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#3176147 12/09/21 12:54 AM
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I humbly come here as a pre-beginner asking the patience and advice of those of you who know more than I could ever imagine regarding pianos. My husband and I (ages 70 and 43), neither of whom have any musical knowledge, skill, or talent, have decided that we'd like to stave off the specter of dementia by learning new skills via piano. I had piano lessons as a child (ages 6-11) and again in college, but never advanced beyond beginner. One of my husband's greatest regrets is not having learned to play a musical instrument. We have a 1918 home that has a space that is begging for a piano as much as its inhabitants are. I have developed an almost unhealthy obsession with gleaning what I can from these forums, but I have NO technical knowledge whatsoever.
I have learned that the "free" pianos are anything but, and have found a 1908 Knabe, 75", rosewood, available relatively locally for $2,500. Obviously as beginners, we're not going to have the need of a top-line piano, but it seems that this may be a happy medium between throwing good money out the window on a freebie vs. a quality piece that will be nice to learn on, sound decent, and look nice in our home. I know the wisdom is to have a technician examine the potential purchase, but I can't find anyone nearby (north west TN, anyone?). Current owners report that it plays well (they actually play, unlike we do), Tunings have been kept up, but I don't know about any rebuilding.
Other current options include a newish (2010s) Wm. Knabe baby grand for the same price, a 1918 Apollo baby grand for $5k, or a Brambach for $1k (I think these might be listed in order of preference/value?)

beginagain #3176152 12/09/21 01:41 AM
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I was able to find the ads for the newish Wm Knabe and the older Brambach.

The Samick-built Knabe is being used in a church, and, from the photos, looks to be in very good condition. While clearly an economy model that might have cost about $10K when new, I doubt you'd have any major problems with it - unless it has been played to death and not maintained well over the years.

The other pianos are OLD and really should be evaluated by a tech. Whether they are really "quality pieces that are nice to learn on and sound decent" is up for grabs at this point. Anyone who tunes pianos for a living should be able to at least do a cursory evaluation for you to look for any major defects and areas of concern.

Also - if you are willing to spend up to $5K you should be able to find something even better than the four instruments identified thus far.

Just curious - do you have a link to the ad for the 1908 Knabe?


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Carey #3176156 12/09/21 02:26 AM
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Thank you! I'm impressed with your willingness to go to the trouble to find those for a complete stranger!
The Knabe is on FB marketplace https://m.facebook.com/marketplace/item/196982452609384/
TBH, we'd rather spend less than $5k, especially since this will be a casual hobby at best. But, by the time we get it moved, tuned, etc., we'll probably be close to that any way we go about it.

beginagain #3176162 12/09/21 03:15 AM
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Originally Posted by beginagain
Thank you! I'm impressed with your willingness to go to the trouble to find those for a complete stranger!
The Knabe is on FB marketplace https://m.facebook.com/marketplace/item/196982452609384/
TBH, we'd rather spend less than $5k, especially since this will be a casual hobby at best. But, by the time we get it moved, tuned, etc., we'll probably be close to that any way we go about it.
Happy to help. Yes, the cost of moving, tuning, etc. can certainly add up. From the photos, the piano looks intriguing. But you should definitely be concerned about it's overall condition (soundboard, bridges, hammers, other action parts, etc.) and how well the instrument actually holds a tune. Perhaps the owners can give you the name of the person who tunes the piano and who might be able to provide more information. I understand you haven't asked the owners about any work that has been done on the piano - other than tunings - over the years. Have you actually had the opportunity to try the instrument out yourself? You will certainly want any piano you buy to sound and function well enough so that it will encourage you to practice on it and improve your skills. smile Lots of things to consider - but at $2,500 the "risk" isn't all that great. Still, you might want to audition the newish Wm Knabe just to see how the two compare.

Last edited by Carey; 12/09/21 03:16 AM.

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beginagain #3176194 12/09/21 06:37 AM
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A few more thoughts… have you looked at the piano technician’s guild? https://portal.ptg.org/4dcgi/directory/rpt/person.html Has a search function where you can search by zip code. If this doesn’t work, I’d look up the closest chapter and give them a call. For the older pianos, I also really like Carey’s recommendation to ask the current owners for the contact info of the technician who has been maintaining the piano.

