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#1335708 - 12/28/09 06:36 PM Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
b3groover Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/05/08
Posts: 119
Loc: Lansing, MI
Every Kimball I've tuned has been a hunk of junk. Bad tone, action falling apart, loose pins, pinblock cracking. Did Kimball ever make a decent piano?

My dad used to complain about Kimballs all the time and now I know why. I tuned one today and the pins were so loose I'm amazed I was able to actually get it in tune.
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#1335759 - 12/28/09 07:52 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover]
Marty Flinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/06
Posts: 2604
I have never heard these critcisms connected with Kimball. They had beautiful cabinets and were bullit-proof. The only criticsms I experienced were mediocre touch response and tone. There are a couple of very recent threads raving about the Vienese Edition grands. I have worked on and personally sold hundreds of Kimball grands and uprights from the mid 1970s until they closed out production.
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Co-Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Buying A Piano. A "must read" before you shop.
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#1335771 - 12/28/09 08:04 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Marty Flinn]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3789
I've seen many good Viennese Kimball grands. I wouldn't be so quick to stereotype a piano brand. Even the best makers make a few duds, but the percentage of duds for a maker of fine pianos is very low compared to total production - therefore they are known as high end piano makers. Kimball was an average maker of grand pianos in relation to other producers. They were capable of making decent grand pianos, but only 50% were decent, thus the average rating. The Whitney Brand by Kimball earns a 20% decent rating from me, so they are usually well below average build quality, although you can find a good one occasionally. There are other brands I would classify as a "hunk of junk", where maybe 5% of their production was any good.


Edited by Bob (12/28/09 08:07 PM)
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#1335823 - 12/28/09 09:34 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Bob]
b3groover Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/05/08
Posts: 119
Loc: Lansing, MI
Argh, Whitney is the worst. I remember one of the first client tunings my dad and I did together was at a small private school with a Whitney spinet. My dad let me set the temperament with guidance and tune most of the piano but I was at a loss with the bass. My dad took over and finished the tuning and I'll never forget what he said.

"There. All done. Beautiful eh? Still sounds like a bunch of coat hangers clanging together."

smile


Marty I'm sure there are some nice Kimballs around but I've yet to find one.
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#1335845 - 12/28/09 09:52 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover]
JDelmore Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/10/07
Posts: 634
Originally Posted By: b3groover
Argh, Whitney is the worst.


Eh...one word: Winter.

And I ain't talkin' about the season...:(
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#1335857 - 12/28/09 10:12 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: JDelmore]
Sam Casey Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/05
Posts: 1135
Loc: SW Missouri
I've tune zillions of them. One thing you can say: they are bulletproof. Leave 'em 20 years without tuning and those blocks are still tight, plywood board, laminated bridges still good. Jerk 'em up a half step or better and they will stay. With a bit of needling you can still eek out a passible tone.

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#1335964 - 12/29/09 12:42 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Sam Casey]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
I found a 9 foot (probably 8 1/2) Kimball grand, in original condition C-1920 (its on my wall, and I can't remember the specs as I write this! lol)

The owners tried to give it to me. I thought about it, and offered them $500. Plus it cost me about that again to move it to my shop. I'll rebuild it someday, and then I'll have a full sized. Its got tone that is stil unbelievable!!

My own experience with Kimball pianos has been mixed, like those above. But, I've generally found that the older the Kimball, the better I like it.

RPD
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#1336123 - 12/29/09 09:14 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: RPD]
wesquire Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/01/09
Posts: 88
Loc: Ohio
The Kimball grand line was a lot like some car makers, try to get one built on Tuesday thru Thursday. The build quality was a real crap shoot.
On a good day they could be a very nice, low cost piano. The Viennese grands could be regulated and voiced to be very decent instruments.

The under 42" pianos were not as bad as Winter (or Grand) but were entering the low end of the scale.

The Artist consoles were great furniture and decent home pianos.

The Habig family really did care about building a good product.


Edited by wesquire (12/29/09 09:16 AM)
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#1336143 - 12/29/09 09:56 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4182
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada

I have not come across too many Kimball grand’s up this way but similar to the entire piano industry the older ones seem to be better built as compared to the newer ones.
I am quite sure that we could find good models and not-so-good models within the production history of all piano makers.
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#1336171 - 12/29/09 10:55 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Silverwood Pianos]
w_scott_iv@yahoo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/29/05
Posts: 1120
Loc: West Virginia
Someone must have been selling Kimballs in my area in the 1920's because I have tuned many uprights from that time. They were quite good and are still very serviceable. I grew up w/a 1950's Kimball console which had a beautiful cabinet and was adequate as a living room piano. In my opinion, Kimballs from the 1970's on were very poor. My guess is that these are the pianos you're running into.

