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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Lady Bird #2912094 11/14/19 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Lady Bird
What ever the answer, a person who is inspired by a beautiful tone and a sensitive response is more likely to practice better !


Decidedly!


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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912103 11/14/19 08:10 PM
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Whiggs,

Better pianos offer greater musicality (dynamic range, tonal change, flatness of sustain) and better mechanisms with which to control them. These better designs require both better materials and better craftsmanship to be well executed. These determine relative costs. With better materials and craftsmanship, greater longevity is one result.

The rest of the conversation about cost becomes about global branding, global manufacturing, and how different companies deal with differences. Until you reduce the variables, its hard to stay on point.

Value retention or resale value has many factors, but pianos that have better-than-average resale have certain things in common. First is wider appeal. A standard model in basic black has more potential buyers than an art case or wood finish. When new, the first owner paid a premium for the enhancement and it cost more. Once used, many extras bring a smaller premium, and some actually reduce the broad appeal. This is true not only for the cabinet, but if a brand offers different quality levels, not just sizes, then the quality level most associated with the brand will offer better resale. If a consumer-level brand creates a premium or luxury line, those pianos will bring more 2nd hand, but at a much smaller percentage of the original cost. Additionally, if a premium or luxury brand offers a broader consumer-level product, even with the positive brand association, that line will not offer the same level of resale percentage.

There are also a few floors in the piano market for instruments of mass appeal. That can have a strange affect on resale of entry level pianos when industry inflation is as high as it is. At some point, any cheap but working, tuneable, black baby grand with any recognizable brand name on it rarely falls below $4k unless it is quite old or has a real condition issue. But the same piano in a no-longer-trendy wood finish has a lower floor.


Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Hailun
Pre-Owned: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway & other fine pianos
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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912198 11/15/19 02:47 AM
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Looking at the brochures for the upright pianos from different vendors, it isn’t quite evident to me what improvements do you get when you buy a more expensive acoustic piano.


This has been one of the most difficult questions to answer, especially in recent times. For one, there's a difference in "more expensive across the board" as opposed to "more expensive" in same store. It's totally possible to buy a less expensive piano that's as good or even better than one of another retailer. It's a known fact that several brands don't allow their dealers to take on directly competing brands, ESPECIALLY if they should be cheaper. This is true for high end pianos as well as those on the lower strata. Besides, retailers have also often very different costs finding themselves in different local scenarios: just consider one with very little competition in same location/town as opposed to one with tons of other businesses in same area/city. Some retailers also require to make much higher profits than others and all of this quickly adds up to a very uneven playing field. Besides, certain customers, especially those who don't play themselves, believe "the higher the price - the better the product" something which is no longer true in each single case. But often are taken advantage of by those who are able to convince their customers of this. For this reason, I have always found it very important to test a piano oneself as much a possible. Check the specs of the diverse instruments INDEPENDENTLY, read Piano Buyer and of course this site. In my world of thinking it doesn't make any sense to select a piano that doesn't sound as good as another, perhaps "cheaper one" This can and is increasingly happening in today's market and that's the reason I have always said:
"Play, study, read & select carefully" "One can do [much] better than is often thought""

Norbert

Last edited by Norbert; 11/15/19 02:54 AM.

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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912319 11/15/19 09:05 AM
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For the most part Yamaha and Kawai uprights and grands especially the Yamaha U and YUS series and Kawai K series are built for institutional use and are built like tanks.
The same for their popular series of grands. With regular maintenance of tuning, voicing, and regulation either brand will last a very long time. Plus, the names are instantly recognizable so it makes resale easier. I’m sure LadyBird could write paragraphs and more paragraphs of why she and her husband fell in love with the Sauter. It’s sound and action stood out above the other uprights they had seen. I too could write paragraphs about my sudden decision to trade my beloved C3 for the Estonia. I made my decision because even more than my C3, practicing on the Estonia is very pleasurable. I look forward to practice. It’s the highlight of my day. Joyful playing. Listening and feeling the incredible response of the whole piano. When I first played the Schimmel Konzerts and especially the very first Bösendorfer grand I tried I really did “get it”. Whatever you try if you love the sound, love the feel, that’s the right piano to bring home, assuming you don’t have to sell your first born or remortgage the house and car. Just kidding there.

There’s been quite a bit of improvement seen, heard, and felt with lesser known brands besides Yamaha and Kawai in the last decade or two. The competitive field has dramatically changed as Norbert reminds us. You just have to try as many pianos as possible and take great notes on each model and brand to find the piano you love.


