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Best years and models of Chickering?
#2401396 03/22/15 07:02 PM
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Dear Chickering lovers,
What are generally the most desirable years and models for this make, focusing on the late 19th century? I am thinking about having one restored.

Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401403 03/22/15 07:20 PM
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It really depends on the sound you are looking for that would determine Model and how much restoration you would like to take on.

Middle to semi late 19th century Chickerings can be incredible instruments. Both you and the rebuilder would have to understand the sound you are looking for and be familiar with the particular commitment to achieve that.

SO, obvious questions; what are you looking to achieve, where is your budget and do you have a restoration person who can realize your expectation within you budget?


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Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Larry Buck #2401412 03/22/15 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Larry Buck
It really depends on the sound you are looking for that would determine Model and how much restoration you would like to take on.

Middle to semi late 19th century Chickerings can be incredible instruments. Both you and the rebuilder would have to understand the sound you are looking for and be familiar with the particular commitment to achieve that.

SO, obvious questions; what are you looking to achieve, where is your budget and do you have a restoration person who can realize your expectation within you budget?
I find this post very interesting but I don't really understand how this would work in practice.

Unless someone has heard a particular piano that one loves and the rebuilder can also hear it, for me at least, the words people use to describe tone are too vague to describe the tone accurately. For example on the Fazioli website they list several qualities they want to achieve on their pianos(good sustain, clarity of different voices especially in contrapuntal music, ability to play ppp and fff without the tone braking up, evenness across the entire compass, and others I forget), but I think most classical pianists would list most of those qualities and that many of the best pianos would have those qualities.

Does the pianist tell the rebuilder I want the Steinway sound or the Bechstein sound or...? My guess, although maybe false, is that even the best techs would describe certain tonal characteristics somewhat differently.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 03/22/15 08:04 PM.
Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Larry Buck #2401413 03/22/15 08:12 PM
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The general idea is to get a shell and have it completely restored to the highest mostly original level. It should be a larger grand perhaps also a tall upright. Collectibility and the highest level or original craftmensship would be desirable to better preserve the restoration investment and effort. The budget is typically related to the potential value of the restored instrument, so it needs to be unique enough in sound, looks and potential technical details to catch the attention of pianists, the audience and perhaps potential buyers in the future.

Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401418 03/22/15 08:19 PM
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http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/278920.html

This is my favorite Chickering model.. The Cocked Hat Chickering.


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Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
S. Phillips #2401428 03/22/15 08:42 PM
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Sally:
So, I'm wondering if this combines the virtues of flat-stringing with the length of cross-stringing ? When exactly were they made ?
Do tell us more.
Were they made with Erard-type actions or with the Brown action ?
Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY

Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401429 03/22/15 08:42 PM
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I don't think finely rebuilt Chickerings have have enough traction in the marketplace to command the top tier prices and resale ease of Steinways and Masons. So as an investment-I don't think it could work.

Many Chickerings are more difficult to rebuild than Steinway, Baldwin, and Mason Hamlin.

That said, when ones with the proper designs are rebuilt, (and many times modified somewhat to remedy weak treble), they can be wonderful.

I like the ones from around 1900 to 1950. The Quarter grands are amazing small pianos with a big, deep sound and a very finely balanced appearance. The biggest quarter grand is about 5' 6" and it is great. The model 116, (6' 4") and 119, (7' 6") are really nice. The Aeolian era model 501 with modified hybrid wire string scale and corrected hammer strike point is wonderful. With stock stringing they are muddy sounding in the middle and bass.

I am not as fond of the earlier Chickering designs even though there are many great elements to them.

I would not do a Cocked Hat one even though it looks cool. It doesn't have enough potential in the design for tone.


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
Contact: Ed@LightHammerpiano.com
Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401441 03/22/15 09:03 PM
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The cocked hat Chickerings that I have seen have a Brown action. They were pre Civil War. 1850's.

I agree with Ed that they don't have much if any resale value and they have a sweet little sound but I've always wanted one since I can do the repairs myself. They were beautiful cabinets. Lots of speculation as to why the cabinet was made like that but the shape is similar to many earlier 18th and 19th century spinets. And as many techs will point out it is almost as though they were trying to take the best qualities of a square (if there are any) and put them into a grand.

