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Rubens Offline OP
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Hello my dear new friends,

Help me decide because I can't.

I own a 1911 baby-grand (5'5"). The brand is Pease Piano Company (if you're not laughing now, you may be clinically depressed). I bought it for cheap in 2008, at an obscure store that went bankrupt not long after. Its soft pedal is the kind that brings the hammers closer to the strings (yes, the 'cheapo' mechanism). Its middle pedal is just a damper pedal for the bass section (yes, the 'cheapo' mechanism). As far as I know, the only parts that were replaced are the hammers in 1977. I don't know anything else about its history. Visually, it is a borderline eyesore, nothing special, but tolerable. If you're not laughing by now, call your doctor.

So why is this piano not in a landfill, you may ask? I have two answers to this obvious question:
1. It is in surprisingly good condition inside out, including the action, soundboard and strings. The two technicians that I consulted agree about this. The response is fast and even, with a wide dynamic range.
2. The sound. Mellow yet defined. Not the richest nor the most powerful, but has excellent sound projection even on pianissimo.

Because of its age, this piano is already past _double_ its expiry date. It does need tuning 4 times a year, but not more than that. I am an advanced pianist and I play it often enough, so I cannot understand what keeps its pins from loosening or the strings from breaking (although I rarely play louder than ff). Basically it could croak any time now, but I've been saying this for the last 13 years.

I recently tried a few new baby grands in the 15k range (not willing to spend more at this point) and found that only one or two sounded as good as my Pease, which keeps beating all the odds, but there is no doubt that they would last longer (duh) and require less frequent tunings.

So, if you were in my situation, would you buy a new piano now to save on the tuning costs for the years to come? Keep in mind that my old piano holds zero sentimental value to me. Also, I am moderately proficient at regulation, but not at tuning nor voicing.

Pease,
Rubens

Last edited by Rubens; 12/27/21 03:34 PM.
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Welcome to PW!
I would hang onto the piano you have— it is free except for a few tuning.

A new piano will deduct about $15,000 from your bank account. I think you can pay For a lot of tunings with the $15,000 you have saved. And don’t forget a new piano will require tuning about four times the first year.

I would change all of the above if you find a new piano you love.

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Thy humor is appreciated!

Retired tuner/tech/rebuilder here.

1. Pianos don't actually have expiry dates.
I think of 50 yr old pianos as barely middle aged, 100+ as seniors but not at all necessarily at deaths door.
Mine is 163 yrs old and doing fine (but it's an outlier obviously, and it's totally rebuilt).

2. Many many pianos have sound tuning pin hold even at that age, why depends on inummerable factors, but isn't all that weird.
Have tuned hundreds of 100yr + pianos with not a single broken string (over 40 year period).
Of course always holding breath waiting for that 1st one to go...

3. If, as an advanced pianist, cheap or not, old or not, it's meeting your musical needs, then A. wow and B. is there something about a new piano that would specifically make playing more enjoyable? Doesn't sound like it's gonna keel over and kick the bucket unexpectedly, more like continue to very gradually and imperceptibly continue to age and degrade, which you won;lt notice happening from day to day.

4. Have you been playing new pianos and wistfully wished yours did X, or wish yours did NOT do X, and only a new instrument can fix that?

5. Is the new piano idea generic, or is there a specific brand/model you're hankering for? Viable price range? More background on that part please.

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Rubens Offline OP
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I would love a richer sound (lush and vibrant, one step toward the sound of the M&H's glory years). That is the sound I am looking for, regardless of brand. So far, nothing among the new ones within my budget comes close, and that includes the entry-level M&H's in my price range (15k), sadly. I tried M&H MHC 170G, Kawai GL10, Kawai GL20, a Schimmel Fridolin, a few Yamahas (I hated Yamaha to begin with, hate it even more after trying them recently).
The M&H MHC 170G and Kawai GL20 had sounds that were as satisfying as my Pease, but not better.

Many thanks for your help!

Last edited by Rubens; 12/27/21 05:14 PM.

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You're welcome!

My customized for you advice is to forget all about brands, models, ages, and prices, and just play as many pianos old and new as possible, as it's pretty obvious you know what you want to hear.

Your dream piano might be a 30 year old off brand whose character and sound is highly untypical and unexpected for that brand.

Keep an open mind and play EVERYTHING till you find what you're looking for (exceptions for brands like Yamaha which you know you dislike).

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If you can drop 15K, you could fine a decent Mason & Hamlin grand used in that price range. Likely an A (5' 8").


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If you can find someone who will restring your piano with larger tuning pins on site, you will get closer to your ideal sound for less than replacing the piano.


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Rubens Offline OP
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Interesting options!
Maybe I am guilty of some ageism, hehe. I guess I could compromise with a not too old M&H, if I can have it fully inspected by a technician (not sure how much I can rely on such an inspection).

Restringing sounds interesting too, but hard to predict how good it will sound before the job is done, right?


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Not especially. New strings have more flexibility to them which tends to make the piano sound less like you are playing a xylophone, with more of a bloom to the notes.

