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#2281059 - 05/25/14 11:28 PM When do you give up?
Rebecca Cummings Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/25/14
Posts: 3
Hi there,
I am totally new to this forum and am hoping for a bit of advice. I was given an antique baby grand piano years ago. It was built in 1913. I can't remember the brand, but it does not have many distinguishing marks on it.
I once had a neighbor tune it, but she was an admitted amateur, and she commented that several keys would need to be replaced because they either didn't work or made 2 sounds instead of one when played, etc. My sister called up a piano tuner who said he would charge $200 just to come in the door, and probably twice that much to tune it, even without the extra fixing it might need.
My brother (who admittedly knows nothing about pianos) thinks I should just throw it out. He says there is a time when a piano is too old to fix. I would love to get it fixed and tuned and play it. I only tinker around on the piano, but both my sons have learned to play some and I really prefer a "real" piano to an electric keyboard any day.
I know I'm not giving much information, but I was wondering if you think a piano like this could be salvageable. The outside looks good to me. I don't think the keys are real ivory (I don't remember how I know that, but I think someone guessed that they weren't). The only issue seems to be the few keys that are just broken or messed up. Any thoughts?

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#2281077 - 05/26/14 12:36 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21530
Loc: Oakland
The answer depends on your budget, the condition of the piano as it now is, what it would cost to fix, and whether it is worth fixing. It is not something that really can be answered by someone who does not know the piano or you. You might call someone for another quote, but on the other hand, you might look at other pianos to get an idea of what you would need to pay to replace it. Even removing it for disposal is likely to cost you.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2281085 - 05/26/14 01:09 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
That Tooner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/21/14
Posts: 82
Loc: Janesville WI
Do people actually charge $200 for a normal tuning? That seems pretty high just for a normal tuning.
_________________________
Lucas Brookins

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#2281104 - 05/26/14 02:24 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1364
Loc: Reseda, California
Yes, $200 is way high. Check Angie's List, you'll probably find someone reputable in the $100 - 125 range. Only a qualified technician examining the piano in person can tell you for sure whether you have a diamond in the rough, or a junker. But if you post some pictures here, you'll get some better guesses as to whether it's worth a Benjamin to find out.



Edited by JohnSprung (05/26/14 02:27 AM)
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2281146 - 05/26/14 07:36 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: JohnSprung]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1164
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung
Yes, $200 is way high. Check Angie's List, you'll probably find someone reputable in the $100 - 125 range. Only a qualified technician examining the piano in person can tell you for sure whether you have a diamond in the rough, or a junker. But if you post some pictures here, you'll get some better guesses as to whether it's worth a Benjamin to find out.


Greetings,
$200 is not way high, it is my normal pitch raise/tuning fee. To charge that to appear at the door, and then charge more for the tuning is a red flag, but the real expense will be incurred when an inexpert tech, or con man, convinces the customer to start digging a money pit with a worthless piano.
I would add that our local Steinway dealer,who is not a tech, charges a minimum of $400 to "evaluate" a piano...
Regards,


Edited by Ed Foote (05/26/14 07:37 AM)

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#2281184 - 05/26/14 09:52 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
jim ialeggio Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 635
Loc: shirley, MA
I agree with Ed that $200 is not way high, but actually in the ballpark for a good two pass tuning. The rates tuners charge on Angies list or anybody else's list are stuck in the 70's...remnants of a mindset that has not factored in either the actual cost of providing this service professionally, or adequately regarding the cost of acquiring the chops necessary to do this work well.

It also has neglected to consider raises in the cost of living since 1970, and the fact that we are one of the only in-home service providers left in the economy. Well...make that the only in-home service in addition to plumbers and electricians (etc). Their service fees are well known, and reflect the actual costs of a professional doing business. Ask a plumber what his fee is just to walk in the door.

Regarding the OP's question, while I re-manufacture old pianos into fine restored and greatly improved instruments, and can restore any piano of any provenance,the costs are higher than would be justified for an occasional pianist...at least too high until or unless they were smitten by the tonal junkie bug.

Most all of us run into tired grands that would require significant outlay to make even marginally playable. Owning a tired grand, despite the fact that you already own it and don't have to purchase the actual hulk, means you most likely have a machine whose multiple systems will be toast. Fixing problems as they surface...triage ownership...just keeping the instrument afloat...will turn into an exercise in frustration and disappearing funds.

