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FDP Forum / Rock-it 88's - Keyboard Forum / When is an acoustic piano too old?

Contributing Member

MetroWest Boston, MA

Halt and catch fire
Aug 26th, 2009 05:45 PM   Edit   Profile  

I'm shopping for an upright acoustic for my daughter. One model that's caught my eye is the Yamaha U3; I found a few that are in my price range. However, a friend who's knowledgeable says I should avoid pianos that are older than 25 years...and the U3 I'm looking at is 1973 vintage.

I've heard of people with 100 year old Steinways, so now I'm fully confused. Can anyone add knowledge or point me some believable data?

Contributing Member


I got plenty of nuthin'
Aug 26th, 2009 05:53 PM   Edit   Profile  

This is probably better off moved to the 88's section of the website.

But put simply, if

- the piano has no borers or wood parasites
- the piano has an iron frame
- the piano can be / is tuned to A440
- the piano has no felt or damper wear
- the piano has no missing or rusted strings
- the piano has no cosmetic defects
- the piano has all keys working / not sticking
- the piano fits inside your house (through doors and stairwells etc)
-the piano is priced right (check Ebay etc)

You should go ahead.

Yamaha and Kawai were good from about 1965 onwards.

Contributing Member

Kansas City

...got some crazy little women here...
Aug 26th, 2009 06:04 PM   Edit   Profile  

If you run across a real old upright grand for cheap, check the wood to see if it's mahogany and how thick it is. You may be looking at 6 or more nice electric guitar bodies.

Charlie Macon
Contributing Member


Aug 26th, 2009 06:14 PM   Edit   Profile  

We have a 48-inch upright Kawai from 1966 that is pure glory. We all love this one in the Macon family.

As stevesmith mentions, if it's mechanically all there, and it fits....go for it!

(This message was last edited by Charlie Macon at 06:15 PM, Aug 26th, 2009)

Contributing Member

Upstate NY, USA

Musical accident waiting to happen
Aug 26th, 2009 06:35 PM   Edit   Profile  

My daughter recently bought an 1892 Steinway. Real nice unit for a couple grand, although probably plenty of parts aren't original. I guess it could fail in a big way, but it wasn't a king's ransom, is in really nice shape, and sounds awesome.

Contributing Member

MetroWest Boston, MA

Halt and catch fire
Aug 26th, 2009 07:09 PM   Edit   Profile  

D'oh! You're right, I should have posted this in the 88's forum...what the hell do I know, I'm a guitar player. Mr Chris, if you think this should be moved, can you do that? Is that something I can do?

But in the meanwhile, thanks for the info, with particular props to stevesmith.

Contributing Member

Mpls, Minnesoooota

Lunacy has found me
Aug 26th, 2009 07:17 PM   Edit   Profile  

I have a 1887-88 Steinway upright in rosewood. As noted above, mine has non original parts but you wouldn't expect a piano that old to have original parts. If the parts have been replaced with Steinway parts and fully restored they get pretty expensive.

Contributing Member

Day After Day,

Alone On A Hill...
Aug 26th, 2009 07:45 PM   Edit   Profile  

Old pianos are actually worth more as fine hardwood lumber than as instruments. Sad to say.
There's an award winning Documentary on the subject.
Shows up on IFC occasionally.


Mott Music

Contributing Member

41.93N 88.32W

A soggy Romeo
Aug 26th, 2009 08:02 PM   Edit   Profile  

Johnny, stevesmith is right. One thing you may want to look out for, though: make sure the sound board is undamaged (i.e. cracked) in any used piano you're considering. These can be expensive to repair, perhaps moreso than the value (to you) of the instrument as a whole.

BTW, I have an 80 year old Mason & Hamlin grand; it sounds as magnificent today as it did during the Roaring '20s.

Good hunting!

Contributing Member

Thou shalt not...

Aug 26th, 2009 08:03 PM   Edit   Profile  

There was an NPR interview with (I think) Leslie Feist, where she said that she got 8 free pianos from craigslist, but only 5 were tunable. The rest were put out to pasture, literally--they were dropped in various locations on the farm that she owns.

I am looking for my first house, and am counting on Craigslist for a free piano.

Contributing Member

northwest US

Aug 26th, 2009 08:13 PM   Edit   Profile  

most old quality pianos have been rebuilt ... the actions wear out and the soundboards wear out and warp from the stress of the strings ... i assume your daughter is a serious student, so i would take her piano shopping ... pianos, like guitars are very personal ... a world-class concert pianist might try 15 or 20 of the same model and fine one that feels and sounds just right ... Good Luck !!!

Anna Crusis

Theory Geek...

... and proud of it.
Aug 26th, 2009 10:46 PM   Edit   Profile  

It's all about the care and maintenance a piano has had over its lifetime. A piano that has always had good owners, has always been kept in a benign environment, and has always been meticulously maintained can easily last 100 years. I have a 1926 Mason & Hamlin grand that still sounds great and plays beautifully.

The main problem with age in pianos is that the older they are, the more likely it is that they've been mistreated at some stage, like stored in a damp basement or on a sunny back porch somewhere. In such conditions, they go downhill very fast.

Contributing Member

Greater Boston

Fighting cancer is a lifelong deal
Aug 27th, 2009 07:57 PM   Edit   Profile  

Hi John, stevesmith's advice is good. I have an old Fender Polaris. BTW, you guys sounded great tonight, even with that Ricky bass ;)

I'll email you under separate cover.



Jul 16th, 2010 12:05 PM   Edit   Profile  

Yeah, I don't think your friend is correct on this one. We have a 1911 Steinway Model 'O' and I still have my 1964 Gulbransen Spinet my parents bought me when I started taking piano lessons. It is all how it's cared for, like anything else. But that piano!!!

Contributing Member

Las Vegas, NV

Margaritaville in the Mojave - FDP Jam
Nov 15th, 2010 04:33 PM   Edit   Profile  

I have my grandmother's 1950's spinet and, with the exception of needing another tuning since we moved to the desert, it sounds and plays fine.

About 20 years ago I had all the felts replaced and any refurbishing that it needed (pedal fixed) but I'm happy with it.



you want me to play where?
Nov 16th, 2010 12:47 PM   Edit   Profile  

My old decker brothers was built in 1875 and is still going strong. I DID however have it de-tuned down 1/2 step because the strings were breaking when tuned. It was getting to be a PITA to keep fixing broken strings so that was the solution. You just learn that sometimes, you are going to work on a song that MAY have to be down a 1/2 step.

Steve Dallman
Contributing Member

Merrill, Wisconsin

Shoot, Winter's over already?
Dec 2nd, 2010 08:50 AM   Edit   Profile  

I've tuned a lot of old pianos. The problem is when the strings start to rust due to basement or porch storage.

Any rust on the string where it wraps on the tuning post weakens the string there, and when trying to tune to pitch, the string will break at the post. I've tried using a lube like "Break Free" or other oil prior to tuning, but the string still breaks. And when one string breaks, you lose two strings, because a long string makes up two note's strings.

I don't like replacing broken strings, so I just gave up tuning the rusty string pianos.

FDP Forum / Rock-it 88's - Keyboard Forum / When is an acoustic piano too old?

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