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#1934455 - 07/29/12 11:52 PM Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos
Piano World Offline



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5650
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
This hurts...

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#1934465 - 07/30/12 12:07 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Michael Taylor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/05/11
Posts: 367
Loc: Discovery Bay, California
Wow.....that's really sad. But what are the alternatives when they have reached the end of life?
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#1934469 - 07/30/12 12:11 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6159
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
It really hurts... I couldn't even watch the video clip to the end because I was so upset for those poor pianos... frown
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#1934475 - 07/30/12 12:21 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
This video makes me happy!

Pianos are manufactured items with a definite life-span, after which they should be thrown out and, hopefully, replaced. Yes we get our emotions all caught up but lets face it, many of the pianos made over the last 100 years were never intended to last more than 30 years. Glue joints break, strings rust, hammer felt comes unglued, the simply fall apart!

People don't throw out pianos enough! They pass them on, Craigs list, donations and this passing on of trash hurts our industry in 2 particular ways:

1. people who play on these expired instruments don't get the full experience and satisfaction of playing the piano...keys don't work, it can't be tuned, the voicing is horrible. Kids get discouraged playing on pieces of junk and never continue, reinforcing the parents defective thought process "we'll get something cheap and if they stick with it, we'll get something better". Well, guess what, Johnny didn't stick with it because he got no satisfaction out of it.

2. the industry manufacturers and dealers suffer because people don't buy new(er)pianos. A healthy piano industry REQUIRES pianos be replaced.
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#1934487 - 07/30/12 12:36 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Piano World Offline



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5650
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
I hate to admit it, but BoseEric is spot on.

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to tune pianos that are way past their prime.
Granted some top end pianos may be worth rebuilding/restoring, but the bulk of old pianos (particularly low end instruments) are well past their prime and should be replaced.

Keep in mind that beginners need all the help they can get from their instrument, and that it is disheartening to attempt to play a sub-par instrument.

By the same token, it's still sad to see an old piano relegated to the trash heap.
You'd like to think there is some way to recycle the parts at least (ivory keys for scrimshaw anyone?).
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#1934501 - 07/30/12 01:38 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
James Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/22/09
Posts: 158
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I agree with you from a business standpoint. There has to be a healthy market for new or used good pianos in order for the industry to survive. However, the supposition about beginners starting out on junk and giving up because of it is I think only half true. If someone loves it they'll do their best with only having air to practice on until they can afford junk, while a disinterested kid who starts on a new Fazioli will still be disinterested no matter the quality or price of the new instrument.

But the cold, hard facts are these: Most people will never ever in a million years be able to buy a "new" piano, so junk is all they'll ever be able to get (if they could even afford that). So better to have something that undoubtedly will never meet the standards of some of the more affluent on this forum (you know who you are) than to have nothing at all, I say. For most of us, it will always be a choice of getting back and forth to work, getting our kids to school, and still being able to afford a crust of stale bread, or getting a piano. Obviously, the former will always win out over the latter. So the parents of a kid who really wants to learn would greatly appreciate the opportunity to acquire one, even if it is "junk". I know that for a fact because it's what happened with me when I was young. My mom couldn't even afford the stale bread but she managed to scrape a few rocks together and get me an old broken down Balwin. I loved that piano and was very sorry to part with it when I grew up and left for college. I never have gotten really good at playing but I still love it none-the-less.

Agreeably, some of these older instruments will never play a note again, but there are some that could be of great use, at least for a while anyway. Why just toss them out indiscriminantly? And there's lots of amatuer techs who could use them as practice. If you mess up something, sand too much through a veneer, or get bubbles or pits in your lacquer, no biggie, it's only practice. Tear them apart to see how the soundboard fits on the rasten, or work on getting a good downbearing or proper plate height, or referbishing a bridge. Try your hand at reguilding a plate, even if it's cracked. It's only practice. They've got to be good for something. If nothing else, you can always get something for the recycle value of the copper and steel wires.

Anyway, this is my humble but most accurate opinion.

