Piano keys should be covered

Piano purchase checklist

If you want to fulfill your dream of your own acoustic piano, one of the first considerations for most people is surely "new or used?" in the room. - No wonder, because of course, when weighing these two options, the main focus is on significant price differences.

While good used acoustic brand pianos are available from specialist dealers from around 3,300 euros, the same models as new cost around 11,000 euros a good three times as much.

Keep your eyes open when buying a used piano!

In order to be able to at least begin to assess the condition of a used piano, even as a layman, and to be able to ask the right questions when buying it, it is worthwhile to take a closer look and to find out a little in advance. All too often prospective buyers - especially when it comes to supposed bargains on the private second-hand market - all too easily be dazzled by the external, perhaps also neat appearance of an instrument and may later experience nasty surprises.

Our little guide takes up some essential aspects of the topic of (used) pianos, easily understandable for everyone. What should I look out for when buying a piano? What follow-up costs may I have to face?

As a layperson, why shouldn't I just buy a nice, cheap, old piano from a private person?

On the private second-hand market you can often find pianos that are offered for an apple and an egg. However, in most cases such an extremely low purchase price still has financial consequences that need to be carefully considered.

A piano that has perhaps stood around for decades without being looked after, tuned and serviced normally requires extensive and costly refurbishment measures by a specialist - at least if the piano really is to be played or learned as a serious instrument to the piano and not just as imposing decorative object should serve.

If you want to be on the safe side when buying a used piano, it would be wise to contact a specialist dealer. In addition to competent advice, there are also guarantees that you can rely on.

Worst case: when is a piano ready for the junkyard?

Some used pianos that can be found in private classifieds (and which are sold by their respective owners for a bargain price, perhaps with the very best of intentions) are unfortunately only suitable for the junkyard on closer inspection.

If, for example, the cast plate has cracks, it is no longer guaranteed that the tensile force of the strings can be withstood. A repair of the cast plate is difficult and also not useful, since there is always the risk that cracks will form again at the repaired areas due to the forces exerted by the strings. On the other hand, the cost of an entire replacement of the component is so high that it is normally out of proportion to the value of the piano.

Best case: what does "refurbished" mean?

In addition to new instruments, we offer high-quality, used, refurbished pianos. The used pianos are checked, tuned, regulated and revised in detail by our piano builder. The case of our used pianos is also carefully cleaned and polished. We grant a five-year (!) Piano warranty on our refurbished acoustic pianos, which covers, for example, damage to the sound post or the cast plate or defects in the felting.

How often do I have to get my piano tuned and how expensive is it?

You can't prevent a piano from getting out of tune over time. Fluctuations in humidity and temperature primarily affect the wood used in the piano and consequently also cause changes in the string tension. Even very intensive use of the piano can - albeit to a lesser extent - contribute to the strings being out of tune.

Once a year

A common recommendation for the frequency of piano tuning is: once a year. If you let your piano tune less often, the instrument itself does not suffer immediately, but the sound does and at some point - depending on the quality of your hearing - almost certainly also the pianist himself ... The longer a piano has not been tuned , the longer the tuning process takes afterwards, for which several runs may be necessary.

Best in summer

The best time to tune a piano is in the summer months, as this is where humidity and temperature fluctuations are the least. If the piano is tuned regularly once a year, this usually costs around 100-200 euros. Incidentally, new pianos have to be tuned more often at the beginning than used pianos.

What other common maintenance work can be done on the piano?

Regulate

In connection with the maintenance of pianos, the term "regulating" always appears. This means various correction or adjustment work on the keyboard and the mechanics of a piano. How often such regulating measures have to be taken by the piano maker depends on the extent to which the piano is used, i.e. how much it is used. H. how often it is played. As part of the annual piano tuning, the piano tuner usually indicates whether and to what extent adjustment work on the instrument is necessary or recommended.

Regulate the keyboard

Adjustment work on the keyboard can include: Adjusting the key spacing, optimizing key guidance (keyword: piano keys getting stuck), bringing keys back to one level (e.g. by replacing felt discs under the keys) in order to achieve an optimal To provide a feeling of play.

