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Old 11.08.2011, 09:24
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Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

Morning all,
I've found an old piano advertised for sale, very low price but the seller tells me that he bought it for his children from a piano teacher. It's apparently in good useable condition but would need retuning following transport - pretty normal I would assume.
The make is Franz Hajek, piano is dated at 1888, described as silver medal winner in 1881 and 1882. A google search didn't bring up much info about this maker, more or less nothing. It's a Viennese action. My thought is to buy it as a knock about instrument for my children to see if they have any interest in learning to play properly. Can anyone shed any light on whether this would be worthwhile?
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Old 11.08.2011, 09:30
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

That's a question for Summerrain - Ma'am over to you.....
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Old 11.08.2011, 09:31
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

Aw. Get it. Big time.

I grew up playing piano same age, a family antique, that dad got from his dad who used to be a school principal, so many generations played this piano. Dad drove it to us across of the country and car broke under the weight, so he hitchhiked with this piano and a bus full of school trip kids helped him get it to me. I was so thrilled, a 5yr old.

Now, who would feel good skipping piano classes when there are stories like this behind this instrument? Every antique piece has a bunch of stories. The fact dozens of hands trained on this is a huge motivator for kids and that there is a history behind. A new shiny thing does not cut it.

I'd get it. It's beautiful. Just check the sound quality, but have it tuned, fixed up and expose your kids to this. I still have my super old piano back home, love it. If the sound is irepairable, just have it as a talking piece, put plants or books on it.
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Old 11.08.2011, 09:32
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

looks nice as just a piece of furniture... i suppose the issue is just how cheap it is...
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Old 11.08.2011, 09:37
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

The sentiments expressed so far are in line with my thoughts, it's a beautiful piece of furniture even if it's not or might not be much cop as an instrument. The price is a whopping HUF 25,000 - translates to about CHF 97
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Old 11.08.2011, 09:59
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

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The sentiments expressed so far are in line with my thoughts, it's a beautiful piece of furniture even if it's not or might not be much cop as an instrument. The price is a whopping HUF 25,000 - translates to about CHF 97
Jaysus, and you are even asking? Hahaha....we bought a used one for me here and the little one to start on, it was 300fr and I thought it was the biggest bargain. It's nowhere near your beauty, though. Get it, get it.
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Old 11.08.2011, 10:25
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

Well, I've asked a transport company here how much they'd want to move it in - it'll probably work out more that than piano, I'll let you know if I get it or not. One other thing I've worked out from the ad is that it has a wooden frame - from my limited knowledge of piano building technology I believe that means it might need tuning more frequently than an iron frame.
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Old 11.08.2011, 10:36
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

I think so. Plus, you will have to tune it no matter what after you move it, anyways. If it is wooden, keep any wet/humid stuff away, don't put a plant on it or next, nor stand it near the radiators.

I think the movers here quoted 400fr for a move, hence the piano not being moved yet. But even with moves quoting higher than 100fr, you still get a unique, museum piece. The only bitch about my old piano, it did get out of tune super fast and the touch of the keys was really soft, so I often practiced on people's piano/teacher/school, just to get a regular feel of hard keys, harder to press, finer tuning, etc. But I love my old piano and it motivated me to play for a few decades.
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Old 11.08.2011, 11:01
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

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The sentiments expressed so far are in line with my thoughts, it's a beautiful piece of furniture even if it's not or might not be much cop as an instrument. The price is a whopping HUF 25,000 - translates to about CHF 97
97chuffs? This one almost fell off her chair.

I am not an expert and without taking a good look at the instrument inside and out, it is very hard to ascertain its longevity.

It sounds like a great deal on the surface - however, there are alot of other things to consider. Lots of owners get rid of their antique pianos without knowing the true value of it after restoration but there might also be pianos that are so neglected (think rust internally, cracked soundboard etc) that even after tuning them, they are still unable to function properly and you'd end up with a white elephant.

Worst case scenario is that the internal mechanisms (like strings, the felt, possible cracked soundboard) need replacing even before they can withstand a tuning. That is going to cost you much more than 97chuffs.