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#1934505 - 07/30/12 02:12 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: James Scott]
BoseEric Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 731
Loc: Fairfield County, CT
Originally Posted By: James Scott


But the cold, hard facts are these: Most people will never ever in a million years be able to buy a "new" piano,


I'm not sure who you mean by "most people" but a high quality vertical piano can be bought new for $5000 and a high quality grand new for $15,000 (some will argue less and may on occasion be true). The piano industry is still a consumer business, selling to ordinary working people who value the things a piano represents.
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#1934508 - 07/30/12 02:25 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: BoseEric]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6159
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Not in Australia I think. Sheet music is also much more expensive here. frown
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#1934518 - 07/30/12 03:28 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: James Scott]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3367
Originally Posted By: James Scott
However, the supposition about beginners starting out on junk and giving up because of it is I think only half true. If someone loves it they'll do their best with only having air to practice on until they can afford junk, while a disinterested kid who starts on a new Fazioli will still be disinterested no matter the quality or price of the new instrument.


There are exceptions to everything, but speaking as someone who's been there, I can say that, even as a kid, I hated playing on crap.

Originally Posted By: James Scott
But the cold, hard facts are these: Most people will never ever in a million years be able to buy a "new" piano, so junk is all they'll ever be able to get (if they could even afford that).


It's all about priorities. You'd be surprised at the number of parents who won't bat an eye at spending 30-50k on a brand new car, or 3k on a nice flat screen TV, or the thousands it takes to get kids into a sports program, but balk at the mere sight of a 5k price tag on a piano.

That said, there's a world of difference between a used piano and a junk piano. There's absolutely nothing inherently wrong with used pianos, and I've never heard of any competent used piano being sent to the dump.
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#1934579 - 07/30/12 07:18 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Rusty Fortysome Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/11
Posts: 194
Loc: USA
In the late 70s/early 80s, my father bought, restored, sold used uprights. We had a garage filled with them! At peak, there was a rotation of maybe 25 uprights. I used to help him do the heavy work, then he would work on the innards and keys, and turn a meager profit. We lived in the Philly area, and there were always plenty of uprights for sale for the price of taking them away! Others were maybe $25 or $50.

We'd check them out all the time, and you'd have been shocked how many homes used to have a full acoustic lingering in a corner or back room. You'd be amazed how poorly so many were kept. Inside were always dead rodents and a variety of household items. In time, most people would place a useless piano on a porch to rot in the weather.

There were millions on millions of pianos made in the late 1800s and early 1900s and they almost all went somewhere: the dump. So few people play piano these days, compared to 100 years ago. This mover saw 300 or 400 pianos dumped across 25 years or so... I saw over 100 trashed within about 5 years back around 1980. Some statistic wonks try to estimate the amount of piano players in today's world, but I believe the figure is far too high compared to what I see; otherwise these old acoustics would never hit the rubbish pile.
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#1934581 - 07/30/12 07:30 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8585
Loc: Georgia, USA
I wonder if they allow scavengers to pick up the broken pieces… one person’s trash is another person’s treasure? grin

Rick
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#1934611 - 07/30/12 09:24 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Thracozaag Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/06/04
Posts: 1980
Loc: Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: Piano World

By the same token, it's still sad to see an old piano relegated to the trash heap.
You'd like to think there is some way to recycle the parts at least (ivory keys for scrimshaw anyone?).


That was my 2nd reaction (after being somewhat horrified initially)--all that wasted ivory!
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#1934621 - 07/30/12 09:52 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
JazzPianoOnline Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/07
Posts: 101
Loc: raleigh, nc
all of those grands would make beautiful tables. i would buy one.
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#1934628 - 07/30/12 10:04 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Thrill Science Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 540
Loc: California
The only sad thing is that there aren't enough cabinetmakers and craftsmen left in the United States who can do something with the cabinet parts, if there's enough usable wood in large enough pieces on them.

