Rebuild "Concert Grand" Upright, buy Chickering grand, or...

Posted by: Mac H

Rebuild "Concert Grand" Upright, buy Chickering grand, or... - 12/02/12 06:14 PM

Hi All,

This is my first (kind of long) post, but I'm hoping you folks will have some good ideas. I've read the "upright vs. grand" threads, but I have some more specific questions.

First, some background: I have a 58" tall George Bent "Crown" vertical piano, whose perhaps overly ambitious labeling refers to it as a "Concert Grand". It's from ~1910 or thereabouts.

It's quite lovely, pretty ornate, and in pretty good playing shape, but there are some dull notes over about an octave in the lower range, which I'm pretty sure are associated with a small crack (fixable, I think) in the sound-board. My tuner (who hasn't examined the crack, as it's facing the wall) suggests a rebuild would cost $1-2K, and he'd start with new strings, pin-block, do a few keys (a bit of squeaking, rarely some sticking), and a squeaky sustain pedal. The action is pretty uniform. I am a recording engineer, and choral singer but not a pianist (that's my 12 year old duaghter). To my ear, the general sound and tone of piano is pretty good, with an excellent low end, deep and rich. It does require retuning at least once or twice a year. I would love it if it were every 1-2 years (possible?)

Other data points - The piano room is not huge, but opens via sliding doors to adjoining room (i.e. "room too small" shouldn't be an issue), money is somewhat an issue ($5k is kind of a limit), rebuilding of Bent upright would not be expected to have a "good payback" on resale.

Goals:
1. Have a piano that sounds "beautiful" throughout its range,
2. Have a piano that looks nice in our room (Victorian style is our favorite)
3. Have a piano that sounds and feels satisfying enough for my kid to be inspired to play better, "for the pleasure of it"... (Same goal for myself, actually...)
4. Spend less than $5k.

Now to questions: Which of the following would you expect to yield the most "satisfying" result?...

1. Rebuild Geo. Bent upright.
2. Buy 6'4" Chickering Grand from same era. It has been rebuilt, but I haven't heard it. I have heard other Chickerings, and was deeply impressed by their low end resonance.
3. Buy some other kind of Upright that will fit the room better than a grand.

Other thoughts:

Can an antique "extra big" upright (like 58") ever sound as good as a Chickering grand? Does the extra string length give my piano "special potential" that makes it especially worth the expense of a rebuild. I notice most (all?) modern uprights seem to top out at 52". Any significance to that?

Am I likely to be delighted or disappointed by the restringing? I know on a guitar, new strings are usually "extra bright" but how about on a piano? Do people generally miss the "mellow" sound of old strings? Am I at risk of having the restrung piano sound "harsh"?

Is the old action a show-stopper, due to it's design, so that no amount of rebuild could bring up to a "modern" standard, or can it be considered "good enough"?

Sorry for so many ambiguous questions and "quotation marks"... I'm sort of looking for accepted wisdom, and personal experiences along these lines.

Thanks!

Mac
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Rebuild "Concert Grand" Upright, buy Chickering grand, or... - 12/02/12 09:05 PM

Re the rebuilt Chickering, unless it was only partially rebuilt or rebuilt a long time ago it is hard to imagine paying only 5K. Refinishing alone would cost that or much more. A completely rebuilt piano like that from a good rebuilder would be at least 20K and possibly much more.
Posted by: OperaTenor

Re: Rebuild "Concert Grand" Upright, buy Chickering grand, or... - 12/02/12 10:39 PM

Replacing the pin block and restringing costs a whole lot more than $1-2K. I would be extremely concerned if a tech quoted me that price for that work. A proper, complete rebuild on an upright ought to be more in the $10K range. If it's done right, you should be extremely happy with the outcome.

That being said, if your upright had a quality rebuilding job done on it, it would be a fantastic piano.

Without hearing the Chickering or knowing exactly what work was done, there's no telling if it would be better than your upright, once it was rebuilt.
Posted by: Mac H

Re: Rebuild "Concert Grand" Upright, buy Chickering grand, or... - 12/03/12 09:14 PM

I won't be surprised if the final cost is higher. It may be he wasn't quoting me a full rebuild.

How about this: What is the best sounding rebuilt vertical you've ever come across (in the 56"+ range)?

Does starting out at 58" really gain me anything, or does the size above 52" not matter much? Would a good modern 52" be "as good as it gets" in a vertical?

Mac