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Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano #2586580 11/12/16 08:45 PM
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MollyMcF Offline OP
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Hello,

I'm considering purchasing a Baldwin Howard baby grand piano made in 1938; the serial number given me corresponds with that date. I have not seen the piano in person yet but from the photos I've seen, it appears to be in beautiful condition with original ivory keys. The seller said the piano measures 54". It has not been tuned in about four years (prior to that it received regular tuning) but is going to be tuned next week. The seller will share the tuner's report with me. I hope to see the piano in the next week or so to try it out. I have several questions I was hoping someone could answer for me. I've tried to find out as much information on the Internet, but some answers allude me.

I've read that some baby grands are considered short grands, but I don't know what size would make it a short grand. Would this piano be one of them? Or perhaps they measured wrong? I believe I've read to not purchase a baby grand under 5-1/2 ft long, but that some of the shorter Howards have tonal quality to rival larger baby grands. If the piano checks out okay and I like the sound, would it be a mistake to purchase it? The seller is asking $1500 for it. Is that a reasonable price if it passes inspection? I've read to not purchase pianos over 50 years old, but if the piano has been maintained, why would I discount it? My Kimball upright is almost 40 years old and I find it hard to believe that in another ten years or so it would not be considered an acceptable piano to buy.

I'm debating if, depending on the results of the piano tuner's report, I would need to get a registered piano tech to go over it. Does being a registered piano tech mean that he/she belongs to a guild as opposed to a 'regular' piano tuner who doesn't? What makes a registered piano tech better? I'm hoping to get contact information for the tuner to independently discuss the results with him. Is that something that would be acceptable to do or would that violate some kind of ethics code?

In my gut, I have a good feeling about this piano and the seller, who has been very forthcoming with answers to my questions. To me, it looks like the piano would be worth the asking price, but I realize the inside details are what count. From what I understand, the piano has just been used in the home and the owners have had it for many years. I am just average in my playing abilities, so am not expecting or looking for concert grand quality. I play smaller classical pieces written for the intermediate player and play for two or three hours some days. I'm retired, but would hope to get another 15-20 years use out of this piano.

I realize I've packed a lot of questions into this, and apologize for doing so. I'd greatly appreciate any advice you can give me!

Thank you!


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Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2586581 11/12/16 08:58 PM
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Non-Baldwin branded grand pianos built by Baldwin are much lower quality than true Baldwin grands, and Howard is not the best of those. I would not pay $1500 for one made 80 years ago.


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Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2586597 11/12/16 11:34 PM
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The Howard Piano Company, of Cinncinatti, OH, was a separate firm whose pianos were sold by Baldwin.eventually, Baldwin purchased Howard. Howard became a second line of Baldwin. The pianos made then were decent. Assuming the 1938 date is correct, that piano is 5ft. Long.

A78 year old piano should be approached with much caution and skepticism. .A competent tech needs to check the soundboard, bridges, strings, pin block, trapwork, action, and hammers. Any one of these can be a problem and often is in a piano this old. Sellers tend to overestimate the condition and value of the pianos they are trying to get rid of.

A piano not tuned in several years will take several tuning to get it in tune. This assumes that the tuning pins are tight


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Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2586600 11/12/16 11:53 PM
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'baby grand' is a very imprecise term, getting applied to some very nice small grands up to 68 in. ; my personal term for sixty in. and less is 'petit'. whatever you call it, at that length the design, materials, overall quality need to be top notch to compare to a high quality full size (48 in. or taller) upright, and serious studio size (45-48 in.) verticals usually surpass the 60 in. and shorter grands. a Baldwin Howard grand that size was never designed, built, or marketed for serious pianists (playing two or three hours a day qualifies, concert-level is irrelevant), but for casual pianists who preferred the furniture configuration of the grand over the vertical. the howard grand under consideration very possibly could be a better instrument than the forty year old kimball upright, but expecting it to hold up for twenty years under regular use is asking too much from it. there's a lot that might need replacing very soon once it starts getting regular use. replacing parts in the action, or strings with the labor cost of a good technician would easily surpass the $1500 base cost. if the piano is rigorously test played and inspected, no problems apparent, the technician says it's good for twenty years, of course it's another matter. and it could take serious shopping to find a good upright that's significantly better than the old kimball for just $1500, so it's also a question of what the budget might be for that better piano intended for the next twenty years. luck with the quest.

Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: Duke of Dunning] #2586664 11/13/16 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Duke of Dunning

A78 year old piano should be approached with much caution and skepticism. .A competent tech needs to check the soundboard, bridges, strings, pin block, trapwork, action, and hammers. Any one of these can be a problem and often is in a piano this old. Sellers tend to overestimate the condition and value of the pianos they are trying to get rid of.

