What is Piano Restoration?

We get this question a lot, and it is understandably confusing because the term “restoration” is misused by so many rebuilders.  Piano “Restoration” is defined as the act of returning something to its former condition.  In order for a piano to be fully restored, it must be restored with the parts, equipment and techniques that were used to originally build it.  In most cases, this not possible because the factory, parts, and techniques no longer exist.  In these cases, the best that we can do is to rebuild the instrument.  But with a Steinway piano, full restoration and piano rebuilding in Madison, Wisconsin is possible because the factory is still producing pianos in much the same way as they have for the past century.

As a Steinway & Sons authorized dealer, we have the option of sending any Steinway piano to the factory for a full restoration using all Steinway parts.  In cases where major belly work needs to be done, it is the only way to ensure the true value and performance of the piano.

On the other hand, if the instrument is not in need of a new soundboard or pinblock, we can often restore the piano using all Steinway parts in our shop right here in Madison.  To find out what is needed in your family’s treasured instrument, or whether the piano that you are considering is worth the price being asked, contact us to do a full appraisal.

Piano Restorations

If your piano is made by a leading manufacturer like Steinway & Sons, it is worth a restoration, and we have provided exceptional piano rebuilding services to countless Wisconsin customers. Some of our customers are music lovers who trust us with their prized family heirlooms, award-winning musicians who count on us to bring back their priceless instruments, and some of the finest music halls that require pianos that meet the highest standards.

Our office is home to expert craftsmen who apply advanced techniques and use advanced parts and materials to restore your piano.

Drop by our office today for the best piano rebuilding service in Madison.

For more information about properly restoring your piano, contact Ben Garber.

What goes into restoring a piano?

A Steinway piano that has been properly restored will offer performance close to that of a new piano. Proper restoration is an involved, exacting process that can only be done at the Steinway & Sons factory in New York city. It should take about nine-twelve months and it is not an inexpensive undertaking.

The 2 most crucial parts of a piano restoration are the soundboard and the pinblock.

  • The soundboard is the heart of any piano-it resonates and amplifies the sound of the strings.  If a soundboard is compromised, the tone of a piano may be flat, tinny, or even buzz in extreme cases.  There are a number of very specific measurements that we have to take to determine the condition of a soundboard, and we do all of them during our appraisal or inspection services.
  • The pinblock is the wood which holds the tuning pins of the piano, keeping the piano in tune and allowing for seasonal adjustment.  If the pinblock is failing, the piano will no longer hold a tune and will sound terrible.  Again, we take precise measurements during our appraisal and inspection services to ensure the longevity of any piano’s pinblock.

Because of the unique way Steinway pianos are built (from the outside-in,) if these two parts are needed, the piano must be sent to New York for full restoration. These parts are not sold by Steinway in particular because they can only be properly installed in the factory using the original equipment and techniques. If someone tells you that they are selling a restored Steinway, ask for the factory certificate that verifies that the piano has been to the factory in New York for restoration.

While the piano is in the factory, all other components can be restored as well as refinishing. During an appraisal or inspection, we can tell you exactly what parts need work, and what parts are “optional.” We can also recommend whether you are going to get more value from a restoration, a rebuild, or a basic repair of the piano in question. Our goal is to get the best function and highest value from your piano during the restoration process.

Note: We define “rebuilt” as a piano that has had – at minimum – a new pinblock and strings installed. However, there is no legal definition of “rebuilt.” Most pianos sold as “rebuilt” have old pinblocks. Only a qualified technician can tell for certain if a piano has been properly rebuilt.

One of the parts of a piano that will need repair or restoration is the Action (the key mechanism.)  Actions do not always need to be restored at the same time as the “belly,” and sometimes only action regulation (adjustment) is required. Hammers may need to be completely replaced or only voiced. Complete action rebuilding involves replacing and calibrating thousands of intricate parts. The older the piano, and the more use it has had, the more likely the action will need replacing.

A piano that has been completely and properly restored and refinished, including action, is likely to cost as much as a new piano.

Piano Restoration Tips:

  • Always see an example of a company’s work first hand before trusting them with your piano.
  • Avoid shops with “special methods” or who are evasive about answering questions about the parts being used.
  • Never trust your piano to a technician from the Internet.
  • If someone tells you a piano has been rebuilt or restored, ask a lot of questions. Before putting any money down, ask to see the packing lists for all parts that were replaced.  If they are claiming it is restored, ask to see the certificate of authenticity from Steinway.
  • It almost never makes economic sense to rebuild or restore upright pianos.
  • Beware of stores that claim to ‘specialize’ in rebuilt pianos or have more than a few of them around.
  • Good rebuilt pianos are never sold online or on auction sites. The best rebuilders will only take select pianos to rebuild and will always want to sell them in the town where they do business.
  • If it doesn’t say Steinway & Sons (or a very short list of other names) on the plate, the piano is not worth rebuilding.