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One of the most difficult questions a piano tuner has to answer is the one above. What's your tuner going to say? "Madam, your piano is a piece of junk. It was made in Mongolia by fugitives from a wiener factory, and for $50 I'd be happy to haul it to the dump for you." Don't laugh- I had one just like that in Michigan. The owner thought it was absolutely wonderful, and I had to try to rescue it from the destiny of the municipal dump, where it belonged.
So, let's consider some principles in determining what is a good piano:
First- Generally (not always) the longer the wire, and the more square inches of sound board, the better the sound produced. Older pianos, with greater mass, also may carry the sound better, and a massive harp (See Diagram) will hold tune better. If the harp frame fills the whole box of the upright monster or spinet, that is, all four corners in rectangular fashion, you have a real advantage in holding tune.
Second- Exceptions abound. This is why there is no blue book for pianos. A medium sized Yamaha upright can beat out an old Cable Nelson grand or full size upright any day. The Yamaha may also beat out a middle line Baldwin grand in tone quality and in holding its tune. Steinway is making some lower quality pianos these days, and a top of the line Baldwin will beat them out in classy look and in low noise (inharmonisity) in the wires. In fact, a top of the line Baldwin has qualities that are now rare worldwide. Petrof of Poland made exceptional pianos in the past, and they are only getting better. Capitalism has been good for them. Shop carefully.
Any Everett upright will beat out any Wurlitzer grand unless the Wurlitzer is old and well maintained. Anything is better than an Aeolian, except a Winter-- the one with the aluminum harp and the hammers that pop off. An aluminum harp on a piano is like mackerel in the moonlight- it shines and it stinks. If you cannot bear to take your Winter spinet to the dump, try plucking it with a guitar pick.
Of the pianos made these days, which is the best?
I vote for Yamaha for money's worth. Next Kawai, Young Chang, maybe Samick (because of warranty), and then Baldwin (top of the line only). Petrof is a very good piano, but prices have gone up in recent years. They are not cheap. Then comes Steinway-- It is not worth the high price, and parts ordering and help from the factory is lousy. Snobs is what they are- sorry, but it's a fact. I must say thought that the Steinway is the best piano you can buy-- It just is not worth what it costs.
There is an Italian fellow in Boston making an exceptional grand-- par with Steinway or better, but he is unknown elsewhere. An eighty year old Fischer, which has been pampered, has more character than any Steinway ever made- personal prejudice- I'll admit it. A turn of the century Ivers and Pond is a massive over-built monster from Boston, and, in top condition, is worth more than 80% of the new pianos made today. It is so impressive inside that you can take the desk off, and your guests will be in awe of the workmanship.
Poland makes a clever console competing with Yamaha, and the Germans make good pianos if you buy one there and the Deutch Mark is down. The legend of pianos is the Bösendorfer. If you can afford one of them, why are you reading this book? :-)
Now, before you commit pianocide on your old Winter, or some other generic piano, cheer up-- if you have been tuning the piano faithfully, and if it has never been stored in the barn, you probably have a pretty acceptable piano anyway. You are way ahead of the poor guy in Fremont, Michigan with the 70 year old Steinway he inherited from granny which was indeed stored in the barn with the hogs. I had to give it the last rites and walk away.
If you question the wisdom of keeping your little runt spinet, go price some new pianos. Aside from being expensive, new pianos often have problems that take years to iron out, and they need numerous tunings in the first three years to get the stretch out of the wires. Piano salesmen will not tell you that.
So go home, call a tuner who has a positive attitude about life, and ask him to bring your old relic back the best he can. You will be surprised what can be done. If the tuner tells you to haul it to the dump, call me. I shall try to find a fellow for you with a better attitude. There are a few snobby tuners (most of whom worked in the Steinway factory at one time or another) who think you are paying them to be a piano critic. Run the scoundrels off please. You always have the option also of restoring and tuning it yourself. We have many customers doing just that.
your tuner gets there, don't ask, "Do I have a good piano?" Get him a cup of coffee
and a piece of pie (in Nogales, AZ, hot tamales, and in Grand Rapids, MI, oli
bolin), and sit back and enjoy the art of bringing back the music. If the tuner
does some amazing wonder with your piano, please write to me and describe it.
In future editions of this book (And in Updates and Forum)
I hope to compile a recommended list of really helpful tuners world wide.
HERE ARE SOME LISTS OF PIANOS ACCORDING TO QUALITY
need to understand that this list does not take into account
Better than average
Useful though not exceptional