Pianos wear out and die. They really do. The NY Times didn't devote enough ink to explaining that. So many people have this crazy belief that there's some school, church, or old-age home that should be grateful to take their old piano-shaped garbage. Or that you'd be doing a favor to some kid by introducing him to piano. (Do you know what I tell people who want to start their kid learning music, and they're not willing or able to buy a proper piano? I tell them to consider classical guitar lessons!)

I'm always apprehensive if I'm visiting someone's house and there's a piano in the living room. Invariably they ask if I'd play something, and I hate to say no. Nobody wants to hear that their beloved "baby grand" is unplayably bad.

Read the article in the Times that accompanies the video.


Edited by Thrill Science (07/30/12 10:07 AM)
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#1934630 - 07/30/12 10:12 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Josiah Burke Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/26/12
Posts: 1
Loc: Castlebar, Ireland
This is horrible, no matter how bad pianos are, I'm sure 60% of these models could have been loved by someone else...I was cringing at every crash..

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#1934632 - 07/30/12 10:16 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Josiah Burke]
Rusty Fortysome Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/11
Posts: 194
Loc: USA
My first thought was "I'D TAKE THAT FOR FREE!... I need firewood."

The sadness should never come as trash hits the can, rather at the people allowing their magnificent pianos to deteriorate that far. Sure, all pianos degrade in time, but you'd be surprised how easy and "inexpensive" it is to maintain a piano across 100 years... when compared to the money spent to buy a new one.

That probably applies more to grands. The price of a new Kawai upright, for example, is rather inexpensive. The benefit of getting a $6000 Kawai upright outstrips the cost of restoring an old vertical piano with a crud finish.
_________________________
Currently working on/memorizing...
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"He's A Pirate"
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#1934637 - 07/30/12 10:24 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
spanishbuddha Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 2468
Loc: UK
They seem to have had the harp removed, maybe for recycling of the metal?

Can't we recycle wood into paper, or construction products ( chipboard)? Maybe it's not cost effective.

At least they last longer than PC's and mobile phones.

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#1934638 - 07/30/12 10:30 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1237
Loc: Tennessee
Greetings,
Some considerations. There is little wood to be had in an older piano. Manufacturers used nothing of a higher grade than necessary, and there is a bunch of little pieces all glued up to make most of these pianos. Square grands make nice tables, if you cut them down, and upright panels can be decorative, but there isn't much else to save. An upright piano takes approx. 22 minutes to burn completely down. There is approx. 1 coffee can full of screws in an old upright. (and they are great quality, use a magnet through the ashes). plates do not explode as the piano burns, strings do not pop. They simply go out with a cloud of pollution and smoke.

The only things sadder than seeing pianos trashed are the faces on the family that has just spent their entire piano budget on a piano that cannot be tuned. It is a sad thing, and I have had to deliver this news. These unusable pianos, and in the hands of a con-artist, are simply a means to steal from the uneducated. Burn them before they burn others!
Regards,

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#1934645 - 07/30/12 10:47 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: spanishbuddha]
Rusty Fortysome Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/11
Posts: 194
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: spanishbuddha

Can't we recycle wood into paper, or construction products ( chipboard)? Maybe it's not cost effective.


You can easily recycle wood... let it fade into the ground and grow a new tree on top of it.
_________________________
Currently working on/memorizing...
"It's You" from Robotech
"He's A Pirate"
"Crazy Bone Rag"
"Claire DeLune (finally)"

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#1934655 - 07/30/12 11:14 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4441
Loc: San Jose, CA
Death comes to instruments as surely as it does to people, later if not sooner. And who are we to take the bread out of the mouths of the landfill operators? Though it does seem to me that if cans, weighing a fraction of an ounce, are worth recycling, a piano's iron plate ought to offer some value, if only to spare the earth from the destruction of mining and smelting new metal.

I suppose, in the aggregate, discarded beverage cans outweigh piano plates by many thousands of times and so that is where the money is.

