I am the proud owner of a beautiful grand piano that was built in 1914. The piano is a family treasure. It was built in Boston before being shipped out west where my great grandmother made music with it. Her daughter, my grandmother, did the same. My mother played it, I play it, and so do my children. Five generations of fingers have now coursed the original ivory of this beautiful instrument.
Unfortunately, the beauty of the instrument stops at the casing and no longer transcends to the sounds coming from it. Over a century of age and mechanical neglect as resulted in a “damp” sound. There is no brightness. The strings are old, the action is loose, and the hammers are worn. Bringing the piano back to its original brilliance in sound would require a complete overhaul, which I cannot afford.
Oh, did I mention the soundboard is cracked in multiple places, too?
After some researching online, though, I discovered what I believe is a fantastic alternative to completely overhauling the instrument: Silent Systems.
A silent system allows you to install a digital midi interface without removing any of the piano’s original components. You install a midi sensor strip under the keys and also install a stop-bar along the line of hammers so that, when the bar is engaged, the hammers will move but won’t strike any strings. This is important, because one of the biggest reasons people choose not to buy a digital piano is because digital pianos don’t give an “authentic” action feel. Retrofitting your piano with a silent system, though, gives you the AUTHENTIC FEEL of an acoustic piano’s action AND the benefits of a digital, perfect sound.
I am amazed at what technology can do to merge old-with-new. I want to keep the grand piano alive, but “restoring” it would require a complete overhaul of its components, including a major, costly repair on the soundboard. By installing a 21st-century digital solution to an early-20th-century piano seems to be the perfect solution to my conundrum, and give the piano a run at another hundred years.
Here are some of the companies selling silent systems:
In conclusion, if you’re like me and are trying to justify keeping a beautiful but awful-sounding piano, this may be the solution for you. It is for me.
Taking care of a piano like taking care of a car. It requires regular tuning and maintenance. People need to understand the “do’s” and “do not’s”. For example, you “do” need to tune your piano yearly and you “do” need to keep it clean. “Do not” use furniture polish. “Do” use a microfiber polishing cloth like the ones from Melaleuca or Guitar Center.
Whatever you do, don’t fall behind on the care and maintenance of your piano. It’s not just another piece of furniture. It’s an instrument, that, if taken care of properly, can become a family treasure.