The Barless Club

General discussion about piano makes, problems with pianos, or just seeking advice.

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sirprize
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The Barless Club

Post by sirprize » 17 Sep 2011, 18:24

Introducing THE BARLESS CLUB! Not a place for Alcoholics Anonymous to hang out in but dedicated to the Broadwood barless piano. The domain name http://www.thebarlessclub.org.uk has been registered but it'll take some weeks before the website and forum are up and running

Broadwood first patented the radical design of a barless piano in 1888 but the overwhelming majority of cast steel barless pianos were produced for only 25 years 1895-1920. Broadwood barless pianos represent a quintessentially British strain of piano design being both technologically advanced and endearingly eccentric; of very high build-quality and old-fashioned style. They are probably the finest pianos ever made in the UK but are now little known and largely ignored by the piano playing fraternity. They offer extraordinary value to the player looking for a first-class instrument and currently can be bought for a few hundred pounds

In the 1980s and 90s there was a resurgence of interest in the concept of a piano frame without the tonally and aesthetically disruptive crossbars and this eventually resulted in the design of new versions of the Broadwood barless piano manufactured by the Birmingham firm of Ladbrooke Pianos who produced half a dozen a year. Sadly they went out of business in 2007

I've spent the last dozen years going up and down the country trying original barless pianos and in February this year bought a 1914 Model B barless grand (6ft 8in) very cheaply at auction. It was then restored by the team at John Broadwood & Sons Ltd based at Finchcocks Musical Museum, Goudhurst, Kent and led by Alastair Laurence author of 'The Broadwood Barless Piano'

I hope to hear from owners and potential owners of barless Broadwoods - grand and upright - and hopefully share an enthusiasm for the marque and encourage the restoration of the handful of models which make their way into the public arena every year. Feel free to contact me at thebarlessclub@hotmail.co.uk

Gill the Piano
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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Gill the Piano » 17 Sep 2011, 20:17

I tune one about every 2-3 years. And the tuning never moves! Embarrassing really - drink my tea, fuss the dog, give the piano a dust, tidy up a few unisons, twiddle my thumbs... :oops:
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by sirprize » 17 Sep 2011, 20:43

Ha ha Gill! Well, pass the word to any of your barless clients. I will be building a register of serial numbers/locations - bit trainspotty I know - but it will mesh with Broadwood's own celebrated archive of original sale details going back to Pérotin lol

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Barrie Heaton » 17 Sep 2011, 22:38

Tell us when it is up and we will put a link to it on the history page


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Re: The Barless Club

Post by joe » 18 Sep 2011, 11:10

The Broadwood Barless Grands where in my opinion the best British grand pianos ever built and should be appreciated more,best of luck.Re-conditioned a good few over the years and was never disappointed and as "Gill" stated their tuning stability was ahead of its time,also liked the tone they produced.

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by sirprize » 19 Sep 2011, 13:30

I'm sure your appraisal of the barless grand is shared by many, Joe and it's one of the reasons I feel there might be a groundswell of enthusiasm for bringing these wonderful instruments back to the fore. Extraordinary to think they once retailed for more than equivalent Steinways and yet can now be bought for a small fraction of a Steinway. All of them are now over 80 years old and the oldest well over 110 years but they are so well built that they are easily capable of providing excellent service for many decades yet. They also sound completely different from the bland Germano/oriental instruments the tone/response of which has been largely homogenised/standardised over the last 50 years. There is a large potential consituency for the barless grand - teachers, students and pro performers who actually NEED a quality grand piano but have a limited budget. Anyway, feel free to email me and we can swop notes: thebarlessclub@hotmail.co.uk

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Aster » 02 Oct 2012, 16:28

About a month ago I bought a beautiful however fairly neglected and mistreated Broadwood overstrung drawingroom grand and would like to know how to determine if this instrument is barless or not - and discuss anything else about this beautiful instrument. My guess is not, as I see two bars in the iron cast separating the strings. I bought 'The Broadwood Barless Piano by Alastair Laurence' and even spoke to him today, but we couldn't determine it. According to serial number, size, compass and octaves, my bet about the make is 1897. I can't insert pictures here but can send over email. Perhaps a member of the barless club can give me some advise on the matter.

Thanks,
Steven

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Aster » 06 Oct 2012, 17:07

Well... never mind dear folks, I know now that the grand I bought is barred. I hope that does not mean I shall be expelled from the club. Purchased Alastair Laurence's book and spoke to him on the phone. Yesterday I had it cleaned and tuned.. it sounds like a dream. Greetings to all, Aster.

