been in existence since the 1940's. I can tell what they were selling by what pianos are around here. In the 40'-50's they sold Wurlitzers, in the 60's Story and Clarks, in the 80's Kimballs, in the 90's Baldwins. Since the market for new pianos is very little around here now, they don't even keep new pianos in stock anymore. Kind of sad.


Ryan G. Hassell
Hassell's Piano Tuning
Farmington, MO
www.hassellspianotuning.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hassells-Piano-Tuning/163155880804
ryanhassell@hotmail.com
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover] #1936257
08/02/12 09:18 AM
08/02/12 09:18 AM
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 4,016
Madison, WI USA
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Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
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Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 4,016
Madison, WI USA
The Kimball factory gave me one of the best opportunities I ever had up to that time in 1982 to do a training session at their Factory in Indiana. Sure, there were some problems with workmanship and materials in a few of their pianos but by now, any of those failed instruments have mostly been discarded. I will gladly work on any Kimball piano at any time.

I believe they are examples of good quality, American craftsmanship that were available to the public at an affordable price. Many of them will be worth restoration at some point as will be some of the other pianos which technicians have loved to hate over the years such as Acrosonics. Kimballs have the most solid pinblocks and crack proof soundboards that were ever made. With new hammers and re-scaling, what were once considered the bane of piano technicians could become true gems of American piano building tradition.

Today, technicians can make good money replacing the rubber grommets on the spinet models and have happy customers. If you prefer to only work on Steinways, fine, good luck to you finding an exclusively Steinway and other fine grand clientele. If you don't live in an area where that would be possible, you would have to move there to get it, then good luck with the competition to get it once you do!

Recently, I tuned for the second time in six months a Kimball console piano that had been among the very last of those built (1996) and was purchased as a used instrument from a the original owner. When I went to appraise it, I found an instrument in perfect condition, inside and out. It did not even need cleaning inside and the case looked brand new. It needed only a pitch raise of about 30 cents.

I did that pitch raise when the customer got the piano. The tuning pins were as firm as they could be and the action was in perfect regulation. A few weeks ago, I tuned it again and it was still up to pitch as I expected. The family has been quite delighted with their purchase that they had made at a very favorable price.

The man owned a fine guitar which I tuned for him and also wrote down the specs. He was delighted with the way it sounded and the daughter remarked as he played, "That sounds really good, Dad!".

The last thing I would ever consider would be to move to some large city and try to compete in a rat race such as that just so I could only service fine quality grands. I get enough of them here in any case but somehow, what I can do for ordinary pianos is more gratifying to me and my clients. Perhaps it is because I see the value in these instruments whereas other technicians have left their clients feeling something negative about the piano which is a part of their home and family and probably always will be.


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: RPD] #1936335
08/02/12 12:32 PM
08/02/12 12:32 PM
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 5,531
Olympia, Washington
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Del Offline
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Del  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 5,531
Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted by RPD
I found a 9 foot (probably 8 1/2) Kimball grand, in original condition C-1920 (its on my wall, and I can't remember the specs as I write this! lol)

The owners tried to give it to me. I thought about it, and offered them $500. Plus it cost me about that again to move it to my shop. I'll rebuild it someday, and then I'll have a full sized. Its got tone that is stil unbelievable!!

My own experience with Kimball pianos has been mixed, like those above. But, I've generally found that the older the Kimball, the better I like it.

I rebuilt one of these for a small high school way out in the middle of nowhere. They didn’t have the budget for a new concert grand of any variety and, besides, the piano had been a donation from a well-known local “benefactor.” They were pretty much stuck with it.

It had its quirks—the most significant being a roughly 3/8th inch gap between the top of the pinblock and the bottom of the plate tuning pin panel (easily fixed when fitting the new pinblock)—but overall not a bad piano. It surprised more than a few skeptics with its action performance and its tone. It didn’t rank up there among the best concert grands ever built but it was a way long distance from the worst. And this was back before I’d started doing much of any redesign work on pianos like this. Looking back I’ve wondered what the piano would have sounded like with a few simple scale changes and a couple of modifications to the soundboard. Add in a set of WN&G wippens and shanks along with some Ronsen/Weikert (or Abel “Natural-felt/medium) hammers and you’ll have a quite nice piano. You’ll be sorry you waited so long.

I agree, though, in general the older the Kimball, the better. I’ve encountered more than a few quite nice old Kimball uprights and grands.. And, as someone else has already mentioned, their Viennese Edition grands could also be quite nice. They were the sleeper bargains of the day; with just a little careful prep work they could compete with much more expensive pianos. And they are still decent pianos, they seem to age well given even a modicum of attention.

ddf


Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover] #1936341
08/02/12 12:39 PM
08/02/12 12:39 PM
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,559
Sandy Eggo, California
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OperaTenor Offline
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Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,559
Sandy Eggo, California
IMO, pre-Depression era Kimball's were generally well-made. After that, not so much, but certainly not the worst.

Winter spinet, with the aluminum plate and particle board soundboard(or was it plywood?). Need I say more?



Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover] #1936415
08/02/12 03:26 PM
08/02/12 03:26 PM
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 2,640
PA
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Loren D Offline
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Joined: Jun 2010
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PA
I'll tell you though, when it comes to spinets, those 40's-50's Wurlitzer and Acrosonics have incredibly good tone for pianos that size.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
http://www.digiorgipiano.com
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Loren D] #1936442
08/02/12 04:33 PM
08/02/12 04:33 PM
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,559
Sandy Eggo, California
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OperaTenor Offline
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OperaTenor  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,559
Sandy Eggo, California
Originally Posted by Loren D
I'll tell you though, when it comes to spinets, those 40's-50's Wurlitzer and Acrosonics have incredibly good tone for pianos that size.