Regarding auditioning the pianos, I understand that you don’t currently play. Do you have any friends who play? Someone at church? Basically someone who could go with you to see/play the pianos and help you out with the ‘auditioning’ part. Don’t necessarily take their opinion too strictly… what they would want out of a piano may be different from what you want/need. But hopefully you can at least hear if you like how the piano sounds and/or if they feel there are major issues that they would be concerned about as regards playability. Hopefully This would be someone you could thank with some baked goods or a bottle of wine or a nice dinner or something along those lines…

beginagain #3176196 12/09/21 07:24 AM
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Obviously as beginners, we're not going to have the need of a top-line piano

Perhaps not, but *all* players, especially beginners, do better with a piano that stays in tune and is pleasing to play.

A piano that’s almost 100 years old will probably squeak and creak and may sound tubby or dead…

Definitely go and play the older Knabe and the newer one, but in general, I’d say you’ll do better with newer instruments.

Oh and before finalizing any purchase, you do want to find a piano tech that you hire to check out whatever instrument you decide on.

Good luck!!


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ShiroKuro #3176198 12/09/21 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
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Obviously as beginners, we're not going to have the need of a top-line piano

Perhaps not, but *all* players, especially beginners, do better with a piano that stays in tune and is pleasing to play.

A piano that’s almost 100 years old will probably squeak and creak and may sound tubby or dead…

Definitely go and play the older Knabe and the newer one, but in general, I’d say you’ll do better with newer instruments.

Oh and before finalizing any purchase, you do want to find a piano tech that you hire to check out whatever instrument you decide on.

Good luck!!

Your statement about how an older piano will sound is an oversimplification: my 1907 piano does not squeak, creak or sound tubby or dead. And I have played on several vintage pianos that did not have these characteristics.


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beginagain #3176204 12/09/21 08:44 AM
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@dogperson: +1, and I would add my 1927 upright and 1905 grand stay in tune and are pleasing to play.

@ShiroKuru: you are right that most 90-100 year old pianos on the market are rubbish but the odd one is not.

@OP: one way to stave off dementia is to get a used piano in reasonable condition and then learn how to regulate and tune it. I'd go for a good make from a good home with a known history. To avoid that hassle find a good technician to look after it and buy one from a reputable dealer. Either way I'd suggest you decide what you are looking for before thinking about buying anything - that may involve playing notes or chords in all registers in variety of pianos, softly, loudly, and in-between; listening to their sustain; and getting a feel for their actions.


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beginagain #3176213 12/09/21 09:52 AM
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dogperson, I did not say *all* old pianos will sound like that (I said "probably"). Still, I will grant that my comment was somewhat oversimplified, but at the same time, for someone looking to buy a first-time piano, who's not currently playing themselves, old pianos are often more trouble than they're worth.

I even would go so far as to say 1) an old piano being sold for a small amount of money is more likely to have those problems, and 2) old pianos that do not have those problems are probably in the minority. Again, not 100% of the time, and there are exceptions. But in the absence of other information, "100 y/o being sold for $2000" does not inspire confidence.

Yes, there are a lot of really, really nice vintage pianos around, but they are generally not being sold for $2000.

One of my most favorite pianos ever is a S&S from around 1890. I took lessons on it maybe 10 years ago, so I had the opportunity to play it weekly for about two years. This piano was basically completely rebuilt by a highly respected piano tech, and certainly no squeaks, no creaks, no tubby sounds. The piano was sublime. And it would probably sell for a 6-digit sum.


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beginagain #3176214 12/09/21 09:54 AM
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Somebody painted a rosewood piano? OMG

beginagain #3176215 12/09/21 09:56 AM
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Back to the OP, there is another option, which is to buy a good digital piano (with weighted keys etc.) and see how much you and your spouse play it. And start saving money. If it turns out one or both of you play a lot and really want to commit, then starting looking for a grand piano with a larger budget.

The thing with an old piano that turns out to be a problem is that once it's in your house, it's your problem and in a worst case scenario, you may end up needing to pay to get rid of it.

This 1908 Knabe may not be that kind of a problem, but you won't know without the advice of a professional, and unbiased, piano technician.

So if you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to find a someone local who you can hire to inspect any piano you're considering buying. Usually these kinds of services are $100-150.

But paying someone to remove a grand piano from your home will certainly be more than that, so it's money well-spent.


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beginagain #3176226 12/09/21 10:24 AM
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The first piano that I rebuilt for someone was a Knabe grand of this vintage. It had a rosewood finish, but it was not rosewood; it was mahogany grained to look like rosewood.


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We have found a 1908 Knabe, 75", rosewood, available relatively locally for $2,500. .. this may be a quality piece that will be nice to learn on, sound decent, and look nice in our home.

