Help me spend 25k on a grand for my school

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Model V
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Help me spend 25k on a grand for my school

Post by Model V » 09 Nov 2008, 12:03

I work for a smallish independent school as director of music. We’re about to have a new music facility built which will include a large “classroom” doubling as a recital room which would seat around 80. I’ve impressed on the school that, as we’re building a swish new department, this is a golden opportunity to equip it as well as possible, particularly as regards a grand piano. Some of the reasons for doing this properly include:

 Giving the school Kudos with the presence of a superb instrument (schools we compete with often have very nice grand pianos)
 Giving the students an opportunity to play (or aspire to play) a first class instrument
 Attract local music societies, artists etc to hire it out as a venue
 Possible recording venue (I’m ensuring the acoustics are good and that appropriate connections to a control room are available)
 Allow us to be a top class ABRSM centre

I’m having a decent effect on those who have the power and I’m hoping that we might be able to spend around £20-25,000 on a grand piano. It would be model B size probably.

I’ve seen and played a series of German and Japanese pianos and here are my findings so far:

 Yamaha/Kawai: Played several C3 and the Kawai equivalent. Very good value and some real bargains second hand. Tonally they all impress but lack a certain something (sparkle?) compared to the best Germans
 Bechstein: Tried several new and used in various dealers. I am yet to be impressed by a single one.
 Blüthner: Very impressive in London showroom. I had only really experienced woolly sounding old models and these were in a different league. Potential for a very good deal too.
 Bosendorfer: Nice to play but rather thin toned compared to Blüthner and Steinway. A lot of money for what you get, I thought.
 Steinway: Very impressed with the model B; it just has it all (as I expected). The one I tried most recently was a few years old but in as new condition
 Schimmel: This was a big surprise. I played several of these and was delighted with every single one. Lovely to play and tonally superb from excellent bass (even the small ones) to clear, singing top end. Although comparing apples and pears, I preferred the model B size to the Steinway.

Anyway, I’ve got virtually a whole year to go before I need to act so I want to make sure I spend the money as wisely as possible. What would you do in my position, bearing in mind the points about spending wisely and having the best possible instrument against attracting artists, venue hire, recordings and, of course, new students. It’s not an easy choice. (lol).

PS Doesn’t need to be new.

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Post by PianoGuy » 09 Nov 2008, 12:21

The *only* Steinway B substitute is a Yamaha S6. It will blow away any reservations you have about Yamaha and there is no German instrument to compare at the price.

There.

Your search is over.

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Post by Descombes » 09 Nov 2008, 12:42

I have been in your situation in the past. I agree with everything you say. However, I would say that there is no comparison with the kudos of people being able to say "XXXX School, the place with a Steinway grand in the new Music Block".
My advice would be to speak to Jeff Shackell:

http://www.shackellpianos.co.uk/

He restores and sells Steinways, but also sells new Yamahas. His attention to detail and after-sales service are second to none. He also has an up to date picture of what's available throughout the country.
He's based near Oxford, but travels throughout the country. (I don't know where you are.)
If you want any more suggestions, please send a private message.

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Post by Model V » 09 Nov 2008, 12:56

PianoGuy wrote:The *only* Steinway B substitute is a Yamaha S6.
Have you tried the recent Schimmels? I only ask because I rated them up there with the Steinway.

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Post by PianoGuy » 09 Nov 2008, 13:01

Model V wrote:
PianoGuy wrote:The *only* Steinway B substitute is a Yamaha S6.
Have you tried the recent Schimmels? I only ask because I rated them up there with the Steinway.
Yes.

No comparison

Get an S6.

Speak to Jeff Shackell.

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Post by joseph » 09 Nov 2008, 15:13

i haven't tried schimmel, but I like Bluthner model 6 and 4, Yamaha S6, Shigeru Kawai SK6, Steinway model B if you can find one at the right price and then there are the Brodmann higher end models which are very very good.

Its a wonderful dilemma you have! Enjoy shopping!

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Post by Openwood » 09 Nov 2008, 16:43

Jeff Shackell's your man. He maintains the piano at my school. He's the complete dog's. No question.
"Each day grow older, and learn something new."
Solon (c. 630 - c. 500 B.C.), Greek Statesman and Reformer

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Post by Descombes » 09 Nov 2008, 17:04

No doubt that Steinways are the best and if there's one around in your price range, Jeff will find it. If the finances don't stretch that far, he will make a Yamaha sound almost as good.

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Post by Gill the Piano » 09 Nov 2008, 17:15

...and a Yamaha will take more sustained punishment at less cost to rectify any wear and tear - always a consideration for a school instrument!