The #'s quoted by the tech the OP called quote probably were generated by a tech who was trying to dissuade her from using his services. If he's got serviceable pianos to work with, for a tech with scruples, doing triage with a tired hulk, will turn into a losing proposition for the tech as well as the owner. Been there...done that...no way...no more.

Find someone to give it a serious look for a normal service fee, then look, without blinders, at what you really have on your hands before spending any more money on it.

Jim Ialeggio



Edited by jim ialeggio (05/26/14 09:56 AM)
_________________________
Jim Ialeggio
www.grandpianosolutions.com
advanced soundboard and action redesigns
978 425-9026
Shirley Center, MA

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#2281239 - 05/26/14 12:58 PM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
Eric Gloo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1246
Loc: Richfield Springs, New York
Originally Posted By: Rebecca Cummings
My sister called up a piano tuner who said he would charge $200 just to come in the door, and probably twice that much to tune it, even without the extra fixing it might need.


So, depending on how you read that, it's either $400 or $600 to show up and tune the piano. That is ridiculous.

Whether $200 for tuning is ridiculous or not depends on the area in which you live.
_________________________
Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York

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#2281245 - 05/26/14 01:11 PM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
Rebecca Cummings Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/25/14
Posts: 3
Wow, you guys are awesome. Your knowledge is amazing to me. I greatly appreciate the honest advice. I will find a reputable person to come and evaluate it, and if it's more than it's really worth to restore it, then I'll get rid of it. It would be a shame, but if the systems inside are shot, It makes sense. Thanks again.

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#2281252 - 05/26/14 01:27 PM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21530
Loc: Oakland
Even the word "shot" has its shades of meaning. I think some people give up on some things way too soon. Parts can be a little loose or less than perfect and still work for just about every player.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#2281261 - 05/26/14 01:56 PM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7557
Loc: France
an honest tech will ask the brand, model, serial number and pics if possible.

History of the piano if available, then can give you a price ballpark to come and do something minimal, or do nothing if it is not worth.

Repairs are very soon high priced, If you could learn a little about pianos you will understand better by yourself what the techs are saying.

It is OK to give a high price to avoid the job, but to do it also .

The date itself is a clear enough warning signal. only on known brands there is still a little hope.

dIshonest techs or amatory are more likely to accept the job, and do something far from satisfying for a fair amount of money.

Good techs do not nee that kind of work usually, while they would be the more efficient spending a few days on the piano.


Edited by Olek (05/26/14 02:00 PM)
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2281340 - 05/26/14 04:43 PM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Olek]
Rebecca Cummings Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/25/14
Posts: 3
Well, I looked on Angie's list and found someone with a great rating. I called up and spoke with both him and his wife. They've been doing piano tuning and fixing for a million years. He said he would come and give me a written evaluation, but also acknowledged that it might be too old. He asked a lot of questions about the quality, the state of different parts, etc. and said that he usually takes some time to do a proper evaluation, including taking apart different sections (I don't know the names of the various parts). He said he usually charges $100 for an evaluation, and he wouldn't tune it if it wasn't worth keeping. So all in all, he sounds like an honest, old-time guy. I hope!

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#2281551 - 05/27/14 12:05 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2402
Loc: Olympia, WA
Good for you to pay for the evaluation. "Free Estimates" are often the most expensive in the long run.
_________________________
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net

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#2281617 - 05/27/14 03:14 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Ed Foote]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1364
Loc: Reseda, California
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
$200 is not way high, it is my normal pitch raise/tuning fee.


$200 is quite reasonable for a pitch raise, but for a one-pass tuning? Do all your tunings cost as much as a pitch raise?

As for a first evaluation, if the piano is truly a junker, it's fairly easy to make that determination. The closer it is to the go/no go point, the harder it is to decide.

BTW, I'm in the Los Angeles area, the San Fernando Valley.
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2281692 - 05/27/14 08:30 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: JohnSprung]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1164
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
$200 is not way high, it is my normal pitch raise/tuning fee.

$200 is quite reasonable for a pitch raise, but for a one-pass tuning? Do all your tunings cost as much as a pitch raise?
As for a first evaluation, if the piano is truly a junker, it's fairly easy to make that determination. The closer it is to the go/no go point, the harder it is to decide.
BTW, I'm in the Los Angeles area, the San Fernando Valley.


