A piano not only serves the art of music, it is a work of art itself. A wonderfully complex machine, it has thousands of moving parts, a framework and soundboard supporting tremendous string tension, and beautifully finished cabinetry.
Although remarkably durable, pianos are subject to deterioration with time and use. Felt wears, strings break, wooden structures weaken and crack, and the exterior finish loses its beauty. Regular service and periodic action regulation can compensate for minor wear, but heavy or extended use — especially when combined with wide seasonal humidity swings — can eventually cause severe deterioration.
Today, many high-quality older pianos exist in various stages of wear. Because it happens so gradually, this wear often goes unnoticed, leaving many pianos operating far below their potential. In extreme cases, some older pianos are simply left unplayed because of their poor condition.
Our technicians possess the skills necessary to restore such instruments to excellent condition. This work is variously described as rebuilding, restoration, or reconditioning. To establish some uniformity, the Piano Technicians Guild uses the following terms:
Reconditioning is the process of putting a piano back in good condition by cleaning, repairing, and adjusting for best performance with parts replacement only where necessary. This is most appropriate for a piano with only moderate wear or those of medium value with average performance requirements.
Reconditioning does not involve replacing major components such as the soundboard, bridges, pinblock, and most action parts. This means the performance and life-span of an older piano will not be restored to new. Instead, reconditioning is designed to improve a piano’s performance, keeping in mind both costs and benefits.
In the short term, leather and felt compact, affecting the adjustment (regulation) of the parts. The action becomes uneven and less responsive, and the piano’s tone loses dynamic range. Squeaks and rattles may develop. Routine maintenance such as hammer filing, regulation, voicing, and tuning will correct these problems and maintain the piano in near-new condition.
After extended or very heavy use, action parts become severely worn. Leather and felt wear thin. Keys become wobbly, hammer felt gets too thin to produce good tone, and the action becomes noisy. Regulation adjustments reach their limit. In addition, piano strings may begin breaking and the copper windings of bass strings lose resonance.
After decades of exposure to seasonal changes, the wood of the soundboard, bridges, and pinblock is weakened. This causes loose tuning pins, poor tuning stability, and further loss of tone. By this time the piano’s finish will often be scratched or faded.
Most pianos can be played for many years without major repairs. However, the tone, touch, and appearance will continually decline with age. When regular maintenance such as cleaning, regulating, voicing, and tuning can no longer provide satisfactory performance, a piano may require reconditioning or rebuilding.
Exactly when a piano needs rebuilding or reconditioning depends on its original quality, the climate, usage, and performance requirements. One piano may need rebuilding after just twenty years, while another may need only reconditioning after fifty years. The best way to decide is to talk with our qualified piano restoration technicians, who have the judgment, experience, and expertise to advise you on such an important decision.
Not all pianos are worth the expense of reconditioning or rebuilding. In consultation with your piano technician, you should consider the following factors:
The overall condition of the piano. Can it really be restored to original condition or is it deteriorated beyond repair? Pianos subjected to severe fire, flood, or moving damage may not be repairable.
The quality, size, and type of the piano. Low priced, small pianos of poor design have limited potential. If the rebuilt piano would not be capable of meeting your performance needs, it would be better to replace it with one of better design.
The cost of repairs versus replacement. Major repairs may exceed the value of small low-quality pianos. However, most large high-quality instruments can be rebuilt for one-half to two-thirds the cost of a comparable new piano, making rebuilding a cost-effective option for fine pianos.
Sentimental value. Personal attachment or historical value may justify investing in major repairs rather than replacement.
If you suspect that your piano needs major repairs, have a complete evaluation done by our qualified piano restoration technicians who specialize in rebuilding. Discuss costs versus benefits of various repair options, and whether the completed piano would meet your performance requirements. We will provide you with a written proposal and charge a modest fee for this service which is credited to your balance if you choose to proceed with the outlined work.
We invite you to visit our restoration shop to inspect other work in progress, or ask for a reference list of past clients. Checking out similar jobs will give you a sense of how your instrument could be improved, as well as a feeling for our workmanship.
When you decide to proceed with major work, we will supply you with a written contract. This enables you to know exactly what will get done to your piano and the associated costs, estimated completion date, payment method, and guarantee policy.