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  • OT: Pianos

    I grew up playing a beautiful baby grand Kimball in my parents' living room. My wife and I would like our children to start taking piano lessons but need to get a piano first (that's how that works, right?). Unfortunately, we don't have nearly the space my parents did and can only fit an upright into our home. I searched for "piano" on Craigslist and I'm getting at least 20-30 listings posted per day! I have no idea which are the steals and which are not.

    So, I'm asking you guys what brands are the best and how much should I expect to pay for one in great shape? I'd like to keep the budget to around $500 but could swing $1000 if I find something special.

    Thanks!

  • #2
    Re: OT: Pianos

    I have a close friend who rebuilds and tunes Steinways for the Music Department of Indiana University.
    I have also seen his inventory of other used pianos and his uprights ( including Baldwin, Perzina, Everett, Essex, Yamaha, Wurlitzer, Kimball, Kawai, etc )
    New they are not cheap.
    ( PM if interested )

    I presume you are looking for used - have you considered an electronic piano?
    "Not a Speaker Designer - Not even on the Internet"
    “Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend.”
    "If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

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    • #3
      Re: OT: Pianos

      A GOOD upright will cost at least 4 times your max budget, and probably much more. Try a Samick electronic piano. They are reasonably priced, have good "weight" to the keys (much like a real piano) and have a decent tone. Spend more, you get more. We sold my Mother's 1892 Vose Colombian Exposition Model (former player) re-cased up-right with a cracked sounding board and the case needing refinishing 20 years ago for $750 and the people came and hauled it off, and it needed tuning and all new "bridal straps" on the escarpment and we told them all of this before they came to look at it. We were going to ask $150, and they said "Will you take $750? We have a Period Case that might fit it." Today, they could have sold the solid bronze frame for more than that. The real ivory keys could have been sold for MUCH more than that and fitted to a new major brand grand for the "feel". The texture of real ivory makes it much easier to do really fast runs and trills on a piano. Those two reasons are why there are so few good old uprights on the market today. You can buy a mid-grade 1960's European 7 1/2' grand for less than a pre-WWII upright today, both in the same mechanical condition.

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      • #4
        Re: OT: Pianos

        My wife would kill me for saying this...but....we have a 1915 Clarendon "professional" upright in an unbelievable quarter-sawn oak finish (looks like tiger maple) with the original bench. The thing sounds absolutely amazing and it takes up valuable space in the living room. I've played all kinds of pianos and it could be easily compared to the tone of a baby. I've been told the sounding board is cracked, but it's never buzzed. The keys are real freaking ivory capped and ebony wood. It was tuned regularly until I bought it. I can play it by ear (the only way I know how) and it's actually quite "in tune" for being "out of tune". So it holds its tuning very well.

        This style:

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        This wood (but darker and more contrasty):

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        • #5
          Re: OT: Pianos

          Envis, Momma's sounding board never whimpered unless I playedFFF on Beethoven or Chopin or Joplin. An upright has a big advantage if you're playing "rag-time". You can lower the bottom board and kick the frame on "Tiger Rag" as it is written, which with the bass sustain pedal depressed, causes all the bass strings to resonate (in tune!). Extra points if you know what "rag-time" and "jass" refers to. Hint: Storyville.
          Brag: I MAY have an "inside-out" cut 78 CMI recording of Scott Joplin playing Scott Joplin. It was recorded in Sokie, IL. which was one place blacks could make records for CMI (Chicago Music Industries) and the Copyright date, Joplin was still alive and not yet insane, but I can't prove it's not a piano-roll transcription of Scott Joplin playing his own music. Thomas Edison NEVER allowed any blacks to be recorded on his apparatus while he owned the rights to it, nor did he ever allow a black to be in an Edison Moving Picturegram.

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          • #6
            Re: OT: Pianos

            Originally posted by Whitneyville1 View Post
            Envis, Momma's sounding board never whimpered unless I playedFFF on Beethoven or Chopin or Joplin. An upright has a big advantage if you're playing "rag-time". You can lower the bottom board and kick the frame on "Tiger Rag" as it is written, which with the bass sustain pedal depressed, causes all the bass strings to resonate (in tune!). Extra points if you know what "rag-time" and "jass" refers to. Hint: Storyville.
            Brag: I MAY have an "inside-out" cut 78 CMI recording of Scott Joplin playing Scott Joplin. It was recorded in Sokie, IL. which was one place blacks could make records for CMI (Chicago Music Industries) and the Copyright date, Joplin was still alive and not yet insane, but I can't prove it's not a piano-roll transcription of Scott Joplin playing his own music. Thomas Edison NEVER allowed any blacks to be recorded on his apparatus while he owned the rights to it, nor did he ever allow a black to be in an Edison Moving Picturegram.
            I know what rag-time is (ragged time), but I admit I'd never heard of Jass.