A piano not tuned in several years will take several tuning to get it in tune. This assumes that the tuning pins are tight


This is very good advice.

It sounds like you are considering keeping this piano for 15 to 20 years without doing much more work to it AND you are considering playing for an hour a day. Those are unrealistic expectations for this piano.


Rich Galassini
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Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2586713 11/13/16 09:12 AM
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This is somewhat OT and somewhat relevant to this thread, I suppose. And, I've mentioned this here on PW before. A sign of getting old... repeating the same old stories. laugh

Anyway, a few years ago I saw an ad on CL for a Baldwin baby grand that was just a few miles from my home. Being the piano enthusiast I am (or at least used to be) I called and scheduled an appointment to go look at it. It's hard for me to turn down a possible piano adventure, especially when close to home.

The piano was located about 10 miles away. When I got there, it was a very nice, newer brick home out in the country on some acreage. I knocked on the door and a nice lady came to the door and I introduced myself and said I was the one who called about the piano.

The interior of the home was as beautiful as the exterior. The piano was in a smallish room with no other furniture in the room. The owners of the piano said it was once owned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. I had my doubts as to what the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra would be doing with a 5 footish baby grand piano, but I listened attentively to their story.

Upon further inspection of the piano, I could tell that it was indeed very old. I noticed some evidence of work that may have been done in the past. I sat down and played a few Gospel hymns, Amazing Grace, etc... Then I play a bit of Jerry-Lee style boogie woogie.

I was not impressed in the least, and the owners were probably not impressed with my playing. They were asking $2500 for the piano. I told them I didn't think I wanted the piano, but I appreciated them showing it to me. They wanted to know if I was interested in making them an offer on the piano. I told them I would think about it.

In all honesty, I didn't want that piano at any price, or even for free.

Moral of the story? Get a nice, playable piano that will be playable for a long time and one that you will enjoy playing, even if it is pricey. It's only money. grin

Good luck, and Welcome to Piano World!!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2586772 11/13/16 12:23 PM
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Thank you so very much for all your information! You have given me much to think about. There's nothing wrong with my Kimball at this time, so perhaps I should just be happy with it. It's just that I've wanted a grand since I was a child and this particular one spoke to me. I'll wait to see what the tuner has to say tomorrow and proceed from there. Many thanks again for your valuable input!!!

Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2586800 11/13/16 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by MollyMcF
Thank you so very much for all your information! You have given me much to think about. There's nothing wrong with my Kimball at this time, so perhaps I should just be happy with it. It's just that I've wanted a grand since I was a child and this particular one spoke to me. I'll wait to see what the tuner has to say tomorrow and proceed from there. Many thanks again for your valuable input!!!

Molly, regardless of the advice you have gotten here regarding the older Howard grand, I would not rule it out just yet. Some pianos, like some people ( smile ) tend to hold up better that others over the years.

It may well be a piano you could play and enjoy for a while, at an affordable price.

I've had a few really old uprights that thrilled my heart and soul for a while. smile Yes, they were old and about worn out, but still fun to play and make music on...

Don't be discouraged... just be wise. smile

All the best!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2586881 11/13/16 06:59 PM
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Rick, thanks for the words of encouragement! You made me feel better. I am not looking for the Holy Grail of pianos and am not a piano snob; I just want a baby grand that is technically sound, gives me pleasure, and produces a sound we like. I don't play every day but usually sit down for a half hour or more. Some days I get on a roll for a few hours. If this piano comes back with a good report and the technician thinks it would be suitable for my needs and still has good life in it, I will give serious consideration to it. If, however, it's determined to be in need of major work, I'll pass it by and just keep looking. When the seller passes the report on to me, I'll share it here.

Thanks again.


Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2587297 11/14/16 11:00 PM
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Molly,

I saw a 1931 Howard on Chicago CL. This one is 4'9" or 57" long. my experience is that pianos that small will not produce a satisfactory sound even if in good shape. They are just too small - no other way to say it.

You may want to save up some money and look for a decent used grand in the 5'8" range. these are my favorites: Baldwin R, Mason & Hamlin A, and some of the recent Yamaha or Kawai grands.


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Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2587691 11/16/16 09:43 AM
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Rick, you always make me laugh and you underestimate yourself as far as your playing and your advice. Molly, a lot of great advice here. Best wishes.


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Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2587704 11/16/16 10:47 AM
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I'm sorry I didn't post sooner but I had computer problems.

