PianoGrands - Fine Antique Pianos


Performance, Appearance, Sound

Modern vs. Antique, Versatility Maintenance Benefits, an antique piano & the family Services FAQ

Performance, Appearance, Sound

Do PianoGrands pianos play?  Yes, we make certain they do. PianoGrands prides itself on selecting high quality instruments and bringing them to the highest playing standards possible.

Are PianoGrands instruments restored?  We bring our pianos carefully and sensitively back to a condition where they can be enjoyed by their new owners. This involves making well informed decisions about what must be replaced or repaired and with what techniques and materials. Unlike some "restorations," this does not mean modernizing! This means using the best available historic reproduction wire, hammer materials, wool cloths, leathers and other materials where necessary. Finishes are restored to their original condition using French polish, hand rubbed varnish or lacquer as appropriate. Unlike scrubbing the patina off your Tiffany lamp, a quality piano restoration increases the value of the instrument.

How do PianoGrands instruments sound?  Wonderful, profound, singing. These are the pianos the great composers of the 19th and early 20th century played and wrote for. More below.

Does an antique piano sound different than a modern piano?  The sound depends to some extent upon its make, type, age and design, for unlike today, a more or less homogeneous piano sound was not the norm. Moreover, different regions favored different sound aesthetics. As the 19th century progressed, piano technology and the demands on the piano evolved as well. Very early pianos sound very different from modern pianos. By the mid to late 19th century, however, pianos are completely competitive with and, we believe, generally superior to their successors.

The most significant sound differences between antique and modern pianos lay in the distinct sound aesthetics that influence piano design. Modern pianos favor an overpowering bass and generally a very bright, brittle sound. A lack of distinction from bass to baritone to tenor to alto to higher treble regions of the keyboard is the norm in today's design. In the 18th and 19th centuries pianos were designed with rhetoric and clear harmony in mind coupled with the desire to imitate the sensitivity and different registers of the human voice or the different parts of the orchestra.

Today, players love how the lines in the music are so clearly heard on our instruments. The bass is never heavy or muddy, but instead is perfectly balanced with the rest of the piano. Brahms multi-part voices are clear. Beethoven profound. Mendelssohn and Schubert come to life. Chopin breathes and articulates clearly. You never have to struggle to lighten your left hand in Mozart! The melodies of popular music float above the accompaniment.

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Modern vs. Antique, Versatility

What's the difference between a modern piano and an antique?   Antique pianos were lovingly handmade by master craftspeople for the 19th century sense of beauty in form and sound. It was the Romantic age of literature, painting and music.

Importantly, antique piano actions are generally lighter and faster than modern actions that have been compromised by the demand for huge volume. No more tendonitis playing Schubert or struggling to play the fast runs or a light bass line in Mozart sonatas. How did Liszt play as he did? A very real part of his dazzling abilities was that he didn't have to struggle with a modern piano action! (Well yes, he practiced unbelievably hard too, but he didn't suffer the all too common crippling effects of too much practice on a modern action.)

There are structural and mechanical differences which reflect the times, individual shops, patents, tastes and theories of acoustics and construction For more, please click Resources for reading suggestions.

What type of piano is right for me?  A number of factors must be considered. How much space do you have and what size instrument is appropriate? What is your general décor and taste? How will the piano be used and by what level of players? What type of music do you prefer? What is your budget? PianoGrands will work closely with you and ask these and other questions. We specialize in finding the best match of piano and client.

Does PianoGrands carry upright pianos?  While we specialize in grands, we also have some high quality antique uprights from the 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition to a few excellent more basic uprights, we offer rare artcase uprights for that special music room which is too small for a grand, or for the collector of particular periods of design such as the Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, or various Victorian styles.

What if I like to play twentieth century music, jazz, or popular music?  Many of our 20th century composers actually favored 19th century pianos at home. Great jazz players often play older pianos. They too enjoy the clarity. The powerhouses of today's piano world such as Yamaha, Steinway, Kawai, battle to supply massive concert halls. This commercial struggle over large stages is unrelated to what is appropriate in an intimate setting. At home, a distinguished PianoGrands instrument will inspire your playing both for yourself and your personal audience.

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Why does my piano technician recommend against buying an antique instrument?  We surmise this is for the same reason that many modern technicians refer antique piano work and tunings and questions to us. Most are unfamiliar with antique instruments and are uncomfortable working on them. Some admit they don't want to learn about older pianos as they wish to make the best financial use of their time and the methods for care and repair of antique pianos aren't covered in standard reference materials. Why study about an antique action when you may never see one like it again? Plus, many modern piano technicians perpetuate standard myths about the supposed perfection of the late 20th century piano and the limited life of pianos. Don't think that all modern technicians don't appreciate antique pianos however! More below.

How can I find a piano technician who is comfortable and skilled with antique pianos?  PianoGrands will assist you with finding the right technician in your area from our extensive contacts in the antique piano world. Alternatively, we are happy to provide assistance to your current technician by phone or e-mail. We have encountered many technicians who are eager to help their customers and who truly appreciate the fine instruments we provide.