J & J
Estonia L190 Hidden Beauty
Casio Privia PX-330
I don’t play well but I play far better than I sing.
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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912333 11/15/19 10:03 AM
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> Specifically, are more expensive instruments better in terms of longevity, and cadence/type of maintenance?

Sort of. Even on the low end, most new pianos being sold today are not expected to suffer from serious longevity problems (this wasn't always the case, read PianoBuyer for more info on the history -- I've certainly encountered pianos from a few decades ago that are literally falling apart). If anything the cheapest ones will last longer than you want them to -- the problem is they start out with little musical value and then get worse over the years frown . You could pay a technician to improve it with better hammers, more careful regulation, etc.. but at that point you probably should have just bought a better piano, or perhaps started with a used one that had more potential.

In terms of cadence/type of maintenence... I would say the more expensive pianos _tend_ to start out in a better state, because they received more attention at the factory and/or dealer. The very best pianos (and this is true of multiple brands, don't let anybody tell you they're the ONLY ones who do it) go through multiple cycles of being tuned, regulated, voiced, and then having their keys pounded on by a machine. Ideally you want this to be done until the piano is more or less the same before & after the pounder, and it takes a few cycles for that to happen. Of course this process done to its ideal level takes a lot of time and expert labor -- it's one of the main things that drives piano prices into the $50,000+ range! So most of us have to settle for an instrument where the prep work at the factory was at some level of "good enough". Materials come into play as well of course -- cheaper pianos are going to substitute in cheaper wood, they won't age it as long (once again that costs money), and other cost cutting measures may mean that tuning, regulation, and voicing aren't as stable.

Regardless, all pianos have to be tuned regularly (roughly once a year or more frequently depending on climate and use) to sound good. The problem is, if the strings and wood parts weren't well stabilized as explained above, the piano will go back out of tune much more quickly. So either you have to get it tuned very frequently until it starts to cooperate (costing you $$$$), or put up with a piano that spends most of its life a bit out of tune.

It's a similar situation with regulation. Cheap pianos won't have been regulated that well at the factory, and since they probably weren't been pounded in much either the felt parts in the action are going to compress a lot at first as you play it. To some extent you can just put up with it for a while and then have the piano regulated, but it costs more to regulate a piano that's WAY out, plus changing the regulation in some cases puts the parts in contact with fresh felt that's gonna compress yet again. Yay. Of course the quality and design of the action parts will limit just how great the touch on a piano can be as well -- so in that sense a better action is worth paying money for.

Voicing kinda needs to go through a similar cycle of refinement, but the quality of hammers, scaling, and soundboard, as well as the state of regulation and tuning stability, all play a big role in how good the piano can ultimately sound.


All that being said, most _moderately_ priced pianos do quite well in this regard. They didn't necessarily get world-class prep at the factory, but they got enough of it, and will be very stable if serviced appropriately -- in some cases it's because high tech manufacturing processes can actually get you a lot closer to a good end result with less final prep. So the good news is you don't have to mortgage your house to get a decent instrument. It's just that the very cheapest ones tend to skimp the most in this regard. The thing that makes it confusing, IMO, is that manufacturers know people are usually more interested in "features" than they are in the somewhat pedestrian process I described above. Some of them are indeed nice things to have (better hammers, keytops, a properly designed action...) and some are complete B.S. ("GERMAN ENGINEERING!" is probably my favorite), but in the long run they matter less in terms fo the instrument's performance than attention to detail.


TL;DR: more expensive pianos don't really require less maintenance; it's just that a reasonable level of maintenance will have more satisfying results.


Nathan Monteleone
Piano Technician / Amateur Rebuilder
PTG Registered Piano Technician

My pianos (in various states of rebuild):
- 1900 Mason and Hamlin AA
- 1911 J&C Fischer 6'2" grand
- 1935 Story and Clark vertical
Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Nathan M., RPT #2912360 11/15/19 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Nathan M., RPT
> Specifically, are more expensive instruments better in terms of longevity, and cadence/type of maintenance?

Sort of. Even on the low end, most new pianos being sold today are not expected to suffer from serious longevity problems (this wasn't always the case, read PianoBuyer for more info on the history -- I've certainly encountered pianos from a few decades ago that are literally falling apart). If anything the cheapest ones will last longer than you want them to -- the problem is they start out with little musical value and then get worse over the years frown . You could pay a technician to improve it with better hammers, more careful regulation, etc.. but at that point you probably should have just bought a better piano, or perhaps started with a used one that had more potential.

