Should I get new strings?

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Should I get new strings?

Postby troglodyte » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:26 pm

I am quite satisfied with my piano (Steinway O 1916), but some say I would get a much richer sound if I got new strings. My tuner claims they are original and is kind of amazed that they still sound good. It does sound a bit different from other pianos, in particular the base is kind of, what should I say, dull? non-sonorous? which is not only a bad thing because I can hit as hard as I want and still not get a noisy sound. If I dont re-string I'll never know what I missed - but also always wonder what I missed. On the other hand playing an instrument in original condition that Debussy could have played is kind of cool.

To those here who have had the pianos re-strung: Do you feel it was worth it? Did the sound become drastically different? How long and how many tunings did it take for the strings to settle?


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Re: Should I get new strings?

Postby techneut » Sun Jun 23, 2013 8:52 am

My grand is from about the same era as yours and I was advised to re-string it as the strings had rather a tired sound and got out of tune too quickly.
It has indeed made a lot of difference, the sound is much clearer and richer as was confirmed by several people here. It's now 3 years ago and I think they have stabilized at last - though it seems like the tuning is just as fickle as it always was. Which peeves me as part of the objective was for them not to go out of tune so soon. Maybe it will need even more time to achieve that.

If you decide to go for it, keep us posted !
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Re: Should I get new strings?

Postby hreichgott » Sun Jun 23, 2013 7:00 pm

Sounds like the strings' age is affecting the sound and affecting the way you play, so it's probably time.

FYI new strings have a long period in which they go flat MORE quickly than the old ones did. Has something to do with the tensile properties of the metal (that's all I know). It happens with guitar strings as well. My piano had two new strings put on in Nov. 2011 and only now are they starting to keep tune as well as the rest of the piano.

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Re: Should I get new strings?

Postby Rachfan » Thu Jul 31, 2014 11:59 pm

Hi Joachim,

I play a 1984 Baldwin L (6 feet 3 inches) bought new, and I give the piano moderate use. Most tuner/technician/rebuilders advise that if a piano has regular use it's best to restring every 25 years or so. When you restring, the old #1 tuning pins are tossed out and larger #2 pins take their place. You might like the chrome plated ones rather than the blue steel variety for looks. Either will be snug in the pinblock. I had the Baldwin restrung in 2007. For the wound bass strings we used Arledge Bass Strings and for the steel strings Mapes International Gold musical wire. I instantly liked the sound better than the original strings.

The Steinway O built today likely has differences in design than your 1916 model, so you'd need to put the piano in very skilled hands. For an old piano, you should also be thinking about new hammers, shanks and flanges as well. If you consider keeping the original shanks, it's is a false economy as the old ones tend to be more brittle and breakable. New is better.

For the Baldwin it took about a year to attain tuning stability, but once it took, it was OK. The stretching of the strings especially occurs where the strings bend around the tuning pins, the bridge guide pins, and the terminal hitch pins. During the process I used my own tuning lever to take the curse of a unison or to pull up a low bass string here or there. Now I have the piano tuned four times a year, as I do recordings and I also live in a very challenging climate.

Before the Baldwin I owned a 1924 Steinway M. I bring this up to make a point. That is, if it turns out that the piano truly needs more than you thought and if the expense will rise significantly, then you have to deliberate on your options.

"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April

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Re: Should I get new strings?

Postby RSPIll » Tue Aug 19, 2014 7:16 am

Hi Joachim,

While it might be romantic to think that Debussy played on those strings, in reality you want the piano to play at its best today. If the strings are dead in areas, it needs to be restrung. Recently, I have been working on a proposal to get our church sanctuary piano (a 1936 5'8" equivalent to the model R). The strings are heading towards that dead sound. I have to ride the una corde just to move the dampers over enough to get some felt on the keys, and I have had a string break during a prelude. That was festive to say the least. It sounded like a gun shot had gone off. It stopped the service until I could figure out what happened. I was so shaken that I actually had a hard time playing for the rest of the service, which is unusual since half of the time I'm doing it in my sleep. The funny thing was that the same string (it was the F below the low octave C) on the studio that I played as choir accompanist at our high school, broke, though not with quite the noise.

The great thing is that you can get these things done for much less money than buying an equivalent new piano. In our case, a complete rebuild (though keeping the ivory keys which are in reasonable shape) is about $15k. That model today is almost $50k.

Just my 2 cents.


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