very gradually. Often the piano owner doesn't notice the slow
decline in their piano because it has happened so slowly. I
find generally speaking, that by the time a piano reaches the
thirty year mark the hammers are losing their ability to be voiced
properly. The bass strings may be starting to noticeably
decline as well. Often replacing the bass strings (or all of
the strings) and installing new hammers will make these pianos sing
like new once again.
that has been played frequently over the years may also require some
action restoration by this point. This will depend on the demands of
the pianist and their expectations. Many pianos don't have this kind
of restoration done until they are much older and the decline in the
instrument is so noticeable that it can no longer be ignored. At
this point the real question will be "is it worth it"? A
thorough inspection by a qualified technician will be required to
answer this question.
does not mean refinishing although refinishing may be included
as a part of a rebuild. Real rebuilding involves restoring the
musical instrument to like new condition. Typically this will mean
replacing the strings, hammers, hammer shanks, damper felt, key
bushings and keybed felt as well as shimming the soundboard cracks
and recapping cracked bridges. A complete rebuild could also
involve replacing the pinblock and the soundboard. So what does all
pretty straight forward. The old strings oxidize and loose their
original elasticity, the tone suffers and the instrument becomes
very difficult to tune. The bass strings in particular get "thumpy
sounding" and the notes die quickly upon being sounded.
Replacing the strings restores the clarity and sustaining qualities
to that of a new piano. The tuning pins are also replaced with
larger new pins during this procedure to ensure tight pins that will
hold a proper tuning for years to come.
violin, a harp or a guitar, the musicians hands never touch
the strings of a piano. The hammers are like the musicians fingers
on the strings. It is only through the hammers that the pianist can
express themselves through the strings of the instrument. The
hammers create the tone. This is why replacing old hammers can have
such a dramatic effect on piano tone. An extreme example of this is
a "honky tonk" piano where the hammers are so worn out
that it sounds like a completely different instrument.
become increasingly common to replace the hammer shanks when
restoring a grand piano. This component of the action is where the
pianist will feel the ability to control their touch. The flip side
of this of course is a piano where the action centers for the hammer
shanks are worn out. When this happens the pianist will not be able
to control how hard they strike the strings. If often sounds like
they are banging on the piano even though they are trying to play
softly. New shanks will restore the solid feel of a new piano to the
pianos often have notes that don't stop cleanly after the note is
played. Many of these pianos have a slightly "haunted"
sound as the notes reverberate after the key has been played. New
damper felt restores the dampers ability to stop notes
Shimming and Bridge Recapping
to repair soundboard cracks and repair a cracked bridge is when the
strings have been removed for restringing. This is the only time
that a piano technician has free access to these components. It
would also be a mistake to install new strings over cracked bridges
and a cracked soundboard as it will affect the tone adversely for
years to come.
pianos have arrived at the point where replacing the tuning pins
with larger pins will not result in tuning pins that are tight
enough to hold the strings at pitch. When this happens the only real
solution is to replace the pinblock. This procedure is more much
more common with grand pianos than upright pianos. This is because
the pinblock in an upright is under less stress being glued directly
to the back of the piano. A grand piano is also more likely to be
worth the cost of this repair.
This is a
job for an experienced technician. When a new pinblock is installed
it must be fitted exactly to the piano's iron plate. Any gaps that
are left between the pinblock and the plate will result in a piano
that will never stay in tune properly.
preformed in rare cases, this procedure is becoming more common
place. It is still primarily reserved for very valuable
complete rebuilding. This includes pinblock replacement, bridge and soundboard repairs as well as action and key restoration. In short, everything except refinishing. Many
older grand pianos can be made to perform and sound like new. This
may be of particular interest to people who own high quality older pianos. Many people prefer the sound of these
instruments because of the quality of the sound produced by these
classic grand pianos.
with the exception of a handful of pianos makes such as Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Baldwin and Chickering all of the other North
American manufacturers of high quality grands have gone out of business.
Fortunately there are many of these instruments that can be acquired
and with the proper restoration, can be made to sing again. Depending on their quality and condition, they may
represent a viable alternative.
This type of restoration may be an option for a good quality upright piano as well if there are family connections that give a certain piano special meaning within your family. However the current resale value for restored upright pianos makes this type of restoration impractical for most upright piano owners.
a list of pianos that are excellent candidates for rebuilding. The
original quality of materials, design and workmanship ensure a good
result assuming that the restoration is performed by a qualified
Bell, Gourlay, Nordheimer, Heintzman,
Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Knabe, Chickering, Baldwin, Krackuaer,
Bosendorfer, Bechstein, Grotrian, Seiler
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