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In perusing the forums here, I've learned that certain years of certain pianos are better than others.

I often hear comments like "Well, from 1995 - 1999 [X Piano Brand] started using [X wood] in their actions, which made them more sluggish. They corrected this in their 2000 models." Or "The golden age for Mason & Hamlin pianos was from 1920 - 1930, and then not again until 2000." Or "[X new design] in 2005 really improved the integrity of the soundboard in [X Piano Brand]."

Anyway, generally speaking, is a 1983 New York Steinway Model M a "good vintage?" I ask because one near me is available for purchase, and I want to know if there is anything particular I should be aware of.
Well, though it is technically out of the PTFE era, it is still POSSIBLE that it has it in it. You would want to have it inspected carefully. And check the damper action. At 35 yrs old it's going to need some attention in the action department, and perhaps most important is what kind of environment has it been in all these years.

I cannot think of anything in particular about that time period that would be a serious negative...but environment is a biggie for any instrument.

Maybe someone else knows better.

Pwg
Originally Posted by P W Grey
Well, though it is technically out of the PTFE era, it is still POSSIBLE that it has it in it. You would want to have it inspected carefully. And check the damper action. At 35 yrs old it's going to need some attention in the action department, and perhaps most important is what kind of environment has it been in all these years.


I'm a good pianist, but not a good pianoist. I have to confess I don't know exactly what you mean when you refer to "PTFE" or damper issues unique to that vintage.

It's been carefully stored in a home by an avid pianist. Frequent tunings etc.

Also, just generally, yes, I will absolutely have it inspected. My inquiry is just a general one.
Also, while we're on the topic, what about C series Yamahas from 1998 - 2001.

I'm looking at a C1, C2, and C5 from that era.
Originally Posted by Piano90X
Originally Posted by P W Grey
Well, though it is technically out of the PTFE era, it is still POSSIBLE that it has it in it. You would want to have it inspected carefully. And check the damper action. At 35 yrs old it's going to need some attention in the action department, and perhaps most important is what kind of environment has it been in all these years.


I'm a good pianist, but not a good pianoist. I have to confess I don't know exactly what you mean when you refer to "PTFE" or damper issues unique to that vintage.

It's been carefully stored in a home by an avid pianist. Frequent tunings etc.

Also, just generally, yes, I will absolutely have it inspected. My inquiry is just a general one.


I've never seen the "PTFE" acronym before, but Peter may be talking about Steinway's use of Teflon bushings in the action parts from the 1960's to early/mid 1980's, trying to eliminate verdigris issue with traditional wool bushings. The result was that while the Teflon did not expand and contract with humidity and temperature changes, the wood parts surrounding the Teflon still did. When this happened, one would often hear clicking sounds in the action when keys were being played. There were various methods of trying to resolve the issue and Steinway tried a couple of attempts at improving the design before finally phasing out the use of Teflon in the 1980's. You can read all about that in PW history if you're not familiar with that.

Another issue during the Teflon era was Steinway's approach to action geometry and key weighting. Pianos from that era have a lot of lead in the key sticks. I needed new hammers on my 1981 Steinway B. My Teflon action was in great shape and really had no issues, but to do the job right, I went ahead and replaced the hammers, shanks & flanges and whippens. Then my technician re-weighted the key sticks to complete the job. Mine would have been fine for me, but the hammer job was an absolute necessity.

Some soundboard issues and overall quality issues occurred during the 80s.
Originally Posted by A441

Some soundboard issues and overall quality issues occurred during the 80s.

Nevertheless, the prices continued to go up up up every year. grin
Originally Posted by A441

Some soundboard issues and overall quality issues occurred during the 80s.


If I were inspecting a piano, what are some indications that I should look for?

