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is my piano a good piano????

Posted By: clare

is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 12:36 PM

hello all, my name is clare and although i like to tinker on the black and white keys, i wouldn't be able to say that i know all that much about them!!!!About five years ago i was given a piano...I have no idea where it is from or the history of the actual manufacturer apart that it is German???It is a c.weidig.It has two brass pedals at the bottom, has some very nice little engravings on the front of what seems like little flowers.Very pretty i must say.It is a lovely little thing...though very out of tune!I once payed a man to tune it for me, but it honestly didn't sound any better.I guess good tuners are hard to find.Also a couple of the little white pads inside the piano are very flat and that makes the keys barely,if, audible. I have ben told that this gorgeous piece of beauty within my dining room is about 100 years old but i am unaware of any fact to that and was possibly wondering if anybody had any information to maybe help me know about and understand the part of my family which i know nothing about.Tell me is this classified as a good piano?
Posted By: Monica K.

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 12:43 PM

The short answer is probably not.

The long answer is that there are lots of 100 year old uprights sitting around, and most people are lucky if they can find somebody to take them away for free. It doesn't matter how good a piano was to begin with; after 100 years it will (almost certainly) be in very bad shape and need extensive rebuilding work, all of which would be more expensive than the piano would be worth after rebuilding.

Incidentally, I wouldn't blame your tuner. It's entirely possible that the pinblock on your piano is shot and it can't hold a tune.

If this piano has sentimental value to you or you appreciate it as a beautiful piece of furniture, then by all means you should enjoy it in your home. But if you are looking for a quality musical instrument that sounds and play well, I would suggest looking into upgrading the piano.
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 12:50 PM

The C. Weidig piano was made in Jena, Germany. If you find the serial number someone here will likely be able to tell you when it was made. Given what you say I have little doubt but that it is 100 years old or more.

Given what you say, it's also not worth much on the open market. A century old piano that has not been rebuilt is not a good musical instrument, and most pianos of that age -- especially uprights -- aren't worth the restoration costs (a real rebuild would cost many thousands of dollars).

To give you some perspective, here's a site where an antique dealer claims a C. Weidig is both beautiful and restored (whatever that means). He is trying to sell it for almost $2,000 (AU dollars):

"Antique C. Weidig"

On the other hand, I noticed that a C. Wiedig also was "sold" on ebay in Australia for $1.00. That's one dollar. In other words, selling the piano for a buck was worth it to avoid having to pay real money to have it taken away.

This gives you a range. Yours may not be able to hold a tune, and clearly it needs serious work (new hammers, strings, probably most action parts) to make it playable. This suggests it has at most some furniture value, and indeed some people value old pianos for precisely that. And if it has sentimental value, that's an argument for keeping it!


David F
Posted By: pianobrick

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 02:12 PM

Originally posted by Monica Kern:
The short answer is probably not.

The long answer is that there are lots of 100 year old uprights sitting around, and most people are lucky if they can find somebody to take them away for free. It doesn't matter how good a piano was to begin with; after 100 years it will (almost certainly) be in very bad shape and need extensive rebuilding work, all of which would be more expensive than the piano would be worth after rebuilding.
While true as a rule, the exceptions are always fun, particularly when they benefit you. I've been wanting to take up the piano for a while, but never could justify buying one for my dabbling. Then I noticed the piano in my GF's house. No one had really played it for 10 years, but her older sister used it extensively before.

It was originally baught for their great-grandmother as a christening present, so I reckoned it had to be close to 100 years old. I was a bit disheartened by the "100 year old pianos are seldom worth touching" rule, but the fact that it had been played semi-recently and is a pretty good make (Rud. Ibach, from the Barmen factory) gave me hope, so I had a tuner come over.

The tuner was great guy; he made no promises but said he'd do what he could. When he opened the piano he was quite taken aback. From the date markings he determined that the piano was made in 1893. He says everything on the piano looks original, and that he had never seen such an old piano in such a good condition before!

