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Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? #2847513
05/12/19 11:03 AM
05/12/19 11:03 AM
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willpianist Offline OP
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Just a thought. Not sure if anyone discussed this before. I read somewhere one of the reasons why high end pianos are better than mass produced ones is due to the extensive factory preparation. The quality of materials also play a part.

Has any one though of upgrading a decent "core" piano (say Kawai GX series grand) with the best possible strings and hammer, and hire the best concert technician to do days of extensive fine voicing and regulations. Would that improve the piano by 30% and turns it almost to a Shegiru Kawai?

An example/analogy will be car enthusiast adding performance parts to their cars and doing engine tunings.

Or the above is actually not worth while because the quality of soundboard and scale design that the core piano started with are not good enough so that this is just not worth while ?

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Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847518
05/12/19 11:23 AM
05/12/19 11:23 AM
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joe80 Offline
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Hi Will,

I can't answer your question that extensively but I do have an opinion on it, with a little bit of knowledge on the subject. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing as they say....

Let's stick with the example of a Kawai GX3, which is already a very good piano, priced at around £25,000. It might be more or less than that these days but last I heard it was about that price.

Ok so you want to re-string the piano with the best quality strings? Well a GX3 probably has very good strings on it, and i'm not sure how much upgrading can be done but let's just say you want the finest hand spun bass strings on it, and you decide to re-string the whole piano. Well, that's already going to cost you about £4000 in a private workshop. So, you've now paid £29,000 for the piano.

Now you want to add a new set of hammers? Well, you'll need to do some research but it depends what kind of tone you want. There doesn't seem to be all that much of a price difference between the different hammer makers, but let's assume you want a set of Renner or Abel hammers, and you want them voiced to perfection. That's going to start setting you back another £2000 for the full job.

Ok you want to spend a few days having the piano regulated and brought to your idea of perfection? Well, probably you're going to need another £2000 at least for that job. Maybe as much as £4000. Let's say worst case scenario you need to spend £4000. So you've added £10,000 to the price of the piano which now costs £35,000.... which takes you to roughly the price of the Shigeru SK3. The Shigeru has other upgrades as well, like the soundboard as you say.

Would the sound of the upgraded GX3 be significantly better than if you hadn't done all that? Well the chances are that you could achieve similar results by not replacing all these parts and just going straight for the technician..... Or buy from a shop where a level of preparation is included in the price and don't expect a big discount on the RRP in that case.

In theory everything you want to be done can be done if the design and build quality of the piano are good to start with, which in Yamaha and Kawai's case, they are. The costs are prohibitive.

Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847547
05/12/19 01:04 PM
05/12/19 01:04 PM
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To use the OP’s analogy of cars, it’s far more expedient to get the performance options on new car already factory installed than buy a base car and then outfit the performance parts later yourself. Most of the hotrodding is done to cars no longer in production. I don’t know positively but it would seem to be easier just to buy a new Shigeru instead of retrofitting the GX later.


J & J
Yamaha C3 PE
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Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847551
05/12/19 01:20 PM
05/12/19 01:20 PM
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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I upgrade pianos all the time, including Steinway, Mason& Hamlin, Baldwin, Chickering and Knabe's.

I use the same technology on "lesser" brands that have the proper "bones".

There are new technologies available now that no piano manufacturer uses. Hybrid Wire Scales. LightHammer Tone Regulation. My own Patented Fully Tempered Duplex scale. Teflon heat-shrink tubing on key-pins. Shaping V-bars to true V-shape, (except some newer Kawai's now shape them like I have been doing since the 1970's). Shaping the string holes in agraffes to a V-shape. And excepting new Mason&Hamlin and Phoenix pianos, carbon fiber hammer shanks.

These things do cost money, so the economics only make sense if you already own a good prospect piano, or you get one for next to nothing and you want a much better piano.

This technology and techniques also produce very long lived pianos. The actions and strings will endure much longer and hold tone better than any new piano now made.

I have found some Samick pianos amenable to these improvements. Many come from the factory with significant problems with action pinning and astoundingly bad fitting of the action to the strings. (Way too low in relation of action to strings).

The cost is significant, but is often cheaper than buying a different piano. But there are very few techncians who are skilled in all these areas. If the demand grew, I believe the number of Techncians who offered these services would as well.