Pianos these days are tuned to the standard Universal standard pitch (aka modern concert pitch). In order to achieve this modern pitch, the strings must be pulled tighter, increasing the tension on the frame of the piano.As long as the piano is in good condition, it will be able to withstand long term tuning stability because antique pianos are generally much more durable than most pianos on the market today. But having said that, 100 year old strings and felts will have to be restored and replaced in order for the piano to be expected to hold tune - or else, the piano will keep going out of tune faster than you can say Bach.

Get a tuner who has experience working with antique pianos.

My best advice right now, price aside, is to get a proper technician to go along with you to have a look and assess its condition. Sorry for raining on your parade, but pianos are beautiful, yet functional and complex pieces of machinery. You might have found a diamond in the rough worth tens of thousand of dollars without realising it!
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Old 11.08.2011, 11:14
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

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One other thing I've worked out from the ad is that it has a wooden frame - from my limited knowledge of piano building technology I believe that means it might need tuning more frequently than an iron frame.
Wooden frames are very common in antique pianos - especially viennese style ones. You are right to say that it will require more tuning because most often than not, it will not tune up as well versus the iron frames which has been built to withstand many tons of tension from the strings.

But, it was for such instruments that Mozart composed his concertos and sonatas. The piano of Mozart's day had a softer, warmer yet clearer tone than today's pianos, with less sustaining power. So hearing the music the way his audiences heard it first hand, will send chills down your spine.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that you should contact fellow EFer, p24. He has a passion for old pianos and will definitely be able to advise you more than I can.
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Old 11.08.2011, 11:18
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

LW if your kids dont like it I will buy it from you , it is so beautiful! I used to play the piano when youngER, but as I can not sit still for too long I failed but was pretty good at it. Now my sister is a pretty good piano player...congrats on the great find!
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Old 11.08.2011, 11:28
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

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97chuffs? This one almost fell off her chair.

I am not an expert and without taking a good look at the instrument inside and out, it is very hard to ascertain its longevity.

It sounds like a great deal on the surface - however, there are alot of other things to consider. Lots of owners get rid of their antique pianos without knowing the true value of it after restoration but there might also be pianos that are so neglected (think rust internally, cracked soundboard etc) that even after tuning them, they are still unable to function properly and you'd end up with a white elephant.

Worst case scenario is that the internal mechanisms (like strings, the felt, possible cracked soundboard) need replacing even before they can withstand a tuning. That is going to cost you much more than 97chuffs.

Pianos these days are tuned to the standard Universal standard pitch (aka modern concert pitch). In order to achieve this modern pitch, the strings must be pulled tighter, increasing the tension on the frame of the piano.As long as the piano is in good condition, it will be able to withstand long term tuning stability because antique pianos are generally much more durable than most pianos on the market today. But having said that, 100 year old strings and felts will have to be restored and replaced in order for the piano to be expected to hold tune - or else, the piano will keep going out of tune faster than you can say Bach.

Get a tuner who has experience working with antique pianos.

My best advice right now, price aside, is to get a proper technician to go along with you to have a look and assess its condition. Sorry for raining on your parade, but pianos are beautiful, yet functional and complex pieces of machinery. You might have found a diamond in the rough worth tens of thousand of dollars without realising it!

A big thank you for this info, that's exactly what I was looking for. I'm under no illusions that it might not turn out to be the bargain of the century, being wooden frame I expect it will need lots of TLC. I hope to be able to go and look at it either later on today or tomorrow, unfortunately here in Budapest, even after two years I have a pretty large language barrier, (Magyarol is a pretty difficult language) plus I don't know anyone in the music business/piano tech-savvy that I could drag along. I think I'll have a preliminary look, maybe pay a deposit on a subject to basis and see if I can find an expert to have a second look. Deposit just to try and secure it as it looks beautiful. I just asked Mrs Wu (she who holds the purse strings as I'm Mr Mum these days) and her comment was "her damit", so management budget approval already secured.

May I ask, (bearing in mind I know next to nothing about pianos apart from they have black and white keys alledgedly in perfect harmony) is it possible for a muppet such as I to tell if the soundboard is well, sound?
Cheers
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Old 11.08.2011, 11:32
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

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I think so. Plus, you will have to tune it no matter what after you move it, anyways. If it is wooden, keep any wet/humid stuff away, don't put a plant on it or next, nor stand it near the radiators.