Greetings,
I am actively working towards $200 tunings, but not there,yet. Many of my tunings are pitch corrections, though, since even with a SAT's automated raise function,(which is very good) a piano is rarely evenly flat and there is no way to get the octaves to ring by tuning across the various imbalances. This lack of "ringing" isn't noticed by most non-pro pianists, but I am blessed with being in the middle of a very professional musical environment. After 35 years with the same phone number, and increasing arthritis in my hands, there are far more calls for tuning than I can physically do, so I have used price to keep the number of customers I have to a manageable level. I have whittled my business down to primarily those that can tell the difference, those that don't want ET, and those that don't care what I cost because I have been with them for decades, money isn't a consideration, and they trust me.
A tech in this business would do well to consider every job a billboard, every customer a potential salesman for them, and any call-back a chance to impress with attentive service. If someone gets too busy to do this, they are not charging enough and spreading themselves too thin. In 25 years, they will still have to be hustling to get new customers rather than being able to chose their work to maximize the value of their time. Time is all we have, and we should always work towards making it more valuable. With age, there is less workable time in us (or, at least, in our hands), so, ideally, our experience should make our time more valuable than when we began. It takes planning to do this.
Regards,

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#2281751 - 05/27/14 11:11 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Ed Foote]
DLove Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 19
Loc: San Francisco
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
$200 is not way high, it is my normal pitch raise/tuning fee.

$200 is quite reasonable for a pitch raise, but for a one-pass tuning? Do all your tunings cost as much as a pitch raise?
As for a first evaluation, if the piano is truly a junker, it's fairly easy to make that determination. The closer it is to the go/no go point, the harder it is to decide.
BTW, I'm in the Los Angeles area, the San Fernando Valley.


Greetings,
I am actively working towards $200 tunings, but not there,yet. Many of my tunings are pitch corrections, though, since even with a SAT's automated raise function,(which is very good) a piano is rarely evenly flat and there is no way to get the octaves to ring by tuning across the various imbalances. This lack of "ringing" isn't noticed by most non-pro pianists, but I am blessed with being in the middle of a very professional musical environment. After 35 years with the same phone number, and increasing arthritis in my hands, there are far more calls for tuning than I can physically do, so I have used price to keep the number of customers I have to a manageable level. I have whittled my business down to primarily those that can tell the difference, those that don't want ET, and those that don't care what I cost because I have been with them for decades, money isn't a consideration, and they trust me.
A tech in this business would do well to consider every job a billboard, every customer a potential salesman for them, and any call-back a chance to impress with attentive service. If someone gets too busy to do this, they are not charging enough and spreading themselves too thin. In 25 years, they will still have to be hustling to get new customers rather than being able to chose their work to maximize the value of their time. Time is all we have, and we should always work towards making it more valuable. With age, there is less workable time in us (or, at least, in our hands), so, ideally, our experience should make our time more valuable than when we began. It takes planning to do this.
Regards,



I agree with Ed. Plus, maximizing quality of service is not separate from maximizing earnings either. Full service appointments that build in time for things such as pitch raises, voicing, minor regulation, small repairs will deliver a better outcome for the customer, help to gain better more discerning clientele, minimize driving (a time and money waster) by scheduling fewer but longer appointments and create a greater sense of satisfaction by providing consistent and stress free time for quality work.

I try and encourage customers to book these appointments and require them of all first time appointments. I deliver what I think is necessary along with a report about other things the piano needs to bring it to a higher level of performance. It's not a sell job, it's providing information so that customers can make informed choices about how they want to proceed. The appointments cost more, but the get more.
_________________________
David Love
www.davidlovepianos.com

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#2281767 - 05/27/14 11:48 AM Re: When do you give up? [Re: Rebecca Cummings]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7557
Loc: France
Yes, for the customer I believe it is less expensive in the long run to pay for a more complete maintenance job.

Some customers cannot pay for 6 months tuning, and wait to have a budget to call me. But the piano rarely ask for a lot of work so even a little late I have no surprise.

I refuse to see abnormal wear or regulation far out of normal.

So I work toward stability (tuning/voicing/ regulation)and I believe I recognize it when it is installed.
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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