Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why I still don’t own an acoustic piano, Part One

For Sale: 1992 Steinway & Sons Model M Grand Piano. Current retail for a new M Grand is $57,900. Piano is EBONY SATIN (the most desired finish) with matching bench. Very well maintained. Kept tuned. More photos available. Moving across the country March 31. Taking no furniture.
Did that get your attention? Yes, it got my attention, too. And when I contacted the seller and learned she would possibly consider a price even lower than what she was asking, and that she was on a tight deadline with an imminent, furnitureless move to California in the works, I felt I owed it to myself to find out if maybe, just possibly, a Steinway might be in my future. Of course, Mrs. S heard “Steinway” and a price that was marginally within the limits of our home equity line of credit and she said, “You should buy it”. I told her to hold on there, and let’s go and look at it and see what it looks like and go from there.

The corner of the cabin filled with a Steinway
So we traveled up to a log house in Cheatham County Tennessee that was built in 1832 and is the second oldest house in Tennessee (or something like that) to see a lady’s piano. There were lots of stories to go with the piano: slight water damage from when an upstairs bath leaked, strings “rusting” and being rusted and being replaced. The piano seems largely to have been purchased as decoration, and as such, the current owner had no cover and, as far as I can tell, stored the piano with both the lid and fallboard open pretty much all the time (I didn't directly ask her if that was the case). I played the piano. It sounded fine, but in all honesty, nothing special. Inside the log home (which the owner kindly showed us around – it was beautiful, original and highly desirable), the corner where the Steinway was stashed was quite dark and unaccommodating. I couldn't see any of the features of the piano, even with the flashlight I brought. The piano was a bit out of tune, but okay for the most part. It hardly sounded “bright” as the owner described, though I would say it sounded brighter than a typical Steinway concert grand. It was, however, a rather dull sounding piano overall. I’m not sure if that could have been because it was dusty and cobwebby, or dried out, or too close to the wall, or it was just never an exciting piano. I was disappointed. I told the owner I’d think about it, but by and large, I’d already given up the idea of owning that piano.

This gives a better idea of how dark and secluded the area around the piano is (photo taken with flash)
Back home with Mrs. S, we discussed the potential. At the price and for that piano, it was desirable, if only we could figure out whether the water damage really was a trivial issue and why a string had broken and two others needed servicing (and how soon would the rest break or need servicing). I was far from buying the piano, and getting farther the more I thought about it and discussed it.

The Monday following, Mrs. S was off work. While I sat at work during lunch time, perusing another unexciting edition of Craigslist, filled with mediocre and undesirable pianos, I started to think the lonely Tennessee Steinway at the decent price point might be the way to go. In the meantime, Mrs. S found a piano buyer’s discussion group where someone had tested that very same piano (serial number match) six years before, and apparently, just before the current owner purchased it. (She’s owned it since 2006.) He said he found a problem with some of the tuning pins being too close together. He also said what I thought: the piano did not impress him.

Still, I think about that piano. If, after I grabbed it up, I sent it to New York for refurbishing, when I got it back I would have a certifiable, refurbished, Steinway grand piano. Hard to go wrong. But, with so many unanswered questions about that piano, I haven’t bought it yet, and that’s why...

I still don't own an acoustic piano. (End part one)

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