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#348979 - 10/05/01 04:26 PM new pianos have no "character"?
shofir Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 19
Loc: Israel

I am thinking of replacing my uprite piano with a grand in a year or so. I wanted to get a new seiler/sauter/schimmel ot maybe even a new steinway or a bluhtner, but...

I was talking with my piano technitian about this when he came to tune my piano the other day (a HIGHLY respected and well known technitian (in fact, he is the tech of our symphony orchestra)), and I was very surprised when he said that I should not even CONSIDER buying a new piano. He said I MUST get a used piano.
He claims that new pianos do not have any "character" as old pianos do, even the highest quality pianos.
He said that if I want a piano with it's own special personality, one that I will enjoy playing every day for the rest of my life, one that will last long enough for my grandkids to enjoy, then I MUST get a used piano. He said that buying a new piano will be a wrong way to invest my time and money.

If I remember correctly, his favorite pianos are Grotrians from the 70's (or did he say 20's?), because of their sound, charcter, and that they were "built to last". He said that if I will be lucky to find one, I should pay ANY amount of money for it.

I was wondering what are your thoughts on this subject?

It will be interesting to hear from other expereinced thechnitians who serves a lot of new and old pianos:
Do you feel the same way? do old pianos have more "charcter" then new pianos"?
Have new pianos lost their "charcter", their "personality", their "special something"?


By the way, my tech does not rebuilds and sells used pianos, so he did not say that to promote his business or something like that...

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#348980 - 10/05/01 09:41 PM Re: new pianos have no "character"?
Cork Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 513
Loc: Dallas, TX
Well, we all have our opinions about instruments, that's certain. My take on your friend's comments is that there may be an element of truth there, but not enough to prevent you from buying a new instrument that appeals to you.

New pianos, especially the non-production line instruments (all that you named except Schimmel are non-production line pianos), take a few years to break in and mature. A brand new Steinway, for instance, must be considered a gem in the rough, and it will only develop into a true diamond with time, playing, and the attention of an astute technician.

The other major problem with new pianos is that virtually all ship with hammers pressed in heated cauls. Hot pressed hammers begin life overly hard, and only in the better dealerships is any attempt made to voice them down, both because most people have grown accustomed to the hard edge tone of Yamahas and synthesizers, and because good techs cost money. Unfortunately, hard hammers render the instrument capable only of playing "loud" and "louder"; really, they should be called fortes rather than pianos.

The older pianos came with cold-pressed hammers that offered a wide range of volume and tone color right out of the box. For today's ear, though, they offer too mellow a tone, one lacking in the strident edge we now expect from a piano.

Do not fear the modern piano, though. A tech skilled in voicing hot-pressed hammers such as the Renner Blues can provide the same tonal palette available with the old cold-pressed hammers. You just need to select a piano whose scale design will provide that range of color once the voicing is accomplished.

The Grotrians are fine instruments, with a darker, more complex tone than the classic North German Bechstein. I prefer the Bluthner because it seems more suited to the smaller environment of a home, but any of the pianos you named would be wonderful.

Older pianos can offer an excellent value, but please remember they are made of materials that wear out: hammers, action parts, soundboards that deteriorate over the course of 30 years, strings that deteriorate in 15 or 20 . . .

So should you hold out for a 1930 Grotrian or Steinway? Heck no. Find the piano that sings to you, not to your technician friend. After all, you are the one that plays it.


#348981 - 10/06/01 03:57 AM Re: new pianos have no "character"?
Josh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/01
Posts: 155
Loc: Lexington, KY
All used pianos were new at one time....

#348982 - 10/06/01 11:22 PM Re: new pianos have no "character"?
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6960
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
"He said that if I want a piano with it's own special personality, one that I will enjoy playing every day for the rest of my life, one that will last long enough for my grandkids to enjoy, then I MUST get a used piano. He said that buying a new piano will be a wrong way to invest my time and money."

I'm sorry to say that I disagree with your technician. In fact, I think he is out to lunch. When we were looking for a grand, I played MANY new pianos that were MARVELOUS. Of course they get better after time, but if they sound great to begin with, who cares? I never listen to anyone who says "Only do X". You should play as many pianos (new and used) as you can get your fingers on. And then YOU decide. (if you buy used, make sure you have your tech check it over for you) Jodi

#348983 - 10/07/01 07:08 AM Re: new pianos have no "character"?
BruceD Offline

Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 20169
Loc: Victoria, BC
I fully agree with both Cork and Jodi on this one - as I usually agree with them on everything intelligent they have to say.

I wonder how this highly respected and well-known technician got his reputation if his head is so buried in the sand? Perhaps he does excellent work, I won't dispute that.

It's one thing to say that some new pianos may not have much character, or that some manufacturers produce instruments that are quite uniform in their characteristics. But to say that you MUST buy a used piano, that you should not even consider buying a new piano reveals that he knows nothing about good modern pianos; that's obvious!

Keep using him if he does good work, but don't have his judgments engraved in stone!

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