If I get serious about buying the piano, then I'll hire a professional technician, but I'd like to be able to notice something beforehand to avoid having to pay a technician if a problem is obvious.
what is the longest grand piano that is practical for you ? their size has made the steinway model M very successful for the company, with many in the used market as a result. for me, it doesn't really stand out from several other pianos in that size, whereas the next longer steinway models (O or L) have a considerably higher potential ceiling. in my experience there's a huge variation in the quality of the used M's that is not necessarily correlated to when they were made. a 1983 piano probably has all the original components, and at that age the big variable becomes how was it cared for, and, has an expert technician worked with the piano to bring it to its full potential over the years. if you play the piano and love it, the price premium a seller usually puts on that brand name probably won't matter to you, but otherwise it's often the case that patience in the search will result in your $$ going farther with other brands of pianos, or finding a good model O or L is worth the extra couple of thousand $$.
I'm going to give you a worst case scenario, because you asked what you should be aware of.

Every piano has the potential to develop issues. Let's leave action issues aside for now. Even young (under 40 years old) pianos can be in terrible condition.

The soundboard may have split (easy to spot).

The soundboard may have lost its crown (not so easy to spot, obvious in the tone, and measurable with a tool, but not so easy to spot with the naked eye)

The tuning pins may have become loose.

The pin block may be split (unlikely, but not impossible)

The bridges may have split or warped.

The bridge pins may have become loose

The frame may have defects, particularly around the capo bar (not so easy to spot, and can be a problem even in new pianos).

The frame may have hairline cracks (unlikely, but not impossible)

The piano may have taken on excessive humidity over the years causing the felt to get damp and rust the strings.

Basically the worst case scenario is the piano requires a full rebuild costing about £30,000 (UK prices).

The action issues could range from needing a simple regulation, to needing new whippens, shanks, rollers, hammer heads, and a new damper mechanism, or even needing a new keyboard.

I have actually seen younger pianos with all of these issues, but it's not common (I've seen a lot of pianos, even though I'm not a technician). You need to take a competent and trusted technician with you to inspect any piano you might wish to buy, because coming on to a forum will give you a starting point you need an experienced eye and ear (a technician's eye and ear) to make the final judgement on the piano for you.

Huaidongxi makes a good point about the Model M not being Steinway's greatest achievement. The S and the M are, in my opinion, not good pianos and they are marketed as a compromise. You may even find that the model K is more satisfying than the M. Musically speaking I think the K is better.

Since you want a grand and not an upright I would suggest, if you need to have a Steinway, go for an O or an A. The O is streets ahead of the M, and the A is better than them both. The B can be variable, and it can take time to find a good one.

If I was faced with choosing a Yamaha C3 in perfect condition or a Steinway M in perfect condition, I would take the C3, just so you know.
There are plenty of people here who are vicariously shopping through you, giving you reasons to spend more money than you may want to. They try to convince you that the piano you are looking at is likely to have tons of problems, will sound terrible, and will fall apart once you put down your money.

The truth is that you are not likely to have any really serious problems in a quality instrument made in the past 50 years, unless it has been kept in bad conditions or played constantly by a professional who practices incessantly. The difference between a smaller piano and a larger piano may never be an issue for you.

My advice to you is to try it, and if you like it, and you cannot find any issues with it, it is more than likely to be good enough. If you do not like it, feel free to walk away. If bringing in a technician to evaluate it makes you feel better about it, do that. Just be aware that there are no more than minimal standards for technicians, and not every technician follows them, even if they passed a test at some time. It may be more difficult to find a good technician than it is to find a good piano.
Originally Posted by BDB
... It may be more difficult to find a good technician than it is to find a good piano.


+1
To be honest, I don't think that the piano is likely to need anything more than a tuning and regulation, plus voicing. Even if it's played to death the most it will probably *need* is new action parts. However, the original poster did ask for what kind of things they should be looking out for, and with any piano, one needs to be sure that it is in good condition all through and, as far as is possible don't simply take it for granted before spending the money.

It's true though that the biggest problem is finding a good technician. I'm fast becoming of the opinion that if one can't find or can't afford a good technician, then it might be better to go for a high end digital piano than an acoustic piano. I know this isn't a popular view, and I wouldn't have said it ten years ago.

