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the player piano plays!

Monday, November 11, 2013

When we bought our 1929 Bowen player piano this summer, they gave us very little information on it. The elderly woman this couple bought the house from didn't want it, and only told them it was a 1929. They had no idea when it was last tuned, nor cared much what the scrolls were worth. This couple moved it to their garage and eventually back inside but it takes up quite a bit of real estate, so they opted to sell it. And we bought it.

It has sat in our living room playing eerie music for months now. No joke, this baby was ready for Halloween! We've even had contests with friends to see who can hold a conversation the longest as it played, with the only rule being you couldn't talk about the piano (nobody ever won, ya'll). So, I made some phone calls and finally found someone I trusted to come to our home to tune it!

Before I show you the after, here's the before so you get a sense of what we were dealing with...



I got a hold of Jay Nikolai in Las Vegas, and really liked the way he shooted me straight on the phone about any potential issues and costs. He's tuned many player pianos before and was great about explaining what he would do, and listening to what we wanted out of the tuning. If you're in Vegas and need a piano tuner, email me (katie dot sweetpeas at gmail dot com) and I'll give you his information!

He ended up telling us so much about the piano. We knew it had no serial number or manufacturer name, and this is because it's called a stencil piano. The manufacturer made it and left everything blank so that Bowen could stamp their name on the front. It also had close to $10,000 worth of work and restoration done on it! New key tops, new hammers and pumps, and an entirely new pin block. We can only assume that the elderly woman who left this piano had the restoration done because it was a family heirloom. Jay said nobody pays that kind of money for a piano like this unless there was a strong emotional attachment to it. Essentially, we got a steal of a deal on it.

While we talked about upright antique pianos as he pitched and tuned it, he told us that player pianos aren't as desirable these days because there is usually a lot of work that needs to go into them. He said of the three players at the piano shop he works at, he's had to gut all of them, removing the player stack so they're regular upright pianos now, just so they'll sell. My piano teacher in middle school school told us that uprights have the best sound, which is why I was adamant about an upright, while Austen thought a player would be a fun conversational piece. Jay told us that once he was done pitching and tuning our piano, he said the only thing that would sound better was if we had a 6 foot grand piano sitting in our living room. Old craftsmanship, new parts, and an upright were the winning combo, ya'll.

A little over 3 hours after he started working on our piano, Jay was finished. Austen & I were blown away at the difference in sound quality, and the way the keys work now. Just listen to this next youtube video and hear the difference for yourselves.



So so amazing, right?! There are actually notes in the second video that you can't hear in the first. Austen actually loves the piano now, instead of thinking it was a big chunk of wood taking up space. He actually asked me tonight to play "silent night" for him on the piano. Be still my heart!

We are so excited for the holidays with the player piano now, that we actually started a new tradition tonight - treating ourselves to a new Christmas music scroll each winter to add to a little collection of Christmas music scrolls. The first for our collection is from QRS called It's a Wonderful Life with songs from the movie! We are so excited about this fun new tradition, and lots of memories made with it! I'm picturing our little kids dancing around during the holidays to the piano music as we decorate the Christmas tree.

How was ya'll's long weekend? Anyone get something checked off of their to-do or goals list?

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