Seven baby grands are on sale for under $4,000 starting at $600! Or, rent a baby grand for as little as $95 per month.
Dozens more on sale, too.
“I have this disease,” confesses Bob Auletta, hemmed in by an array of majestic Steinway, Mason & Hamlin and Seiler grand pianos. “It’s called, ‘Buy a piano even if you don’t need it.’”
At one point, Auletta had seven grands in his living room and three more in his garage. Instead of starting a self-help group, he opened Strings, Etc., a piano shop specializing in the restoration of American grands from the teens and ‘20’s. Auletta was operating out of a location at Sunset Boulevard and Gardner Street when, in 1994, he noticed a magnificent, ivy-covered two-story brick building a few blocks west at Stanley Street that seemed teleported from Boston’s Back Bay. The ground floor was for rent.
“If you’re going to have this piano,” says Auletta, pointing at a 1902 rosewood Kranich and Bach in a Louis XV case, “it belongs in this building.”
Erected just after World War I, the structure serves as the perfect haven for Auletta’s collection of pianos, several of which predate their surroundings (such as the 1872 Weber that sits in the lobby). It’s a church-like world of high ceilings, earth-toned tile floors and arched entryways sandwiched between the thundering rock clubs of the Sunset Strip to the west and the ghetto of guitar stores a few blocks east.
In the main showroom are a pair of immaculate 1926 grands: a Steinway and a Sohmer (Auletta employs a staff of four to do the restoring). The instruments hail from the era when the United States hand-built the world’s finest, and the living room of nearly every American home had a piano as its centerpiece.
“This is what I love,” Auletta says, gesturing at the Sohmer, whose six-foot cherrywood case rests on ornately carved legs.
Auletta’s father, Ted Auletta, was a well-known pianist and conductor on Broadway and in New York’s nightclub scene in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, and his son followed in his footsteps, studying piano and conducting at Juilliard and CalArts. Though Auletta is involved in multiple endeavors—he runs a thriving music instruction business and is writing a musical about the life of department store magnate R.H. Macy—rebuilding vintage pianos remains his leitmotif. And while he carries everything from modest Yamaha spinets to digitally rigged keyboards, it is the older instruments that make his heart race like Glenn Gould playing a Bach invention.
Lamenting the toll that radio, then TV and later electronic keyboards have taken on piano ownership over the decades, Auletta observes, “Nobody in their right mind goes into the piano business to make money.” Nevertheless, he has recently noticed a revival of interest, particularly for older instruments. It’s a reassuring sign that, in an age when a portable synthesizer built from plastic and metal can pass for a piano, Auletta is not alone in his reverence for the real thing.
“There are,” he declares, “people who appreciate what we do.” —Danny Feingold
(Copyright Danny Feingold, used with permission. Originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, August 3, 1997)
First in a series of articles with helpful information on buying a piano
For most households the purchase of an acoustic piano represents one of the largest investments one will ever make for the home. Because of the variety of options available it is difficult and confusing to determine what is best for each individual buyer.
Some of the common questions are …
Should the piano be new or is a pre-owned piano okay?
Should I buy a digital or acoustic piano?
How much should I spend?
What are the best brands?
What brands hold their value the best?
What size piano?
What are the maintenance costs?
These are just a few examples of what needs to be considered prior to the purchase. The buyer first has to clarify the reason for the purchase.
Common reasons for purchasing …
A child has been taking lessons and has an ongoing interest in continuing to learn
It is a nice piece of furniture
Someone in the home plays wants to use it for their enjoyment or entertainment
It is a status symbol of success
This article is specifically about the benefits and considerations when buying a used, pre-owned or second-hand piano. We have prepared a number of articles to assist you in better understanding the world of available pianos and what to consider before purchasing. We hope this will help you in making your decision as you try to resolve the issues that are most on your mind in preparing to purchase your instrument.