In terms of cadence/type of maintenence... I would say the more expensive pianos _tend_ to start out in a better state, because they received more attention at the factory and/or dealer. The very best pianos (and this is true of multiple brands, don't let anybody tell you they're the ONLY ones who do it) go through multiple cycles of being tuned, regulated, voiced, and then having their keys pounded on by a machine. Ideally you want this to be done until the piano is more or less the same before & after the pounder, and it takes a few cycles for that to happen. Of course this process done to its ideal level takes a lot of time and expert labor -- it's one of the main things that drives piano prices into the $50,000+ range! So most of us have to settle for an instrument where the prep work at the factory was at some level of "good enough". Materials come into play as well of course -- cheaper pianos are going to substitute in cheaper wood, they won't age it as long (once again that costs money), and other cost cutting measures may mean that tuning, regulation, and voicing aren't as stable.

Regardless, all pianos have to be tuned regularly (roughly once a year or more frequently depending on climate and use) to sound good. The problem is, if the strings and wood parts weren't well stabilized as explained above, the piano will go back out of tune much more quickly. So either you have to get it tuned very frequently until it starts to cooperate (costing you $$$$), or put up with a piano that spends most of its life a bit out of tune.

It's a similar situation with regulation. Cheap pianos won't have been regulated that well at the factory, and since they probably weren't been pounded in much either the felt parts in the action are going to compress a lot at first as you play it. To some extent you can just put up with it for a while and then have the piano regulated, but it costs more to regulate a piano that's WAY out, plus changing the regulation in some cases puts the parts in contact with fresh felt that's gonna compress yet again. Yay. Of course the quality and design of the action parts will limit just how great the touch on a piano can be as well -- so in that sense a better action is worth paying money for.

Voicing kinda needs to go through a similar cycle of refinement, but the quality of hammers, scaling, and soundboard, as well as the state of regulation and tuning stability, all play a big role in how good the piano can ultimately sound.


All that being said, most _moderately_ priced pianos do quite well in this regard. They didn't necessarily get world-class prep at the factory, but they got enough of it, and will be very stable if serviced appropriately -- in some cases it's because high tech manufacturing processes can actually get you a lot closer to a good end result with less final prep. So the good news is you don't have to mortgage your house to get a decent instrument. It's just that the very cheapest ones tend to skimp the most in this regard. The thing that makes it confusing, IMO, is that manufacturers know people are usually more interested in "features" than they are in the somewhat pedestrian process I described above. Some of them are indeed nice things to have (better hammers, keytops, a properly designed action...) and some are complete B.S. ("GERMAN ENGINEERING!" is probably my favorite), but in the long run they matter less in terms fo the instrument's performance than attention to detail.


TL;DR: more expensive pianos don't really require less maintenance; it's just that a reasonable level of maintenance will have more satisfying results.

thumb Bingo +1


J & J
Estonia L190 Hidden Beauty
Casio Privia PX-330
I don’t play well but I play far better than I sing.
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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912420 11/15/19 01:07 PM
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What a great post, Nathan Monteleone! Thanks for taking the time to sum that up really nicely.


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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912521 11/15/19 05:37 PM
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If not "German Engineering" then "German Piano making" is greatly to be admired
and to be considered if thinking about spending more !
My apologies to the great Bösendorfer which is Austrian and the great NY Steinways !

Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912533 11/15/19 06:09 PM
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Here's what I've gleaned anecdotally from techs I've discussed this with in my area:

-Expensive pianos aren't always better designed.
-Case in point: Steinway, more difficult to work on, some screws hard to access so easy to strip, surprising poor workmanship/design in the stringing
-Not impressed with Bosendorfer or Fazioli from workmanship standpoint given the price
-Stock strings from even top brands tend to be one-size-fits-all and not optimized for the piano
-Steinway hammers suck

Moral of the story: a well built piano like a run-of-the-mill Yamaha, restrung with hybrid strings, good hammers, and proper action balancing will likely play and sound better than most new high end pianos.

Sounds controversial to me, but part of me hopes it's true, since I will never own a high end piano. The idea of being able to soup up an old Honda to beat a Ferrari at the race track has always appealed to me. What do you guys think?


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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Emery Wang #2912535 11/15/19 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
Sounds controversial to me, but part of me hopes it's true, since I will never own a high end piano. The idea of being able to soup up an old Honda to beat a Ferrari at the race track has always appealed to me. What do you guys think?

Could be a case of "Ford vs. Ferrari" smile



Don't see why it's not possible. IMO, a piano is only as good as the parts that make it up and then how it is assembled, regulated, and tuned.