To add to my previous post, this quote appears to describe what you are looking for. Have you been to look at it? If not I'd suggest you do, take lots of photographs, go over every aspect of the piano with a fine toothcomb. make a recording of some notes on your phone, make notes of what you liked and did not like, and publish a summary here for comment. If you are planning to go, please ask here for advice on what to look for.

1908 grand pianos are probably not the world's best sellers, so you may be able to come to a good deal on both sides.


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Of all the pianos mentioned, the only one I would recommend considering is the Samick-built Knabe.


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Originally Posted by BDB
Of all the pianos mentioned, the only one I would recommend considering is the Samick-built Knabe.
I would certainly start there as well. smile


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beginagain #3176256 12/09/21 12:51 PM
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I looked at the Facebook Marketplace Ad, and... I think the piano is well worth considering. My first grand piano was a rebuilt Knabe of that vintage. They can be very nice pianos.

From the photos, I believe that the piano was restrung and new hammers installed, probably around the time the case was painted and that (ghastly) raised Knabe label put on the fallboard (no, that was not original).

I would hire an independent technician to go over the piano carefully for you and let you know the condition as well as expected maintenance of several types - 1) get this done now so the piano is truly playable, and 2) budget for these things over the next 10 years.

That particular Knabe size and scale were quite nice.

Me, I'd rather have a reasonably competently rebuilt piano of that vintage than either of the other pianos you mentioned.


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Carey #3176258 12/09/21 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by BDB
Of all the pianos mentioned, the only one I would recommend considering is the Samick-built Knabe.
I would certainly start there as well. smile

Same.

Re the Brambach, it looks very short. I wonder what the actual length is.


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Withindale #3176262 12/09/21 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Withindale
1908 grand pianos are probably not the world's best sellers, so you may be able to come to a good deal on both sides.

Triggered by Carey's links, I see:

OP, "Tunings have been kept up" implying the piano is worth considering.

Seller, "It needs tuning, but that should wait until after relocation" implying the piano loses its tune.


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I was in a similar situation earlier this year.
I also researched, asked, read post, forums, etc. I played many Pianos. I am also an adult learner (started Piano 18 months ago at 50+ age)
Here is my experience:

If you wait long enough, you keep looking, you will always find cheaper and also more expensive Pianos (similar to what you are thinking about). If you wait, you will always find super good deal.
After several months of active research, I found one Knabe that in my own criteria was a good deal: Grand Piano (hopefully not baby), less than $2000 or $3,000, from a reputable brand (according to living Pianos: Baldwin, Steinway, Knabe, Mason and Hamlin, Yamaha, Kawai and some others), that will get me to enjoy the Piano lessons and playing.
I saw a Knabe reduced from $3000 to $1700, vintage is from 1970 (ish), 6'4".
I inspected the piano and I was happy with my assessment (I had my checklist from the piano buyer website, checking for potential cracked soundboard, cracked bridges, keys playing correctly, etc.) and I did not find anything major (one key was rattling).
Then, I hired a Piano Technician and for $75 (and only a short evaluation), the very experienced technician told me many things that may be required to be fixed (some bass strings were weak, required regulation, etc.) which initially scared me.
I did not think I will find another similar deal unless I keep waiting for another long period. It could be weeks, it could be months, and I could end of paying similar or more...
So, I pulled the trigger and I offered $1500 and it was accepted. I paid additionally $400 for the moving and $350 for tuning and some TLC (hammer filing, basic regulation, cleaning, adjustment, no major work, but a little more than just tuning).

Result after 4 months: Amazing Piano and super Happy with my decision.
For a little over $2000 I have a Piano that I am sure will outlive me, and it will be years of Piano learning before the "weak bass strings" will represent an issue for me...As long as the piano can be tuned and it has no major flaws, this Piano makes the perfect fit for me.
If I get too perfectionist, or I win the lottery in 10 - 20 years, I may exchange it? Who knows. I may get emotionally attached to it, just like Elvis Presley was attached to his white Knabe!

What I would not buy:
I would not buy a Piano from a not reputable brand (even modern Knabe made in Korea are not reputable brand). Refer to the Living pianos website for what Pianos they are willing to buy and restore...
I would not buy a brand new Piano.
I would not buy a Baby Grand (the cheap baby grands are poor build quality compared to larger size). Aim for a 5'6" or larger.
Of course you will inspect, bring the technicians, etc.

Good luck.

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