The following series of questions were asked of Larry Fine; author of 'The Piano Book’.
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Not necessarily. It depends on why the piano is not tunable, how much it would cost to fix it, and how much the piano is worth. Sometimes the tuning pins can be tightened at minimal expense. In other cases, the piano needs to be restrung with larger tuning pins, or the pinblock needs to be replaced, possibly costing thousands of dollars. Larry Fine
No. Soundboards have a tendency to dry out, shrink, and crack as they age, especially in environments that have pronounced seasonal variations in humidity. The shrinkage results in a loss of crown, or curvature, from the soundboard, which can be detrimental to the tone. But the cracks themselves are usually harmless unless they are accompanied by buzzing sounds or other problems. Larry Fine
The soundboard is a large, thin sheet of wood, usually quarter-sawn spruce, that turns the vibrations of the strings into sound that we can hear by amplifying the vibrations and broadcasting them through the air. Larry Fine
It varies a lot by locale and by the experience and reputation of the technician, but seems to be somewhere between $100 and $200 in most cases. Note that this is just for basic tuning, not including any repairs or adjustments that may also be needed. Larry Fine
It depends on the sensitivity of your instrument to humidity changes, the use it gets, the variability of your climate, on your own sensitivity to out-of-tuneness, and on your budget. Most people find that one to three times per year is about right. Those who play several hours a day or use the piano for professional purposes may want to have it tuned more often. Concert pianos are usually tuned, or the tuning touched up, before every performance. It’s best not to have the piano tuned until climate changes (such as turning the heat on or off in the house) have occurred plus another couple of weeks for the piano to acclimate. Otherwise, the careful tuning you paid for may be quickly undone. However, throughout much of the central and northern United States, this situation is difficult or impossible to avoid entirely, as the indoor humidity changes are extreme and nearly constant. Controlling the humidity in the house or near the piano can help a lot in this regard. That can be done with whole-house humidification, a room humidifier, or a climate control system installed in the piano by a technician. Larry Fine
Registered Piano Technician, a membership category of the Piano Technicians Guild. A person with RPT after his or her name has passed a series of examinations that test for basic (not necessarily advanced) competency in piano tuning and technical work, and in a general understanding of piano technology. Larry Fine
Then you should have the piano inspected by a piano technician before offering it to others. The technician can advise you as to the condition of the piano and for whom it might be appropriate. You can pass that information along to prospective takers. Larry Fine
First determine if it might be appropriate for a piano restorer or a beginning technician who needs a piano on which to practice repairs. If not, and it really needs to be discarded, then call piano movers or contractors who clean out basements, attics, and the like, and get estimates of how much it would cost to remove the piano and take it to the dump or landfill. Note that in addition to the cost of hauling the piano away, the landfill may also charge a fee based on weight or volume. Larry Fine
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I’m really not sure, but I suppose one might give away a piano that is no longer needed if it has minimal monetary value, or as a philanthropic act. If the piano is not worth much because it needs a lot of work, and the owner doesn’t want to spend the money to have the work done, the owner might feel that the only way to get rid of the piano is to give it away – and let the new owner pay for the moving and the repair. Larry Fine
No. Some are too far gone to be worth saving. Larry Fine
It depends on your needs and on the relative merits of the new and old pianos you are considering. There aren’t any generalizations that can be made. Larry Fine
Not only is it not out of line, it is imperative that you do so. “Free” pianos are not really free. You have to pay to move them, to tune and repair them, and if they don’t work out, possibly to have them taken to the dump. They can be a great deal . . . or they can turn out to be very expensive. You can avoid much trouble and unpleasant surprises by having the piano professionally inspected before agreeing to take it. Larry Fine
That’s a great idea. Just be aware that it’s possible the technician may feel some kind of loyalty to the current owner and may not want to tell you the complete truth. Nevertheless, the technician is not likely to out-and-out lie to you, especially if you let him or her know you will be calling them to service the piano in the future! Larry Fine
You probably shouldn’t take the piano until you have the time and money to do it right, and there aren’t many quick and simple things to look for. However, here are a few: A water line inside the bottom of a vertical piano (the piano was in a flood); sawdust under a piano (termites); numerous rusty or broken strings, or many new, replaced strings amid broken and missing ones (a string-breakage problem); heavy rust in general; many notes that don’t play (action worn out, parts breaking, glue joints coming apart); piano is so far out of tune that individual notes each sound like several notes are playing at once (piano may be untunable). Larry Fine
Unfortunately, it is not always so. It depends on the nature and cost of the work and on the value of the piano. The question to ask is whether the work to be done increases the value of the piano, and if so, by how much. Basic maintenance work like tuning and action regulation will not usually increase the value of the piano, whereas major work like restringing or replacing the soundboard will. (Of course, you should have the basic maintenance work done anyway or else the piano may be unpleasant to play and may deteriorate.) You should also ask about the value of a new piano of the same brand or of a brand similar in quality, stature, or reputation. That’s because the value of a used piano will generally be tied to, and limited by, the cost of a comparable new one. You will usually recoup the cost of any good work you do on a piano like a Steinway because of its high value (both new and used), but for many other brands, your ability to recoup your expenses will be limited. That’s one reason why, except for sentimental or historical reasons, most older pianos are not completely restored. Larry Fine
If the problem just involves fixing or replacing a few action parts or strings, that’s usually not a big deal. However, if many keys don’t work, there could be wholesale destruction or deterioration of parts and more could break after you start using the piano. Better to have a technician advise you about this before taking the piano. Larry Fine
No. Pianos can have serious problems that are not obvious just from playing. Larry Fine
If you would like your kids to develop a good musical ear and not get frustrated by notes that don’t work or sound right, then you should be concerned with the condition of the piano. It’s possible to be concerned without being overly fussy. Larry Fine