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            • #7
              Re: OT: Pianos

              "Rag-time" is exactly what it sounds like it is. Scott Joplin (and others) grew up and played in the "sportin' houses" of the Storyville District of New Orleans where all the brothels were. The "girls" were illiterate, couldn't tell time, but they knew "their" music. When the piano or "parlour orchestra" played their song, time was up and it was "rag time". "Jass" is a Creole contraction for "jiggle-a$$". The "sportin' men" while waiting or afterwards in the parlour would tell the pianist or orchestra "Put some jass in it" (the music). This is not what is told today, but it is what Kidd Orey told on his death-bed when he was 103 (at least) to his biographer, and Mom's Mably said 30-odd years later. It wasn't changed to "Jazz" until about the beginning of WWI. The Original Dixie Land Jass Band with Nick La Rocca (coronet) made their first recording (Barnyard Rag) for the Victrola Co. in March 1913 and they kept the name until November 1917 when it became The Original Dixieland Jazz Band. I played "The Rag-Time Waltz" (Elite Syncopations) as my piano recital piece one year in college. You have to feel the rhythm, it's not on the page of music. It's like a Rumba or a Samba, or Chopin or the country Creole of Hank Williams Sr. (Jambalaya, I Got Tears In My Beer, Lovesick Blues, Cold,Cold Heart).

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              • #8
                Re: OT: Pianos

                I worked in a piano shop during grad school. Both as a grunt mover and scut helper (sanding) for the refinisher.

                Personally, I would go with an electronic keyboard till your kids "graduate" to acoustic.

                Big uprights (not spinnets) are definitely the best bang for the buck. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to tell the condition without an expert. Biggest problems we saw were cracked soundboards (often from moving the piano from high humidity to AZ) and loose tuning posts. (Piano would not hold tuning) Pretty outside <=> quality inside. Moving one correctly will cost $100+. Plus an annual tuning.

                Check university music schools for used units. Typically beat up outside, but the guts are usually well cared for.
                Lou's Speaker Site [speakers.lonesaguaro.com]
                "Different" is objective, "better" is subjective. Taste is not a provable fact.
                Where are you John Galt? I may not be worthy, but I'm ready.

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                • #9
                  Re: OT: Pianos

                  Good post Lou - the same advice I've been given:
                  I had been offered "free" pianos numerous times, and was warned that ( without the knowledge of an expert ) I ultimately might be paying later for someone's junk. And of course the importance of humidity and care/maintenance.
                  Heard some crazy stories about mistreatment and neglect of expensive pianos.
                  ( Someday I plan on getting a cheap electronic piano that has instructional features built in. )
                  Last edited by Sydney; 12-08-2012, 10:56 AM.
                  "Not a Speaker Designer - Not even on the Internet"
                  “Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend.”
                  "If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: OT: Pianos

                    Personally, I'd go for the digital piano. The fact that it's always in tune is a huge selling point for me. Not only is it expensive to regularly get a piano tuned, but even then, only the best pianos can retain that intonation for extended periods of time.
                    Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

                    Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
                    Twitter: @undefinition1

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                    • #11
                      Re: OT: Pianos

                      I come from a piano and guitar playing home. The piano was never in tune, just like the guitars - spend 1/2 the time tuning them and the other 1/2 the time playing them out of tune ;)

                      +3 on the electric keyboard. Yeah, I called it that :D My daughter has exhibited an interest and an aptitude for the piano, we will be going that route.
                      Don't listen to me - I have not sold any $150,000 speakers.

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                      • #12
                        Re: OT: Pianos

                        FYI, there is an amazing documentary on the making of Steinways pianos on Netflix. I think it's just call Steinway, or do a search in netflix. After watching it it seems like one of the coolest places in the world to work. Talk about knowing your craft, and everyone 'playing their part'. And a buncha New Yawkas to boot! There's a fascinating section where renowned pianists try out different steinways of the same model - the whole process is like finding a mate or best friend. Really interesting.

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                        • #13
                          Re: OT: Pianos

                          Originally posted by Wushuliu View Post
                          FYI, there is an amazing documentary on the making of Steinways pianos ...
                          Perhaps "Note by Note: The Making of Steinway" ?
                          "Not a Speaker Designer - Not even on the Internet"
                          “Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend.”
                          "If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: OT: Pianos

                            Yes.

                            There is also "Pianomania".
                            About the Steinway master tuner in Europe as he pairs player and instrument(s) and manages instruments for performances and recording sessions.
                            Fascinating show.


                            Originally posted by Sydney View Post
                            Perhaps "Note by Note: The Making of Steinway" ?
                            ~99%
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                            • #15
                              Re: OT: Pianos

                              PBS made a show about the brothers up in Colo. who are the only source in the world for FORTE-pianos which are 12 feet long (to be louder) and is what Beethoven composed for. Our Performing Arts Center here owns one and it has it's own sonorous tonal quality. None of the treble strings are "tripled-up", only doubled. The difference is made up for by much harder felted hammers and a different escarpment. Steinway's are one of the most famous concert pianos for just reason, but in Europe, the Playel (my piano teacher had one and a Steinway) is still popular (from Austria) as well as the Schumacher from Belgium. All instruments have their own "voices". I can't play a Baldwin. I never could. My hands were never strong enough for the action. I like the rotary Kawai action. The way the key makes the hammer hit the strings on a piano is amazing alone. There are over 6000 patents on different WAYS to do it in the U.S. Patent Office alone, and about 5 times that in Europe.

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