Well, it is in need of regulation and voicing, but three months later it's still in tune and I'm having much fun playing it. It's bright voicing has even been an advantage, with my piano teacher commenting my on my sensitive touch that few of his beginner students manage. And there is something special about playing a 115 year old intrument with a one family history!

Owing to budget and space limitations it will be a while yet before I get my own accoustic, so I'll enjoy it in the meantime...
Posted By: IrishMak

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 02:32 PM

And I will agree with pianobrick- just because the piano is 100 years old, does not mean it is junk. Mine is 118 this year, and I am having some work done on the action that is not going to cost an arm and a leg. The tech who came in and evaluated it for me to give me an idea whether the work was worth doing, said it is in excellent shape for a piano of its age. Now, I also have to say that it did have a lot of restoration work done on it when we bought it 26 years ago, and we have taken care of it since we have had it, but there are good old pianos out there. I'm not saying this one is definitely one- only a good tech who has experience with rebuilding older pianos can tell you that. It may well have been abused and neglected enough to make it extremely expensive to rebuild, if it's possible at all. But if you like the piano, it may be worth finding a good tech to look at it.
Posted By: w_scott_iv@yahoo

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 03:52 PM

The belief that 'an old piano is junk unless it's been rebuilt' really is a mis-conception. A piano can last indefinately with all of it's original components. Of course they require care and maintenance, but I know of many 'antique' pianos that are used regularly, have never been rebuilt, and are in original condition. The biggest impediment to keeping a piano 'original' used to be a worn pinblock. When the block required replacing, the piano was restrung because all of the old strings were removed for block replacement. Now with CA glue block treatment the block can be retained and restringing isn't necessary. Of course there are many other repairs that a piano can require, but I can't think of any which would routinely reduce a piano to junk. A cracked plate is the most serious damage, and I would even look into repairing that before assuming that my piano was d.o.a.. It may be true that the cost of labor for 'rebuilding' may be prohibitive, but many technicians do repair on very old pianos economically, and many repairs can be done by the piano owner themselves (w/the help of their tech, an online repair site, or repair book such as Reblitz's). It's probably important to point out that a lot of what is involved in a rebuild is not important to many owners. For example, I'd rather have the original finish than a bright shiny new one. I'd also want the original antique action rather than my original action 'modernized'. I'd definately want to keep my original ivories (even if yellowed or somewhat cracked/chipped) rather than to have beautiful new plastic ones. Etc., etc.. I guess it comes down to different strokes for different folks, but old pianos (when maintained)can perform to a very high musical standard. They are also bought and sold every day for prices that range from free to many thousands of dollars. I can't know for sure, but my guess is that many more 'old uprights' find homes than are junked; and, I believe that any old upright that is reasonably attractive (and works) will bring a couple to several hundred dollars.
Posted By: BDB

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 04:05 PM

The race may not always be to the swiftest, nor the battle to the strongest, but that is the way to bet!
Posted By: IrishMak

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 04:56 PM

I agree completely. Most of the action in my M&H is original. A few hammers have been replaced because they were broken, but that's about all that was done to change things. I guess I phrased badly when I said above that "a lot of restoration" was done. It had what it needed done and the rest has been care and maintenance. Still has the original ivories, too- in really good shape. A couple small chips on three of them, but no cracks or splits to speak of. I may, at some point, look into having the chipped tops replaced. I guess it comes down to what the piano is worth to you, both in terms of sentiment and monetary investment. I would not write off an old piano just because it is old.
Posted By: Rickster

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 05:15 PM

Hi Clare, and welcome to the piano forum.

I say that any piano is better than no piano laugh .

In terms of whether or not your older piano is a good one is hard to say without an evaluator actually inspecting it and playing it. I would venture to say that if some of the hammers are “flat” as you describe it and if a tuner “tuned” it and it did not sound much better, that it (at least) has a lot of ware on it. (Was the tuner an experienced technician?)