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: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847561
05/12/19 02:13 PM
05/12/19 02:13 PM
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You can spend a lot of money modifying a piano, but it will not help if you have PEBKAC. smile


Semipro Tech
Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847582
05/12/19 04:05 PM
05/12/19 04:05 PM
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Georgia, USA
Rickster Offline
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Originally Posted by BDB
You can spend a lot of money modifying a piano, but it will not help if you have PEBKAC. smile

BDB, please enlighten us... I haven't a clue what PEBKAC means. smile

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: Rickster] #2847585
05/12/19 04:07 PM
05/12/19 04:07 PM
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Victoria, BC
BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted by Rickster
Originally Posted by BDB
You can spend a lot of money modifying a piano, but it will not help if you have PEBKAC. smile

BDB, please enlighten us... I haven't a clue what PEBKAC means. smile

Rick


... an acronym for "problem exists between keyboard and chair" ?

In other words, if the player him/herself is mediocre, then the results will be mediocre, I suppose.

Regards,

Last edited by BruceD; 05/12/19 04:09 PM.

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Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847588
05/12/19 04:32 PM
05/12/19 04:32 PM
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Georgia, USA
Rickster Offline
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Originally Posted by BruceD
... an acronym for "problem exists between keyboard and chair" ?

In other words, if the player him/herself is mediocre, then the results will be mediocre, I suppose.

Regards,

Thanks, Bruce!

Yep, that's my problem alright... Don't think I'm a candidate for high-performance piano parts. (But I did love the high-performance muscle cars back in the day. smile )

On the other hand, sometimes mediocre still ain't bad, if it makes you smile. smile

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: Rickster] #2847590
05/12/19 05:05 PM
05/12/19 05:05 PM
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Oakland
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BDB Offline
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I can attest that a great piano does not make a great pianist. The amount of improvement that one can make with a better piano is a tiny fraction of that which can be made from becoming a better pianist and musician. Even then, not everyone is born with the ability to be a pianist good enough for a better piano to make much of a difference.

For the average pianist, keeping the piano in good shape according to its manufacturer's specifications makes more of a difference than modifying or changing parts of the piano. Sadly, many technicians cannot even do that well.


Semipro Tech
Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: BDB] #2847604
05/12/19 06:06 PM
05/12/19 06:06 PM
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Posts: 25,345
New York City
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Originally Posted by BDB
I can attest that a great piano does not make a great pianist. The amount of improvement that one can make with a better piano is a tiny fraction of that which can be made from becoming a better pianist and musician.
Which is why I can't understand why some online piano dealers that sell expensive pianos have videos of them being played by mediocre or worse pianists. It's a big turnoff for me, and I find it hard to evaluate a piano's tone when the performance stinks. I also find it hard to take the dealer seriously.

Some dealers have performances by excellent pianists:
https://www.lindebladpiano.com/pianos/1925-steinway-m-237995

Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT] #2847625
05/12/19 08:48 PM
05/12/19 08:48 PM
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Posts: 1,150
Southwest
j&j Offline
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Thank you Ed McMorrow. Good to know. Since I also suffer from PEBKAC, doing your magic on my Yamaha is fixing the wrong end of the problem. 😂 But it is something to think about!


J & J
Yamaha C3 PE
Casio Privia PX-330
Pianos - the reason God made trees!
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Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: j&j] #2847633
05/12/19 10:04 PM
05/12/19 10:04 PM
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 5,201
Seattle, WA USA
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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j&j, Your are welcome. Yamaha's are not my favorite candidate pianos. The plates are made from too hard metal that damages the tone and the strings. Not much a rebuilder can do about that except go even further into the piano and install upside down agraffes in the capo section. Doable but even more costly than.


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: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847634
05/12/19 10:14 PM
05/12/19 10:14 PM
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Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
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BDB, I am a medioce pianist. I do not have the skills to perform recitals. When I attempt bravura passages, I must have an action that plays with tremendous facility and dynamic control or I fail miserably in communicating what I want to say, and cannot play the very difficult passages at all. My musical conception of the pieces play is also very demanding as regards tone color and dynamics.

