Tim Mattice wrote:
> [one local tech said] "This old piano isn't worth it."
Wrong! Good sounding pianos, well rebuilt, bring top dollar.
> The other says, "It wouldn't make that much difference."
> The #1 bass string sounds more like a 55-gallon drum
> falling off a truck than any kind of musical note;"
There are three reasons this can happen: any one or all three may be
1) The bass string is dead: corrosion has filled the triangular areas
between the copper windings and the steel center. This makes the
string stiff like concrete, not like flexible wire. Spilling a liquid
on such a string can cause this immediately, otherwise time will do it.
86 years are more than enough for that.
2) That end of the bridge, or perhaps the complete bass bridge, is
unglued from the apron, or the apron is unglued from the soundboard
> The rest sound okay, but I would think they have lost some,
> if not a lot, of their tone qualities after 86 years."
Correct! This is not the strings as much as the loss of soundboard
crown, loosening or broken ribs, soundboard loose from the rim, and/or
cracks in the wrong place. The strings do get brittle and just
changing strings will improve the tone, but the vast improvement of
tone will occur when your technician recrowns the soundboard. You
can call around the country and find numerous technicians that say you
_can't_ recrown the soundboard. They are just not good enough at what
You may test the condition of things by using string or button thread
alongside a long rib underneath the soundboard to see how far the
soundboard is from the string in the middle of the run, or you can
listen. A badly flat soundboard will make the tenor and/or center
section of notes sound like banging on radiator pipes rather than piano
strings. Also play the G an octave and a half above middle C loudly
and time how long before it dies out.
I had a lovely old 1904 Chickering in the shop with this problem. When
I got the piano that note and those around it rang 3-4 seconds. This
did nothing for a singing melody line when playing the piano. When we
got through recrowning the soundboard, repairing cracks, ribs and loose
edges, that same note rang nicely for about 20 seconds. The longer the
piano, the longer that ring will be. By the way, we _never_ replace a
soundboard unless it had a truck driven through it. (Sometimes a flood
will cause us to consider it.)
My answer is don't bother restringing unless you can find a technician
who knows how to recrown the board. Anything less is just window
dressing and will make it only look better. Perhaps replace the bass
strings since they could be dead.
D. L. Bullock Piano World St. Louis