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Estonia Pianos
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My older brother had some lessons and didn’t fare well when I was pre-K. I remember him showing me a couple pieces he could play that were meant to be native-American styled (monotonous pulsating eighth note fifths...). I started lessons in kindergarten, about the same time it was determined that he wasn’t cut out for the piano, and continued through the fifth grade. I did kindergarten and 1st grade in San Diego, 2nd and 3rd in Albuquerque, and 4th and 5th in Columbus, Ohio.

Ironically, I don’t specifically remember the piano itself until the house in Ohio. I can remember my late mother describing it as a “six foot baby grand,” but only learned recently from a cousin that it was a Baldwin (so I assume an L). Our maternal grandmother grew up across the river from Cincinnati, and apparently there was some sort of family connection to Baldwin.

Anyway, my parents divorced and my mom sold the piano because my younger brothers were banging on it all the time. At the time it didn’t bother me, because I’d taken up guitar, but I’d sure love to have that piano now!


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There was an Erard grand in the living room of our modest house growing up. My Father is a musical person, came across it and bought it for almost nothing in the 1970's.
It was in pretty hard shape, veneer peeling off, water stains and other damage. It stayed with us 6 or 7 years I suppose not doing much of anything. I loved it and sat plonking on it for hours ( no lessons though ).
I always wished I knew it's back-story...the island where I live in the Atlantic does not have much history with pianos at all, much less an Erard grand. Even these days I believe there's only one dealer in the province.
I'd love to know what happened to it...Dad said the guy who bought it from him was pretty excited when he saw it. I can't imagine there was anyone on the island at the time capable of restoring it.

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I learned on a mahogany Young Chang grand piano from the 80's that was bought primarily for furniture appeal as I was an organ player. Six children banged on that piano for many years. I taught myself as best as I could on the piano throughout my teens. My parents still have this piano and have not tuned it in about 30 years. I tried to tune it a couple of years back and it was a little better but obviously needs a lot of work. Some notes are stuck. Some just make clicking noises. The interior now has a soundboard that looks like it's made of dust. It was pretty nice when it was new but they got it on sale. I played it last week after not seeing my parents for a couple of years due to the pandemic. It was quite the horrendous experience. Thank god they don't build them like they used to.

Last edited by Jethro; 06/14/21 09:03 AM.

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We had what was probably a Yahama U1. My dad made me and my sister practice 2.5 hours a day, and to punish us for various things he'd add more piano. If you didn't finish in a day the time would roll over to the weekend. The piano was kept in the original part of our 1940 house that didn't have central heat, so it would get really cold in there during the deep Canadian winter. I hated piano back then but my dad wouldn't let me quit until I finished my Grade 10 RCM exam. He was surprised when I got enthusiastic about chamber music later and when I bought my own piano, and I told him I was playing for me, not him!

I haven't played a Yamaha U1 that I've liked since, wonder how much of it is tied to the experience I had growing up 😂


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Originally Posted by twocats
We had what was probably a Yahama U1. My dad made me and my sister practice 2.5 hours a day, and to punish us for various things he'd add more piano. If you didn't finish in a day the time would roll over to the weekend. The piano was kept in the original part of our 1940 house that didn't have central heat, so it would get really cold in there during the deep Canadian winter. I hated piano back then but my dad wouldn't let me quit until I finished my Grade 10 RCM exam. He was surprised when I got enthusiastic about chamber music later and when I bought my own piano, and I told him I was playing for me, not him!

I haven't played a Yamaha U1 that I've liked since, wonder how much of it is tied to the experience I had growing up 😂
All that hard training has made you a better player today. I wish my parents forced me to take pianos lessons and go the whole 9 yards with the exams and such. They never asked and I never had the foresight to ask. Unfortunately there are no do overs in life only catch ups. I thank my parents however every day for introducing music into my life as a child but I wish they would have gone for a piano rather than a Lowry organ.

Last edited by Jethro; 06/14/21 12:09 PM.

