The cost of piano parts has increased during the past ten years while the economy has been depressed. That means the cost of repairs on a piano has increased.
As pianos age, small parts sometimes break. A piano has 88 keys, and each key has an associated action movement that has several parts. A simple wooden flange can cost nearly $1.00 from a parts supply house, and a repair might require four sets of flanges to complete the required repair. That’s 4 X 88.
I can only attribute these behaviors to cultural depravity, ignorance, and severely changing consumer desires.
After seven years as a piano tuner, I can fairly report that 80% of my clients do not provide the minimal level of care recommended for their pianos. That tells me that most pianos are abused by the owners. Typically a piano will be used for several years while a child is taking lessons. If the child stops taking lessons in the teen years, the piano may not be played often. When the child leaves home, the piano is retained because it is valued as a piece of furniture. It still needs to be tuned, but piano owners, on average, only tune the piano once every 5 years. That estimate may be high.
After the child leaves home, it is typical that a piano will remain in the original household for the next 30 years, without maintenance at proper intervals. As families downsize, older pianos that have sentimental value find their new home in the family garage, or they are sold in the used piano market through the classifieds.
Last week I took in yet another repair of a piano that has bakalite plastic flanges. The cost of the repair should have been $600, but at that price, the cost of the repair would have exceeded the market price of the piano. If I did the repair for that price, the value of the piano would not increase. It has been abused for too long.
As prices for parts continue to increase, the cost of repairs to used pianos will likely exceed the value of the piano. The economic choice is to buy a new piano, which consumers rarely opt to do. Applying this to the whole market of used pianos, pianos that might otherwise be repaired will decrease in value as consumers elect not to pay for the necessary repairs.
Across the board, the quality of used pianos decreases as a result, and that widens the gap between those who can own a piano, and those who cannot.
I am writing this blog with a certain level of frustration. I enjoy repairing pianos but it is difficult to find clients who are willing to pay for the repairs. I am faced with either accepting work for less money, or not having any work at all.
You should not rely on my opinion alone, but I see the low priority Americans place on music education, buying a quality piano and performing routine maintenance on their instrument. I can only attribute these behaviors to cultural depravity, ignorance, and severely changing consumer desires. When these features are combined with rising costs in quality pianos, and repair costs, the trend suggests that the piano will not retain its place as America’s favorite instrument. It also suggests that a ‘quality used piano” is becoming an oxymoron. Quality and “used” are not words I would use to describe most of the pianos I see.