I think the movers here quoted 400fr for a move, hence the piano not being moved yet. But even with moves quoting higher than 100fr, you still get a unique, museum piece. The only bitch about my old piano, it did get out of tune super fast and the touch of the keys was really soft, so I often practiced on people's piano/teacher/school, just to get a regular feel of hard keys, harder to press, finer tuning, etc. But I love my old piano and it motivated me to play for a few decades.
From my Piano Technical Expertise 101 lesson this morning (aka Google) I found out that the soft touch feature is apparently a factor of the "Vienna Mechanism". Err, Yes, I expect it is, either that or it may need a new Flux Capacitor.
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Old 11.08.2011, 12:29
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

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A big thank you for this info, that's exactly what I was looking for. I'm under no illusions that it might not turn out to be the bargain of the century, being wooden frame I expect it will need lots of TLC. I hope to be able to go and look at it either later on today or tomorrow, unfortunately here in Budapest, even after two years I have a pretty large language barrier, (Magyarol is a pretty difficult language) plus I don't know anyone in the music business/piano tech-savvy that I could drag along. I think I'll have a preliminary look, maybe pay a deposit on a subject to basis and see if I can find an expert to have a second look. Deposit just to try and secure it as it looks beautiful. I just asked Mrs Wu (she who holds the purse strings as I'm Mr Mum these days) and her comment was "her damit", so management budget approval already secured.

May I ask, (bearing in mind I know next to nothing about pianos apart from they have black and white keys alledgedly in perfect harmony) is it possible for a muppet such as I to tell if the soundboard is well, sound?
Cheers
Louis, is there a piano technicians guild in Budapest that you can contact?

If not, for mere mortals like us, here are some basic things to look out for:

1. Keyboard: Depress the sustain pedal (right one) and try each and EVERY key. You are looking for every key to respond instantly to your touch and make sure that each key action is even throughout the board, as in the notes should hold their length. The keys must not stick or squeak. Listen out for any strange buzzing sounds when the key is striked loudly - thats the sign of a possible split soundboard.

2. Pedals: test the responsiveness of the pedals because even before looking inside, if something has gone wrong behind your pedals, other areas might be too. Make sure that they are responsive.

3. Time to poke your head into the piano. Look inside the piano at the hammers. They should either be covered with felt and leather (most Viennese pianos are). Make sure the hammers aren't moth-eaten or have been cut by the strings. This means bleeding money to get the hammers working right.

4. Look at the strings: they shouldnt be rusty. If they are, the piano has been exposed to excessive humidity/temperature changes - higher chances of a split soundboard.

5. Soundboard: thats the wooden one behind (or underneath in your case of a grand piano) the strings which amplifies the sound. Look for any splits - or you can listen for any BUZZ sounds when the keys are striked, as a split soundboard will most likely be causing that, or some other factors below.

6. Bridge: Check the bridge (the wooden piece holding up the strings). If the bridge is cracked, uneven, or unglued from the soundboard, buzzing will occur, and further damage will follow.

7. Pinblocks: This is the most important part of the instrument for me. Its job is to hold the tuning pins tightly so that it wont go out of tune. If its splintered, cracked or mouldy - no deal. Walk away. Its very very expensive to replace it and really doesnt make sense to do so unless its a Steinway.



8. Look out for woodworms. Definitely walk away if you spot any.

9. Lastly, dont hesitate to ask about its previous owners and the history of the piano. Whether the previous owners are serious pianists will determine how the piano has been pushed and taken care of.

Thats all I can think of at the moment, ran out of coffee this morning - but will post more if I can think of any.

