David Patterson - Master Piano Technician

Piano Rebuilding FAQ’s

What is piano rebuilding, what is piano restoration, what is piano remanufacturing, and what is reconditioning?

The terms “Reconditioning and Rebuilding” are covered in the Piano Technician Guild’s PTG Council Book of Resolutions. In other words, registered piano technicians, during one of our parliamentary sessions, have agreed on this wording:

  • Reconditioned Piano
    A used piano that has been put back in good condition by cleaning, repairing and adjusting for maximum performance with replacement parts where specifically indicated. [C05-031]
  • Rebuilt Piano
    A used piano that has been disassembled, inspected, and repaired as necessary with replacement of all worn or deteriorated parts, re-assembled, tested, and approved to at least the same tolerances as a new piano of like manufacture. [C05-031]

The terms “Restoration” and “Remanufacuring” are most often agreed upon, among established and ethical piano rebuilders, as follows:

  • Restored Piano
    A used piano that has been returned to its original design and specifications. All parts subject to stress are replaced with equivalent new components so that the piano will perform as it did when it was manufactured.
  • Remanufactured Piano
    A used piano that has had all stressed parts replaced, in addition to having structural parts replaced. All parts are equivalent new components and may alter the basic nature of a vintage piano.

How do I know what’s being done to the piano?

Proper high-end rebuilding involves delivering to the client a thorough, catalogued list of all new components. Likewise specific, detailed lists of all procedures need to be shared with the piano owner.

During piano rebuilding, do you alter the basic design of my piano?

No. My job is to bring the piano to its maximum potential and highest performance level, based on factory specifications. What the manufacturer first produced is my guide as to what I want to produce. Nowadays, reputable rebuilders remain as true as possible to the original. If I am asked to rebuild an inferior, lesser-known brand, I may seek permission to alter or improve the piano based on technology available today.

How much does piano rebuilding on a Steinway cost?

New Steinway pianos are fifty thousand dollars; the largest Steinway grands are one hundred and thirty thousand dollars. Your Steinway rebuilding will be two-thirds to three-quarters the cost of a brand new equivalent size instrument.

How long will it take to completely rebuild my piano?

You should figure on several months. My clients realise that facing scheduling demands and deadlines on high-quality rebuilding services runs contrary to the patient craftsmanship required to get the very best result. If hundreds and hundreds of hours are involved, I have found that completion target dates become more realistic as I approach the half-way point of the job.

Because restoration costs seem to vary so much, is there a big difference in cost between high-quality pianos and average pianos?

It’s the same amount of work – quite often more for a poorly-designed instrument.