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Post by Model V » 09 Nov 2008, 17:25

Gill the Piano wrote:...and a Yamaha will take more sustained punishment at less cost to rectify any wear and tear - always a consideration for a school instrument!
Shouldn't be a consideration - we've a C3 in the hall, and that that gets the pounding.

Although I'm sure Piano Guy is right that the S6 is a great instrument, I suspect the school will want something German.

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Post by Descombes » 09 Nov 2008, 17:34

Model V wrote:
Although I'm sure Piano Guy is right that the S6 is a great instrument, I suspect the school will want something German.
So go for a nice Hamburg Steinway!

Ring Jeff - or, if you're near London, wander into Steinway Hall. They are very friendly and they seem to be keen on getting pianos into educational establishments under the new management!

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Post by PianoGuy » 09 Nov 2008, 19:34

Model V wrote: Although I'm sure Piano Guy is right that the S6 is a great instrument, I suspect the school will want something German.

Then go ahead, buy a Schimmel, have visiting pianists not know what the f*** it is and suffer the massive depreciation when you want to change for the Yamaha after all when you find it's not robust enough. You need a big Yam or a Steinway. Nothing else will do. I think Openwood could tell you a story or two because he's been there.

Shackell's have a restored 1928 model B coming in shortly for around 28k, but as previously stated, a superbly set-up S6 can sound so damned close to a B you might never know, and far better than any Schimmel. In fact a well set up C5 would do a good job, but you need to find a technician capable of getting the best out of one, not a discount dealer.

Why ask for advice? Your school governors could do with a bit of education, so get them to subscribe to this forum.

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Post by Openwood » 09 Nov 2008, 20:14

suffer massive depreciation when you want to change for the Yamaha after all when you find it's not robust enough. You need a big Yam or a Steinway. Nothing else will do. I think Openwood could tell you a story or two because he's been there.
Been there, bought shares in the T-Shirt factory. When my school had 25k to spend on a piano I was also expected to 'get something German' and personally I also felt that a big German name was de rigueur. This was before I discovered the UK Piano forum!

I'd wanted a Steinway but all the 6ft and longer ones I saw were over the 28k mark and we were pushing the limit of our budget at 25k. In the end we got a new Model 4 Bluthner but at 6ft it just wasn't powerful enough to do the job. To say I was gutted would be the understatement of the Geological Age; I didn't sleep for about a month I was so cut-up about it.

After a LOT of soul-searching I found a dealer who would exchange our Bluthner for a new Yamaha C7 and I've never regretted it. Jeff Shackell has voiced it to perfection and, at over 7ft, it is big enough to supply the punch you need for the big guns of the Romantic repertoire, especially in the bass.

If you feel you have to go German, fair enough, but I'd definitely try and get something bigger than 6ft if you want to be able to do justice to the whole piano repertoire.
"Each day grow older, and learn something new."
Solon (c. 630 - c. 500 B.C.), Greek Statesman and Reformer

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Post by Model V » 10 Nov 2008, 09:12

PianoGuy wrote:
Model V wrote: Although I'm sure Piano Guy is right that the S6 is a great instrument, I suspect the school will want something German.

Then go ahead, buy a Schimmel, have visiting pianists not know what the f*** it is and suffer the massive depreciation when you want to change for the Yamaha after all when you find it's not robust enough. You need a big Yam or a Steinway. Nothing else will do. I think Openwood could tell you a story or two because he's been there.

Shackell's have a restored 1928 model B coming in shortly for around 28k, but as previously stated, a superbly set-up S6 can sound so damned close to a B you might never know, and far better than any Schimmel. In fact a well set up C5 would do a good job, but you need to find a technician capable of getting the best out of one, not a discount dealer.

Why ask for advice? Your school governors could do with a bit of education, so get them to subscribe to this forum.
I'm sure you think you're being helpful. However, I found that post arrogant and rude. I have noted your opinion and will add that to the stock of advice and help I have already been given. There is certainly a variety of opinion (not including that which is tied to specific financial self-consideration). Not all that informed opinion matches your own. This does not invalidate your point of view, but it is just that; a point of view. One of several.

I came here looking for friendly advice and have just received abuse from someone who thinks he knows better than other respected professionals. What I hoped to do was stimulate a debate and explore a range of solutions. Perhaps that will still happen. The final decision on this purchase will be my own, and I want it to be as informed a decision as possible. I am open to all polite, friendly suggestions.

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Post by PianoGuy » 10 Nov 2008, 09:24

Model V wrote: I'm sure you think you're being helpful. However, I found that post arrogant and rude.
I can be like that! (Check the whole forum if you don't believe me!)