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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912536 11/15/19 06:14 PM
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Hah. Yes, I thought I should have used Ford as the example right after I posted it.


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First crush: Kawai GL10
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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912559 11/15/19 07:20 PM
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As I said my profound apologies and my sympathies to the .........

..

Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Emery Wang #2912563 11/15/19 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
Here's what I've gleaned anecdotally from techs I've discussed this with in my area:

-Expensive pianos aren't always better designed.
-Case in point: Steinway, more difficult to work on, some screws hard to access so easy to strip, surprising poor workmanship/design in the stringing
-Not impressed with Bosendorfer or Fazioli from workmanship standpoint given the price
-Stock strings from even top brands tend to be one-size-fits-all and not optimized for the piano
-Steinway hammers suck

Moral of the story: a well built piano like a run-of-the-mill Yamaha, restrung with hybrid strings, good hammers, and proper action balancing will likely play and sound better than most new high end pianos.

Sounds controversial to me, but part of me hopes it's true, since I will never own a high end piano. The idea of being able to soup up an old Honda to beat a Ferrari at the race track has always appealed to me. What do you guys think?
Such extreme negative comments about some of the most revered and respected pianos sounds very exaggerated to me, especially comments like "Steinway hammers suck". After seeing some videos about Fazioli and Boesendorfer production I find it close to impossible to believe their workmanship is less than fantastic.

Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912566 11/15/19 07:37 PM
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That may have been some hyperbole on my part about the Steinway hammers. The gist is that the expensive brands are not all they're cracked up to be, and a good rebuilder can take a modest piano and make it better than most expensive pianos from a factory. My impression was that a lot of the premium paid for the very expensive pianos was for the brand/mystique, not necessarily objective superior performance.


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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912589 11/15/19 08:16 PM
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There are a great deal of rebuilders who talk .......Emery! I like your Kawai !
As you know I am a fan. I think Nathan is not saying all performance grade pianos are not worth the price. The concept of " Great German Engineering " is a little old school ,old boys club , " It may also
threaten certain " piano rebuilders " of American pianos "
This is more of a feeling than a theory.
The other day I watched a piano dealer presenting a youtube video of rebuilt Steinways.Beautiful pianos with beautiful cabinets.He often presents rebuilt restored Steinways and European pianos .
These rebuilt Steinways were "dead " when he played the bass.STONE DEAD !
I would rather you buy a bigger Kawai or Yamaha grand than go that route.
Best wishes with your Ford ! Kawai 's are wonderful pianos! ,I know I had one for most of my life !
Manufacturer's know what they are doing ! This is becoming a theory !




.

Last edited by Lady Bird; 11/15/19 08:24 PM. Reason: Spelling
Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Emery Wang #2912611 11/15/19 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
The gist is that the expensive brands are not all they're cracked up to be, and a good rebuilder can take a modest piano and make it better than most expensive pianos from a factory. My impression was that a lot of the premium paid for the very expensive pianos was for the brand/mystique, not necessarily objective superior performance.


And where did you acquire this wisdom?

If this were to be true wouldn't top ranked piano brands be out of business?


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

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Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Learux #2912621 11/15/19 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Learux
Originally Posted by Emery Wang
The gist is that the expensive brands are not all they're cracked up to be, and a good rebuilder can take a modest piano and make it better than most expensive pianos from a factory. My impression was that a lot of the premium paid for the very expensive pianos was for the brand/mystique, not necessarily objective superior performance.


And where did you acquire this wisdom?

If this were to be true wouldn't top ranked piano brands be out of business?



OK but Emery's piano was cited as an example of a medium priced good brand to contrast with
your brand (Schimmel )as a more expensive brand., so why not a bit of hyperbole on his part ?

Last edited by Lady Bird; 11/15/19 10:50 PM. Reason: Missing word
Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Emery Wang #2912627 11/15/19 11:49 PM
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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
What a great post, Nathan Monteleone! Thanks for taking the time to sum that up really nicely.


Thanks for the kind words smile

Originally Posted by Lady Bird
If not "German Engineering" then "German Piano making" is greatly to be admired
and to be considered if thinking about spending more !
My apologies to the great Bösendorfer which is Austrian and the great NY Steinways !


I agree. I don't have extensive experience with German-made pianos, but I've certainly played some amazing ones. Steingraeber & Söhne and Grotrian were particular favorites.

