Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

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schwejk
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Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by schwejk » 16 Nov 2010, 13:34

Hello! Long-time lurker here... I'm hoping to draw upon the considerable knowledge and expertise on this forum. I've seen some great advice offered previously, so here goes:

I've played the piano for 20+ years but am only just now about to buy my first one. It's excruciatingly difficult for me because, despite a lot of playing experience, I know shamefully little about the instrument itself. Here's my dilemma, I've fallen in love with a (very overpriced apparently) Pleyel upright from 1920-1930 that has been fully reconditioned. I'm no concert pianist, but I like to throw myself into Liszt, Rachmaninov, Brahms, that kind of thing. And this piano makes me sound GOOD. I've actually been pianoless for 18 months so am very rusty, but the control on this thing is amazing. Runs are even and effortless; the upper register is angelic. It is a beautiful-looking thing too, but most of all it is a joy to play. Now I've been told that it's way over priced at £3500 and would even be considered pricey at the top end of my budget (£2000). I've also been advised from a number of sources to "just get a yamaha" - a reconditioned U3 or something - that will be more robust, reliable and will keep tune easier. One of those sources was the tuner who has done some regulation work on the instrument in question and told me candidly that "even £2000 was a stretch". In fact, general weight of opinion seems to be so stacked against the Pleyel, that I'm really beginning to doubt my own ears. For what it's worth, I've been looking seriously for about 4 months and have played about 12 pianos. My next favourite is a Yamaha U3 - I do love the Yamaha action - but it is a bit soulless next to the Pleyel.

So help! Does anyone have any experience with Pleyels? Or can give general piano advice to a player with tastes above their budget? Many thanks in advance for your time and advice!

* Piano details: Serial #180951; it also has the following numbers inside the case: "69F 579" and "A74 8DD" - although I don't know what they refer to. And I took a rubbish photo: http://imgur.com/tX80p.jpg

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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by Colin Nicholson » 16 Nov 2010, 15:45

You might need to stretch a bit further than £2K for a decent U3 or good 2nd hand Yamaha. The Pleyel is way-over priced in my eyes, and I notice the veneer is chipped/missing on the RH foot - so its not fully reconditioned? - and not a particularly attractive looking piano! If its been fully restored, then the mechanism, pedals, strings & keyboard should also be restored (and casework). Have you had the Pleyel checked out by a piano tuner? Difficult to tell unless one can actually play & hear it.
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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by sussexpianos » 16 Nov 2010, 19:05

Pleyel pianos are very good pianos and can give some of the well know German makers a run for their money. The cases are usually very good but this one does look a little tired. Has all the work been done? Or is there still work to be done. You need to get a tech(someone who knows what they are talking about) to check it out and also find out exactly what has been done. For that money it should have new hammers, springs, leathers, dampers etc and maybe re-pinned in the wrest plank. It’s still over priced a little. The Yamaha is a good instrument but the Pleyel will have the soul.
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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by schwejk » 16 Nov 2010, 21:34

Thanks for the thoughtful and informative replies. The photo was taken before restoration, so it looks a bit better now, although the chips are still visible. Apparently it has had new strings, dampers, hammers (or maybe the hammers have just been "pricked" - I dont' know the technical term). I'm not sure what else. I will ask the seller for a comprehensive list; he claims the works alone are to the tune of £1700. He quoted this figure without missing a beat, but although he is a lovely chap, I suspect he is a canny businessman first.

The tuner I spoke to who said that "even at £2000" it was a stretch was someone who had done some of the regulation work, so he knew the instrument well. But he was shocked at the asking price, he had no idea.

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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by Colin Nicholson » 17 Nov 2010, 00:57

No one can ever intervene with your final decision - its what you 'feel' is the right choice.
"Pricked hammers" is a term loosely used for toning them (or needling) - a tool with around 3-4 needles attached to it are embedded into the felt to give it a better tone - it does work!

The price of £1700 may be a "shop" price, and not cost price, and by your 'apparent' information, it is likely the piano has not been fully restored. Hammer heads are quite expensive to recover/ replace, so I would check what has been done. If the veneer is still chipped, then thats no excuse - it should have been repaired or replaced.

