Kurtzmann - Restoration

This is a story about a 1921 Kurtzmann grand. The history that I understand, it’s hard and unfortunate life, and it’s transformation. This Grand was purchased close to my area and sold as a refurbished grand about 15-20 years ago. Our client became unhappy with it lack of tonal quality and had several techs try to get it up to par. I think the total ended up being 4 different tuners and techs over the years. Our client just felt like the piano never sounded or felt “right.” She had it tuned regularly, just to be able to stand it’s condition. The piano was used to teach their children how to play.


Our client finally had enough. They were so disgusted by the piano’s performance that they decided to call me for the first time, not to fix the piano, but to give the piano away. She was convienced to purchase a cheap newer grand. I’ve done my best to talk her out of it and to assure her this piano can still be part of her family. 


Upon inspecting the piano, this is the absolute worst restoration I’ve ever seen. Because of this, I’ve decided to properly restore this and do my best to log it’s restoration. This will be a good chance to show and educate our customers what to look for, what can be done, and some interesting proceedures that take place.This piano will also be used to create and share technical classes with my chapter in the Piano Technician’s Guild.


Before I start with pictures, I would like to state that no matter where you live, you should always have a technician you trust inspect the piano that you and your family are about to invest in. In this case, the client invested in a used piano from a store, with the impression that the piano was rebuilt. At the time, the piano looked pretty and seemed to be a good investment. In the long run, the piano was something that the client had to “endure.” The cost of hiring a technician to inspect the piano before makeing the purchase, would have saved a lot of money and aggrevation over their years with a piano.


Stories like this break my heart for more than several reasons. I believe the most important aspect of someone learning how to play the piano, is to have a piano that is regularly maintained  to play properly. Also, the piano needs to sound good. This gives much more enjoyment to the artist, especially as they learn. I understand keyboards are neccessary for some people, but for sake of a long winded opinion I’ll keep it short. If you want to learn to play properly and want to progress technique quicker, purchase a piano as soon as you are able to.


Another reason this story breaks my heart, is the fact that a “used piano” now has a bad taste in the mouth of our client, their children, and probably everyone close to them. My preference is always an older piano for several reasons. The wood in an early 1900’s piano is much higher quality than we have access to now. Think about it, 2x4’s used to be 2” by 4”. Now they are actually 1 5/8” x 3 5/8” and still sold as 2x4’s. The age and quality of the trees today do not compare to the trees wood came from in these older pianos. Unless you spend top dollar for a newer grand (more than 35,40k) I don’t believe the quality is close to a properly restored older piano. 


Unfortunately,  stories of purchasing older pianos have spread in a negative way. Pianos get labeled as being “rebuilt” or “restored” when only the strings have been replaced and maybe the cast iron plate re-painted. In more than several of these cases, upon removing the action, or keyboard, I find 100 year old dust, original moth eaten felt, lack of regulation, etc. 

© Joel Klar 2013