I scoffed at the "German Engineering" claim because it's used to deceive people into thinking they're getting a comparable product at a bargain price! Just because the design (or some part of it) comes from Germany doesn't mean it will be any good if it's built from cheap parts by the lowest bidder. The devil's often in the details smile

Originally Posted by Emery Wang
Here's what I've gleaned anecdotally from techs I've discussed this with in my area:

-Expensive pianos aren't always better designed.
-Case in point: Steinway, more difficult to work on, some screws hard to access so easy to strip, surprising poor workmanship/design in the stringing
-Not impressed with Bosendorfer or Fazioli from workmanship standpoint given the price
-Stock strings from even top brands tend to be one-size-fits-all and not optimized for the piano
-Steinway hammers suck

Moral of the story: a well built piano like a run-of-the-mill Yamaha, restrung with hybrid strings, good hammers, and proper action balancing will likely play and sound better than most new high end pianos.

Sounds controversial to me, but part of me hopes it's true, since I will never own a high end piano. The idea of being able to soup up an old Honda to beat a Ferrari at the race track has always appealed to me. What do you guys think?


There's some truth to this, but also some limitations. And also some things I don't know enough to comment on :P

- A good rebuilder can definitely give you more musical value for the money, compared to buying an instrument new from a dealer.

- Steinway has a constantly running FUD campaign ("Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt") directed at rebuilt pianos. The stuff about genuine Steinway parts, and if you don't use them it's a "Steinwas"? That's what I'm talking about. It's baloney.

- On the other hand, not all rebuilders are created equal. I've certainly heard talk of some famous ones that have a reputation among techs for selling flashy casework and new but poorly fitting action parts as "fully restored" and charging way more money than they should for it. I'm not going to name names until I catch firsthand proof of it -- but if you talk to enough techs you probably already know what I mean.

- A lot of technicians have complaints about the quality and consistency of Steinway hammers for sure. Consensus is that they've gotten better in recent years, but even then you can probably replace them with something better. The caveat being that the rebuilder needs to know what (s)he's doing in terms of choosing appropriate hammer weights for the action and scale design.

- Hybrid stringing basically allows you to get a more even transition between the wrapped bichords and plain strings. I'm oversimplifying a bit, but that's where it has the most musical value. How much that matters to you depends on how much said unevenness bothered you in hte first place -- for ex. someone pointed out to me on a certain model of Bosendorfer (sorry not coming to me at the moment) that there's a big difference in power between the last plain string and the first wound bichord. Playing the notes back to back it's quite obvious, but when I just played music on it I really didn't care and the piano sounded quite nice. YMMV.

- All that rebuilding work still costs money! Pulling on the car analogy, if you really want to get an old Ford competing with a Ferrari you're gonna spend a lot on high performance parts and the labor to install them.

Bah, out of battery. Will try to follow up more tomorrow...


Nathan Monteleone
Piano Technician / Amateur Rebuilder
PTG Registered Piano Technician

My pianos (in various states of rebuild):
- 1900 Mason and Hamlin AA
- 1911 J&C Fischer 6'2" grand
- 1935 Story and Clark vertical
Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
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Thanks Nathan. You're right the rebuilding is not cheap. One price I got was about $4k to hang new strings & hammers, and $4k to balance keys. A new WNG action stack is about $2,300. Unrestored 6 foot pianos from the 70s and 80s can be had from a local dealer for about $4,500. Assuming soundboard and pinblock are in good shape, seems like about $12k - $15k might get you a top performing 6 foot grand piano, ostensibly comparable to one costing 4-5x as much. Do some of the work yourself and cost may be even less. It's an attractive proposition I'd like to explore one day, and luckily I have that free Kurtzmann upright to practice on. Depending on how that turns out, I'd love to find that Ford and try turning it into a Ferrari.

Last edited by Emery Wang; 11/16/19 01:07 AM.

Daily driver: Kawai MP11SE
First crush: Kawai GL10
Current fling: Petrof III
Foster child: 1927 Kurtzmann upright
Re: Pianos - what do you get when you pay more?
Whiggs #2912646 11/16/19 02:39 AM
Joined: May 2018
Posts: 1,156
L
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Joined: May 2018
Posts: 1,156
I will go straight against all this and say that most expensive brands are a bad deal when they are brand new and the best value after 15-20 years.

Just the same as a 2-3 year old Lexus is the best value for money.(Cheap and best value are mutually exclusive)

I do not believe that a good rebuilder can make a mediocre piano great without spending close to what a best value piano would get you.

But what do I know.


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

Casio GP-400
Schimmel SP-182T "I wish I had the room to keep you around"
August Forster 215
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