Regulate mechanics

Adjustment work on the mechanics can include, for example, realigning the hammers or hammer heads so that they strike the strings evenly. It can also happen over time that hammers are no longer thrown against the strings at the optimal point in time. For example, if the hammer is set in motion too early (i.e. at a greater distance from the string than optimal), it will strike the string with greater force. The result is that soft or very soft playing is no longer possible, so the dynamics are so to speak "flute".

These and many other fine-tuning and fine-tuning in the complicated piano mechanics can be carried out by experienced piano tuners with the right tools without any problems.

Renew hammer heads

If you play the piano regularly, it is completely normal and unavoidable that the hammer heads or their felting show certain signs of wear and age. On the one hand, when the hammer heads hit the strings, a characteristic groove develops over time; on the other hand, the felt hardens over the years, so it loses its elasticity. Depending on the degree of wear and tear, hammer heads can be refurbished or their felt can be replaced or the entire hammer heads can be replaced with new ones in order to achieve a beautiful, round piano sound again.

The cheapest option is the so-called deduction (costs around 200-300 euros). Here, the felt of the old hammer head is sanded off in order to bring the hammer head back into shape. Removal is the usual variant in the case of slight signs of wear and can be done several times before the felts or hammer heads have to be replaced.

Regardless of whether the hammer heads are completely replaced, re-felted or just removed, it is necessary in a further step to re-intonate the hammer heads afterwards.

Why do experts advise against top mute pianos?

So-called upper damper pianos are pianos with an upper damper mechanism. In the period around 1900 in particular, a relatively large number of pianos, some of them very inexpensive, were built that had this type of mechanism. Due to their construction, upper damper mechanisms are more maintenance-intensive than lower damper mechanisms and the tuning process is also more difficult and complex.

Pianos with upper damping are no longer built today and we also do not offer them as used instruments. As a layperson, you can recognize an upper damper piano as follows: When looking from above into the interior of the piano, a wooden beam (damper bar) obscures the view of the hammer heads below. In the case of a piano with a lower damper mechanism, however, there is a clear view of the hammer heads from above.

With this piano with a lower damper mechanism, you have a clear view of the hammer heads from above.

In this video you can see a piano with an upper damper mechanism, recognizable by the wooden bar that is located above the mechanism (the dampers are directly below this wooden beam, and the hammer heads are below them; above the wooden beam you can see the tuning pegs).

How do I prevent moth infestation in the piano?

Due to the many felts that can be found on hammers, dampers and several other places in the piano, there is always a certain risk of moths nestling in the instrument, especially with unplayed pianos. Commercially available remedies against moths, for example moth paper or lavender bags, can help. If a piano is actually infested with moths, it may be necessary to carry out extensive work by the specialist, which may involve replacing all of the felts in the instrument.

In which location am I doing my piano a favor?

An acoustic piano requires some space and in this context also requires a few additional considerations as to the optimal location. For example, it should not be placed in close proximity to a radiator. If the apartment has underfloor heating, it is advisable to at least place the piano on a carpet so as not to expose it directly to the heat source. For the wood of the piano, a certain amount of humidity is extremely important so that no cracks form - especially on very relevant components such as the sound post. The issue of humidity deserves special attention, especially during the heating periods in the winter months. Detailed information on this topic is also available in our piano care guide.

Does the cast plate have cracks?

Very serious defect. A repair does not make sense. An exchange usually bears no relation to the value of the used piano.

Does the sound post have cracks?

Serious deficiency. Replacing the sound post is expensive and is only worthwhile with very high-quality instruments.

Is the piano out of tune?

It is quite normal for a piano to get out of tune over time. The average annual cost of voting is around 100-200 euros.

Are the keys on the keyboard not evenly at the same height?

To remedy this deficiency is not a problem with a keyboard that is generally in a decent condition and is one of the usual adjustment work that is carried out by the piano tuner.

Are individual keys hanging?

Remedying this deficiency is not a problem and is one of the usual regulation work that is carried out by the piano tuner.

Is it no longer possible to play quietly with individual notes?

Correcting this deficiency is usually not a problem and is part of the normal adjustment work carried out by the piano tuner.

Do the hammers look worn out?

Depending on the degree of wear, the hammer heads can either be refurbished more cheaply or replaced more expensively.

Doesn't the piano sound balanced?

If a piano no longer sounds round, this can possibly be remedied relatively easily with an intonation.