I do like to use shock tactics, but take it with a bucket of salt!

Apologies if you thought it a bit strong, but you're doing this once, and for the first and maybe only time. I on the other hand have seen far too many people in your position make huge mistakes simply because their powers that be insist on something they think will give the school/college/organisation a bit of snob value. Of course listen to everybody, but get your governors to check this forum out too before you make an expensive mistake!

Best wishes old fruit!

PG

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Post by Model V » 10 Nov 2008, 09:50

Thanks for that reply. I'm absolutely sure your motives are aimed at getting me the best piano possible.

Let's keep the discussion going though as I've lots of time before I have to make a decision.

Thanks again.

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Post by PianoGuy » 10 Nov 2008, 09:52

Good one! Cheers!

Oh! And I've seen too many people opt for indifferently restored old shiny German heaps sold to them by convincing sheisters for treble their real worth rather than get something sensible, less esoteric but practical, it makes me weep. My bombastic attitude is borne out of this.

As for professionalism, I wouldn't dare to offer advice to a head of music on how to do his job, but you asked for advice and you got a lot of it. Nearly all of the professional technicians on this forum have also recommended the same course of action as I have, as have a couple of Music Directors who have been in your (pleasant and enviable!) position and learned the hard way!

Don't be hoodwinked by Teutonic Glitz. A Schimmel in Germany has a similar kudos to a Kemble over here. It's the standard fare home grown instrument. Well made and sound. It's only when they're sold in the UK with an inflated price tag that they take on the status of something special.

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Post by ennjaydee » 10 Nov 2008, 11:06

I'd fully support PianoGuy's view re Schimmel. In my own search (albeit for a quality upright) I found the Schimmel's beautifully made but leaving me wanting more when played. The sound just did not match the price tag. In Germany they are widely sold but UK pricing appears to lack competitive value.

As a School Governor myself, I feel sure that you will be supported in your decision as the Director of Music. Of course there are other factors to consider besides just the sound. Strength, reliability, consistency, 'kudos', overall cost of ownership etc. Steinway may provide an edge if the School is looking for competitive advantage as a specialist facility. According to this forum, the S6 will closely match it for performance and it may be more cost effective to buy and own. Jeff Shackell's advice as a specialist in both for an informed and balanced decision must be worth strong consideration. Google shows contact details. Good luck.

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Post by genaa » 10 Nov 2008, 11:28

not sure about relative pricings but consider looking also at:

Grotrians, Sauters, Shigeru Kawai, Estonia,

all of which make some extremely high quality instruments. The Shigeru Kawai will certainly give the S6 a run for its money I would have thought at a similar price point, the others are likely to be more expensive.

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Post by PianoGuy » 10 Nov 2008, 11:34

genaa wrote:The Shigeru Kawai will certainly give the S6 a run for its money I would have thought at a similar price point, the others are likely to be more expensive.
Indeed they will be.

The only official authorised Shigeru dealer in the UK is Jaques Samuel's. Second hand ones are thin on the ground, but with all Kawais it's important to go for a late model.

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Post by D.J.Smith » 10 Nov 2008, 12:13

I doubt an Estonia would be more expensive. Problem is ,there are no UK dealers so you would have to go to the factory in Tallin to try them. The Laul family who own the company are very helpful and would no doubt prep several examples for you to try, and choose from. You would also be ablte to negotiate the price, buying direct.

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Post by Model V » 10 Nov 2008, 13:25

D.J.Smith wrote:you would have to go to the factory in Tallin to try them.
Flight booked.javascript:emoticon(':D')

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Post by crispin » 10 Nov 2008, 16:41

I'm sure you think you're being helpful. However, I found that post arrogant and rude.
I don't want to appear as defending PianoGuy ... since basically he needs no defending. Having the many comments from someone so knowledgeable and helpful as PianoGuy makes this forum special.

Equally enjoyable is the sharp wit and a dose of rudeness displayed by many contributors... I hope this does not change..

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Post by PianoGuy » 10 Nov 2008, 21:13

crispin wrote: Equally enjoyable is the sharp wit and a dose of rudeness displayed by many contributors... I hope this does not change..
Not from me it won't!!

;-)

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Post by Model V » 10 Nov 2008, 22:36

Just awaiting the "sharp wit" now.

:wink:

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Post by PianoGuy » 10 Nov 2008, 23:02

Model V wrote:Just awaiting the "sharp wit" now.

:wink:
Oooh!

Razor!

