DOES AGE MATTER
One of the most common questions we receive from customers when they are first starting out to look at pianos is “should I look to buy new or second hand?” Does the age of the piano matter?”
The short answer is yes, but only insofar that an older piano suggests that its had more use hence more wear on the moving parts of the piano (action, hammers, strings). However, on top-tier pianos like Steinways for example, these parts can and are often worth replacing. Moreover, often we come across quality old pianos that have had little to no use at all!
Interestingly enough, older pianos from top tier makers (Steinway, Bosendorfer etc.) tend to develop a more unique character and sound signature over time. One of the most memorable pianos I have ever played on was a fully restored 1915 Steinway Model B which happened to be used in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. It had a lovely resonant bass, a sweet treble and an action which was indistinguishable to new Steinway thanks our technicians at Theme & Variations who installed and regulated it.
So is new necessarily better when it comes to pianos? No. Just look at great pianists like Vladimir Horowitz. Horowitz had access to all manner of new Steinway Model Ds on his concert tours and in his recording projects but instead, always used his own piano (CD 503) which was made in 1943. More importantly, Horowitz had his own piano technician Franz Mohr who travelled with Horowitz and serviced his piano for all his performances which is why we always stress the importance of servicing the piano to our customers. Click here to read a most fascinating interview with Horowitz’s technician.
Similarly, Glenn Gould performed and recorded exclusively with his Steinway Model D (CD 318) made in 1945. When it was dropped in 1971 which caused the cast-iron plate to crack, he spent a decade in fruitless attempts to restore the piano to its former glory. No new Steinway piano could satisfy him and he never gave up on his instrument until 1981 when he reluctantly re-recorded the Goldberg Variations on a Yamaha CFX.
The message to take away from this is: When looking for that special piano, listen for the character of the piano and if there is something you don’t like about its action or the brightness/mellowness of the sound, explore the possibilities with our technicians to see what can be done.