Anyway, there is one sure way to determine if your piano is a good one or not…. find a piano dealer/shop and play some of the new/newer pianos and see what you think.

Best regards and keep tinkering with the white and black keys in various combinations smile .

Posted By: w_scott_iv@yahoo

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 05:52 PM

If you do replace some of the chipped ivories, save the old ones and keep them w/the piano. I have a funny story about replacing an ivory. My father decided to replace a chipped ivory on an old (but very nice) grand piano. He looked over dozens of ivories to find a perfect match. After it was installed, he decided to touch up a couple of unisons after which he dropped the tuning hammer chipping an ivory! I don't know if he managed to chip the one he'd just installed, but it's a great story either way. Incidently, for someone interested in doing museum quality preservation, you can repair chipped ivories the same way that dentists repair chipped teeth.
Posted By: SCCDoug

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 07:05 PM

We have the pleasure and the pain of owning an old upright(soundboard from Dec 1913 and action from Feb 1914 - the workers signed the case). I bought this piano for myself when I started university in the early 70's and it has been a part of my life ever since. However, over the past few years it has been an increasingly expensive proposition to keep the instrument performing adequately, from increasingly frequent tunings, agressive voicing, fussy regulation, action part replacement, new keys, pinblock doping, etc. At one point the tuning was slipping so quickly that I taught myself to tune just to keep it in reasonable shape inbetween professional jobs. Both technicians we have consulted about the piano are suggesting the CA treatment may possibly gives us another few years of use - but it is clear to them, and us, that it is reaching the end of its useful life.

My point is this: an old piano can, like ours, be a cherished and valuable instrument, but it usually comes at a price that may in the long run not make a lot of economic sense.
Posted By: w_scott_iv@yahoo

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 07:32 PM

Good luck w/your CA treatment. Conventional wisdom is that once a block has been doped, it will not respond well to CA glue. I haven't had the opportunity to test the theory, but I'm hoping that doped blocks will (perhaps after several treatments) respond to CA glue. I could see where turning a grand upside down (resting the plate on support blocks!!) so that you can access the back of the block (and the areas that would be less likely to have been exposed to dope) might be promising, but it's not likely that you can get to the back of the block in an upright. Are you going to be doing the treatment yourself?
Posted By: BDB

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/24/07 11:50 PM

You can put a lot of money into a crummy old European upright with a nice case that will not hold its tuning, and in the end, you will have a lot less money and a crummy old European upright with a nice case that will not hold its tuning.
Posted By: w_scott_iv@yahoo

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/25/07 01:10 AM

BDB makes a good point. You may want to do the CA treatment yourself (the cost is negligible) to see if you can get adequate tension on the pins before you decide to sink any real money into the piano... (Of course we are assuming that the pins are loose. To determine that, put a torque wrench on a few pins at various places throughout the piano and turn slightly counter clockwise. You need a minimum of about 50 inch-pounds of torque for the piano to adequately hold a tuning. If there is not enough torque on the pins, someone here will be glad to walk you through the process of applying CA glue to tighten the pins. Basically it involves putting the piano on it's back and applying the CA glue to the base of each pin. After the glue cures, test again w/the torque wrench.)
Posted By: clare

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/25/07 05:49 AM

i must say thank you all for your advice, i guess if fixing the piano is beyond my monetary means, which is more than likely!, it will just have to settle for a beautiful ornament for the moment.Sad but true.Thanks again all. Clare
Posted By: Zormpas

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/25/07 04:17 PM

Another one here with a resurrected upright, in my case an 89 year old upright.

I've done a ton of work on it myself, with the help of Reblitz, stevespianoservice.com, a sympathetic tech, and a lot of dumb luck.

Mine has "adequate" tuning pin torque - but if it ever loses too much torque, I'll either CA the block (its never been doped) or re-pin with larger pins. If the block isn't cracked, it can be brought back with some perseverance. At the extreme end there is always drilling and plugging, or even block replacement if you're REALLY dedicated.