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Post by joseph » 10 Nov 2008, 23:45

You know, for all the beautiful pianos that are available, when I turn up to a place to give a recital and see that they have a Yamaha or a Steinway, I feel very comfortable because I generally know what the piano is going to do.

Bluthners can be absolutely beautiful pianos, and they have a subtlety that neither Steinway or Yamaha can match, but they need to be maintained constantly to retain their tone, and although they can produce infinite variations of tone, they're not generally suited to playing at high volume, they tend to sound a bit shrill when pushed. There are of course exceptions to this.

Bosendorfers are beautiful too, very classical sounding pianos, but really, you'd be better with a Yamaha S6.

Bechstein tends to be over priced (their model B is MORE than a Steinway model B new) and honestly not great.

Schimmel, decent pianos I suppose, but over priced for what they are and i've never really felt comfortable on one.

The ONLY thing I don't like about Yamaha, is that the sound seems to cut off very suddenly when the sustain pedal is lifted. The dampers are almost too efficient. I like the tone and I LOVE the action of a Yamaha and a Steinway. I think your short list is Yamaha S6 or a Steinway model B. Bluthner may be ok because its a small venue, but you have to be an experienced pianist to get the best from one of those, whereas Yamaha and Steinway will suit everyone and ALL repertoire.

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Post by vernon » 11 Nov 2008, 00:07

Mdv
I hope you realise these are all very subjective opinions. In the end , the decision will be yours. There is no place for regrets afterwards.
it is pointless lauding the qualities of one piano against another as they are based on personal perceptions.Beauty is in the earhole of the listener.

Some of us consider Steinways and Yamahas endemically as sounding like old tin baths full of nails.Others do not; Bluthners and Bechsteins and Bosens as warm gluey baths of asses milk.Others do not.
Elton favours a Yamaha- Oscar Petersen a Bosendorfer. Moiseiwitz and Paderewski would play anything that was available.
If your budget is 25kl, then look at the similar sized instruments at that price range and endeavour to try each Forget depreciation as you are never going to swap it. The answer to your dilemma will leap out at you.
Bear in mind your successor may think you were mad of course.

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Post by PianoGuy » 11 Nov 2008, 08:35

vernon wrote: Elton favours a Yamaha-
Elton wouldn't know a decent piano if he was slapped around his podgy jowls with one. Witness the awfully tuned Yamaha C111S he played that hastily rewritten and mawkish drivel on at Diana's funeral. Great piano, don't bother shooting the tuner because there obviously wasn't one! I'm sure he uses a Yamaha simply because he's sponsored (ie gets free ones and is paid mucho brasso) to do so.

Great observations Joseph, and precisely my point if there are visiting pianists to consider.

Yours witlessly, ;-)

PG

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Post by Model V » 11 Nov 2008, 10:00

Changing tack slightly:

Obviously the gold standard would be the Hamburg B. Now, I notice that (well) restored examples go for high 20s/early 30s, seemingly regardless of age. For example a 1970s model might be 33k whereas a 1920s model might be 28k. Once someone like Jeff Shackell had rebuild a B, does the age not matter, even though we might be talking half a century difference?

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Post by ennjaydee » 11 Nov 2008, 10:05

Room size is important to remember.

Bluthner Grand - local Civic Hall (500 people) - just not powerful enough. Steinway Grand - School Hall (500 people) - great, fills the room. Purpose built school Teaching/Recital room (80 people) - boudoir sized grand - works well in that space. Sweeping generalisations I know, but it illustrates the point.

Worth bearing in mind locality of specialist to maintain it also as part of your choice.

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Post by PianoGuy » 11 Nov 2008, 22:23

Model V wrote: For example a 1970s model might be 33k whereas a 1920s model might be 28k. Once someone like Jeff Shackell had rebuild a B, does the age not matter, even though we might be talking half a century difference?
To a point, although the later example is always going to be more desirable owing to the fact that it's likely to suit more situations, environments, climates, central heating systems etc. .... Oh, and yes, it's newer! It will also be easier to sell on if you need to.

You are paying for more restoration work in the older piano, which is expensive, and you're paying for more new Steinway in the later piano, which is also expensive!

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Post by Openwood » 11 Nov 2008, 22:25

Bluthners and Bechsteins and Bosens as warm gluey baths of asses milk
Strange how they've never used that phrase in their marketing :wink:

ennjaydee's right about room size - heard some 9-footers in small rooms that are completely overbearing.
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Solon (c. 630 - c. 500 B.C.), Greek Statesman and Reformer

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Post by Model V » 11 Nov 2008, 22:52

PianoGuy wrote:You are paying for more restoration work in the older piano, which is expensive, and you're paying for more new Steinway in the later piano, which is also expensive!
I know which one I would want!