COST IS THE BIGGEST BENEFIT
First and foremost, a pre-owned piano has already been subject to depreciation since it is no longer new. Saying that, some of the most prestigious piano makers – Steinway & Sons and Bosendorfer, for example – can actually appreciate over time … but these would be the most exclusive pianos with almost unlimited price tags. For the average buyer there is great value in well-maintained pre-owned pianos and pre-owned pianos are roughly half the cost of new pianos of the same make and model. This applies to top of the line and less expensive models from grand pianos to uprights.
CHECKIST OF CONSIDERATIONS
Each piano has a unique serial number. Locate the number and ask your dealer who can tell you when and where the piano was made as well as whether or not replacement parts are available.
Year of Manufacturing
It is rare to find a piano built before 1900 that is practical as a functioning instrument. Buyer beware! Pianos built during the war years may have suffered from cut corners in construction because of the short supply of quality parts.
Hammers and Strings
Each treble key should cause a hammer to hit three strings simultaneously. The bass should have two strings for each key and the low base just one string per key.
Check for rust on the tuning pins. This will affect how well the instrument holds its tuning.
Dampers and Keys
Play each key individually. On release, the damper should fall back on the strings and stop them from sounding. The keys should not stick.
Beware of pianos that are badly out of tune. Restoring them may be problematic.
Press down the right hand damper pedal. This should raise all the dampers at once. It should not stick. Press down the left hand soft pedal. It should not stick or rattle. On most grand pianos, this should move the keyboard sideways, so that each hammer strikes only two strings instead of three. On uprights, it will move the hammers closer to the strings so that the striking force is lessened.
Minor cracks in the soundboard will not affect tonal quality. A crack in the metal plate should be avoided unless meticulously repaired.
Grand Pianos vs. Uprights
Most grand pianos are often in better shape than uprights. They’re made better to start with and treated better in general.
Whose piano was it?
Was is a serious student? Church? School? Tavern? A little-used showpiece? Over-used teaching tool? You can tell a lot about a piano by knowing its history.
How does it sound and play?
Play it. Listen to it. In the end, nothing can compare to the connection you make with the instrument that responds best to your touch.
Every type of piano is represented in the pre-owned piano market. Take your time and look around for the one that best suits you. Most piano owners are piano lovers of one kind or another … whether the instrument was played or a piece of furniture. The benefit to buyers is that the pianos have been care for … and, in most cases, reputable dealers have trained staff who work to re-condition pianos that require new parts, tuning, refinishing, etc.
Please let us know if you have any questions. We’re here to help.
ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Joel Fan – pianist/composer, joelfanmusic.com/
THE PIANO OUTLET DEAL OF THE WEEK: Steinway Rosewood Model A
1902 S/N 105619 $35,000
Contact Terry, email@example.com or 805-340-0608
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Note: Consider this a consolidated overview of the past and present American piano manufacturers … a two-part series.
I. A Few Good Pianos …
II. Pro’s and Con’s of Pre-Owned Pianos
I. A FEW GOOD PIANOS …
About 125 years ago 25,000 pianos were being built each year in the United States. The end of the Civil War marked the beginning of the boom in piano manufacturing. The public loved their piano music. By the late 1800’s, Chickering estimated that their pianos were being played in nearly 80,000 homes throughout the country. They were just one piano manufacturer amongst hundreds that were to come and go in the 100 years or so between the mid 19th and 20th centuries.
Although some famous brands still exist today they are mostly produced overseas (China, Taiwan and Indonesia) where manufacturing costs are cheaper.
About 50 years ago American consumers were overwhelmed with all of the products being imported into the US with a large amount coming from Japan who was perceived much the same as China is today. “Made in Japan” was kind of a domestic joke and in the early days, whether it was true or not, it was synonymous with ‘cheap’ and ‘poorly made’. The first Japanese car produced by Toyota was imported in 1957. Datsun (later Nissan) followed a year later. Although the Japanese had been manufacturing automobiles since Mitsubishi introduced their Model A in 1917 most Americans were skeptical of the quality of anything Japanese. It took many years to establish trust in the Japanese brands and today Toy0ta sells more cars than any US manufacturer.