I agree.


Happiness is a freshly tuned piano.
Jim Boydston, proprietor, No Piano Left Behind - technician
www.facebook.com/NoPianoLeftBehind
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover] #1936453
08/02/12 04:51 PM
08/02/12 04:51 PM
Joined: Oct 2011
Posts: 760
Lincoln, NE
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That Guy Offline
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Joined: Oct 2011
Posts: 760
Lincoln, NE
Quote
I'll tell you though, when it comes to spinets, those 40's-50's Wurlitzer and Acrosonics have incredibly good tone for pianos that size.


I agree!

I'll weigh in on the Kimball thing: Many times I compare pianos to cars when a customer asks what I think of their piano. I'm going to show my age here but I would compare a Kimball to a Ford Pinto or Chevy Chevette. Some were pretty decent and got good gas mileage but if you expected it to drive like a Cadillac, forget it. It is what it is. As long as people keep that in mind we're okay.


"That Tuning Guy"
Scott Kerns
Lincoln, NE
www.thattuningguy.com
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: 88Key_PianoPlayer] #1936934
08/03/12 02:52 PM
08/03/12 02:52 PM
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 5,531
Olympia, Washington
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Del Offline
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Del  Offline
5000 Post Club Member
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Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 5,531
Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted by 88Key_PianoPlayer
Wow! I'm amazed at the rave reviews I'm reading of the Kimball LaPetite grands! (well, unless I misunderstood :p) In my opinion, though, their tone generally leaves a LOT to be desired, ESPECIALLY in the bass! I'd rather hear a Baldwin Acrosonic than any LaPetites I've ever played. One particular one I played at a retirement home my grandma lived in at the time was absolutely NO MATCH for my 57" 1913 upright, in spite of its having completely worn hammers almost down to the molding (with grooves deeper than the thickness of the strings)! Now, if someone knows of a LaPetite with a bass that would run circles around a fully-rebuilt (INCLUDING new soundboard, and whatever else would be replaced when doing a rebuild that extensive) turn-of-the-19th-to-20th-century full-size upright, I'd like to know about it. smile

Fortunately not everyone judges the worth of a piano by the criteria you use. Different people look for different things in many of the products they buy and use. And these criteria evolve and change of the years and decades just as our society changes and evolves.

There are reasons why the large 57” upright piano faded into oblivion and not all of them have anything to do with music. Those things were/are huge! They dominate the visual space wherever they are located. Yes, they can have a big, strong bass but the tone quality of the lowest few notes in the bass are not that important to all musicians. At least it is not so important as to sacrifice the aesthetic balance of the room just to satisfy the ear on those rare occasions when it is called on.

The Kimball La Petite grand was not, by any measure, the world’s greatest example of the piano maker’s art. Yet it filled a definite need at the time. I once rebuilt the action in one of these things—and I mean really rebuilt with new felt and leather in place of the original foam garbage and new, more appropriate regulating screws and buttons in place of the disastrous components originally used—for a young woman who had pretty much trashed it during her first year as a music major at Portland State University. The piano wasn’t designed or built for that kind of service either. But she needed a grand to practice on and that was literally the only piano that would fit in her tiny little “efficiency” apartment. Still, with its new action it went on to serve her needs well for the next three years of college and then on into her teaching studio as her second grand piano. That compact grand action worked pretty well given decent materials and components. The piano also sounded pretty good in its intended environment. The bass, of course, was weak and indistinct but through most of the compass of the piano—where most piano music is actually played—it sounded quite decent. Clearly her criteria for judging the worth of a piano were different from yours. She thought they important, though.

Another piano you would be quite contemptuous of is the little Young Chang 150—yes, as in 4’ 11”—grand that was on display at the recent PTG convention in Bellingham, WA. You’d compare the lowest few bass notes with those of your grandmother’s 57” upright and turn your nose up at the whole idea of the piano. You’d miss the fact that through most of the scale it was a quite nice musical instrument. And because of its combination of diminutive size and its musicality it is rapidly becoming one of the best-selling grand pianos in the world today. No, it doesn’t have a great booming bass but I’m still rather proud of its inherent musicality and the fact that it is going to bring that musicality into a great number of homes throughout the world. You, of course, will dismiss this piano out of hand believing, apparently, that it is better to have no piano at all if it can’t be at least 57” tall.

Thankfully not all piano buyers are as rigid as you; most people are willing to make compromises when they select a product such as a piano. It might help to remember that most of those spinets and consoles that we are now so contemptuous of were not purchased by musicians or pianists; they were purchased by parents. Parents who knew little or nothing about either music or pianos but who were willing to make a financial sacrifice to provide a piano for their children so the children could have that experience. And there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of piano players today who learned how to play on just such instruments.

There seem to be those among us who believe it would have been better if those small pianos had never been built—they don’t, after all, sound as good at that great old 57” upright—but I can’t help but wonder if much thought has been given to the consequences of that scenario. Many thousands of children growing up during the 60s, 70s and 80s would not have been exposed to the piano at all. And—a little closer to home—many piano dealers and piano tuners would be in other professions. Because, trust me, very few people would have purchased anything like that 57” upright we have heard so much about and we would have witnessed the demise of the piano industry several decades back.

I guess my point is that extremism is rarely beneficial whether in politics or business or music. Personally I think it is better if a family has a Kimball La Petite that is played, tuned and serviced as opposed to one having a beautiful large grand that sits idle and dusty year after year simply taking up space. Or where there is no piano at all—just cable TV and an assortment of video games.

ddf


Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon
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