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#1336180 - 12/29/09 11:10 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: w_scott_iv@yahoo]
wayne walker Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 515
Loc: Windsor,Nova Scotia Canada
since we are talking about Kimball, I have a customer with a newer Kimball grand that I have been trying to locate the serial number. I have look everywhere but can't seem to find it . The piano is about 20-30 years old and about 5 1/2 ft.
Anyone know where the serial number is located?
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Walker's Piano Service
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#1336191 - 12/29/09 11:22 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: wayne walker]
Dave Lotek Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/31/06
Posts: 78
Loc: midwest
As a young technician, I chromatically pitch raised a used Kimball Artist Console piano that had been neglected for many years. The plate snapped with a loud bang. The customer was floored.

I called Kimball and spoke with Roger Wiesensteiner the plant manager. He said it was not my fault. They picked up the piano, rebuilt and returned it to the customer for free.

Integrity unheard of these days.
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Piano Sales, Piano Technician, "Tuning pianos for a song"

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#1336249 - 12/29/09 12:42 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Dave Lotek]
Dan Casdorph Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/09
Posts: 351
Loc: Morgantown, West Virginia
The older Chicago ones were good quality, but time has taken its toll. The French Lickers were not so good.
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Morgantown, WV
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#1336301 - 12/29/09 01:52 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Dan Casdorph]
Marty Flinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/06
Posts: 2604
Serial number on a plate inside the rim next to the front lid hinge. Also, embossed into the back side of the keybed underneath the instrument.
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Work for west coast dealer for Yamaha, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, Wm. Knabe.

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#1336828 - 12/30/09 06:29 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Marty Flinn]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4789
Loc: Bradford County, PA
I also think the cabinets on Kimball are very nice and it is what I usually mention to a customer when they ask about their piano.

The Whitney spinet and the Kimball spinet are scaled differently. I prefer the scaling on the Whitney. The scaling is better than most other spinets in my opinion.

I have only tuned one Kimball upright larger than a console. It was a newer one and was very, very nice. I should have measured it. It may have been a 48 incher.

All that being said… One of the reasons I chose not to continue tuning pianos as a career in the 70’s was because of all the Kimballs I tuned for the store that I was affiliated with. No matter how carefully I tuned, the sound reminded me of a tin box falling down a set of stairs. They do look nice, though, and I still tune them. I have made a note to tighten down on the pressure bar when returning on a few of them.
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Part-Time Tuner
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#1336905 - 12/30/09 09:40 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: b3groover]
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3036
Loc: Madison, WI USA
Originally Posted By: b3groover
Every Kimball I've tuned has been a hunk of junk. Bad tone, action falling apart, loose pins, pinblock cracking. Did Kimball ever make a decent piano?

My dad used to complain about Kimballs all the time and now I know why. I tuned one today and the pins were so loose I'm amazed I was able to actually get it in tune.


I haven't had time to read all of the responses but I would never characterize Kimball pianos in general with the above description. In fact, I would say that nearly any brand of piano could have these problems but Kimball pianos have fewer of them than many other brands I have serviced.

I will gladly tune and service any Kimball piano. If it has service requirements, including loose tuning pins (which I have actually found to be quite rare), I will perform those service requirements.

You have the choice as a piano technician to either hate what you do or love what you do. As soon as you decide that you hate most or all of the pianos you are asked to service, it is time for you to find another line of work. You will never be satisfied. When you decide to actually do something about the poor condition of some of the pianos you encounter, you will develop a feeling of satisfaction for having done so and you will earn a living.

Going into someone's home hating the piano you are asked to service is completely the wrong attitude to have.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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#1336933 - 12/30/09 10:34 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Bill Bremmer RPT]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
Originally Posted By: Bill Bremmer RPT

You have the choice as a piano technician to either hate what you do or love what you do. As soon as you decide that you hate most or all of the pianos you are asked to service, it is time for you to find another line of work. You will never be satisfied. When you decide to actually do something about the poor condition of some of the pianos you encounter, you will develop a feeling of satisfaction for having done so and you will earn a living.

Going into someone's home hating the piano you are asked to service is completely the wrong attitude to have.


Well said, Bill. Without reference to the OP or other commentators here, I too have noticed that there are some techs who adopt an elitist attitude with pianos...i.e. everything is "junk" if its not Steinway etc.

We are honored guests in homes, where clients are hoping for a better sounding piano. Often, I'm called in after another (very highly qualified) tech has told a customer their piano is "junk". Sometimes the client is in tears when they call. Its happened here too many times to be coincidence...obviously some techs feel they are being ethical by telling it like it "is"...the tough love approach, as it were.