Unfortunately, in the latter half of the 20th Centuray, the piano business went the way of many other American manufacturers … higher labor and material costs, competition from radio, phonograph records and television forced many owners to sell to international companies that could exploit the quality brand names regardless of whether or not the same level of craftsmanship and components was maintained. To be fair, some overseas manufacturers – Kawai and Yamaha for example, have developed hard-earned respect for the high standard of their premium pianos and are, in fact, competitive with most traditional quality manufacturers.
The question for those who may be new piano enthusiasts as listeners, players or consumers, is what pianos are still American made and are they any good? Here are a few reliable companies that fit the bill. There are a handful of smaller quality manufacturers but, for the moment, here is a short list of major American piano makers:
STEINWAY & SONS
We have to start here since this is the standard by which most other pianos are judged. Heinrich Englehard Steinweg started making pianos in Germany in 1825 under his company name, Steinweg Pianos. He and his family emigrated to the US in 1850 where he continued as a piano maker and eventually, in 1853, changed the name of the company to Steinway & Sons. Since his time nearly every major pianist worldwide has performed on a Steinway piano in almost everyimportant venue. The Steinway family no longer owns the company which has changed hands several times. Samick Musical Instruments (SMC) is a large shareholder but there are several private equity firms vying for ownership and to take the company private. Steinway pianos are manufactured in the US and Germany. It is a proud heritage and they are recognized internationally for their high quality. More than almost all other brands, a Steinway will hold or increase in value over time because the standard of components and craftsmanship is that good!
MASON & HAMLIN
In 1854. Henry Mason and Emmons Hamlin joined forces to manufacture their new instrument called an organ harmonium. Mason’s family was well-established in the US. His father and brother were both recognized in their time as composers and pianists. Henry also played. Hamlin, on the other hand, was not a musician He was a mechanic and inventor who had discovered a way to make organ reeds sound like the violin, clarinet and other classical music instruments. They had no money when they started and their new organ (and other iterations of it) didn’t really work out, but in 1881 they started making pianos and never looked back. Another quality brand that has gone through some ownership changes over the years but is still made in the USA and has been since the foundation of the company.
WALTER PIANO COMPANY
A relative newcomer to the industry, Mr. Charles Walter is an Illinois native with a background in engineering. He developed a keen interest in pianos – with a specific focus on the demands for acoustical design. After working for another firm for a number of years in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, Charles introduced his first piano, a 43″ upright. If ever there was a family-owned and operated company, this is it. And after 40 years of producing consistently high quality pianos, no one can argue with their success.
These are the Big Three. I noted earlier that there are a handful of other smaller manufacturers. Let me know if you’re interested in information about them and I’ll include it in another blog.
If there is any other information you need please feel free to send a comment and I’ll get back to you.
… next week we’ll talk about the Pro’s and Con’s of Pre-Owned Pianos …
Until then … make sure and play or listen to some new music this week!!!!
This article is reprinted from our publication “The Piano Times,” in honor of Beethoven, who died on March 26, 1827.
Are musical audiences more exacting today than they used to be? In some respects, it would seem that the answer is in the affirmative. At all events, the master pianists of today who make the grand tour are so worn out with the sheer physical stress of travel at the end of the season that they are obliged to spend the greater part of their summer vacation in recuperating. Nevertheless, we do not today expect pianists to improvise on a given theme, as both Beethoven and Mozart were expected to do; in fact, we do not expect modern pianists to shine as composers, nor composers to be brilliant pianists. The following account of how Beethoven played is extracted from an article by Henri Kling in Le Guide Musical, an excellent musical journal published in the early part of the twentieth century in Belgium.