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by rxd » 25 Oct 2012, 18:14

Who would put a 100 yr old Piano in a conservatory of music?....I would. About 2 years ago we were given a 7.6" barless.

I have it in a safe place, an academIc lecture room where it is only used for
musical illustration and small ensemble rehearsals. Absolutely no private practice. It was restrung and new hammers about 25-30 yrs ago by the look of it and played very little since.

There is an air of protectivness about the staff here and three people came to me separately this morning to tell me there was a jazz concert scheduled for that room and they were concerned. On learning that it was to be played by one of the more sensitive of our jazz pianists here, I allowed it to go forward. It will take heavy and even abusive playing like any modern piano but I have slapped a grade one listed protection order on it. I can always get a modern grand but I can't just always get a barless.

I will get its serial number and apply for membership on its behalf.

We also have a Chappell 9' concert grand in the local church that we use for recitals. It is the same age and condition. The Brahms 2 was played on it by a member of the faculty earlier this year and it projected clearly above a 70 strong Symphony orchestra with no effort. I would bet that the barless would behave the same way, Deceptive, those old pianos and they both stay in tune so beautifully and tune quickly with a T-hammer.

While we are not a piano museum, I believe experience with these instruments is important for developing professional pianists.

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by podshole » 28 Feb 2013, 23:50

I was given a 1909 Broadwood grand (not the barless...can't join the club!) recently. I've had a bit of work done and I have to say that if my eyes were shut and I was asked to play it, I would have it down as a Bluthner. It has that same feeling of solidity and heaviness which is disconcerting when you first play a Bluthner; then, in the same way, you realise that the piano will take very sensitive playing indeed; you just have to tell it what you want from it! This is coupled of course with a warm, house-friendly tone which will - however - growl at you when you want! It's an English Bluthner!
This piano replaced a mint-condition 1973 Yamaha U3. I loved that piano in its way but I don't miss it. Not with this Broadwood. So much more is possible with this piano. Perhaps one day a barless...

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Gill the Piano » 25 Mar 2014, 20:30

Anyone know anyone who wants a Broadwood barless grand? I have a client wants rid of one.
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by D.J.Smith » 26 Mar 2014, 10:48

Gill.

Length, Condition, Style ?

Gill the Piano
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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Gill the Piano » 26 Mar 2014, 16:06

5'6" ish, rosewood, 1900s I think. More details are to follow. Or Ican provide a contact number.
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Gill the Piano » 03 Apr 2014, 20:20

5'6", rosewood, no 49002 (1908 according to Pierce). Good condition.
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by constantino.lobasso » 23 May 2015, 14:46

Hi Gill, I am new here, google showed my way here :)

The conversation ended pretty abruptly a year ago... chances are little but I thought it was worth asking: is that barless still available by any chance?

Thanks

Szilard
Malta

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by DaViD » 06 Nov 2016, 23:45

IMG_3279-e1469100244754.jpg
I've been lookin at this piano for sale. The only information is that it's mahogany and 164 cm long and built circa 1900. Is it barless..can you tell?

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Colin Nicholson » 07 Nov 2016, 01:27

Not barless I think - has a cast frame bar (strut) running diagonally alongside the RH bass strings - can be seen to the left of music stand. Ask the owner to confirm or lower music rest.
Needs to be photographed from the right side looking into the strings and cast frame area - like these >>
Here are some barless grands - note the difference.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=broad ... 66&bih=643

Barless Broadwoods are not necessarily better quality/ stability - just as important to have the wrest plank, tuning pins torque and strings checked for a piano of that age, and the mechanism....depends on condition. Always nice looking pianos and usually easy to tune if in good condition.
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Re: The Barless Club

Post by DaViD » 07 Nov 2016, 11:00

Colin Nicholson wrote:Not barless I think - has a cast frame bar (strut) running diagonally alongside the RH bass strings - can be seen to the left of music stand. Ask the owner to confirm or lower music rest.
Needs to be photographed from the right side looking into the strings and cast frame area - like these >>
Here are some barless grands - note the difference.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=broad ... 66&bih=643

Barless Broadwoods are not necessarily better quality/ stability - just as important to have the wrest plank, tuning pins torque and strings checked for a piano of that age, and the mechanism....depends on condition. Always nice looking pianos and usually easy to tune if in good condition.
Thanks for the reply and information.

I called the dealer and it isn't barless.