For some reason I'm reminded of zoos which serve as old age homes for retired circus animals.
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#1934658 - 07/30/12 11:22 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Plowboy Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2397
Loc: SoCal
Quote:
While noting that piano disposals can be painful, Mr. Goodwin said: “To be honest with you, the guys enjoy it. They try so hard all day not to scratch anything. And all of a sudden they get to throw it off the back of a truck.”
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#1934677 - 07/30/12 11:51 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Josiah Burke]
PianoWorksATL Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/09
Posts: 2771
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Originally Posted By: Josiah Burke
This is horrible, no matter how bad pianos are, I'm sure 60% of these models could have been loved by someone else...I was cringing at every crash..
Unlike most instruments, a piano is a complex machine. When the machine breaks, economics takes over. Only personal sentiment can outweigh economics. I welcome more creative solutions, but I'm afraid that the empathy is poorly placed.

We don't get sentimental about 70 year old washing machines just because grandma washed her clothes in them. And 1 out of 10,000,000 would be even marginally collectible to someone, somewhere. It's not a museum item. Once it does a poor job of cleaning our clothes, we don't haul it down to the neighbors and say, "I'm sure someone could easily fix it up."

The Salvation Army does not accept pianos. Even churches are learning to be selective. When few if any charities will accept them as donations, the writing is clearly on the wall.

The NY Times picked some low-hanging fruit for an emotional response from the uninitiated. I don't expect sympathy for the industry, though it would be nice. These decrepit pianos are a burden for the owners and damaging to the next generation of pianists, plain and simple.

I admit that we don't do enough to advocate our position in our business because we take heat for it. If a piano will hold it's tune, but is otherwise not something we sell, we arrange donation. When they don't do that, they often make their way to the dump or to somebody's art project...to be thrown away later.
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#1934682 - 07/30/12 11:59 AM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
James,

I disagree with what you say about "most people won't be able to afford a new piano in a million years." While yes, some can't, many others can if they so choose to do so. it's a matter of perspective and desire.

Many of these same supposed poor folks, can afford cases and cases of beer, pop, junk food, cigarettes, literally hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of garbage that they ingest into their bodies and whatever else their little hearts desire. If they, or anyone else really wants to buy a decent piano, they can and will save for it. It's a matter of priority in that case. The same could be said in many cases about people not being able to afford to repair their pianos. Priority.

And yes, a good instrument will indeed be more helpful than trying to read a book for example with scribbling all over the inside on the writing, or with pages missing which will cause the reader to toss the book for a lack of desire to even attempt to read it. A piano is no different. Want them to learn? Give them a good book to read or a good piano to learn on. Or, at the very least, something half way decent, not a bunch of trash.

Both dealerships in Grand Rapids told me that 50 % and more, of their sales are now currently digitals. It is not just that people are only interested in buying digitals. It is partially due too, that many dealers are pushing the sale of digitals over acoustic pianos.
_________________________
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Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

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#1934689 - 07/30/12 12:15 PM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: PianoWorksATL]
Rusty Fortysome Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/11
Posts: 194
Loc: USA
I am curious about the modern grands and how they will age. As the sales have faded, the manufacture of the better grands has improved. We could see the latest generation of professional-grade grands lasting a lot longer than those made in the past. These will also last longer due to innovations like damp-chasers and serious enthusiasts or professionals housing the pianos, while most of those being destroyed were just let go to rot within and outside of houses over the last century.

Originally Posted By: PianoWorksATL

The NY Times picked some low-hanging fruit for an emotional response from the uninitiated. ... These decrepit pianos are a burden for the owners and damaging to the next generation of pianists, plain and simple.


NYT is pure knee-jerk territory; your post was very thoughtful. I, for example, never took into account how an old piano with lousy action and sound can turn off young ones approaching the art. Pity that NYT didn't take on a dialectic approach or even holistic examination of the event.
_________________________
Currently working on/memorizing...
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"He's A Pirate"
"Crazy Bone Rag"
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#1934698 - 07/30/12 12:33 PM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Rusty Fortysome]
Piano World Offline



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5650
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
Originally Posted By: Rusty Fortysome



NYT is pure knee-jerk territory; your post was very thoughtful. I, for example, never took into account how an old piano with lousy action and sound can turn off young ones approaching the art. Pity that NYT didn't take on a dialectic approach or even holistic examination of the event.