From his adolescence, Beethoven possessed a virtuosity of the first order. During the first years he was in Vienna from 1795 to 1814, Beethoven often had occasion to display his talents. It was thus that on the 29th of March, 1795, Beethoven lent his assistance to the Society of Musical Artists, and played for the first time his Concerto in C Major, Op. 15. A Viennese critic characterized the playing of Beethoven in the following terms: “His playing is bold, brilliant, full of impetuosity that at times compromised his clearness. He shone above all in his improvisations, in which he excelled admirably. Since the death of Mozart, who, for me, remains the non plus ultra, I have not experienced artistic delight comparable to that which Beethoven has given me.”
On the 22nd of December, 1808, Beethoven gave a recital at the Theater an der Wien, in which he interpreted for the first time his Concerto in E-flat Major, Op. 73. An amusing incident recorded by Spohr in his Memories marks this memorable performance. “Beethoven,” he says, “played a new concerto of his own, but after the first Initi, forgot that he was the soloist; he raised his hands and commenced to conduct with them. At the first sforzando, he threw his arms so violently to the right and left that he knocked down the two candlesticks placed on the piano. The audience laughed, and this put Beethoven in such a temper that he stopped the orchestra and made it begin over again. Fearing that the same accident might happen a second time, Seyfried, the conductor, had two small boys stand on each side of Beethoven, each holding a candlestick. One of these youngsters approached the master in good faith, his eyes following the music. When the fatal sforzando was again reached, however, he received from Beethoven’s right hand such a resounding blow that he was terrified, and the poor boy allowed the candlestick to fall. The other boy, with greater wisdom, had anxiously followed the movements of the master, and by dodging quickly had luckily managed to avoid the blow. If the audience had laughed at the previous mishap, it fairly exploded at this one. Beethoven became so furious that on the first chord at which the solo again entered, he broke half a dozen piano strings! All the attempts on the part of music lovers in the hall to obtain silence were in vain. Thus the first allegro of the concerto was entirely lost upon the audience.”
After the fashion of Mozart, Beethoven played only his own works in public; he composed five concertos for piano and orchestra which are admirable masterpieces in this style of composition. One should also mention the Fantasia in C Minor for piano, chorus, and orchestra.
Thank you for visiting us at www.thePianoOutletCo.com, your source for new and good used acoustic pianos and new digital pianos for sale in Southern California and the Central Coast, and throughout San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and beyond!
Each spring, Kawai offers instant rebates of up to $1,000, on selected models of new acoustic or digital pianos, so now is a good time to buy a Kawai. This rebate program runs through March 31st. Come in now and see why Kawai is the choice of so many musicians and instrumental artists around the world.
Thank you for visiting us at www.thePianoOutletCo.com, your source for Kawai and other new and good used acoustic pianos and new digital pianos for sale in Southern California and the Central Coast, and throughout San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and beyond!
From Guest Blogger Lucas Denzer:
An amazingly talented professional piano player once told me, “There is no such thing as wrong notes, only notes that sound wrong.” At the heart of what he is saying, I believe he understands something about the true purpose and essence of music. Though music contains many similarities to mathematics, and many like to make the obvious comparisons, music serves a much more eloquent purpose. Music is arguably the deepest language we have, for it can communicate with great feeling, emotion, depth, and fervor where words can too often fail. It does not have to have a right or wrong answer.
Music to me will always be a time-based art; it is fleeting by nature. It is something that is experienced over time, and ever-changing, which makes it more powerful and more precious. Perhaps the most important aspect of music is that it does not mean the same thing to everyone. People have differing opinions about it, everyone is affected by it differently, and most importantly, justifiably so. Music is so big, that it can accommodate the whims and desires of the most deserving as well as the most careless, and yet retains an inexhaustible source of influence in almost any capacity imaginable.
As Stravinsky once said:
“I know that the twelve notes in each octave and the variety of rhythm offer me opportunities that all of human genius will never exhaust.”