Does the piano have an upper damper mechanism?

Many pianists are of the opinion that an upper damper piano does not sound as good as a piano with a lower damper mechanism, but opinions differ greatly here. The fact is that tuning and maintenance work on an upper damper piano is more complex and therefore more expensive than on a (normal) piano with a lower damper mechanism.

Are there any traces of moth to be seen on the felts of the mechanics or the keyboard?

If the moths have raged particularly badly, the piano maker has to replace all the felts in the worst case. This can be an expensive pleasure.

glossary

mute
Dampers ensure that the struck sound (sound generated by hitting the hammer on a string) fades away or goes silent, as the vibrating string is dampened by means of this damper, that is to say "stopped". The damping is part of the mechanics.

Cast iron plate, cast frame
Cast iron component that absorbs the tensile force of the strings.

Close up of the spruce frame of a grand piano.

Hammer, hammer felt, hammer head
Hammers are part of the piano mechanics and, when they strike the strings, produce the notes when playing the piano. The hammers are divided into a hammer handle and hammer head, with the hammer head covered with felt. The core of such a hammer is made of wood.

Intonation, intonation
Differentiated setting of the timbre in interaction with the volume on a piano. The harder the hammer felt that hits the strings with the hammer head, the louder and more vehement the resulting sound. Targeted piercing of the felt with a so-called voicing needle can improve the elasticity of the material. This makes the sound softer.

mechanics
Lever construction, which ensures that a hammer hits the corresponding string when the key is pressed and thus generates the sound. In the course of time, many different types of mechanisms have been developed, especially for grand pianos.

Upper damper
Mechanical construction with the dampers above the hammers. The type of damping results in an - often undesirable - reverberation, and many pianists also describe the feel of playing on top damper pianos as less beautiful. Pianos with an upper damper mechanism were built until around the 1910s and 1920s.

pianino
Upright piano; piano

Rest
Supporting, stabilizing frame of a piano; In general, one speaks of a notch in technical areas when it comes to a component in which something can be locked or encased. The soundboard and the cast plate are fixed by means of the notches of a piano. The notch together with the cast plate has to withstand enormous forces that result from the tension of the strings.

Regulation, regulating
Corrections / adjustments to the keyboard and mechanics.

Sound post, tuning pegs
Component made of wood in which the metal pegs for tuning the strings are anchored. The sound post sits in the upper area of ​​the piano behind the cast plate. If the sound post has cracked (often due to insufficient humidity in the apartment), it usually cannot be repaired, but has to be completely replaced. Changing the soundpost is expensive and is therefore only worthwhile with really high-quality pianos.

Above the mechanism you can see the metal tuning pegs of the piano.

Lower damper
Common construction today, in which the dampers are below the hammers.

This article was last updated on: 12.03.2019, author: Jutta Kühl.

Sources / Photos:
http://blog.pianobeat.de/klavierstimmen/
http://www.klaviertechnikmeister.de/Regernen-und-Intonieren.html
http://www.stimmungsmacher.com/regulation.htm
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intonation_(Tasteninstrument)
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaviermechanik
https://klavier-muehl.de/klaviatur-restaurieren
https://pixabay.com/de/fl%C3%BCgel-saiten-konzertfl%C3%BCgel-klavier-2465665/
https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/pfeil-handarbeit-links-rechts-2079328/
https://pixabay.com/de/klavier-musik-instrument-spiele-2321893/
https://pixabay.com/de/klavier-piano-musik-instrument-2216483/
https://pixabay.com/de/photos/gl%C3%A4ser-brillen-linse-rahmen-3002751/
https://pixabay.com/de/photos/klavier-kl%C3%B6ppel-instrument-462320/
https://pixabay.com/de/photos/piano-klavier-tasten-klassik-2310295/
https://www.august-foerster.de/cms/de/52/Ein-Instrument-entstands-Teil-1
https://www.clavio.de/threads/oberdaempfer-vor-ur-teile.12843/
https://www.keyboards.de/tutorials/klavier-gebanned-kaufen-auf-dem-weg-zum-neuen-alten/
https://www.klavierhaus-rhein-ruhr.de/servicleistungsungen/qualitaetsstandard.html
https://www.leipzigpianos.de/lexikon.html
https://www.praeludio.de/fragen-klang.html