What is difficult is finding someone who will do a good job of it, especially on site.


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I'm hearing that you like the sound. So, why restring it? If it's simply that it doesn't stay in tune for as long as you'd like, a CA (Super Glue) treatment on the pins would most likely take care of that.


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Rubens Offline OP
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True. I am greedy and insatiable, guilty as charged. "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien", is the story of my life.


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Originally Posted by An Old Square
My customized for you advice is to forget all about brands, models, ages, and prices, and just play as many pianos old and new as possible, as it's pretty obvious you know what you want to hear.

Your dream piano might be a 30 year old off brand whose character and sound is highly untypical and unexpected for that brand.

Keep an open mind and play EVERYTHING till you find what you're looking for (exceptions for brands like Yamaha which you know you dislike).

That's the approach I used to buy my current piano (there is no other way a decent pianist would end up buying a Pease!). Can't say I'm disappointed.
I admit I'm afraid I'll end up liking another oldie. At what point is a piano too old to be worth the risk of deterioration soon after purchase? I know it is a big can of worms.


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Rubens Offline OP
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Originally Posted by That Guy
I'm hearing that you like the sound. So, why restring it? If it's simply that it doesn't stay in tune for as long as you'd like, a CA (Super Glue) treatment on the pins would most likely take care of that.

Yes I heard about the CA trick. But is it true that you cannot restring without replacing the pinblock after a CA job?

Last edited by Rubens; 12/27/21 07:02 PM.

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Originally Posted by Rubens
Yes I heard about the CA trick. But is it true that you cannot restring without replacing the pinblock after a CA job?

The reports I've heard from some re-builders is that it's not a problem. I don't re-build pianos so maybe someone who does and has experience with this could chime in.


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Originally Posted by That Guy
Originally Posted by Rubens
Yes I heard about the CA trick. But is it true that you cannot restring without replacing the pinblock after a CA job?

The reports I've heard from some re-builders is that it's not a problem. I don't re-build pianos so maybe someone who does and has experience with this could chime in.

The issue would not be the CA that was applied itself, the issue would be *what types of problems the pinblock had prior to CA-ing that required CA to fix in the first place*.

IE, CA may have been a last resort to keep the piano tunable at all for just a few more years, because the pinblock *already* needed replacement.

Or, it could be to address just a few notes with some mild issues on an otherwise sound pinblock.

The CA itself would be trivial to deal with in the second situation, whereas in the first the CA STILL isn't the fundamental issue.

And all the other in between situations, obviously.

The way to evaluate a pinblock that's been CA-d, is to have a darn good tuner tune it, and literally keep notes on the tightness of EVERY SINGLE PIN as it's tuned. Then review later and analyze.

Which I have done countless times (whether CA-d or not, for deep pre-purchase evals).

I looooooooooooooooooooooooooooove what CA does for tuning pin problems on a tight budget, by the way, LOVE it.

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Originally Posted by An Old Square
I looooooooooooooooooooooooooooove what CA does for tuning pin problems on a tight budget, by the way, LOVE it.


PS, the very first time I learned about applying freaking superglue to tuning pins (many moons ago), it was from a fellow tech over lunch.

My reaction was: YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND DID YOU JUST MAKE THAT UP ARE YOU OK???!!!

I did NOT believe this was a thing, she was punking me, or something.

(Prior to CA, the reeeaaaaaaaaaallllllllly old school fluid was a devils brew of glycerin, alcohol, and violin bow rosin. Hoooooorrid stuff.)

Checked around, yep, it was OK to put superglue, er - uh - ahem, the far more acceptably sciency sounding cyanoacrylate into pinblocks.

Been a fan ever since.

Last edited by An Old Square; 12/27/21 08:01 PM.
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I think these are all excellent comments!

I wholeheartedly agree with the remarks on CA glue.

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Why don't you learn to tune it yourself ?

With computer- based help, I suspect that's a job most musicians can handle.

Then, you could keep it forever.

I don't read any compelling reason to get a different piano.


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Rubens Offline OP
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Aha! So if my pinblock is in fairly good condition in the first place (which it likely is based on the stability of the tunings), then CA might prevent rapid deterioration without doing much harm. I will discuss this with my technician on my next tuning in February. Thanks again!


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Originally Posted by Rubens
Aha! So if my pinblock is in fairly good condition in the first place (which it likely is based on the stability of the tunings), then CA might prevent rapid deterioration without doing much harm. I will discuss this with my technician on my next tuning in February. Thanks again!

Zero harm, actually.

There is no downside to (critical caveat here) the *proper* application of GOBS and RIVERS and OCEANS of CA.

I once used a *pile* of bottles on an old Steinway 9', because it could NOT take time off to get a new pinblock, as it was the only 9' used by a prestigious classical concert organization, in an upscale community, with a tight schedule of international artists.

(Was part of a larger restoration I had to do onsite gradually over months.)

Decades later, nary a word about it.

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