The Piano Outlet thanks today’s blog contributor Lucas Denzer, a pianist, educator, and composer with 17 years of experience in teaching, performing, and composing music. He has a degree in Music Technology from the University of Oregon, and his talents and style are a welcome addition to the Central Coast region.
Thank you for visiting us at www.thePianoOutletCo.com, your source for music with good new and used acoustic pianos and new digital keyboards for sale in Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Nipomo, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, Southern California and the Central Coast, and throughout San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and beyond!
Musician Lucas Denzer will be conducting a FREE seminar at the Piano Outlet in Nipomo, 485 N. Frontage Road (off the 101 at the Tefft St. exit), this Thursday, April 5th, 2012, from 6:00 until 7:00 p.m., on “Introduction to Music Fundamentals, Reading, and Standard Notation.”
This informative session will be repeated on April 19th, May 3rd, and May 17th.
Lucas has 17 years of musical experience in teaching, performance and composition. He studied at University of Oregon and graduated with a degree in Music Technology. His experience and unique style is an asset to the Central Coast region and The Piano Outlet of Nipomo, CA, welcomes his talents.
To plan appropriately, RSVP’s are requested; call the store at (805) 929-8901.
Thank you for visiting us at www.thePianoOutletCo.com, your source for learning piano with good new and used acoustic pianos and new digital keyboards for sale in Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Nipomo, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, Southern California and the Central Coast, and throughout San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and beyond!
NPR’s “Fresh Aire” program recently had an interview with Jonah Lehrer, a science writer whose new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, looks at where creativity and innovative thoughts come from and what some companies are doing to create an environment that fosters that creativity. One company he mentions is 3M, where “every engineer has an hour a day to do whatever they want: whether that’s work on a side project or simply tinker with a hobby.”
Lehrer told interviewer Dave Davies that creative insight has two aspects – that the insight comes “out of the blue” (a “flash” of insight) and that the person feels sure that the insight is correct or valid. Musicians often spend hours being creative, and the “Fresh Aire” story illustrates two examples of composers / songwriters capturing musical magic:
Beethoven would try as many as 70 different versions of a musical phrase before settling on the right one. But other great ideas seem to come out of the blue. Bob Dylan, for example, came up with the lyrics to the chorus for “Like a Rolling Stone” soon after telling his manager that he was creatively exhausted and ready to bail from the music industry. After going to an isolated cabin, Dylan got an uncontrollable urge to write and spilled out his thoughts in dozens of pages — including the lyrics to the iconic song.
Mr. Lehrer also talked about the brilliant cellist Yo-Yo Ma:
“For Yo-Yo, it’s about learning how to relax. He told me this great story where before he goes out on stage, he often thinks about Julia Child. And at first, I was like, ‘Why Julia Child?’ And he tells this great story about Julia Child making a roast chicken and it looked beautiful and she was talking to the camera and the chicken would just fall off the plate, onto the floor. And he said, ‘Did she make this look of horror? Did she scream? No, the smile never left her face. She picked up the chicken, dusted it off and just went on with the show.’ And he said that’s an inspiring story to think about when you’re in the middle of performance, because you’re going to make a mistake and your attitude has to be, ‘I welcome that first mistake because now I’m free.’”
Can you imagine how wonderful it would be for companies to have beautiful grand or upright pianos available for their employees to use to relax and let their minds be free to create? 3M, are you listening?
Check out the “Fresh Aire” story online at npr.org:
Thank you for visiting us at www.thePianoOutletCo.com, your source for creativity with good new and used acoustic pianos and new digital keyboards for sale in Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Nipomo, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, Southern California and the Central Coast, and throughout San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and beyond!
Merry Christmas! You may have seen this information in an email or learned it elsewhere, but we thought it was interesting and worth sharing:
There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas? This week, I found out.
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol…so pass it on if you wish.
Thank you for visiting us at www.thePianoOutletCo.com, your source for new and good used acoustic pianos and new digital pianos and keyboards for sale in Southern California and the Central Coast, and throughout San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and beyond!