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#908902 - 06/05/03 05:34 PM How long SHOULD a piano last?
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14058
Loc: Louisiana
Sometimes, we get all caught up in quality issues, but we don't consider the lifespan of the piano, and whether an extra 10 or 20 years is actually worth the money.

For argument's sake, let us take two vertical pianos, A and B.

Piano A has foam in the keybed, MDF in the side panels, plastic sharps, less massive backposts.

Piano B is built like a tank. Much like a "golden age" piano, all wood, wood sharps, heavy spruce backposts.

But A, and B, are almost identical in performance, although from looking at the ingredients, B should last much longer.

How much extra are the better components of B worth?

And would it be better to buy A, wear it out in thirty years, and then just replace it?

Assuming you're still alive, that is?

Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

#908903 - 06/05/03 06:14 PM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
Would B last longer?
Not to argue this point, but merely to pose the question.

Is it possible that the MDF, and Foam being impervious to temperature/humidity/lack of servicing issues would last longer?

I would suspect that the life of the piano has less to do with the materials used, and more with how they're put together. Not to say that I'd prefer the foam piano over the real one. But just because a piano used the materials I expect, doesn't mean it will last longer than the "average" piano life expectancy (50-60 years).

Soundboards will lose crown regardless of materials. However, there are steps in the design and implementation processes to hedge this problem.
Actions will also see wear and tear, and need R&R at some point, regardless of belly construction.
Bridge's will lose their caps in unregulated environments. Again, this will happen just because a piano isn't well taken care of, not so much because of the materials used.

Outlive Yourself - Become an Organ Donor

#908904 - 06/05/03 06:17 PM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
I would like to add (to answer Jolly's original question).

That yes, the better materials found in B would in my opinion be worth the expense assuming it's a well constructed and designed piano.

For someone who's priority is to own a good instrument, not necessarily a long lasting one, the question is a simple one. I don't want a piano because it's a good investment, or because it will last a long time. I want one, because I thoroughly enjoy playing it, and honestly don't believe I could survive without it's influence in my life. In this regard, I want the best performing instrument. Consequently, this is also usually one of the best built, so it is possible to have both. The point is, the expense would of course be worth it, because I'm purchasing an instrument.

Outlive Yourself - Become an Organ Donor

#908905 - 06/05/03 09:08 PM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
Miguel Zenker Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/05/03
Posts: 2
Loc: México
I would add to KlavierBauer that the sound of the piano is for many players the most important issue. If I have a piano with the sound I like, I would do all I can to keep the piano and spend my money for it. Before, I would have bought a piano of good sound and good conditions, to spend less in tuning and conservation. Many pianists like the sound of their old pianos more than that of a new one: it is also a matter of custom.
Miguel Zenker
Escuela Nacional de Música
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

#908906 - 06/05/03 11:25 PM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14058
Loc: Louisiana
Is average life expectancy 60 years?

Or in the case of an Asian, more like 30?

If the performance of the piano is a non-issue, can a case be made for the disposable (thirty year) piano, especially when the less expensive initial cost is factored in?

Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

#908907 - 06/06/03 07:43 AM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
fmelliott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/01
Posts: 894
Loc: Virginia
It would appear that the Japanese are of that opinion.

#908908 - 06/06/03 02:42 PM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
HammerHead Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/17/03
Posts: 354
Loc: Metro Atlanta
What do you (we) really mean by "life expectancy"? What is (or should be) the criteria here? Is it the point where some quantifiable level of physical deterioration can be objectively documented? Is it the point where some X-percent decline in musical performance (sound + action responsivity) is reached? Is it the point where a complete rebuild is needed, or perhaps the point where that would be judged a waste? Is there any conceivable way to apply such criteria equally to a home vs. institutional setting? Or should the yardstick be tied to something more like car mileage: notes-per-day at a given average foot pounds of force in a given average environment...?

If most decent quality pianos can be maintained at *their* basic level of performance without extraordinary means for, say, 20 to 30 years, does this really make much difference? How much does it matter to most people that their beloved Superway parlor grand be able to perform almost as well as new between years 31 and 60? I hope somebody at least slapped a new set of strings in somewhere along the way. Where is the point of diminishing returns--the point at which the theoretical becomes moot in the face of reality?

To say that something that lasts 25 to 30 years is "disposable" because others of its species may last 50 or 60 seems a little over-the-top. Isn't the real point (unless you're making a living from rebuilding geriatric S&S's), that many if not most "discerning" people find the instruments built to theoretically last a very long time often seem to ALSO offer superior performance!? Or, at least some do...to many people...isn't that the real discussion if someone if considering plunking down as much as twice as much cash for something like a piano?

Just musing,
Completely and forever out of the music business (but still full of opinions)

#908909 - 06/06/03 03:02 PM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
Brian Lawson, RPT Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/04/01
Posts: 647
Loc: South Africa
Hi, regardless on cabinet construction I think soundboard, pinblock and action would be the fundementals to compare. To name names... a 10 year old Yamaha with foam hammer rest was decomposing. A one month old Pearl river (since shipped) had loose tuning pins. Another one had very tight pins. Opinion is thatlack of quality control is undermining components.
Otherwise Action wear and tear should be consistant in both.

My devalued South African 2 cents which is US$ .002463 at todays exchange rate :p
Brian Lawson, RPT
South Africa


#908910 - 06/06/03 05:34 PM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
Paul Spitzer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 97
Loc: Seattle
Are we talking commodities here or are we discussing an instrument that can change lives young and old, can standin for an entire orchestra, can gather a family around, can provide solitude, joy, despair or optimism, can satisfy lives rough or polished, and can teach useful us lessons, etc.?
Cheap or expensive. Hmm?

#908911 - 06/06/03 07:56 PM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
subarus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/10/01
Posts: 215
I think Piano should last a life time, so does cars, tvs, fridge etc. But if every big ticket items last a life time, businesses wont. To put it short and sweet and blunt, if you sell piano that last a life time, you wont.

#908912 - 06/07/03 07:33 PM Re: How long SHOULD a piano last?
Art Olson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/01
Posts: 150
Loc: San Marcos, CA
For me the experience of playing a fine piano(they are always very expensive)is an emotional, joyful experience that is unlike any other. I only hope that I can last long enough to finally learn to play what I hear in my head.

Luckily fine pianos also usually last a long time and keep a high resale value providing us with a good excuse to spend all that money!
Artistic Pianos
North San Diego


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