Much has changed since Bartolomeo Cristofori’s invention, known today as the piano, first rang out its first notes. Well over 300 history-filled years have passed since then. However, one thing has not. The power of music has brought families together over, and over again. The piano has found its way into the center of the musical world, not just professionally, but in the personal lives of countless throughout the world. Eight-eight (on average) keys. An unlimited number of memories. It is no wonder that many have begun to consider what will become of their family’s heirloom piano. In this article, we wish to present realistic options regarding the repair/restoration of the venerable family heirloom piano.
noun: heirloom; plural noun: heirlooms
a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.
“the piano was a family heirloom”
What Exactly IS Piano Restoration?
Restoration goes beyond the ‘tune up’. Piano repair/rebuilding/restoration describes any cosmetic, structural, or mechanical work done to a piano. From the outside, the sleek cabinet can often be deceiving. Even the most ‘basic’ piano is a complex piece of mechanical music design. When an individual key is pressed, dozens of individual parts must work together to play a single note. This process is duplicated across the entire keyboard. Each string must be fitted exactly to each finely threaded tuning pin. The soundboard must resonate free and clear. When completed properly, a fully rebuilt piano will not only look new but perform at a level equivalent or greater than when it was new. For more about the piano restoration process, click here.
Important Factors – Some Notes to Ponder
Sentimental reasons are often equal to practicality. Nevertheless, that practicality must be considered. When evaluating a piano for restoration, we consider the following.
- The piano itself. A 7′ Steinway Model B is inherently going to perform better than a small spinet. It is important to remember the potential of the instrument prior to investing the money into restoration. All things being equal, the cost of a restoration is going to be the same. The initial build quality of the piano is a primary issue. The piano was seen as THE primary home entertainment system during the pre-WWII era. A number of companies such as Steinway & Sons and Mason & Hamlin put out some of their finest work during this period. At the same time, a large number of piano builders flooded the market with hastily assembled or badly engineered grand and upright instruments to meet the high market demand. A cheap poorly built piano when unrestored, will still be a poorly built piano when restored.
- From a cosmetic standpoint, materials matter. Exotic veneers of rich woods such as Brazilian Rosewood, Quarter-sawn Oak, and highly figured Mahogany were so plentiful, that they were common-place that they were at one point considered to be standard cabinet finishes! In many cases, the rarity of the materials makes it nearly impossible to replicate in a newly purchased piano. Original, pre-ban ivory keytops can often be retained if desired- an item that obviously cannot be installed new today.
- The condition of the piano is important. Our team of restoration technicians deals with the standard effects of an aging piano well. That is a standard part of any piano restoration. However, for example, heavy water or fire damage can greatly increase the cost of the restoration and may put the practicality of such a project into doubt. [Click here to learn more about the restoration of a rather poorly maintained Steinway.]
- The subject of the cost, of course, comes up. When faced when the choice between investing heavily in an older piano and the purchase of another instrument, all factors must be weighed before making a final decision – including the price tag. As each situation is unique, it is highly suggested you get in touch with us so our technicians can discuss it one on one.
“The connection with a beloved family heirloom cannot be ignored. For example, it is clear that if one was to compare two identical instruments side by side, the scales would be tipped toward the piano with family history. Clients have often expressed a desire to restore the family piano and once again experience the instrument they grew up playing in their grandparent’s home or to revisit the keys they practiced their first scales on.”
This is a time when the benefit may not fully exist solely in the financial realm. You should be under no illusions that the average grand or upright piano from your family’s living room will instantly possess insane resale value upon its restoration. During the golden age of the North American piano building, hundreds of companies produced thousands of pianos to fulfill the incredible demand for instruments. In this instance, the history and heritage of the piano should be seen as more local and much more familiar. For many of our clients, whether it is an imposing Steinway & Sons Grand Piano or a brand not as well known, the fact that it was their grandparents’ piano far outweighs the name attached to the instruments fallboard. The personal connection – both past and present – can be the deciding factor on whether you wish to invest in the piano’s restoration. Each piano, each restoration candidate, is its own unique situation.
Our piano restoration process goes beyond the simple cosmetic and is driven by the idea of each piano being concert ready upon completion. You can trust us to bring your piano back to life and up to a ‘golden era’ level of performance quality. We encourage you to get in touch with us to discuss the particulars of your family instrument and the practicality of restoration. We are committed to giving you the information in a straightforward manner, to allow you to make the decision that is best for you. We are dedicated to ensuring you receive the piano that you have dreamt of – whether that involves the new selection of an instrument or the restoration of one that has served your family for years.
About Chupp’s Pianos – Since 1975, Chupp’s Piano Service, Inc. has been serving the piano needs of the music community by focusing on the restoration and rebuilding of vintage, historic pianos. Located in the heart of Northern Indiana, our work has grown to become the preferred choice of numerous concert venues, institutions, and pianists around the world. Founded by Master Piano Technician Dennis Chupp, our family-owned and operated business has been trusted with the restoration of heirloom instruments from across the nation. Our team understands the nuances and exacting precision needed to ensure a piano that is truly tailor-made for your tastes and playing preferences. Chupp’s Pianos is always excited to partner with musicians in the pursuit of musical artistry. The Chupp’s Piano Rebuilding Facility and Showroom feature an uncommonly large selection of vintage Steinway & Sons, pre-owned Yamaha, and New Kawai pianos for you to play and select from. Interested or have questions? Get in touch with our team today.
Chupp’s Piano Service, Inc. – Piano Restoration & Service – Vintage Steinway & Sons – New Kawai – Family Owned & Operated Since 1975
Comments are closed