My piano's story, thus far:

Posted By: Rickster

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/25/07 04:40 PM

Hi Zormpas,

Your story is interesting. I too like to tinker and work with my hands and fix things.

I admire someone who is willing to fix/restore/rebuild their on piano. Some are afraid to take risks when working on their on stuff. Perhaps they think they might make matters worse or do more harm than good, but there are always risks involved in anything you do. Anyone who has ever had any kind of medical surgery must first sign a consent form from the Dr. which usually states all the risk involved in the surgery.

I say there is no benefit without risks.

I didn't know I was a philosopher laugh .

Best regards,

Posted By: Zormpas

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/25/07 05:44 PM

Most piano jobs can be re-done if you screw them up, that's the beauty of the thing. OTOH, I had my tech reshape my hammers, one slip and the hammer would be toast.

Lots of stuff I did either out of order or "the hard way", but I'm having fun and learning, and the old girl is starting to sound and play really nice.
Posted By: Kenny Blankenship

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/26/07 10:37 AM

Your piano is only good for the tuner that will make money constantly working on it. Although you have a lot of emotional equity in it. Its time to turn it into a nice wet bar or carbon emmission. Go shopping and find yourself a nice new piano. After a short mourning period, you will be happy you did.
Posted By: w_scott_iv@yahoo

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/26/07 03:32 PM

Could you post pictures and the serial number of your piano?
Posted By: pianistical

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/27/07 06:42 AM

I think there are several factors why the myth that old pianos need to be rebuilt keeps alive.

Rebuilders and the piano industry have an interest in keeping the myth alive.

There are a lot of pianos, usually of inferior makes, that really are junk.

It is difficult for people to know how to approach an old piano.

There are more or less skilled technicians out there that are willing to recondition a piano.

The voicing often is one of the biggest differences between a new and a reconditioned piano.

People evaluate pianos with their eyes and ears and old pianos often look old and sound old before reconditioning.

Some people who buy new pianos justify their purchase by repeating what industry professionals have said.
Posted By: pianistical

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 04/27/07 06:51 AM

My advice to anyone with an old piano with potential is to let Abel in Germany do as much work as possible on the action and then hire a concert technician to do the rest of the job including the voicing of the hammers.

With uprights this is often not worth the money. With a grand with potential it is probably one of the best deals one can do.

A technician told me that other technicians sometimes send the whole action to Abel to have them do what can be done there and then charge the customers as if they themselves have done the work.
Posted By: Wonderwoman

Re: is my piano a good piano???? - 01/10/09 05:36 AM

Hi Clare,
I also have an old C. Weidig Jena upright. I don't really know the history of the piano, only that it was bought and shipped out to Australia in the early 1900's as a methodist church piano in memory of a relative who had died as a little girl. My father had the instrument restored for my 21st birthday (as I am the only member of my family to play the piano), and had he not rescued this beautiful thing - the church was going to discard it to the local dump.
I am well aware that it is probably worth nothing (which breaks my heart to think that other people view one of my most prized possessions as worthless), but I too would like to know the particulars of the construction of my piano. It has 3333 stamped on the iron frame, as well as printed on the sound board. It is decorated with fancy carved supports, and the front is Walnut veneer. It has all it's original ivories and ebonies. When it was restored, all that was replaced was the felt above the keys and 4 strings - to my knowledge.
If you shop around, you may find a restorer who will charge a reasonable fee. And you will be forever thankful that you had it done. I am always glad to think that I can pass mine down to my daughter and know that she will know the significance of my so called worthless "wet bar or carbon emmission".
For the record, I began learning the piano 22 years ago, but never owned one until I was 21. I learnt to play on a 6 octave electric organ. Also - for the record again - a fully restored piano sings it's joy just as lovely as a concert grand. Well, mine does anyway! thumb
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