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FDP Forum / Rock-it 88's - Keyboard Forum / How long do piano strings last?

Dadical
Contributing Member
**********
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I am not a complete

idiot - I have several pieces missing!
May 22nd, 2012 08:59 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Can they be treated with products such as Fast Fret or a piano string equivalent?

My son just took delivery on his early 1900s Kimball that has been in storage for years. Of course it needs tuning and maybe a few minor adjustments, but he brought up restringing. What's the skinny on that?

amphead4

Cincinnati, USA

May 22nd, 2012 11:01 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

The strings don't break during playing and aren't subjected to fret wear so they last a really long time. I had a Mason & Hamlin from 1921 and it had original strings, except for one that had been replaced, and old strings were the least of its problems. Just don't touch them with fingers and they will stay good.

Based on what I've been told, pianos are never restrung unless other major work is being done, like a total rebuild. For the old, full sized uprights, the cost of restringing would possibly exceed the value of the instrument, unless it's a very fine piece like a Steinway or the like.

If the pin block is tight enough that it holds a tuning, a piano tech might rebuild the action and all the dampers and still leave the old strings. Only if he has to replace the pin block or make a new sound board will it typically be restrung.

My tech told me strings only break if a tuner is sloppy with the hammer and if he breaks one, he just lost money on that house call. It's very labor intensive because the strings don't come precut like guitar strings - they come on a spool. The tech cuts the string to length and then has to cut some of the winding off to expose the core because only the core passes over the capo. Because there are multiple strings per note, each string must have the exact same length of winding and free core or else they will be different harmonically. They can be tuned to the same fundamental but the harmonics will beat.

My tech also gave me some advice once when I was considering getting another old piano. He lent me a tiny torque wrench with a socket to fit the tuning pins and told me to measure the torque required to turn the pins. If it was below some inch pound value (that I have forgotten), then the pin block is too worn or shrunken to grip the pin and the piano will have trouble holding a tuning.

I'm no expert, just passing on what I've been told.

Dadical
Contributing Member
**********
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I am not a complete

idiot - I have several pieces missing!
May 22nd, 2012 11:14 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Good information amphead, thanks!

Have confirmed by serial number that it is an upright grand 7' board built in late 1900 or 1901. Locking down the exact date requires another level of inquiry. The pin block and tuning stability were never issues before, but a fresh assessment by a qualified tech is upcoming.

It's not a Steinway, but it's one of those instruments that has "it", kinda like a Takamine or Yairi that happens to be able to run with the Martins. The cabinetry is very ornate so it was probably one of Kimball's top offerings at the time.

amphead4

Cincinnati, USA

May 22nd, 2012 01:41 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

7' tall upright? I thought the tall ones topped out at about 52". He must really have something special and it sounds like a quality instrument.

I've been told by a tuner and then two piano rebuilders that generally the upright grands are not worth the expense of a rebuild. In fact, years ago I was at the Krefting Piano shop here where they were taking uprights as trade-ins and pushing them off the back dock into a heap, to be disposed of en mass later.

jbryan

Minneapolis

May 22nd, 2012 01:43 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

My 1911 Steinway Model 'O' has it's original strings still. Had a great tech rebuild the pin block but he left the strings alone.

amphead4

Cincinnati, USA

May 22nd, 2012 01:49 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"My 1911 Steinway Model 'O' has it's original strings still. Had a great tech rebuild the pin block but he left the strings alone."

Wow, he slacked them all and then retensioned them? Seems like a gutsy move.

Dadical
Contributing Member
**********
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I am not a complete

idiot - I have several pieces missing!
May 23rd, 2012 08:14 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

"7' tall upright?"

The box isn't 7' tall. The board must be shaped diagonally to be installed in an upright. It *just* fits through a standard doorway.

amphead4

Cincinnati, USA

May 23rd, 2012 08:42 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Hey Dadical, can you get your son to post a picture of that Kimball? It sounds like a good one. There's one at my mom's that they bought when we were kids but it's not a nice one like the one you're describing.