This pianistic weakness makes me a far better piano technician because if the piano will work well enough for me to play a reasonable facsimile of my musical intent; then skilled pianists will find the piano exceptional.

The way to improve the business of making/servicing pianos is to get more musicians to fall in love with them and to be able to assure them that the instrument will endure significant use without suffering. The piano factories of today are missing the boat by a mile as regards tone-regulation of their products and long term wear.


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: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847640
05/13/19 12:24 AM
05/13/19 12:24 AM
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Queensland, Australia
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There is no reason why a "mediocre" pianist shouldn't have a performance piano to enjoy.

My playing at age 65 is far more mediocre than when I was 20 or 25, and I'm picky with what I play now due to arthritis in hands, bursitis in shoulders etc and avoiding pain.

But - I love my piano, play it daily.

I was taken to task by a technician about 8 or 9 years ago when I told him that I was considering upgrading to a Steinway (Hamburg). I suspect he realised he'd lose a customer, but he openly stated that getting a Steinway would be wasted on my level of playing. I immediately changed technicians.


Alan from Queensland, Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert & Allen Organ (CF-17a)).
Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847642
05/13/19 12:38 AM
05/13/19 12:38 AM
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I don’t subscribe to the ides that a pianist needs to qualify for the piano h/she buys. Will my piano make me a concert pianist? No. But I know I sound better on it than on most pianos and , more importantly, it motivates me to practice so I can hear and touch it. That is worth a lot! I, too, would not use a tech that implied I am not good enough. There is not, and should not be, a qualifying exam.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847647
05/13/19 01:07 AM
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Everyone has to qualify for the piano they buy. They have to have enough money to buy it. If they do, that qualifies them.

What I do not believe in is that everyone has to settle for a piano that may just be in tune, often barely, but no better, without paying an arm and a leg to try to make it perfect. There are lots of things that a good technician can do without tearing the piano apart and making all sorts of modifications. I will do a number of things that will make even the cheapest piano play or sound better beyond tuning when I tune for free or very little money. But I will not recommend putting a lot of money into a cheap or medium-priced piano if that is not going to make enough difference to justify it. I give appropriate advice, not idealistic advice.

Besides, modifications may not work. I once had to spend a long amount of a short time frame changing back the action that someone had modified. The pianist, one of the finest in the world technically, arguably the best on the manufacturer's artist list, did not like the modification, so I had to put it back as best I could. Whoever did that to the piano undoubtedly thought that they were improving the action. But the pianist did not, nor did I, for that matter. So whenever someone tells you that they can make piano better, you need to listen with healthy skepticism. People do not always agree on what it means for a piano to be better.


Semipro Tech
Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847649
05/13/19 01:28 AM
05/13/19 01:28 AM
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Thanks BDB
Now it makes sense!


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It’s ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847653
05/13/19 03:36 AM
05/13/19 03:36 AM
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Like BDB, I find most of these improvements do more damage than good and that the piano be properly serviced on a regular schedule by a skilled technician is the best idea. Most pianists and techs do not do even that.

Each piano is engineered with certain parts in mind and require different approaches.

That one upgrade with specific parts and techniques is equally applicable applies to all pianos does not always work.

Putting 19" wheels on a 1967 Mini would be the car equivalent.

Biggest example is changing hammers. Many techs have their favourite hammer and use it, regardless of the suitability for the piano at hand.

Specific examples are rock hard German hammers on vintage American pianos. or using modern action geometry on a frame that does not accommodate it are frequently encountered upgrades that make the piano sound horrible and unable to play pianissimo or perform simple glissando.


Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847668
05/13/19 06:23 AM
05/13/19 06:23 AM
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The answer is probably buy your Kawai, or whatever, and then as parts need to be replaced over time, replace them with better. That way the extra cost is very marginal.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Piano upgrade with "performance parts"? [Re: willpianist] #2847694
05/13/19 08:52 AM
05/13/19 08:52 AM
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Will,

So you can see that there is no simple answer to your proposition.

To me it only makes sense if one is acquiring the piano at a "steal" price. I am more inclined toward an instrument that has good bones but has been used a lot and now NEEDS all this stuff. Now it can be put into "better than new" in the hands of the right person.

My .02

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
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pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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