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Post by joseph » 12 Nov 2008, 00:05

For my two pence, if I had £25K-£30K to spend on a piano for institutional use, I'd buy a Yamaha S6 new.

The reason I wouldn't go for a 1920s Steinway, even restored, or a 30 year old Steinway is that you really want something which is going to take a pounding. With a new piano you know what its been through.

My teacher has a 1920s Steinway B, which has been restored and I don't think it would take a pounding. I mean, its one of the sweetest pianos I've played, gorgeous, but not an institutional instrument. He also has a Yamaha S4, which, quite frankly you could do somersaults on to the keyboard and it would still play well! It is also a beauty.

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Post by PianoGuy » 12 Nov 2008, 09:03

joseph wrote:For my two pence, if I had £25K-£30K to spend on a piano for institutional use, I'd buy a Yamaha S6 new.

The reason I wouldn't go for a 1920s Steinway, even restored, or a 30 year old Steinway is that you really want something which is going to take a pounding. With a new piano you know what its been through.
I'd agree again up to a point. Most of Shackell's instruments have had a new plank and new action which restores most of the robustness. You then only have the soundboard to worry about. I'd still be tempted to go for the S6 or at least find a couple to try.

The S4 is also a sublime sounding piano, but tuning stability can be poor. The limited edition S400 sounded even nicer, but was so unstable as to make it virtually unusable unless you have a full-time tuner on the staff!

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Post by Model V » 12 Nov 2008, 11:31

PianoGuy wrote: The S4 is also a sublime sounding piano, but tuning stability can be poor. The limited edition S400 sounded even nicer, but was so unstable as to make it virtually unusable unless you have a full-time tuner on the staff!
That's interesting PG; how come they got one so right and the other so wrong?

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Post by PianoGuy » 12 Nov 2008, 21:22

Model V wrote:
That's interesting PG; how come they got one so right and the other so wrong?
Don't really know. Different designers I guess. Similarly, the Steinway C does not enjoy the same reputation as the smaller B or larger D. I've only met one model C that I've really adored, and a few that are really a bit hateful, but I seem to like most Bs and Ds.

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Post by David B » 14 Nov 2008, 11:47

What you need is fully rebuilt Danemann concert grand :D

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Post by joseph » 14 Nov 2008, 11:54

hows the Danemann going? Has it been delivered yet? DO post some pics please!

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Post by David B » 14 Nov 2008, 12:55

The ambulance has delivered the old girl from her place of torment to the hospital. :D She is in a bad way. :cry: Multiple injuries, and total heart failure. We expect her to be in intensive care for several months, but a full revovery is expected in the spring :D

Coudn't possible post pictures on a public forum; there could be children or persons of weak constitution watching :shock:

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Post by joseph » 14 Nov 2008, 14:06

are you doing the rebuild? is a new soundboard required? its a lot of love to put into a piano isn't it! I'm sure it will turn out beautifully.

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Post by David B » 14 Nov 2008, 15:26

joseph wrote:are you doing the rebuild? .
certainly not
joseph wrote:is a new soundboard required?
yes. the barn did the old one no good at all :(
joseph wrote:its a lot of love to put into a piano isn't it! .
lot of money, you mean. But then look at it this way, a heavily discounted Yammy C7 is going to set you back over 20 grand. A new concert grand up to 100 grand. Cheap when you think about it :shock:
joseph wrote: I'm sure it will turn out beautifully.
So am I. :D

By the way - we are all looking forward to your concert...

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Post by joseph » 14 Nov 2008, 17:44

I love both properly rebuilt pianos and new pianos, and i love it when something is resurrected like this! I'll give a concert on it any day!

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Post by Model V » 14 Nov 2008, 21:09

You are talking about a Danemann, right? Played lots of uprights at my school but never played a grand. Any good?

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Post by PianoGuy » 16 Nov 2008, 22:19

Model V wrote:You are talking about a Danemann, right? Played lots of uprights at my school but never played a grand. Any good?
Their uprights are generally better than their grands, but a few of their larger models were superb. They were made to the same rather pedestrian standards as their uprights in terms of styling though which upsets a few people, and of course have no cachet. Nearly all grands featured an unremarkable but functional Schwander action and would benefit greatly from an upgrade to the Bruntons strings which were fitted as standard.

Rebuilt well with Röslau or EKA strings and good attention to detail, I'm sure a Danemann concert grand would blow a few supposedly better makes out of the water!

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