How Long Does a Piano Last?

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I’m Robert Estrin. This is Today’s topic is, “How Long Does a Piano Last?” This is a really fascinating subject, and there’s more to it than you might imagine.

There are many considerations for how long a piano will last.

The quality of the instrument, the environment where the instrument lives, how much the instrument is played, and the how often the piano is serviced, all enter into how long a piano lasts. These are all factors that contribute to the wear and tear of a piano. If I was to throw out a number, I’d say a fine piano can last 50 to 100 years. But could a piano really last that long? It depends. You couldn’t expect to buy a bottom tier Chinese or Indonesian piano, subject it to a harsh climate, play it for hours a day, and for it to last anywhere close to 50 years without major work. But well built and properly maintained pianos can last generations.

We see some older instruments in immaculate condition.

Right now at Living Pianos, the oldest piano we currently have is a Steinway concert grand built in 1875. The piano has been masterfully rebuilt, so it plays like it did when it was young.

You can click on this link to see the piano:

The record for the oldest piano we ever had with all original parts was a 1907 Steinway Model O. We had two of our technicians go through this piano inside and out, determining that absolutely everything was original. Nothing was worn. Because it was a Steinway, if it needed new strings or new hammers or anything else, we would have put the work into it. But it was determined that we would just be replacing perfectly good parts.

How can a piano last so long?

If you have a piano here in Southern California and it’s in a stable environment, kept closed, away from sunlight, stable temperature, stable humidity, barely ever played, and tuned on a regular basis, indeed, a piano could be a hundred years old and play like new. Of course, for every piano like that, there are tens of thousands that are long since gone. There is no set amount of time that a piano will last. You have to know the history of the instrument.

How do you find the history of a piano?

Pianos don’t have a paper trail like cars or houses do. You have to do some simple detective work. Just look inside the piano for signs of corrosion around the strings and pins. Look at the hammers to see how much felt is left on them. Wiggle the keys. If they make a clicking sound, that means the felt bushings are worn. So pianos could be worn out. They can also get thrashed from the environment, and they can be neglected. If a piano hasn’t been tuned for 5, 10 or 15 years, it can take its toll when you tune it since it could add thousands of pounds of string tension compromising the structure of the piano.

The year of manufacturer tells you very little about how long that piano is going to last.

If a piano is kept in a harsh environment it will age much faster. If a piano is kept near the beach, it could be rusted out. In a school or restaurant, a piano might be worn out in as little as 10 years from heavy use. And yet, there are pre-World War II pianos in immaculate condition. Certainly with rebuilt pianos, it doesn’t necessarily matter how old they are. If the fundamental structure is good and the rebuilding work was top quality, a rebuilt piano can last as long as a new piano. You may get another 50 to 100 years out of a well rebuilt piano! Your mileage may vary. And that is the message for today.

If any of you are wondering about the condition of your piano we can help you. Write to us at:

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