By: S.W. Seeds
There have been many times I have encountered someone boasting of finding an unbelievably inexpensive piano. Usually this resulted in a purchase that was seemingly too good to be true. The first question that always comes to mind is, is this a piano or a P.S.O. (Piano Shaped Object)? Now, just to clarify, I will describe the typical characteristics of a P.S.O.
First of all, it almost always has a pretty cabinet. Second of all it is always shaped like a piano, meaning it typically has 88 keys, three pedals with strings on the inside. That’s usually about it. Now, let’s look at what goes into making a piano. And while the P.S.O. may seemingly have the same features, it’s what is on the inside that truly makes the difference.
A quality piano, not unlike the P.S.O., has over 12,000 parts with over 8,000 of those parts being moving parts in what is called the action of the piano. The average piano will include some 230 strings of various lengths and thicknesses as well as some will have an outer string wrapping the inner string. There is a plate which helps to support the tension of the strings to the tune of about 40,000 pounds of tension. This along with what is called the pinblock is all that allows the piano to be tuned and more importantly stay in tune. The average piano takes about a year to build from start to finish.
Now let’s look at what some of the differences are between a quality piano and the P.S.O. I am quite sure that no one would disagree that you can’t get something for free. At least not and be able to stay in business.
A respectable piano manufacturer will use only the finest quality materials and the highest regarded master craftsmen, while the P.S.O. manufacturer is concerned only with one thing and that is the cost. For example, great pains are taken to procure the tightest of grain patterns of spruce to be used in a soundboard of the quality piano, while the grain pattern of the wood in the P.S.O. may closely resemble that of wide rule notebook paper. Only solid copper wrappings as well as solid brass hardware is utilized in the quality piano as opposed to copper and brass plated materials in the P.S.O. Also, the P.S.O.’s are known for using softwoods instead of hardwoods to build the piano as they are less expensive and also easier to work with, which means lower labor costs as well. And, the list goes on and on.
Simply put, everything is not always as it appears. There is an old cliche that says, “you get what you pay for!” In the world of pianos, nothing could be more true! And, this doesn’t just pertain to new pianos, it is equally as true on pre-owned and rebuilt pianos. Just remember, all those 12,000 parts wear with age and the cost is no less to rebuild the piano than it is to build a new piano, depending of course on what exactly needs to be done to the piano.
So, the next time you see a piano that is priced too good to be true, do a little research. You may just find that what you are looking at is not a piano at all, but a P.S.O.!