The last one I heard almost sounded like a harpsichord on steroids but with a cute little hammer that sort of just popped up and hit the string. Very sweet little sound.


Sally Phillips
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Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
pianoloverus #2401446 03/22/15 09:13 PM
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Pianoloverus

You speak well to the challenge.

I would enjoy writing a comprehensive explanation to that very question. At some point I will, as it does come up in part every single day of doing business. How do we listen to the expectations of the client and pair that up with predictable results in their price range.







"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
Mark Twain

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
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Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401449 03/22/15 09:18 PM
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Klavianiac,

That is not the type of response that would properly direct work.

The original value is to the original buyer, that piano is tailored to their personal taste.

Sounds like you are unfamiliar with just how these Chickering sound.

Until you know "what" sound you are looking for it will be difficult to meet an expectation.

As far as a Chickering for the sole purpose of resale. That is a completely different challenge.

SO, obvious question, are we discussing your personal taste and desire for sound or are we discussing restoration as an investment for the purpose of resale / return on investment?


"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
Mark Twain

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
http://www.facebook.com/EJBuckPerformances
Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401455 03/22/15 09:33 PM
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I always kind of thought "Chickering" was the noise made by old ladies while feeding birds.

Hey, Ed, did anyone pick up that one you showed me that was built like a Sherman tank and had that really complex bass?


2012 NY Steinway Model B | Kawai MP11 | Nord Stage 3 Compact | Moog Sub 37 | Behringer DeepMind 12 | Sequential Circuits Prophet 6 | Korg Prologue
Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401501 03/23/15 12:08 AM
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I guess we were very impressed by the 109C Chickering grand restored by Hampshire Piano that we tried last week. It is powerful, warm and united throughout the registers beyond any piano this size even with the fresh hammers. So I became interested in the brand...

Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Larry Buck #2401512 03/23/15 01:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Larry Buck
Pianoloverus

You speak well to the challenge.

I would enjoy writing a comprehensive explanation to that very question. At some point I will, as it does come up in part every single day of doing business. How do we listen to the expectations of the client and pair that up with predictable results in their price range.
Looking forward to your comments.

Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401663 03/23/15 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Klavimaniac
...powerful, warm and united throughout the registers beyond any piano this size...


Thirteen years ago, I stumbled across one that impressed me the same as you described above.

I'd just retired from a very busy job and had an upright at home about 20 years old but played so little the hammers weren't even grooved. The first couple of years after I bought it, it served its purpose--I got comfortable enough reading music and could reliably find the right keys without looking at my hands. I'd never gotten that comfortable in the hours I spent in university practice rooms some years earlier, but those hours had created strong bias in my mind about two brands that dominated the rooms--S&S and Chickering. The Steinways were all new and well-maintained. I loved them. The Chickerings were all quite old, purchased when the music school was first established at the turn of the 20th century. I hated it when all the S&S rooms were booked and usually just went home if a Chickering was all that was available.

My mind changed one day in 2002. I had an appointment in another city one Monday at the Jaguar dealer for 7 a.m. to get new brake pads, but when I showed up they had gotten behind the previous Friday and bumped my appointment to 2 p.m. Not wanting to drive home and return, I pulled out a Yellow Pages to see what's to do with seven hours to kill. The page I opened to by pure chance was "Piano Dealers". Why not? So I went to the dealer I was vaguely aware was the city's largest. I immediately began thinking "Steinway and just maybe Knabe", since I'd many years earlier loved the sound of a Knabe concert grand I'd spent some hours on in a large auditorium one night late.

When I got to the dealer, there was only one salesman. The owner was out on a service call and there were no customers. I hadn't practiced in about 18 years and asked the salesman to simply continue what he was doing, which was just playing, but asked him to go around the huge room where about 200 pianos stood and let me wander, looking and listening. He played very well and seemed to enjoy the exercise. There were S&S, Baldwin, Knabe, Kawai, Yamaha, all sorts of Chinese jobs, and many other names I didn't recognize at the time.

About an hour into my visit and on about the tenth or twelth piano, a unique voice made me stop wandering and pause. It was the only one that had warmth, power, gravity and clarity all at the same time, throughout its register. Its voice was so well unified that it seemed to breath and sing. It reminded me of the way Peggy Lee's voice carried over a big band--powerful and nuanced with that deep-chested resonance combined with a clear edge of smoky breath.