Of course nothing comes close to a well maintained quality grand in good condition, so factor into your budget money for maintenance. Take the following scenario:

In the UK a Steinway M of that age (Hamburg over here) would sell for something in the region of £25,000 in a private sale or £40,000 from a dealer, assuming the piano is in good original condition.

If your total piano budget is, say, £35,000 and you are able to secure a Steinway from a dealer at that price, you've spent all your money and you might not have anything left for maintenance, and it'll take you a while before you can afford your first servicing (which could cost £1000, but you don't have to spend that amount every time...).

If you were to find a Yamaha in good condition, a C3 for instance, of similar age - say 1983 - 2000, you'd be looking in the region of £7000 to £15,000 depending on the age, condition and seller. You'd have £20,000 left of your savings, which you could use for tuning, maintenance, holidays, a downpayment on an apartment, a car, you get my drift.

Finally, I'm assuming you're of average income for your age, and don't want to spend more than you have to on a piano. If you're wealthy, then, well, buy what you want and enjoy it!
Originally Posted by BDB
There are plenty of people here who are vicariously shopping through you, giving you reasons to spend more money than you may want to.
I find this to be an extremely common situation at PianoWorld.

It's very common for posters to recommend a more expensive or larger piano than the piano someone else is considering. Or if someone is considering two pianos, posters almost always recommend the more expensive one. But no one making these recommendations has ever offered to pay the difference in price haha.
Yes, I was referring to Teflon.

Have you actually looked at and PLAYED this piano yet?

Can you speak with the tech who has been servicing it? Does he/she corroborate the service schedule you have been told? What assessment does this person give?

Why is the piano for sale? There is always a reason.

Is it in your price range?

Can you negotiate?

Why is it hard to find a qualified tech in your area?

Pwg
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by BDB
There are plenty of people here who are vicariously shopping through you, giving you reasons to spend more money than you may want to.
I find this to be an extremely common situation at PianoWorld.

It's very common for posters to recommend a more expensive or larger piano than the piano someone else is considering. Or if someone is considering two pianos, posters almost always recommend the more expensive one. But no one making these recommendations has ever offered to pay the difference in price haha.


This is very true. Another factor is that the "Piano World" out there can be riddled with scammers and there are many bad pianos that haven't been properly cared for. It's easy to put on rose-colored glasses and buy a money pit. So posters here on PW do tend to throw out the worst case scenarios to educate the uneducated.

On the other hand. There are lots of excellent pianos out there in the hands of uneducated owners, and one can find great deals. In fact, the piano may not play or sound the best, but with a little regulation and voicing by an excellent technician they can be turned into jewels.

The intent of my post earlier was to educate you about the pitfalls of the Teflon era. PLEASE don't let my story scare you off of this model M on that issue. My Steinway B was a former C&A services (rental) piano that had been played heavily for many years. The hammers had been filed down and voiced many times. The string cups were very deep and it was very bright. I had no choice but to replace them which lead to the rebuilding of the action. Had it not been for that one issue, I would have never touched the action other than regulation and voicing.
I'll piggyback on this topic and maybe it will also help the OP. I recently ran across 2 Steinway M's, one a 1981 and the other a 1984 and both are priced similarly at $20K. Both have been checked by a tech as being in excellent condition. Is this a reasonable price and what should be the difference in price between a teflon and non-teflon Steinway?
Originally Posted by HansC2
Originally Posted by BDB
... It may be more difficult to find a good technician than it is to find a good piano.


+1


How do I know if someone is a good technician? Is there a particular certification I should look for?
Originally Posted by joe80
It's true though that the biggest problem is finding a good technician. I'm fast becoming of the opinion that if one can't find or can't afford a good technician, then it might be better to go for a high end digital piano than an acoustic piano. I know this isn't a popular view, and I wouldn't have said it ten years ago.


Why is that?

