While buying 2nd hand Pianos
They are one of the biggest purchases many families will make. They sit gleaming in lavish showrooms where dealers stand ready to reel off a torrent of technical detail about their favourite model. Long- established European and US makers are being buffeted by determined competition from the the Far East, and many venerable marques are now no more than brand names stamped on the products of former rivals. The industry is constantly becoming more multinational, and the final products contain components from several countries.
They are, of course, pianos. The choice of marques, variations and price levels is vast and the scope for being bowled over by technicalities is great. New upright pianos can be found for less than $ 6,000 while a concert grand from a top maker can cost upto $ 100,000.
Of course, not everyone who buys a piano wants to keep it for ever. Many families buy one for their children with the intention of disposing of it after several years. A properly serviced and a well maintained piano could last for up to 100 years but, as with new cars, a new piano will lose a good chunk of its value the moment it leaves the showroom.
Nobody suggests that even the finest pianos are a good proposition as a pure investment. But it is possible to buy a useful instrument that will hold its value for many years if properly maintained.
Many households already own a piano. But don't assume that the scowling relic that has gathered dust in a corner for years is a valuable antique simply because it is solid and old. "It's estimated that one in nine households in the UK has a piano," says Craig Greenhouse, a software engineer and piano tuner who has founded a website (www.pianoshop.co.uk) to provide information for bewildered prospective buyers. "That means there are about 2m pianos in Britain, many of which should be burned."
There are plenty of skilled workers about, and most old pianos can be restored. A full strip-down and renewal and regulation of all the working parts plus a thorough clean and polish would mean your piano would have to spend time in a workshop, but it could be made thoroughly usable for many years.
The trouble is that all the work plus transport costs could total well over $3,000 while the finished instrument could be worth much less than $2,000. However, it is worth paying a workshop up to about $ 50-100 to assess the prospects of restoring an old family piano made in the late 19th or early 20th century.
So what if you want a piano for your children for a modest outlay, but will one day want to sell the instrument and repossess the quite substantial space that it will occupy in your home?
The markets for new and secondhand pianos are a confusing chorus of competing brand names, styles and advice. A piano is much more complex than it looks, with thousands of components behind the polished wood that rises above the keyboard.
Before buying, you need some knowledge of the internals - for example why overstrung instruments are usually recommended in preference to the older straight-strung and why underdamped pianos are preferred to overdamped. These expressions refer to the positioning of the dampers that contain the note when a key is pressed, causing a hammer to strike a string.
A piano that is intended to be resold needs to be considered musically and financially. The brand is vital from both standpoints, be warned against buying cheap mass-produced imports.
An option could be a restored pre-war instrument from one of the top names such as Bechstein and Richard Lipp of Germany or Broadwood Of UK. A good way to buy is at auction, but people should avoid buying traditional pianos with unknown names.