"What's THAT one?" I asked.

"Chickering", he said.

I walked over to it and we began talking about it. It was a bit over 6 feet, from 1932, all original. He said it could be had as is for a modest price or restored to any level I might want before delivery.

While we were talking, the owner returned. He asked what was up and the salesman filled him in.

The owner lit up when the salesman told him that of all the pianos he'd played, only the Chickering had interested me. He began excitedly telling me the history of Chickering, telling me about various milestone models and told me about a concert grand he'd been trying unsuccessfully to buy for 40 years. He was an old man with 60 years in the business and a floor full of fine makes in all sizes, but there was no question which make he favored.

I was surprised when he told me the one that had interested me would be quite good but that if I really wanted to be happy, I should buy a larger model, even if I had to look awhile to find it.

Having been so biased against Chickering some 30 years earlier, the idea that they'd ever been a premier make was a surprise to me, but that singular impression of the way that voice stood out apart from all the others had hooked me.

After I left the Jaguar dealer that afternoon, I researched Chickering well into the night online, reading the history and looking at all ads of ones for sale. About 5 a.m., I found an ad for one out-of-state, a concert grand. I went to the bank before I hit the road and filled my suit coat pockets with packets of 100s, just in case. And happily parted with those stacks and threw in a stack more than the owner had asked, just for good measure, because I felt like a thief.

And I'm as happy as ever now that I did it. The only piano I've encountered since that might someday sit nested with it (since it's not going anywhere) would be a Fazioli concert grand.

Sorry for the long post, but your impressions mirror my own that day in 2002. I think your ears should be the judge. When I let my ears alone make the decision, I ended up turning an old bias on its head.

And I'm so glad I did. That tone has inspired me to learn the horribly complex bits I thought 40 years ago I might never conquer and to do them well enough to have strangers off the street ring my doorbell all excited to find out "Who can play that?!" and spend an hour excitedly talking and playing themselves. The best moment was when a piano-performance PHD-turned lawyer neighbor asked me, "What CD were you listening to today? That was great!", and to be able to say, "That was no CD. That was ME."

Finding the tone of voice that matches your mind's ear ideal lets you quit shopping and just get on with the fun part--the playing.

Whenever I have guests, I get to enjoy the beast from 30 feet away for hours on end. Even if I'd never been so inspired to learn to play myself, it'd be worth it for all the hours of joy I've had from some really fine players who get sucked in by that wonderful voice.

When I joined this place ten years ago, I seldom saw a positive post about Chickering. I was almost a lone voice. I'm happy to now see *several* voices actively singing praises about America's first piano maker. They may not have the resale value of S&S or M&H, but then, that's NOT the point, is it? I wouldn't part with mine for anything. It might get "company", but it's "the one".

Last edited by ChickGrand; 03/23/15 01:22 PM. Reason: Typo
Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401671 03/23/15 01:24 PM
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Huh, I've never seen anything but glowing impressions of Chickering.


2012 NY Steinway Model B | Kawai MP11 | Nord Stage 3 Compact | Moog Sub 37 | Behringer DeepMind 12 | Sequential Circuits Prophet 6 | Korg Prologue
Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Klavimaniac #2401853 03/23/15 10:30 PM
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I'm a fan of the turn of the century Yacht tails as well. The 109C over the 116, the 110B over the 119. The 105D is a beast as well. My 109c is a wreck needing restoration, yet the quality is apparent, and I love the music it makes. However even within the same models Chickering used different non standard action parts with unique geometry. What this means if you want it to play like it was designed you should restore it, an expensive proposition. Pin block replacement is another item more than a few techs wince at, if they will do the job at all. You would think the size of the 109C would have it in demand compared to a Steinway A or Mason AA of the same era. I doubt though you could even recover the cost of a full rebuild. Still it is possible to get a tier 1 piano from days gone by for a song.

Last edited by Swarth; 03/23/15 10:31 PM.

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Re: Best years and models of Chickering?
Swarth #2402065 03/24/15 11:19 AM
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Thanks for your tips so far, I was hoping a few more owners and connoisseurs would chime in with specific recommendations on which years and and models especially of the larger ones are the best and why, e.g. overstrung vs. parallel and how to deal with the actions- along the lines of Swarth as there is bewildering variability in Chickering's designs...

Thanks!


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