As your piano tuner Wilmington DE, I am often asked if pianos improve with age. The answer is “usually not.” There are some older pianos that are better than new pianos, but that results from the difference in quality of the original construction, rather than the age of the instrument. Some pianos age better than others, but in general pianos do not improve with age. There are several reasons for that, but first, let’s look at the origin of the belief that pianos improve with age.
I believe the source of that belief lies in the astronomical value of older violins. Apparently, violins can improve with age, but their construction is vastly different from that of pianos. The most obvious difference is that violins do not have a mechanical action, as pianos do. The action is the part of the pianos that moves. It includes everything from the piano keys up to the piano hammers which strike the piano strings, and it includes the pedal and damper mechanisms. The dampers are the structures which stop the strings from vibrating after they have been struck. Both the hammers and the piano dampers are made of felt, which wears out with use.
Additionally, each piano key is constructed of a series of levers with action centers. Each of these action centers consists of a metal pin rotating in a cloth bushing, which also wears out. Because some keys are played more often than others, the amount of wear varies from note to note, making the touch uneven over time. If the touch is uneven on the pianos, then it is much more difficult to play a beautiful line of music, since the amount of force needed varies from key to key.
Another difference between a violin and a piano is the resonant structure. The soundboard on a piano is somewhat similar to that of a violin, except that the forces are magnitudes different. A piano soundboard has a total downward force from the strings of approximately 500 pounds of pressure from over 200 steel strings. That pressure stresses the soundboard, and over time it tends to fail. That time will vary depending on the quality of the construction and the stability of the temperature and humidity during the life of the instrument. There are pianos that maintain their resonance for over a hundred years, but it is questionable whether the resonance actually increases. There is disagreement as to whether that happens or not, and and it is based on opinion rather than science.
If you have a question about the purchase of an older piano, please let us know at your piano tuner Wilmington DE. We are always happy to help.We also serve the Philadelphia, Eastern Shore MD and Southern NJ areas.