Just not as much demand? Not as many people entering the profession?
I wouldn't have said it ten years ago, because ten years ago digital pianos still weren't really good enough for a serious pianist to practise on. We still didn't have triple sensor actions back then meaning we had to bottom out the key on the key-bed before the key sounded properly, and repeated notes and trills were a problem on digitals. This is no longer the case, and the four top makers (Yamaha, Kawai, Roland and Casio Grand Hybrid) are now producing instruments which can cope with some serious practice.

Ten years ago finding a good technician was just as much of a problem as it is today.
Originally Posted by Piano90X
Originally Posted by HansC2
Originally Posted by BDB
... It may be more difficult to find a good technician than it is to find a good piano.


+1


How do I know if someone is a good technician? Is there a particular certification I should look for?


Certificates don’t help is my experience. The real problem as I see it (at least in the Netherlands) is that most technicians merely tune piano’s and don’t have enough experience or interest in maintenance and or voicing. The other problem is that a lot of technicians try to survive in a difficult market and tend to sell b*llsh*t just to get some work. Very often really good piano technicians are very busy and are not interested in maintenance of piano’s that are privately owned.

Sadly that is my personal experience.

It is understandable (although a pity) that the piano business is often compared with the car business, and that can not be taken as a compliment...
Originally Posted by Piano90X


How do I know if someone is a good technician? Is there a particular certification I should look for?


I get most of my work from referrals and pay no money for advertising. And i stay busy year round. Asking around for referrals is the best way to weed out the chaff. Get more than one referral (i recommend two or three). Then go and visit their shops, and see and hear their work. This will accomplish two things. 1. You will be able to compare their work to each others. 2. You get to find the Technician you click with personality wise.
Under those conditions, I put my work besides anybody's. And that's the kind of technician you should look for in your area.
-chris
Just a quick update:

I played the piano today. It's obvious that it is going to need a lot of work. I don't think the seller (private party) is willing to acknowledge this in reducing his price. He and I had a lovely meeting. Nothing contentious. But I don't think I'll pursue this piano any further.

Also, it was purchased in 1983, but it has a 1982 serial number.

My understanding was that 1982 Steinways still had teflon bushings. Is that correct? If so, that further cements my disinterest in the piano.

Thanks for all your help.
You can see Teflon bushings from the top of the piano. Look at the center pin joints at the bass/tenor split. If the pin goes through a white bushing, it is Teflon. If it is red, it is felt (or actually, Teflon 2 which is felt impregnated with Teflon).

But it does not matter if you do not like the piano.
My personal piano is a 1980 Steinway "M". The hammer shanks are felt and the rest of the action is Teflon. All original. Obviously a transition period.
And presumably you have not felt it necessary to change out the Teflon in the rest of the action, even in a climate like Florida's.
Oh I'd like to re-string it and put in a new action, but who ever has time to work on their own piano! smile
Originally Posted by Bill McKaig,RPT
Oh I'd like to re-string it and put in a new action, but who ever has time to work on their own piano! smile


I think it's going to at least need new strings and a new action. Maybe a new pin block. Definitely a thorough professional cleaning. The reasonable scuffs and scratches don't bother me, but someone more keen to aesthetics over function would want to paint and polish.

The owner is offering at what would be the price for one in perfect condition (North of $20,000.00). But I don't think he wants to acknowledge that it probably needs at least five or maybe ten thousand dollars worth of work, or more.

And, frankly, I don't want to go through the trouble of trying to explain this to him and convince him of it. The seller's an extraordinarily nice man, and he's acting in good faith, but he isn't a pianist, so I don't think he appreciates some of my genuine concerns.

I'm sure he'll be able to sell it to someone who just wants a nice decoration that says "Steinway & Sons" on it.
Well, since you have offered no details why you think it needs new strings and action, nobody can really assess the piano from a distance. I tune a lot of Steinways much older than 1983 with the original strings and action, and the strings and actions do not need replacement. But if you do not want the piano, that is your opinion. It need not pertain to anyone else.
It is better to simply walk away as you did rather than try to "convince" him that it "ain't what he thinks it is". In his mind you would be trying to "pull the wool over his eyes".

