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Tuning a really old piano

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#1 (feral)epg

Posted 21 February 2013 - 12:25 PM

Hi to all the musically inclined people!

We have an old (but I don't know how old, definitely 50 plus) wurlitzer upright piano.  It hasn't been tuned in at least 10 years.
I'm trying to get it tuned, but I'm having trouble getting someone to even come and look at it - they are saying that the old pianos can be really difficult.  One guy basically suggested we'd be better off getting a new piano  mad.gif

It doesn't even sound that bad at the moment!  And it has significant sentimental value to me and my family.

Does anyone have any experience of nursing a dearly loved old instrument through this apparently traumatic process?  


(I'm in Perth if anyone has any great recommendations for a tuner!)

#2 archythepeasant

Posted 21 February 2013 - 04:21 PM

No advice here, I'm afraid.  We have an old restored half iron-frame piano that hasn't been tuned in many years.  Tuning has been done int eh past by the firm who restored it, but I' don't even know if they are around any more.  Hope we don't have trouble when we finally try to get it tuned.

#3 somila

Posted 21 February 2013 - 04:30 PM

Piano tuning is a dying art, so it can be hard to find a piano tuner.  Older, poorly maintained pianos are often difficult to tune and usually need other work done (felts replaced etc).  Even then they may go out of tune the same day.

I understand the sentimental attachment, so I hope you can find someone to help you, but I thought I'd explain why a busy piano tuner may not think it is worth his while (or yours).

#4 meljbau

Posted 21 February 2013 - 05:25 PM

It also depends on whether the piano has a wooden frame or iron frame. We had a very old wooden frame piano many years ago and the tuner explained that he may have been able to tune it but that the piano wouldn't hold its tune for very long at all. He told us to get rid of ours too.

We couldn't give it away and ended up hauling it to the tip. Sorry, probably not what you want to hear.

#5 (feral)epg

Posted 22 February 2013 - 10:42 AM

Thanks all!

I've managed to get someone to come and have a look.  Fingers crossed she can do something.

#6 libbylu

Posted 22 February 2013 - 10:49 AM

We have a beautiful old piano that was brought out from England about 100 years ago.
We have it tuned every few years, but our piano tuner can only tune it to itself - the whole thing is slightly off pitch.  Apparently it would not be possible to fix this without making modifications to the frame that would cost $1000s - far more than we could pay or than the piano is worth.
In any case, it is good to have it tuned to itself, so it sounds fine when you play.  It has the most beautiful tones - I just love it, and I can't tell that it is slightly flat!
ETA in our situation, we think our piano is great.  DH mainly plays guitar but hops on the piano for fun occasionally.  I had a year or two of lessons as a kid, but can't really play - sometimes hop on to show DS a tune or two. DS is 6 and taking lessons but is really a beginner. I suppose if he gets really good and serious about it a few years down the track we would consider upgrading.

Edited by libbylu, 22 February 2013 - 10:52 AM.

#7 Bluenomi

Posted 22 February 2013 - 11:17 AM

My parents have an old piano they bought over from the UK. They've been told once a paino is old and especially if it's been moved to different climate types it isn't worth retuning them. More often than not they require a lot more work than just a tune.

#8 Wallymaduka

Posted 23 February 2013 - 08:12 AM

We have an old, iron-framed honky tonk American piano (nearly 100 years old approx).

Nine kids learnt to play on it, so it has enormous sentimental value in the family.  We've spent literally thousands on it over the years having it tuned and restored, felts replaced, hammer repair from swelling caused by humidity ect...  it's never just a matter of 'tuning'.

But the reality is - it'll never play as intended back in the early 1920's.  They just don't last.  You can restore and tune them all you like.  That being said - I love how it sounds - warts n' all.  It has character.  I love the quirky off beat (tune?) sound it has - and have gotten used to that pesky D Flat sticking when it feels like it... I just play around it happy.gif

I'd never throw out an old piano with family history.  Never.  

But yeh... I also have a digital now, lol, and love it for a whole different set of reasons original.gif

#9 rainycat

Posted 23 February 2013 - 08:28 AM

Hi, I think it depends on what condition an old piano is in.  I have a Hoelling and Spangenburg (sp?) that was made is 1880.
I found a piano tuner that was happy to tune it and he said that it was in really good condition.
He was really enthusiastic and my piano sounded fantastic when he finished.

#10 HRH Countrymel

Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:01 AM

Glad to hear you have had someone keep to give it a go OP.  

Our family piano was 'old but good', the tuner (we lived in a small very isolated town so my Mum hunted out every person in town who had a piano told the tuner man and then put up a notice in a shop window saying "Piano Tuner in town *date* plus his phone number, as a way to lure him down!) would apologise that he couldn't get it 'right'... but as a piano tuning expert he had far higher standards than our plunky singing round the piano sessions required.

When I was about 15 she loaned it to a promising young pianist who didn't have her own instrument - well she went on to become a professional musician, and while she acknowledged that our lovely old beast wasn't perfect she was forever grateful for Mum to allow her the chance to get so good.

As long as you let the tuner know you don't need perfection, that you are happy with 'good enough' you should be fine.

I love a home with a piano.

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