Buying an older small grand

Posted by: 88slowpoke

Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 11:03 AM

Looking for help sifting the volumes of hype, misinformation, and salesmanship re buying a vintage baby grand piano. Is there some sort of guidance on different makers to favor, or to avoid, or any other info out there? We are not wanting to pay the "Steinway tax" as we are adult non-classical beginners and don't need our piano to make a statement. We have read Larry Fine's book and website in detail and also have seen a site "marthabeth.com" as well as "pianobluebook", in which the writeups on vintage pianos all read like manufacturers' press releases. Can anyone offer some guidance with this? Thanks in advance!
Posted by: Furtwangler

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 11:18 AM

Sure

My first and foremost piece of advice would be to not purchase a "vintage" baby grand at all. Forget it. Most are worn out. Pianos wear out like everything else. An "all original" grand from 1930 might sound like a good idea but in my experience they are usually shot.

Purchase a new grand of approx. 6' in length (mine is 5'10" and is perfect size for most homes). If you are limited in budget you should lean toward the high-end Chinese pianos. You will find an enormous amount of information on this forum and in PianoBuyer.

Disregard everything on Marthabeth.com. I just now quickly perused her site once again. Virtually every paragraph has an incorrect statement. The woman is clueless.

You should be able to purchase a fine instrument for your needs for less than $15k

Good luck.
Posted by: Del

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 11:34 AM

Originally Posted By: 88slowpoke
Looking for help sifting the volumes of hype, misinformation, and salesmanship re buying a vintage baby grand piano. Is there some sort of guidance on different makers to favor, or to avoid, or any other info out there? We are not wanting to pay the "Steinway tax" as we are adult non-classical beginners and don't need our piano to make a statement. We have read Larry Fine's book and website in detail and also have seen a site "marthabeth.com" as well as "pianobluebook", in which the writeups on vintage pianos all read like manufacturers' press releases. Can anyone offer some guidance with this? Thanks in advance!

Certainly. Try asking your local piano technician.

There are many older grand pianos that might be worth considering depending on their condition. The brand name put on the piano when it was built has little to do with its potential value today.

If you are planning to have this old piano completely rebuild or manufactured -- generally not a wise financial investment -- then certain brands (because of their design) come to mind. Otherwise the criteria, in order of importance, is condition, condition and condition.

ddf
Posted by: HalfStep

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 12:18 PM

I think it's highly individual. We bought a very inexpensive baby grand c. 1930. The company isn't as well known as most but they had a good run. It's a Marshall and Wendell. The tech who looked at it said that the sound was unbelievable for a piano of this time. Especially the upper register! The cabinet is beautiful, and looks new except for the style and woodworking detail. He seems to think it was hardly used. I also bought from a piano dealer for a warranty and the trade in value, in other words, if I upgrade they apply the price I paid for my piano to the new one. I have found similar pianos on the web selling between 3 and 5k (sometimes more or less). I paid 1700.00.
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 12:34 PM

Good advice so far... can't argue with any of it.

My .02,

Regardless of what age or brand name piano you look at, have a professional piano technician (not affiliated with the seller) to check it out before you buy... money well spent.

Plus, I second the notion that newer is usually better, especially if you want a playable, servicable musical instrument and not a piece of furniture.

Good luck!

Rick
Posted by: 88slowpoke

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 02:38 PM

Thanks all for the advice. We currently have a 100+ year old vertical that has been in the family for many years, but not played, which our piano tech has pronounced not worth saving- can't be tuned to A440, other issues, etc. Since we will be replacing it we'll go with a baby or parlor grand because although the space is voluminous, and is open to the floor below, the only place for a vertical is shoved in the corner, due to the room and window configurations. The furniture aspect and arrangement is more suitable to the grand.

On a more specific note- does anyone have any info on an old Chickering "quarter grand" and/or a Sohmer "Cupid" baby grand? Any votes up or down, other than the actual condition of these instruments? As you can see, we are leaning toward a pre-war piano. Thanks again!

BTW, we will not make a move without the advice of our tech; she has already looked at a couple of pianos for us.
Posted by: HalfStep

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 03:03 PM

I also forgot to factor in skill level, I have been playing for about two and half years (beginner) and my daughter began at 8 and is currently 12. We also have a Yamaha Digital. Given our commitment and time practicing I planned on upgrading within five years but loved the price for a grand. We initially were looking for an upright. Good luck in your search!
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 03:17 PM

>Is there some sort of guidance on different makers to favor, or to avoid, or any other info out there?

Yes, the most important guide you should educate and trust is your own ears. The tech to inspect the stuff comes after you can hear which one you want.

There are wonderful older pianos around, but also lots of not so wonderful stuff. And what one finds crap may be bliss for someone else.
Posted by: tonedefreegan

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 05:03 PM

I don't have useful advice for you, but did want to pass on congratulations for making the effort to avoid buying new. There are PLENTY of wonderful old pianos out there (admittedly, fewer than awful ones, but still!). We looked at many before finding our old girl, but it was worth the work, and fun in the process. Anyway, thanks for helping to save the planet, and all the best in your search smile
Posted by: Del

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/17/12 05:04 PM

Originally Posted By: 88slowpoke
On a more specific note- does anyone have any info on an old Chickering "quarter grand" ---

Charming pianos. Look really cool, but...quirky action design that can be very expensive to service.

If you are interested in relatively narrow pianos -- as is the Chickering Quarter Grand -- you might also look for certain models of Aldrich, Starr, Knabe, Everett, etc. These come to mind but there are others. All of these makers built short grands that were around 54" to 55" wide (as opposed to the more common 58" to 60" widths of the pre-war era. You should also look for some of the later Aeolian-era Chickerings (don't let the anti-Aeolian rhetoric put you off, these were quite nice pianos).

There are others as well but at the moment these come to mind. As always, pay attention to condition.

ddf
Posted by: 88slowpoke

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/18/12 10:47 AM

Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: 88slowpoke
On a more specific note- does anyone have any info on an old Chickering "quarter grand" ---

Charming pianos. Look really cool, but...quirky action design that can be very expensive to service

ddf


Thanks- this is the sort of insight I'm looking for. I have plenty of room and don't need a narrow piano, the two I mentioned are on the local C-Lists. I am using the services of a local tech but I'm hoping to winnow the field before I hire her to look at more instruments.
Posted by: Del

Re: Buying an older small grand - 11/18/12 11:43 AM

Originally Posted By: 88slowpoke
Originally Posted By: Del
Originally Posted By: 88slowpoke
On a more specific note- does anyone have any info on an old Chickering "quarter grand" ---

Charming pianos. Look really cool, but...quirky action design that can be very expensive to service

ddf


Thanks- this is the sort of insight I'm looking for. I have plenty of room and don't need a narrow piano ...

It's not so much a matter of space but of aesthetics and style. There is no reasonable excuse for short pianos being as wide as most of them are. Short, wide pianos look stubby and awkward.

ddf