Piano experts, please help! 1948 S+C...

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Eric_L, Nov 12, 2005.

  1. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I have a Story and Clark (sn=199481) which appears to have been built in 1948. During the restoration of my home from Hurricane Charley my piano did not fare well. I am now worried that the cost to repair it may grossly exceed it's value.

    Prior to the storm I had just had it restored. It was a pleasure watching my children learn on their great grandmothers piano. Now I am wondering if it is worth the cost to repair of if Grammy would just say "use the insurance money to buy a new and better piano".

    Part of the problem is that I have no idea what it is worth or where it resides on the quality scale. Websites I've browsed are not very forthcoming.

    There is certainly a sentimental value to it - but I don't want to spend thousands repairing a piano that isn't worth even half that.

    Any one here have some input or knowledge on the subject?
     
  2. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    I can't tell you anything about the value, but what exactly do you mean by "restored", both in what you did originally and what you were debating doing now? What got damaged?

    What kind of piano is it? Grand, Baby grand, upright? Used pricing I saw in a very brief search ranged from $300-$6000 depending on model and condition.

    If this is a family heirloom, it deserves to be kept at the very least. You can't buy your grandmother's piano again. If it were me, no matter what the market value was, I would try to fix mechanical or structural damage (pads, etc.), but I would tend to not worry about superficial issues - your kids can get it refinished later if they really want to. If it is a piece that will be held within the family, market value is meaningless anyway IMO.
     
  3. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I found a similar one on EBAY here;
    http://cgi.ebay.com/Story-and-Clark-...QQcmdZViewItem I had hoped it was worth a bit more - now the dilema is much more real.

    By restored I mean refinished. Sorry - car talk there.

    I remember when it was last tuned a few years ago the guy was real concerned about breaking the strings.

    There is a considerable sentimental value, but... the damage includes some waterstains on the finish, three black keys which are broken off, several keys which are not functioning (haven't looked at why yet...) and several more stuck keys. One floor pedal is broken off completely and in the bench. It is, of course, out of tune.

    My grandmother loved playing piano. She was for a period a pianist at the silent movies in her town. I'm just not sure she'd approve spending ten times the value of this one to repair it vs buying a new one. My amateur estimate is that it'll cost well over $1000.....

    My sister and I have discussed it, and she said it should probably go... while feebly holding back her tears. Ack!
     
  4. andrew markworthy

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    Eric, your grandmother made music. It is the making of music that celebrates her memory, not the specific instrument it's made on.

    Pianos, unlike violins, don't necessarily age very well and it sounds like the piano in question was approaching the end of its life anyway. Speaking as a piano player, I'd have no compunction in changing a piano if the old one became impractical to repair.
     
  5. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    From your description, the damage doesn't sound too severe aside from the pedal, but if you wanted it restored completely, it could cost quite a bit. I wouldn't judge the value soley on eBay auctions, as things like pianos, which are very expensive to move, aren't going to do well there unless they are collectors' pieces.

    If you had room, I'd suggest picking up a newer model to play, but hang onto the old one, at least for the time being, until you can get an accurate appraisal of what would be involved in the different levels of fixing and restoration.
     
  6. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    I believe that a piano should be tuned at least once a year....
     
  7. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    If the instrument hasn't been regulated or rebuilt (new felt, strings, etc) it's probably not worth the effort from a musical standpoint. You might want to look for somebody in the Piano Technicians Guild that would be willing to give it a look. You may have to pay a trip charge but they'd give you an honest assessment. I'd wager that it could be replaced with a superior instrument for considerably less than repair.....especially if it's had exposure to water.

    Mort
     
  8. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    The water was mostly splash I think, not major. THe humidity is another matter....
     
  9. Greg_R

    Greg_R Screenwriter

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    This means that the piano is on it's last legs. Even if you fixed all the cosmetic damage you could still have issues with the soundboard (if it got wet) or internal mechanisms (keys/felt, etc.). Even if everything were perfect, it will cost a lot to restring the piano. I know... I just went through the same problem with an old upright. It may be time for a new piano... you can always keep a part of the piano as a memento (music holder, etc.).
     
  10. andrew markworthy

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    True, if you only play for a couple of hours a week. When I was playing regularly (i.e. circa 2 hours a day) I got it tuned every three months. My piano tuner had worked for Steinway in London before he moved out to the sticks for a more relaxed life. In London, he worked for a lot of the big name classical pianists (who typically practise 5-8 hours a day) who had their pianos tuned weekly - at least. He also did a lot of the major studios where the pianos were tuned each day during a recording session (sometimes more if the pianist was notoriously heavy on the keys or it was a very loud involved piece that was being recorded). During piano recitals, he would 'tweak' the tuning during the interval.

    It's also pertinent to remember that tuning a good quality piano isn't just a matter of making sure it's in tune, but also adjusting the sensitivity of the keys, the level of sustain on the pedals, etc.
     
  11. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Are you implying that ancient stringed instruments like Strads don't need similarly expensive care?
     
  12. andrew markworthy

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    Yes and no. Violins of course need care and attention, but being smaller generally require rather less work and can more easily be kept in a controlled environment.

    In addition, spare parts are relatively easy to find for a violin. E.g. although violin strings have changed over time, generally modern ones will fit on old instruments (and almost always are - how often do you see gut strings used these days?). Not so for an old piano (e.g. using modern higher tension strings just won't work in an old frame). And on top of that there are a lot more things that can go wrong with a piano (e.g. the little issue of repairing escapement mechanisms).

    So yes, pianos are far harder to care for.

    On top of everything else, pianos have improved in sound quality over time. To modern ears, most pre-1900 pianos sound weedy. There is therefore less interest in keeping old pianos as anything other than museum pieces. Play a Beethoven sonata on a piano of his day (or a modern replica) and you rapidly discover why the overwhelming majority of the great classical pianists use a modern instrument (unless they are part of the period instrument movement, which is making a different point).
     
  13. Randy Tennison

    Randy Tennison Screenwriter

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    Back to the original question. I would not pay to restore it, unless it is of such great sentimental value that you can't bare to let it go. Pianos do last so long that they really don't increase in value with age (no such thing as an "antique" piano, just an old piano). Of course, there are exceptions for the top of the line pianos, but truthfully, this piano, being a spinnet, is just not worth it. The moisture and humidity it has been exposed to have probably ruined the soundboard, and warpage will result in stuck keys.

    Find a new piano for the kids. Grandma would be happy that they are enjoying music, whatever they play on.
     
  14. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I really appreciate all of the input. My sister and I have decided that before we make any decision we're going to at least get an estimate on the cost to repair. Then we can more easily determine the value of repair vs a new purchase. I can't tell you all how much I appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you very much. I'm not sure how soon we can get an estimate. We're still moving in and the contractor is still working around us.
     

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