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If I may be so bold:

Piano practice as punishment is positively poor parenting. No wonder you hated piano, but fortunately you recovered from that trauma!

Regards,


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Originally Posted by Jethro
All that hard training has made you a better player today. I wish my parents forced me to take pianos lessons and go the whole 9 yards with the exams and such. They never asked and I never had the foresight to ask. Unfortunately there are no do overs in life only catch ups.

It's true. Even though there were many years when I didn't play, it always comes back pretty easily. My sister and I are also the only ones of many cousins who can speak Mandarin, because my dad was so strict about it. One of the punishable offenses for speaking English at home was more piano 😂


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When I first started piano lessons, we didn't own a piano, but I had access to a church hall a block away from home that had an Canadian-Bell upright. It got cold in there in the winter without heat, but that didn't deter my enthusiasm at the time. Eventually, my parents bought me a piano and put it in my tiny bedroom. Coincidentally, it was also a vintage (early 1900's) Bell, made in Guelph, Ontario.

It served me well through to my Grade X RCM exams, but it languished in the family home after I left; none of my parents played. Eventually it was sold to a local dealer.

In fact, I tried to practice before my father got home. He had no ear for music and I remember (fondly?) to this day when I was practicing the first exercise of Hanon, that he piped in with the lyrics: "I don't care if I go crazy, I don't care if I go crazy!" I guess, at least, he had some sense of rhythm.

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Originally Posted by BruceD
If I may be so bold:

Piano practice as punishment is positively poor parenting. No wonder you hated piano, but fortunately you recovered from that trauma!

Regards,

I had a Tiger Dad! He always wished he had the opportunity to learn piano and we were his ungrateful children. I'm glad I made it my own in the end.

When I got my piano, I made a joke that he should have gotten us a Bösendorfer and he got all huffy about it and I was like "Dad, it's a joke! See the wink emoji I used??" smile

Last edited by twocats; 06/14/21 12:21 PM.

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Originally Posted by Jethro
Originally Posted by twocats
We had what was probably a Yahama U1. My dad made me and my sister practice 2.5 hours a day, and to punish us for various things he'd add more piano. If you didn't finish in a day the time would roll over to the weekend. The piano was kept in the original part of our 1940 house that didn't have central heat, so it would get really cold in there during the deep Canadian winter. I hated piano back then but my dad wouldn't let me quit until I finished my Grade 10 RCM exam. He was surprised when I got enthusiastic about chamber music later and when I bought my own piano, and I told him I was playing for me, not him!

I haven't played a Yamaha U1 that I've liked since, wonder how much of it is tied to the experience I had growing up 😂
All that hard training has made you a better player today. I wish my parents forced me to take pianos lessons and go the whole 9 yards with the exams and such. They never asked and I never had the foresight to ask. Unfortunately there are no do overs in life only catch ups. I thank my parents however every day for introducing music into my life as a child but I wish they would have gone for a piano rather than a Lowry organ.


You’re looking back from the perspective of an adult who now loves playing the piano, and you’re assuming your kid-self would have felt the same. . If your parents would have forced lessons and exams, you might have been like other kids in similar situations: they grow to hate it snd quit. There are no guarantees if your reaction even if there were a ‘do-over’.


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My oldest sister (10 years older) was the pianist in our family. Her teacher (later mine) had a Mason & Hamlin BB and told my mother that my sister needed a grand to progress in her piano studies. We were pretty poor, but nonetheless my mother bought an old Farrand baby grand on lay-away, so that's the piano I learned on when I was 6.

It was never a great piano, and when I'd play my teacher's BB it was hard to go back to the Farrand! But looking back it was amazing my mom managed to eke out enough money from her meager budget to further my sister's studies. What parents will do for their children!


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In the 1930s my immigrant grandparents got a 1913 Ivers & Pond small grand (5'2") for their oldest daughter (my aunt). She ended up at Juilliard, and the piano sat idle until around 1969 when it came to my childhood home. My playing was inflicted upon it for 35 years. By then it was more of a PSO, so it was replaced when my son's piano teacher strongly recommended doing so.