Why do some say pianos have a limited lifespan?  In part, this is because over time, pianos require maintenance and renewal of some of their parts to sound their best. Also, don't forget that modern manufacturers want you to buy a new piano for obvious reasons!   Moreover, 20th century piano soundboards are often under intense compressive forces in the quest for power. This can damage the wood fibers of the soundboard over time with a consequent degradation in resonating capability. This is NOT TRUE of 19th century soundboards since the piano design did not call for such high compression. Judging by their wonderful sound, PianoGrands instruments are still very much alive!

Why do some antique pianos not sound pleasing?  Many antique pianos have not been properly tuned or regulated for years. Some parts may need repair, replacing and/or adjusting. This alone makes a piano sound off and play poorly. For example, hammers may harden and become grooved and misshapen with use and time and then sound harsh. Antique pianos have often been subjected to poor physical environments over the years. Some problems are correctable. Unfortunately, years of neglect can result in serious defects that are cost prohibitive to repair. For these reasons, PianoGrands is highly selective in acquiring only those instruments which can be brought up to the highest playing standards.

Will an antique piano last?  Some of PianoGrands instruments are over 150 years old.   We care for some clients' instruments that are up to over 200 years old. They sound and play wonderfully. A quality antique piano, well restored and well maintained, will last for generations to come.

Do I need to see and hear PianoGrands' instruments in person?   This is a personal choice. We have delivered many instruments to clients who first meet their piano when we deliver it to their house. Our pledge: "If you don't like it, we'll take it right back". So far, nobody has been disappointed. PianoGrands will ascertain your needs, forward images, and deliver a wonderful instrument.

Others prefer to see and play the instruments in person. We are always delighted to have visitors come and spend as much time as they wish in our beautiful surroundings, playing an extraordinary collection of antique pianos.

How do I maintain my antique piano?   The care of an antique piano is the same as the proper care for a modern pianos or antique furniture.   Of course, to maintain the stability and finish on your instrument, no direct sunlight!

Humidity control is the most important. All fine furniture and especially keyboard instruments, new and old, are best kept at a relative humidity level between 40 and 50 percent. You'll feel better too! Keep an inexpensive hygrometer near the piano. (Click on "Accessories") Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers in the summer, and humidifiers as necessary in winter or other dry seasons, such as the California Santa Ana winds. In some cases we will recommend installation of a Piano LifeSaver system. This is a micro- climate control system for pianos that can be installed by qualified piano technicians.

Tune Regularly! Frequency of tuning depends upon how much an instrument is used, its age, your ears, and climatic swings. All pianos need to be tuned at least twice a year, but preferably two to four times a year, once per distinct season. We recommend antiques be tuned four times a year. Severe weather changes or heavy use may require retuning for any age of piano. Note that concert instruments are tuned for each rehearsal and each performance

Cleaning: Dust only with an electrostatic cloth easily found at your local grocery store under various brand names such as Swifter R or Pledge Grab-Its R. That's ALL!!! In flu and cold season you can spray a cloth with a disinfectant and gently wipe the keys down between players.   Do not directly spray anything on your piano or its keys.

Insurance: Not to be overlooked as part of the "care" package! Independently insure, or "schedule", your instrument immediately for replacement value to protect financially against tragic loss.   Hurricanes and other natural disasters happen.  

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Benefits, an antique piano & the family

What are the benefits of owning a quality antique piano?   Please click on "Why Buy an Antique Piano"

Can my children practice and take lessons on an antique piano?  Absolutely. We will make certain that your piano is well suited to this purpose.

What will my children's piano teacher think about our buying an antique piano?  There can be misconceptions about antique pianos among some teachers, often learned from modern piano technicians who have been trained by the modern piano industry which of course is interested in selling new pianos! Please have your piano teacher call us if he or she has any questions or concerns. Anne has taught piano since she was 16 years old, and is a member of Music Teachers National Association, The Guild of the American College of Musicians and her local piano and music teacher's associations. Many of her high-rated students take lessons on one of our 19th century pianos. Anne's new life work with antique instruments is all the result of a quest to interpret and play music. Her dissatisfaction with modern pianos led to her the happy discovery of the original instruments for great keyboard music.

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Services FAQ

Does PianoGrands do Appraisals and/or Evaluations?   Yes, click on "Services" for more information.

Does PianoGrands buy pianos?   Yes, we are always interested in hearing about your antique piano. Please click on "Do We Buy Pianos?"

Does PianoGrands restore pianos for others?  We primarily restore our own pianos, but we do take on a number of restorations for some clients. We are particularly happy to make recommendations for or to do restorations on historically significant pianos. We are always happy to evaluate the condition of your piano and provide a report about its strengths and concerns and what work is required or recommended. Click "Services" for details.

How much does it cost to restore a piano?  This depends upon the condition of the piano and the level to which the owner wishes to bring it. For example, some owners don't care as much about restoring a damaged finish to like new perfection. Costs can vary from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

Do you have pianos not listed on the PianoGrands website?  We often have pianos which have not yet made it onto the website. Moreover, we maintain a remarkable international network of contacts. If PianoGrands does not have a piano in stock to meet your needs we can search worldwide for you.

What about a matching bench or stool?  We offer a selection of new and antique benches and stools. Click on "Benches & Accessories" for details.

What about piano delivery or transportation?  We often do our own deliveries in the eastern United States. We use a number of certified piano moving specialists to deliver instruments when we cannot do it ourselves. Charges vary. We will be happy to provide details. In some circumstances we will provide transportation for private individuals or other professionals.

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