Which piano should I keep?
June 24, 2012 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Which piano should I keep?

I find myself with two pianos and room to keep only one. Requesting help from the hivemind as I have virtually no knowledge of piano brands, reputations, etc.

The first is a Campbell and Kohler, approximately 30 years old.

The second is a Bradbury, approximately 65 years old.

Not sure what you call the style of these...they are the kind you usually see in homes, not grand pianos, not upright, about waist high or so, full size keyboards. Each is in good condition, has been kept indoors, with temperature controls. They need no repairs.

Please give me your opinions, anecdata, information as I haven't a clue. I hope to keep one and give the other to a friend so making money off them is not a concern. I want to keep the one which is better quality. Thanks for your help.
posted by Ginesthoi to Grab Bag (9 answers total)
Sounds like a spinet. I'm not a piano expert either, but if I were in your shoes, I'd probably try to find an extremely experienced piano tuner to come over, look at them, and give you an opinion. They probably need to be tuned anyway, so you can kill two birds with one stone.
posted by primethyme at 9:26 AM on June 24, 2012

Neither brand is recognized by my musician significant other, so there isn't one solid winner for us to help you with. FWIW, they may indeed need repairs that are simply not obvious to you - we went and looked at a piano a few years ago whose sound board was cracked. It was very substantial damage - we could see through it in places - but the owner had never noticed that wasn't "normal".

Mr. Arnicae's suggestion is to find a piano tuner or piano technician and pay him his hourly rate (usually in the neighborhood of $80) to come and look at both pianos. Ask him what maintenance each piano will need in the coming years and if there are any repairs needed. Then ask him about the sound quality and action of each piano, use this to make your decision.

It sounds like you don't play. If you did play, Mr. Arnicae would suggest you double-check to make sure neither is soon to need serious repair, and keep the one whose action you personally preferred. It can be a very personal preference for musicians, and you should play what you like. However, if you don't play...you might as well keep the one that you visually prefer in the room.
posted by arnicae at 9:34 AM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've got a Campbell and Kohler spinet here. It was a value brand, good enough for the kid's piano lessons. It looks decent in a family dining room, with flowers and candles on it.

It developed some cracks in the sounding board where the string pins go in, and I've been advised that this doesn't bode well for the future if they get worse. It's not a collectible, but it has a nice light, crisp action, and it has a lovely bell-like tone in the upper register. The "soft" pedal works well, causing the hammers to strike only one string, which can be really pretty, because the tuning is more transparent. If the wood is waxed and polished, it is presentable as furniture. I've dragged it around for many decades, it was in my home when I was born.

I'd go with the one that has the fewest unfixable defects and plays and sounds best.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2012

Both are old names and produced decent pianos when the US was still a piano-manufacturing powerhouse. Without more information, I can only repeat what others have said: go to a use piano shop, ask if they can recommend a technician to take a look at both of them.
posted by thebestsophist at 11:15 AM on June 24, 2012

As a pianist I second that sound + action + workingness means more than brand, looks, or age. A good piano tech will help you.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:17 AM on June 24, 2012

Also a trained pianist, nthing those who have said sound, action, in good working order, and a piano tech/tuner.

Which one do you like the best? That's what it boils down to.
posted by fraula at 11:26 AM on June 24, 2012

You are guaranteed to get good answers from the Piano World forum if you ask there (they will probably ask you to provide some more details, though).
posted by dfan at 4:01 PM on June 24, 2012

If they are both in good condition and not currently needing repairs, and if you like the tone/action of each equally well, then my vote would be to keep the younger instrument. Pianos are not like violins--age is almost never their friend. There are felt, leather, cloth, metal and wood parts that get worn, dirty, compacted, cracked, and deteriorate. Even if it's been well maintained and properly cared for, a 65-year-old piano is getting to the point where it will almost inevitably need fairly extensive work done on it due to old age.
posted by drlith at 5:02 AM on June 25, 2012

Thanks, Mefites. I have learned a lot from your answers and now have my marching orders.
posted by Ginesthoi at 3:39 AM on June 26, 2012

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