FAQ's on Ensuring the Quality of a Piano's Restoration

Can a restored piano really be as good as a comparable new piano?

If the right combination of work is done the right way, the results should equal or exceed new factory standards for tone production, performance, beauty, durability and strength.

How predictable is the end result of a piano restoration project?

Two almost identical pianos can have very different qualities. It is impossible to precisely predict the final outcome, since literally hundreds of variables come into play. Materials, techniques and workmanship that are high quality and appropriate yield the best result. Piano restoration combines hundreds of seemingly minor detailed operations. If each phase is done thoroughly and professionally, the result is a superior product. Perhaps the most important consideration is in the subjective realm. Ultimately, beauty is in the perceptions of the beholder. The fullness of sound, coloration of tone, touch of the keyboard, case design and finish all combine to give an overall impression. These impressions cannot be ranked on an objective scale. They require an artistic value judgment. The most satisfactory piano should ultimately blend these qualities with the preferences of the owner. There is no one "best" piano for everyone. But the "best" piano restoration project holistically satisfies the owner's needs by means of appropriate technical work.

How can reliable information about a specific piano be obtained?

It is important that a professional evaluation be performed on any piano one contemplates for purchase or restoration. There is no substitute for a careful examination of all elements of a piano. This insures the full scope of required restoration work is known, in order to make informed decisions about the piano. The structural integrity of case, pinblock, soundboard, bridges, and plate must be determined. Special problems in these areas can greatly increase restoration costs, or indicate against the purchase or restoration of a piano. It is important to understand the overall picture of a piano's condition, potential and value.

Who does this type of work?

The majority of piano craftspeople are independent field service technicians. They specialize in tuning, service, repairs, regulation and voicing of pianos on location. Some piano technicians occasionally undertake different facets of rebuilding work. Piano dealerships selling new and used pianos are primarily in the sales business. The best piano retailers have a high commitment to adequately preparing their pianos before the sale and for good service after the sale. They sometimes maintain shop facilities to recondition and rebuild used pianos. The level of service and quality of work produced is directly linked to the ownership's commitment to excellence in these areas. The profitability of restoration work is very low when compared to retail sales, so very few dealerships develop the staff and facilities needed for high-grade work. Over the last 20 to 30 years specialized piano rebuilding companies have developed. The comprehensive restoration of pianos to very high standards has grown substantially during this period. Doing this work well requires a commitment to training, specialized skills, and facilities. The Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) provides a forum for the exchange of information and on-going technical education in this field. Individual piano technicians and dealerships are seldom able to develop the needed infrastructure for comprehensive work. Some piano manufacturers will also take in older instruments for service or restoration.

How can one confidently engage a piano restoration specialist?

One encounters a wide range of quality in standards of workmanship, quality and durability of materials, and thoroughness of work. The experience, reliability, integrity and skill a piano craftsman brings to this work varies considerably. The best way too feel confident in one's choice of a piano rebuilder is to see their work first hand. Inquiring for recommendations and references in the community and visiting shop facilities will help indicate what type of experience to expect. It is also important to understand the recommendations and proposals of this restoration specialist and be sure they reflect your needs and vision for the piano. Establishing a common understanding and partnership for accomplishing the restoration project is critical.