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I 'think' it was an Emerson Upright 57"
but not sure - could have been a Lester
It had been a player piano but the mechanics were all taken out.
I remember fiddling with the switches on the keyslip and wondering what they did.

Last edited by brdwyguy; 06/14/21 05:49 PM.

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I had the Karl Mullar when I first started! It was a decent piano back then. But now I enjoyed my YUS5 even more! smile

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That reminds me...

I thought my teacher in Albuquerque was really big time because he also played at the local Shakey's Pizza parlor! Part of their entertainment was playing old black and white movies, and he’d play the accompaniment. To a 2nd grader, that was pretty impressive. thumb


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Originally Posted by c++
My grandmother had an upright piano as well. I have a vague memory that it was a Chickering, and that it was always polished. I also remember not liking the tone as much as the piano at home. It seemed muffled or muddy or too rich, not sure how to describe it.

Here I am, commenting on my own previous post. I should mention that my grandmother was a wonderful pianist and organist. It's a shame that I only inherited one quarter of her talent. frown

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Originally Posted by cfhosford
What was your first piano, and what are your memories about it?

I am still playing it!

My parents married just after the War. My mother thought she would like to learn the piano. In the immediate post-war period in England, everything was in short supply - pianos were unobtainable. Then one day a Bluthner grand piano appeared in an antique shop in Earls Court, near to my parents' flat. My father's sister was a pianist; she came to inspect the Bluthner, and gave it the thumbs up. My mother started lessons, and within a few years was playing Mozart K545. Then I came along ... and that was the end of piano playing for my mother. I started lessons at the age of 5, and have been playing this instrument ever since.

When my parents bought the Bluthner it was 70 years old - like buying a 1950 piano today. Now, it is 140 years old. This is the effect of time. Everything is aging...

I have written about this piano elsewhere on PW, but in brief - I have always been sufficiently happy with this piano never to have the slightest wish to change it. It is very handsome, and having been brought up on the light touch of the Bluthner Patent action, other pianos always felt heavy to play. In my teens I visited the Bluthner showroom, then in Conduit Street, and learned that the piano was made in 1881. In 1981 we celebrated its centenary. By 1999, because my mother loved to have the house toasty warm, the ill effects on the Bluthner had become very apparent. We had a partial restoration done by the Period Piano Company - new strings and tuning pins, and the hammers re-felted. When it came back it sounded simply gorgeous.

I have developed a deep love of music played on period instruments, and become seriously interested in period pianos. It is an interesting twist of fate that my childhood piano has now become a period instrument!

PS I have deliberately not put an umlaut over the "u" in Bluthner. My piano is the only Bluthner I have ever seen that has no umlaut in the name on the fallboard!

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A Lester Spinet! We never had it tuned, and somehow it kept tune (to my ears anyway) the whole 10 years or so I played it. We also acquired a big Vose & Sons upright when we moved into a new house when I was 12. It was somehow in the basement and the prior homeowners could not figure out how to move it up the stairs. I just sold that house for my parents last month (some 40+ years later), and the realtor confirms the piano is still there in the basement. Still no one has an idea how to move it out of there.

That Vose & Sons always sounded too mellow for its size, and in high school I'd read that you can file the grooves out of piano hammers to improve the sound. Somehow I was able to pull out the action and file down all the grooves using 80 grit sandpaper from Kmart. Still didn't sound any better, but I learned quite a few pieces on that old beast.

Ps. 40 years later I'm still pulling actions out of pianos and doing things to them I probably shouldn't. crazy

Last edited by Emery Wang; 06/15/21 06:07 PM.

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Originally Posted by David-G
We had a partial restoration done by the Period Piano Company - new strings and tuning pins, and the hammers re-felted. When it came back it sounded simply gorgeous.

What a wonderful story, and no wonder you love older instruments! Do you have any videos of your restored Bluthner to share?


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Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by cfhosford
What was your first piano, and what are your memories about it?

I am still playing it!

Awesome! Great story. Thanks for sharing.


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