Pwg
North of $20,000 is high if it really needs that type of work. If you have not had a tech take a look, you might want to invest in that. 1983 is not likely to have teflon if the serial number is really from 1983. You can always ask Steinway if you have the serial number. Age related issues aside, if it has not been played that much, I would suggest keeping in touch with the seller, who as you say is not a pianist. Eventually if he has enough potential buyers walk away he may lower the price, especially if he has had offers from dealers.

For top performance, most pianos from 1983 would need some work and anyone who is knowledgeable would have a good understanding of that. But the other end of the spectrum could be that it was in a school or church for years before he acquired it. It could really be a mess but replacing action and strings because of age costs no more than replacing the same items because of abuse. Either way they gotta go. It is a domino thing where you have to replace pin block, strings, dampers etc. all at one time anyway. The extras could be new bridge caps, or serious soundboard matters. It is less money for the little details than for the big things but if you don't care how it looks the cosmetic issues can be overlooked.
If you in fact like the piano but have doubts about its condition, you would be wise to have it closely examined by a qualified piano technician (one who is willing to stand behind his/her analysis).

Remain emotionally unattached throughout.

Once you get a condition report and recommendations, make a decision as to how much you would be willing to pay for it on that basis (whatever it is). Then make the offer to the seller and leave it at that. By doing this you are telling him that you are serious, but at "x" price. This gives him SOMETHING to go on. As it is, it sounds like you are simply a disinterested looker, and he has no reason come back to you later.

The cost of an inspection is negligible if you are serious. If you are a "tire kicker" then it does becone significant.

He may be unrealistic about what he wants for it, but that will take time and repeated statements by those who are knowledgeable. When that time comes, you want to be the first person he calls to negotiate.

Pwg
Originally Posted by P W Grey
If you in fact like the piano but have doubts about its condition, you would be wise to have it closely examined by a qualified piano technician (one who is willing to stand behind his/her analysis).
Pwg


You're going to need a regular tuner/technician to maintain whatever piano you buy. That's the person who should do the evaluation, with the understanding that the piano will be on their to do list as long as you own it.
Originally Posted by Piano90X
Originally Posted by HansC2
Originally Posted by BDB
... It may be more difficult to find a good technician than it is to find a good piano.


+1


How do I know if someone is a good technician? Is there a particular certification I should look for?



There should be a piano technicians guild in your area you can check with.

Best of luck to you at this exciting time!

Steve
Originally Posted by Piano90X

How do I know if someone is a good technician? Is there a particular certification I should look for?


Patents, publications and contributions to journals are usually a good sign. Look in the PTG's directory to see who's local, and dig from there.
Originally Posted by Piano90X
Also, while we're on the topic, what about C series Yamahas from 1998 - 2001.

I'm looking at a C1, C2, and C5 from that era.

I don't think anyone has addressed this question.

My experience with them - is mainly with C3s, and I'd consider them a nicer piano than the C1 or C2s I've played. Just check that they haven't been worn out - not sure about USA, but they're a popular teaching piano here, and the two I spent most time playing were in Churches. They are quite rugged and stable with tuning.

I've only played a couple of C5s, and liked them to play on. One was new, the other an older, but barely played home piano - being Yamaha, should be a solid piano.

Whatever you buy, get a technician to appraise it.
PTFE = P oly T etra F luor E thylene = scientific / chemical material name

TEFLON (TM) = trademark of same stuff

teflon bushings/bearings you might find in NYC made Steinway grands built from 1961 to 1982.

But be careful, several grands made in that range of years might be sold afterwards, so look to the serial number, and if in that range, pull the mechanism and have a look.

The PTFE bearings look like tiny white-to-yellow maccaroni, instead of red felt.

You can also buy a Teflon mechanism but it might happen trhat there occurs some noise in "transient" times over the year, it is related to contraction and expansion of wood which is not done parallely in the bearings.Such noise normally does not occur with felt bearings.
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