Well, I tried out the piano . . . and was a little disappointed to say the least. Despite my initial gut feeling that I thought it would be great! The piano was in a corner and the room was carpeted, so I'm taking that into consideration, but the 'wow' factor just wasn't there when I played. I don't think taking it out of the corner or removing the carpet would have improved it that much. But it's like my husband said, he would have expected it to have a larger, grander sound than my upright, but it didn't. It was just 'eh,' and blah, didn't have that 'ring' I expected to hear. The action also seemed harder and I wondered if my hands wouldn't be tired after a while from playing. It was more of an effort to play. Several of the ivory keys were chipped and the lid had a scratch through the finish to bare wood that I really wasn't keen on. I know you need to expect such damages, but once I saw the piano in person, I was disappointed in its condition. I spoke with their tuner and he suggested that the action might need to be regulated. He said that could be $400-$500. But how could I be guaranteed that the action would be softer/smoother and that it would deliver the expansive sound I expected? Delivery and tuning would be another $400. I could have $2500 invested in that piano and still not be happy with it. Even if it was free, I still think I would pass it up. Now that I've tried it out, I have a better feel for what to expect.

You've all given me a lot of good, valuable advice and I appreciate it tremendously. I don't want to waste money on a piano that would only give me another five or ten years' worth of unsatisfactory playing. I will continue my search and realize the budget will need to be increased for a better piano. And I will definitely keep in mind the brands and age you have suggested!

Many thanks for helping me to not make an expensive mistake!





Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2587721 11/16/16 11:37 AM
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Molly, sorry that this one did not work out. Take heart, there are many good pianoS out there and you will find one that you will love. This we can assure you.

I am not surprised you found the sound on that piano small. These very small grands rarely sound "grand".

Could you give us some general idea of where you are located? Knowing this really helps when giving advice.


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Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2587773 11/16/16 02:06 PM
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With 70+ year old strings and dampers it's not going to sound super either. Next! smile

Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2587837 11/16/16 05:28 PM
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Duke of Dunning, I'm in the middle of nowhere in the Bluegrass State. lol I didn't realize that small grands rarely sound grand. There's so much to know! I've been reading Larry Fine's book and perusing the Internet. Now that I've found this board, I'm researching here, too.

How are Chickering, Knabe, and Wurlitzer, just for future information? That is, if it's less than 10 years old and at least 5'6" and in shape inside and out? Baldwin, Kawai, and Yamaha--they are so nice. Unfortunately, I don't have $3K or $4K right now to spend on something so nice--if I could even touch a good one for that price. I'm sure something will come along as you've all said. I just might have to sift through a lot of ore to find that diamond! smile I hate to keep bugging you for advice, but really do appreciate the experience and knowledge you share.

Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2587845 11/16/16 05:50 PM
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There's no such thing as a newer Chickering or Wurlitzer, but the Knabe name is still in use.

This forum is wider reaching than you may suspect- where in Kentucky are 'ya?


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Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2587862 11/16/16 06:26 PM
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Okay . . . I didn't realize that about the Chickering and Wurlitzer. Well, I'll keep looking.

terminaldegree, we're in central KY.

Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2587907 11/16/16 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by MollyMcF
Duke of Dunning, I'm in the middle of nowhere in the Bluegrass State.


Hi Molly,

Speaking of the "Bluegrass State", my two sons and I were invited to play some bluegrass music for a United Way fund raiser Chili-Cook-Off event at the community technical college where I work.

Here is a recording of my oldest son, Mark, and myself rehearsing a bit a week before the event. I had not picked up my 5-string banjo since we performed for the same event last year... we both were a little rusty (okay, a lot rusty grin ), but here is our rendition of "Dueling Banjos". smile

You can tell by the laughter at the end that we had a lot of fun "picking and grinning". smile

Rickster and son playing Dueling Banjos...

Nothing wrong with living in the Bluegrass State!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2588025 11/17/16 12:13 PM
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Molly, absent some extremely good luck, it will be hard to find a small grand in decent condition for less than $5k. I'm not saying it is impossible, but hard.

As to your question about Chickering and Knabe, some of their grands made during the 1950s and early 1960s, along with those made by Mason & Hamlin, can be very decent pianos. All three brands were owned by American- Aeolian and built in East Rochester NY. Of corse, all the standard cautions applicable to older pianos apply. My late mom's piano, the one I learned on, is a 1951 Chickering console which was frankly, neglected. I had a tech inspect it recently, expecting a dismal report. To my surprise, hisoponion was that it was in remarkable shape for its age, despite it needing some work (hammer filing, regulation, pitch raise and cleaning)

You might want to reach out to some of the piano techs in your area . Often, they know of pianos for sale that are not being advertised. That is how I acquired my Baldwin


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Re: Baldwin Howard Baby Grand Piano [Re: MollyMcF] #2588091 11/17/16 04:18 PM
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There is a Knabe grand posted on Louisville CL. Based on the SN this one is from 1978 or 78 this was toward the end of the Aeolian period and build quality had declined by then rather sharply.

That said, this may be worth checking out. If it were me, I would contact the seller and get some details such as the length, when last tuned/serviced and by whom. If you are getting a gppd vibe, I would take a ride to see it.


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