Tell me more about the U3 - I have lost interest in the Pleyel!!!
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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by schwejk » 17 Nov 2010, 11:57

The Pleyel is via a one-man dealer and the U3 is through a well-known piano shop here in Cambridge. It's actually the first U3 I've ever played. The owner wasn't there and so I know nothing about it other than it was very satisfying to play. I think it had a price tag of £2300. That seems like a good deal to me, looking around, but I guess it depends on the age and how much restoration work has gone into it. The case looks a bit tired, but that doesn't bother me so much, unless it's an indication of a poorly treated instrument.

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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by MarkGoodwinPianos » 17 Nov 2010, 12:46

Hi Schwejk,
Apparently it has had new strings, dampers, hammers
If it's had a fully set of new strings, they would look blindingly shiny. Did you look underneath the lid?
Again, with hammers and dampers, they'd look brilliant white.
I don't think you're being told the whole truth here.

The dealer has probably paid less than £500 for the piano and you'd need to get your own tuner to inspect it before you know exactly what work has been done. I wouldn't necessarily write off the Pleyel but I wouldn't go anywhere near it again until you can bring a piano technician with you. Before you get to that stage though, you want to spend a few days emailing him to try and get that price down before you visit again. Chances are he has got a healthy margin on it at present (£1000+ at the very least) so I'm certain that if he needs the money you should be able to get that down close to £2000. I could be wrong, it depends how much he needs the money and whether he thinks someone else will walk in one day and pay £3500.

As Colin rightly says, this Pleyel has probably not been fully restored.

There is also the issue of the Pleyel holding it's value. My opinion is that if you pay £3500 or even £3000 and then tried to sell it the very next day (either back to the trade or to a private seller) then you'd very much struggle to get £1000. You can test this by phoning around a random list of 5 UK based piano shops and tell them you have an old Pleyel upright with brass handles on the side, recently partially restored. I suspect most wouldn't be interested and those that do show interest would only offer £200 - £500. I could be way off there but that's my experience.

Talking about U3s, their tone can range anywhere from aggressively bright to whisperingly mellow but most lie somewhere between those 2 extremes. If you can travel around and visit 4 or 5 shops who have a good stock of U3s then I'm certain you'd find one with "soul" and the right balance of dynamics and the right touch. Your tuner is unlikely to want to visit 4 or 5 shops with you but if you do the hard work first and then ask your tuner to come with you at the final stages once you've narrowed it down a bit then that could be a good plan.

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Barry, I've just sent a very brief private message to Schwejk to see if he wants to add me to the list of piano shops that he may decide to visit. No hard sell, I promise :)
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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by MarkGoodwinPianos » 17 Nov 2010, 12:51

The U3 is through a well-known piano shop here in Cambridge [...] I think it had a price tag of £2300
Make sure you ask for the serial number and age of that one to check that the 2 marry up.
Some buyers are kept in the dark about the age of used Yamaha uprights. That price of £2300 would suggest a serial number below 2,000,000. In which case, make sure you have a good thump on those bass strings to make sure they haven't gone too muffly.
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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by vernon » 17 Nov 2010, 23:08

as a piano dealer, if you offered me a 1920s Pleyel in any condition, I would not be interested at any price.
get yourself a good kawai k15 for £2800
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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by Model V » 21 Nov 2010, 12:04

Unless you're planning to keep this thing for life, don't touch it with a barge pole. There are plenty of other pianos with "soul" out there for £2-3,000 and the only thing you can guarantee if you buy the Pleyel (even for £2,000) is that this cowboy will have the satisfaction of knowing he saw you coming.

Leave well alone.

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Re: Please help me with a fraught purchasing decision

Post by schwejk » 22 Nov 2010, 12:31

Hey, thanks everyone. Sorry I "posted and ran". I really appreciate all your knowledgeable advice. I think it's safe to say that I'm getting a consistent message here from professionals and experts within the industry and that message is DON'T. As much as I enjoy playing the instrument, I can't ignore that. I don't think the guy will come down to £2k anyway - which really *should* be the top end of my budget - and after everything I've read, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable paying that much for it now even if he did come down.

So, the search continues ...

Really, though, this has been hugely helpful. Thank you x 1000!

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