I think they were going for the Wow factor.

As a piano tuner and player I'm well aware of the fact old pianos can become beyond worth repairing. And I've certainly played my share of cringe worthy pianos ( see pictures of our recent East Coast Piano & Lighthouse Adventure ).

Still, it's hard to watch pianos being dumped like this.
_________________________
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Founder / Host
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www.PianoSupplies.com
Find Us On:
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-------------------------
It's Fun To Play the Piano ... PLEASE Pass It On!
Invite everyone you know to join our piano forums!
Coming to Maine? We're in Parsonsfield let's get together!


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#1934711 - 07/30/12 01:03 PM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Amazing - Minnesota Public Radio has a morning talk show and the NYT article and video was discussed just moments ago!
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It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#1934716 - 07/30/12 01:10 PM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
SirHuddlestonFudd Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/08/12
Posts: 96
Loc: Cambridge, MA
Originally Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT
It is not just that people are only interested in buying digitals. It is partially due too, that many dealers are pushing the sale of digitals over acoustic pianos.


No. It's that a person can buy a really good digital piano ($1500-2000) for less than 1/3 the cost of the cheapest upright ($5-6K). Get over yourselves. If you want to have a luxury business, go ahead and have one. But stop preaching for the poor to, if I heard you correctly, stop eating and buy a piano. Do you know how long it takes a person making $20 per hour to save for a piano, even the most basic? A very long time.

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#1934723 - 07/30/12 01:18 PM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
I encounter these types of situations nearly every week. I'm talking from experience here. People that own Bose Acoustic Wave Machines. Large screened televisions but the cheapest junk for their kids to learn to practice on.

I know exactly how long it takes to save to buy something nice. I've done it time and time and time again... It can be done if the desire is there.

If they look around, they can find a decent "real piano" to learn on for a relatively good price of much less than what you think. I've found many a piano for people like this over the years.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1934730 - 07/30/12 01:28 PM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: SirHuddlestonFudd]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2789
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: SirHuddlestonFudd
Originally Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT
It is not just that people are only interested in buying digitals. It is partially due too, that many dealers are pushing the sale of digitals over acoustic pianos.


No. It's that a person can buy a really good digital piano ($1500-2000) for less than 1/3 the cost of the cheapest upright ($5-6K). Get over yourselves. If you want to have a luxury business, go ahead and have one. But stop preaching for the poor to, if I heard you correctly, stop eating and buy a piano. Do you know how long it takes a person making $20 per hour to save for a piano, even the most basic? A very long time.

I was going to respond that it's an economic choice driven by priorities, something we all do. A digital piano is not a terrible thing to start on if it at least has weighted keys. Of course I agree that for someone to reach a high level of achievement (as a pianist) an acoustic piano is necessary, but for just starting out a good digital is fine.

Overall I found this discussion very thoughtful. Certainly the New York Times was going for WOW factor. They won't sell papers without it. Newspapers have had their challenges and this is just another aspect of the commercialization (read privatization) of American society that so many think they want. Maybe this is how businesses are more efficient than government because they're always going for the sale. IMO if it causes a discussion on public radio or any other public forum that that's a good thing for the arts and piano playing in particular.

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#1934731 - 07/30/12 01:28 PM Re: Death of a Piano - Landfill Pianos [Re: Piano World]
Rod Verhnjak Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 3659
Loc: Vancouver B.C. Canada
I've seen many pianos thrown away that could be used with a days technical work.
I also have thrown away many that were far past their expiration date.
I have also restored some that were beyond their expiration date that would blow away most of the new uprights today in appearance, performance and tone.

There is no shortage of good old uprights and one day those that have them restored
properly will have something special.
_________________________
Verhnjak Pianos
Specializing in the Restoration, Refinishing & Maintenance
of Fine Heirloom Pianos

Exclusive Dealer For Charles R. Walter Pianos
www.pianoman.ca
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