Dadical
Contributing Member
**********
**

I am not a complete

idiot - I have several pieces missing!
May 23rd, 2012 09:39 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

He's got the outer skin off it now for cleaning/polishing and access for a tech after a couple paychecks. I'll ask him to shoot it when it's all back together.

amphead4

Cincinnati, USA

May 23rd, 2012 01:32 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I would be happy with pictures of it naked too.

Dadical
Contributing Member
**********
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I am not a complete

idiot - I have several pieces missing!
May 23rd, 2012 01:57 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'll ask him to have his wife shoot it. She did architectural photography in college and should be able to show it accurately.

JazzMastaJim

USA

Rockin' the Delaware Valley
May 27th, 2012 01:51 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

A couple observations from a piano technician of about 40 years (no longer full-time):

"My tech told me strings only break if a tuner is sloppy with the hammer..."

Not so. Piano strings do become brittle with extreme age and some poorly-designed pianos (mostly certain smaller verticals with high-tension scales) are prone to string breakage. I had a customer who played so hard that he regularly broke strings on his *new* Yamaha studio piano! A knowledgeable tuner virtually never breaks strings negligently.

"Can [piano strings] be treated with products such as Fast Fret or a piano string equivalent?"

NEVER put ANY lubricant or other chemical on piano strings. Even the smallest amount can migrate to the tuning pins and into the pinblock over time, potentially ruining it. (That having been said, very rarely, a piano technician may apply tiny amounts of lubricant -- designed specifically for the purpose -- to a string's pressure points, but the owner should never attempt it.)

"Wow, he slacked them all and then retensioned them? Seems like a gutsy move."

It's actually a very common practice. It's a lot less work (and therefore expense) than restringing. As long as the existing strings are still in good shape, there's no need to replace them. It's very common, though, to replace just the bass strings (the copper-wound ones), as they are prone to accumulating dirt & corrosion, which deadens their tone.

BTW, there really is no such thing as an "upright grand" -- the term was just a marketing gimmick. All grand pianos are strung horizontally; an "upright grand" is simply an upright.


Frank Hudson

USA

Tone is stuck on my fingers
Jun 21st, 2012 05:26 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

A number of years a go the grand in the large studio at my workplace was restrung. Seems that the high humidity in the room had given the existing set of strings a good deal of oxidation.

I saw some of the strings that came off. Imagine the worst set of guitar strings you ever saw. Now add even more rust. We're talking furry rust, not just discolored.


Steve Dallman
Contributing Member
******

Merrill, Wisconsin

Ain't turned 60, but I got my blinker on
Sep 4th, 2012 10:25 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I've tuned a lot of pianos. When I first look at the piano strings, if I see rust on the strings near the tuning pegs, I fear breakage and that's where I've always seen them break. I never had a rust-free string break. I've tried a little carefully applied rust treatment on the strings where they wind around the peg, then waited a week before tuning, but still got breaks.

I got to the point where if I saw rusty strings, I'd pass on tuning the piano.

Rust on the strings usually means the wound strings would be dull to dead. Rust means the piano was stored in a damp environment and that the "bridles" (cloth strips, with leather ends) would likely be getting rotten and need replacement. It is a big job to replace 88 of these.

I'd be happy not to tune another one in my lifetime.

rockstar_not

USA

Thank God for guitars!
Jan 17th, 2013 10:19 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

+100 to Steve Dallman's response. I tune pianos as a side job; I don't depend on the income - and that gives me the luxury of only tuning pianos I care to tune. Folks with real rusty strings - I tell them good luck, and have a nice day and refer them to the piano technician's guild website to see if they can find someone else to work on their axe.

PTG page is here.

FDP Forum / Rock-it 88's - Keyboard Forum / How long do piano strings last?




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