I'm with the folks who will try for improvement of pianos, providing there is at least a ray of hope. For this reason, I'm often found snapping replacement plastic elbows into place, or drilling bolts through delaminated pin blocks on uprights...customers know they have older, less optimal instruments, and they truly appreciate any artistry and assistance a good technician can bring to the discussion.

It is not without some great joy that I note that in recent years the PTG Journal has begun to feature technicians like Chuck Behm, who celebrates older historical/heirloom pianos...I truly believe the value of his work-saving these older pianos and encouraging others to take that approach as well-cannot be overstated!

We're honored guests in homes. Its not for us to discount the clients' pianos, any more than we would a dinner they had prepared for us. I love what I do, for the variety it provides. Personally, I'd go entirely out of my mind if all I did all day was tune Steinway grands!

I think Bill that your well stated sense of perspective on this comes from living in Madison...we're midwesterners too...and there are just lots of Kimballs, Cables, Whitneys, and even the occasional Conn piano. Like you, we've learned to celebrate our piano-lives for all the diversity provided!

RPD
_________________________
MPT(Master Piano Technicians of America)
Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
(Subscriber PTG Journal)
Piano-Tuner-Rebuilder/Musician www.actionpianoservice.com

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#1337366 - 12/30/09 07:55 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: RPD]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3789
Don't forget those Wurlitzer spinets as well, probably the most popular spinet ever made. Most had a very useable build quality and are still in service. Built in Dekalb Illinois in those days. I tune spinets by ear because I get better results that way - it's fun to get the best possible tuning out of a poor scale and the customer says "that piano never sounded so good".


Edited by Bob (12/30/09 08:00 PM)
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#1337695 - 12/31/09 08:41 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Bob]
David Jenson Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 1947
Loc: Maine
Not every customer can afford a top-of-the-line piano, so we works with what we finds.
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Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
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#1338169 - 12/31/09 08:48 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: David Jenson]
drew_childs Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/18/09
Posts: 2
Loc: Indianapolis, Indiana
Does anyone know anything about the new Kimballs being built in Chicago? http://www.kimballpianousa.com/

Personally, I was a little surprised that someone picked up that particular name, though there is the historic Chicago connection...and those may have been the best years for the original company.

Has anyone seen/heard/played one?

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#1338188 - 12/31/09 10:11 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: drew_childs]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
I'm guessing you mean "sold" at the factory outlet...my understanding (correct me guys if I'm wrong) is that they are imported from Asia, no?

I've seen a few in the field of recent build, and they're pretty nice actually, for the money.

RPD
_________________________
MPT(Master Piano Technicians of America)
Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
(Subscriber PTG Journal)
Piano-Tuner-Rebuilder/Musician www.actionpianoservice.com

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#1338345 - 01/01/10 08:59 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: RPD]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4182
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Originally Posted By: RPD

It is not without some great joy that I note that in recent years the PTG Journal has begun to feature technicians like Chuck Behm, who celebrates older historical/heirloom pianos...I truly believe the value of his work-saving these older pianos and encouraging others to take that approach as well-cannot be overstated!
RPD


Hey Rick,
Speaking of Chuck, there was an email series around in pdf format that shows the photos and story of Chuck receiving and restoring an old upright. A colleague in business who is a PTG member told me about this and I had a chance to see the photos when I was over at his place. I wondered if you had a chance to view this series yet. It is always interesting to see how someone else does the same work.,.....
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
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http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#1338356 - 01/01/10 09:35 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: drew_childs]
Olek Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 6357
Loc: France
There is a good way to avoid unwanted tunings which is to ask when the last one have been done.

I have very bad premisces about those spinets, but was surprized to find one which had a good enough tone recently

Very clear tone, sounding at first as a can full of nails, but in the end while too little low partials and density for my liking, I understood the kind of tone it had, was really Ok for some Jazz or church playing and not so difficult to tune than I expected.

not much "finesse" (heavily loaded soundboard and hard hammers) but the scaling was not that bad probably.

Lot of bang, and I guess thats what some customers are after on your market (as the Essex pianos or Baldwin studios)


No need to hate any piano, (I keep in mind that the piano is part of the family of the customer, it helps) but we have all our own limits.