Overall, are these nice pianos around 1900 or so? I don't mind buying it if it needs some tlc and would ultimately prove to be a nice piano. I've heard a few on YouTube and they do sound nice. Unfortunately I can't afford to spend anymore than the price of this one at the moment but would love to have a British piano as beautiful as this in my house.

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Colin Nicholson » 07 Nov 2016, 16:22

John Broadwood pianos have a good reputation for sound quality, build, and well made.... the college I attended was named "The Broadwood College" .... and I have all the serial numbers and dates for them. If you find out the serial number (usually under the bass strings), it can be accurately dated. Of course like all pianos, when they reach a certain age (over 40 years) - they can develop inherent problems as I have mentioned, and tuning stability is not so good.... all depends on condition. If this Broadwood has been restored, then snap it up, but from the wording you give - it is very brief in its description. Buying any old piano of that age comes with risks.

I would strongly recommend that you contact a local or regional private piano technician (independent) to assess the piano before purchase for peace of mind (if the amount is considerable). Many old pianos like may have been part-exchanged then just tuned in the shop/ tidy up and moved on.

This may be helpful as a guide ...... http://www.aatuners.com/assessment-report.html

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by DaViD » 07 Nov 2016, 19:45

Thanks again for the info.

I'm trying to contact the dealer but he's never in when I call and is not calling me back. I'm trying to trade in my current piano for this one so we'll see what happens. I'll try to get a serial number. There is no info whatsoever online except what I've stated already.

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by NewAge » 13 Nov 2016, 18:58

DaViD wrote:Thanks again for the info.

I'm trying to contact the dealer but he's never in when I call and is not calling me back. I'm trying to trade in my current piano for this one so we'll see what happens. I'll try to get a serial number. There is no info whatsoever online except what I've stated already.
I see that the dealer provided a total of 5 photos to illustrate this piano. Looking at the other pics, this looks in remarkably good condition, and seeing a price of £1800 reduced to £1600 has me wondering about it's true mechanical and musical integrity. But what do I know?
I was playing the piano in a zoo, when the elephant burst into tears. I said, "Don't you recognize the tune?" He replied, "No, I recognize the ivories!"

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by DaViD » 15 Nov 2016, 23:21

NewAge wrote:
DaViD wrote:Thanks again for the info.

I'm trying to contact the dealer but he's never in when I call and is not calling me back. I'm trying to trade in my current piano for this one so we'll see what happens. I'll try to get a serial number. There is no info whatsoever online except what I've stated already.
I see that the dealer provided a total of 5 photos to illustrate this piano. Looking at the other pics, this looks in remarkably good condition, and seeing a price of £1800 reduced to £1600 has me wondering about it's true mechanical and musical integrity. But what do I know?
I think it's more to do with people wanting nice shiny Yamahas currently. It's a lovely piano but very much a niche sale.

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Colin Nicholson » 16 Nov 2016, 01:35

When I assess grand and upright pianos for customers, say before a purchase or for restoration reasons, I ask for photos first before a call-out. I often just receive the fancy display/ shop floor photos that everyone wants to see.... and often is the case, they look like pianos with no "knickers". Very attractive/ good looking / unbelievable value for money on the outside. However, when I travel the distance to assess them, upon closer detailed inspection, and after MY additional photos.... the customer turns in their grave after seeing masses of insect damage/ live MAGGOTS and other hidden beauties/ total key frame devastation with no felts recognisable, and that cost several thousands of pounds to put right - little did the customer know at the time - but too late, they bought it!. (See the Erard restoration as an example) & various youtube videos including a real maggot crawling out of a hammer felt "buried alive". Then reality kicks in.

Sneak preview ...... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3LA6_yywF0

That's all I'm saying.
If you have never played the piano, heard it, looked inside it.... ask yourself why?
Simple.... book an appointment with a trusted piano technician - well worth the money.
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Re: The Barless Club

Post by DaViD » 16 Nov 2016, 10:16

:shock: maggots.

Ultimately I decided against this fine piano. I just don't know enough about pianos in general to take a punt on a hundred years plus instrument.

I got a Fazer in exchange for my Zimmermann baby grand. I couldn't get on with the Z and the Fazer is a great wee piano and is easily good enough for my elementary skills. For the meantime, I'm an upright piano(vertical!), kind of guy.

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Re: The Barless Club

Post by Colin Nicholson » 16 Nov 2016, 10:34

good luck with the Fazer
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Re: The Barless Club

Post by DaViD » 16 Nov 2016, 14:54

Colin Nicholson wrote:good luck with the Fazer
Thank you.

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