Good luck and I hope it all works out.
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Old 11.08.2011, 12:52
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

Excellent - thanks very much, I'll print out your check list and take it along with me, I'm going to see the piano tomorrow morning.
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Old 12.08.2011, 14:43
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

Well, it's mine :-)

I went along and had a good look at the piano this morning. It's in surprisingly good condition. all keys work, all have same weight and 'feel', each note sounds for the same amount of time, no keys stick or wobble or jam. The hammers are felt covered and the felt is in good condition, not motheaten or worn. No buzzing sound at all. The sound board was quite visible and looked in good condition, the strings are not rusty. I spent a long time checking the pinblock for cracks etc, it's perfect.
Overall, the piano is a bit grubby, its been in an unused room for a while and has a decent gathering of dust but nothing a good clean and polish wouldn't fix. There's unfortunately a water damage mark on the middle of the cover (the big cover that opens to reveal the strings), at some point someone misused the piano as a large pot stand but this mark would respond well to decent wood care.
Thanks to everyone for your help, one other question at this point, any recommendations for type of polish? (type rather than brand as this being Hungary, some brands are very hard to find)

Cheers
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Old 15.08.2011, 10:26
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

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Well, it's mine :-)

I went along and had a good look at the piano this morning. It's in surprisingly good condition. all keys work, all have same weight and 'feel', each note sounds for the same amount of time, no keys stick or wobble or jam. The hammers are felt covered and the felt is in good condition, not motheaten or worn. No buzzing sound at all. The sound board was quite visible and looked in good condition, the strings are not rusty. I spent a long time checking the pinblock for cracks etc, it's perfect.
Overall, the piano is a bit grubby, its been in an unused room for a while and has a decent gathering of dust but nothing a good clean and polish wouldn't fix. There's unfortunately a water damage mark on the middle of the cover (the big cover that opens to reveal the strings), at some point someone misused the piano as a large pot stand but this mark would respond well to decent wood care.
Thanks to everyone for your help, one other question at this point, any recommendations for type of polish? (type rather than brand as this being Hungary, some brands are very hard to find)

Cheers
woooohooo! Congrats!

Dont know much about polish to be honest, I've always used a little bit of window cleaner mixed with water, sprayed on my piano cloth to clean mine

Any piano dealers around your area? Especially antique piano dealers. They will be the best people to ask for advice on how to bring the wood back to life without having to spend an arm and leg.
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Old 15.08.2011, 10:54
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

Super jealous - that is one beautiful piano, and what a find that all the internals are in pretty good nick. If you do think of parting with it....let me know!! Hope you get some great use out of it
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Old 17.08.2011, 21:57
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

Well, the piano arrived yesterday evening, it cost almost as much to get it collected as I paid for it - pretty much what I expected.
It took four us to move it, it's one heavy instrument, we were very careful though and managed to get it into the house undamaged in any way. Now that I've had time to examine it more closely I have found a few things that I didn't notice the first time, I expected this though and none of the things are terrible. The piano is a little wobbly on it's legs, I think that possible one or two of the legs are not in their original holes, I will support the piano on blocks and try each leg in different holes. Each of the legs (and they are themselves beautiful pieces of work) has a hand made wooden screw thread and I expect that the corresponding holes are matched. I also notice that there is a total of 5 such holes on the under side of the piano, perhaps to allow different positions for the legs or perhaps there were originally 5 legs? (I think this would be less likely). I found one key is inoperative, the very highest note, the hammer only moves very slightly and doesn't strike the strings. Otherwise, someone has done a bit of a bodge repair to one of the leg supports; the cover stay base is slightly damaged (some muppet fitted a retaining screw that was much too large and it's split the wooden mounting block) but otherwise, not much to report. I've been trying to research the manufactuer with very little success, the piano is marked on the soundboard with "Franz Hájek in Wien, Piano Forte Fabrik, Opus nr. 1136". I was unable to find out anything about the manufacturer, I did find a reference for Opus Nr 603 that was advertised for sale a year or so back for a price that was many times more than I paid - I'm not bothered about the value though, I love this beautiful piano, the quality of the workmanship is amazing, a simply beautifully made instrument. I have also found a local piano tuner that seems to have good references, he will be coming to see the instrument soon to give me some advice ref restoration/tuning/care of the piano.
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Old 18.08.2011, 15:49
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Re: Anyone knows anything about old Pianos?

Dont worry about not being able to play the last key. You mentioned that it was for your kids to learn and even the most advanced of pianists wont need it too often. In fact, I only remember having to use it once or twice in my entire life. That is of course if you are planning to restore it properly - the strings holding that C note (last key) together might have to be changed due to the lack of tension - i dont know, without looking its hard to say.

Glad to hear that you've found someone with good references. Wishing you and the kids many fun hours on it!
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