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When should an old piano be completely restrung? #45113
12/15/06 08:43 AM
12/15/06 08:43 AM
Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 8
Massachusetts
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no1hungp Offline OP
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no1hungp  Offline OP
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Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 8
Massachusetts
I am buying an old Bluthner. The low C#, it is said, broke during the last tuning (seems a strange coincidence).

My piano technician tells me that the entire piano now needs to be restrung.

A) How can you tell when an old piano needs restringing?

B) Is it bad to replace just one bass string?

C) What is the cost of restringing a 6'4" piano?

D) Is the cost higher because of the "aliquot system?"

E) Is the broken C# perhaps a sign of a wider and more serious problem?

Thanks, in advance, for your advice.

Josh


"But if I am only for myself, who am I?" Hillel - 50 B.C.E.
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Re: When should an old piano be completely restrung? #45114
12/15/06 09:45 AM
12/15/06 09:45 AM
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 18,302
Lexington, Kentucky
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012
Monica K.  Offline

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Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 18,302
Lexington, Kentucky
How old is the old Bluthner, and has it had any prior rebuilding or reconditioning work done on it? I have read threads here saying that once pianos reach the 35-40 year mark, they will probably need new strings.

Re: When should an old piano be completely restrung? #45115
12/15/06 10:47 AM
12/15/06 10:47 AM
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,125
West Virginia
w_scott_iv@yahoo Offline
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w_scott_iv@yahoo  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,125
West Virginia
Josh,
If you're satisfied w/the sound of your piano, I'd advise avoiding re-stringing. There is no problem replacing only the broken string. If the bass strings have gone 'tubby' they can be turned to tighten the copper coils and restore tone. If this doesn't work, then you may want to replace bass strings only (or only the ones that are tubby). There is a trend these days toward changing strings (and soundboards and blocks, etc.) on a fairly regular basis but that wasn't always the case. Larry Fine's book suggests that this trend occurred as an answer to the recent (1970's on) availability of so many used pianos being offered for sale by private owners. In order to retain market share, dealers and techs began to aggressively market the concept that, in order to get a decent piano, you need to buy new or a commercially rebuilt used piano. Before this time, pianos were only restrung (or re-anything'd) in response to a specific problem. And many fine pianos went indefinately entirely in tact. Don't get me wrong, we're very fortunate to have rebuilding capabilities so widely available, but for myself, I prefer to let my piano tell me what it needs. Even then, I prefer to find the most conservative fix and keep as much of my original piano as possible.

Re: When should an old piano be completely restrung? #45116
12/15/06 11:41 AM
12/15/06 11:41 AM
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 1,046
San Francisco Area
Casalborgone Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Casalborgone  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 1,046
San Francisco Area
Quote
Originally posted by w_scott@verizon.net:
Josh,
If you're satisfied w/the sound of your piano, I'd advise avoiding re-stringing. There is no problem replacing only the broken string. If the bass strings have gone 'tubby' they can be turned to tighten the copper coils and restore tone. If this doesn't work, then you may want to replace bass strings only (or only the ones that are tubby).
I don't disagree that if you like the sound of your piano as is, there is no special reason to restring unless there are strings breaking with some regularity during tuning (or simply during playing). On the other hand, a piano with 25 years or more on a set of strings will usually benefit from restringing. Piano strings lose their elasticity over time and their sound quality deteriorates. A piano with strings which need replacing, as your tech suggests, will no doubt play much better if other necessary maintenance is also performed, including, but not limited to, replacement of worn action parts and hammers.

Some of the advice given above could be explained in a more useful way.

A new single bass string will not sound like the other bass strings. Often when old strings break, technicians will tie an knot in the old string rather than replacing it, in order to avoid the tonal mismatch (between old and new strings) and the rapid detuning which comes from the stretching and settling of a new string.

Tubby-sounding bass strings are the result of aging and the gradual accumulation of dust between the windings which makes the strings less flexible. Technicians can sometimes restore some of the bass string sound quality by removing the old strings and cleaning them using various techniques. Twisting a bass string will not solve the tubbiness problem; twisting of bass strings is used to deal with such problems as loose windings.


Mike
Registered Piano Technician
Member Piano Technicians Guild
Not currently working in the piano trade.
Re: When should an old piano be completely restrung? #45117
12/15/06 12:33 PM
12/15/06 12:33 PM
Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,728
Auckland New Zealand
R
Robert 45 Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Robert 45  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,728
Auckland New Zealand
Even concert pianos of the highest quality lose the "bite" in their sound after 20-25 years and while a piano may still sound very nice, the repeated tunings and constant tension stretch the strings and this gradually reduces their flexibility and acoustic response. With age, the strings may rust and become dirty which compounds their problems.
I believe that restringing your piano would rejuvenate it as long as there are no other major issues with the piano. Blüthner grand pianos can have a glorious sound and they deserve the care and expense of restoration.

Good luck with your Blüthner!
Robert.

Re: When should an old piano be completely restrung? #45118
12/15/06 12:41 PM
12/15/06 12:41 PM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 26,694
Oakland
B
BDB Offline
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BDB  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 26,694
Oakland
A. Breaking strings are a sign that you have probably gone too long. You will begin to notice an improvement after 25 years or so. Just because you like the sound of your piano now does not mean that you would like it a lot better with new strings.

B. It is not bad. However, if it has broken prematurely, it is a good idea to replace all the strings on the note.

C. It depends on who does it. Size is not a big factor in the cost.

D. Yes. There are more strings!

E. It could be. It could also be a defective string.


Semipro Tech
Re: When should an old piano be completely restrung? #45119
12/15/06 03:10 PM
12/15/06 03:10 PM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,380
Stockholm, Sweden
pianistical Offline
1000 Post Club Member
pianistical  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,380
Stockholm, Sweden
w_scott@verizon.net wrote:
Quote
Larry Fine's book suggests that this trend occurred as an answer to the recent (1970's on) availability of so many used pianos being offered for sale by private owners. In order to retain market share, dealers and techs began to aggressively market the concept that, in order to get a decent piano, you need to buy new or a commercially rebuilt used piano. Before this time, pianos were only restrung (or re-anything'd) in response to a specific problem. And many fine pianos went indefinately entirely in tact.
Very interesting! It is something that I have suspected for a long time.

I also believe that most reconditioning is like adding polish to the performance of an instrument. What really makes up the soul of the piano is still beneath that polish.

no1hungp,

Blüthners are glorious instruments and they hold up remarkable well over time. New hammers and a regulated action is sometimes all that is needed to restore their former glory.


“There are only two important things which I took with me on my way to America, It´s been my wife Natalja and my precious Blüthner.” – Sergei Rachmaninov

1913 Blüthner model 6
1929 Blüthner model 9.

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