But I have some strange feelings about some new pianos made here as for others made far from here, indeed ! (and I think for miself " they have bulls... in the ears or what ?")
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#1338909 - 01/01/10 11:39 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: w_scott_iv@yahoo]
Jim Berna Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/21/07
Posts: 67
Loc: Fayette City,PA. 15438
I have tuned quite a few Kimballs. The Whitney and the Kimbalette were nightmares to tune. The Kimballette would never stay in tune, even if you tuned it at A435! The piano always fought itself when you tuned it. Another problem was the brass jack springs! Given them 5-10 years and you had to replace them. The touch was as if you had to pound the piano to play it due to the angle of the keys and the action position! The sound left alot to be desired! The worst was the small Kimball La Petete baby grand, the key desk would bow from book weight! Thank heavens they quit building them!
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#1338978 - 01/02/10 02:08 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Jim Berna]
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3036
Loc: Madison, WI USA
Funny, I have tuned more than quite a few Kimball pianos but have never heard of a Kimbalette or a La Petete. I have also never encountered the above mentioned problems. Just before Christmas, I was called to a palatial home in an exclusive area to tune a Kimball La Petite grand. I had no problem at all with it and the lady of the house was gracious and tipped me generously over my usual fee. Thank heavens they built that piano! I loved it! The lady received a referral from the concert hall in her town where I have taken care of the Steinway Model D, having restrung it and replaced its action some 20 years ago. Nothing like loving all pianos you service!
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Madison WI USA
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#1339124 - 01/02/10 10:48 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Bill Bremmer RPT]
Sam Casey Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/05
Posts: 1135
Loc: SW Missouri
You have to hand it to Kimball for creativity: "Artist Console," (to paint the provebial lipstick-on-a-piano), or their "Consolette" for not quite a console. Or "Mezzo-thermoneal stablizer." That one always cracks me up for hype. The Gold Rope too. AND those partical board cases, and grand tops that weigh a ton. Their small grand actions are a bit bizarre with such dinky parts. Some of those old Kimball uprights had lovely oak cases with plaster "carving" on the front that would disolve in the stripping tank. Bummer. Also never liked their brass damper flanges. They are a pain.

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#1339130 - 01/02/10 10:54 AM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Sam Casey]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4182
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada

Sam,
I had a Kimball player grand that had some type of plaster work on the tops of the legs. Like you stated it melted with the stripper, I caught this as I was stripping the legs and quickly washed them down with water to stop the process.
It seemed like it was plaster of Paris or something like that....not real plaster.

The unusual damper flanges in the older uprights is that what you are referring to?
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
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"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#1339224 - 01/02/10 01:37 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: Bill Bremmer RPT]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
I have two La Petite grands in my practice here...one in an upscale nursing facility, and one in a beautiful church. I regulated the action in the nursing home and repaired the piano after one of the staff rolled it too quickly and snapped off the leg (!)...and its a light weight, well playing piano. The La Petite in the church needs work...I'd rate them as "ok" instruments...but they really benefit from regulation, i.e. I find them less forgiving of excessive hammer stroke or friction...fwiw.

Dan, yes, I've seen the pictures I think...Chuck was kind enough after the PTG event in GR also to forward me some of his articles that I missed when my Journal subscription lapsed for a few months...:-)

RPD
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#1339259 - 01/02/10 02:22 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: RPD]
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/02
Posts: 1904
Loc: El Cajon, CA
Wow! I'm amazed at the rave reviews I'm reading of the Kimball LaPetite grands! (well, unless I misunderstood :p) In my opinion, though, their tone generally leaves a LOT to be desired, ESPECIALLY in the bass! I'd rather hear a Baldwin Acrosonic than any LaPetites I've ever played. One particular one I played at a retirement home my grandma lived in at the time was absolutely NO MATCH for my 57" 1913 upright, in spite of its having completely worn hammers almost down to the molding (with grooves deeper than the thickness of the strings)! Now, if someone knows of a LaPetite with a bass that would run circles around a fully-rebuilt (INCLUDING new soundboard, and whatever else would be replaced when doing a rebuild that extensive) turn-of-the-19th-to-20th-century full-size upright, I'd like to know about it. smile
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#1339276 - 01/02/10 02:49 PM Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos? [Re: 88Key_PianoPlayer]
RPD Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 961
Loc: Kalamazoo Michigan
I'm not saying they're great pianos...I'm saying they can be quite acceptable in the right condition. But, they were budget instruments to be sure. I'm with Bill on this one though, in that approaching the instrument with a negative pre-conception is wrong from the service-to-the-customer point of view. And, in some rooms a small grand with limited range sounds pretty good...lots of wood on the floors, lots of open walls, some nice bass enhancing corners, and voila', a small grand can be quite nice. FWIW

RPD
_________________________
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Member AMICA (Automated Musical Instruments Collector's Association)
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New Topics - Multiple Forums
OT: John Passion
by wimpiano
04/18/14 04:33 PM
3/4 time for 6/8 time comping patterns?
by Ben Ther
04/18/14 04:33 PM
Shanks with parallel wood grain
by JohnSprung
04/18/14 04:15 PM
Pinblocks & bridges... How long do they last?
by Piano Practice
04/18/14 03:58 PM
Spinoff: What do we think of "technique seminars"?
by TwoSnowflakes
04/18/14 02:46 PM
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