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Is it a good idea to buy a used 5'8" Nordheimer from a dealer for $6000? (Read 2073 times)

Offline alexjr1543

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Currently, I have a Yamaha CVP-301 which I've had for a long time. It's nice to be able to play with different voices including harpsichord and organ, never have to tune it yet easily be able to tune it to any pitch or temperament I want, be able to record myself, and most importantly, practice with headphones. However, at my level, this instrument simply doesn't cut it anymore. Its action is definitely quite nice, although it's developed a few problems recently.

In my search for pianos that cost around $5000 or less, I found something that seems too good to be true: a used Nordheimer 5'8" grand for around $6000 (only $1000 above the budget). I actually went to the store and played it-- the instrument appeared to be well restored. It looked quite similar to a Steinway, and the salesperson told me that this is because at some point, Nordheimer did work together with Steinway. I forgot to ask how old it was, but it seems to have real ivory keys, so it's pretty old judging from that. When I played it, it had a decent tone and the action felt good. It was a bit bright, yet I was able to achieve a surprisingly beautiful sound playing a more quiet, lyrical piece, and its bass was decent in my opinion. It also worked well for playing Bach as well as Beethoven. It was tucked into the corner of the not-very-large room it was in (large enough to house a few similar-sized grands), and the room had a wood floor, so that may have affected the sound a bit. The only problem I noticed was that a few notes were slightly out of tune. There was a newer Yamaha next to it that had a nicer tone, but that one had more room around it, so this may also have been a factor. The cheapest pianos I previously played that I liked were uprights which were no cheaper than $8500.

I guess my question is both whether it is a good idea to buy this particular piano and whether it is a good idea to buy a piano for such a price in general. It will definitely cost me in the future, but if all goes well (key word being if), I'll probably be able to handle it. My mother is really the one who wants me to buy a decent instrument in general and she is encouraging me, so she does promise to help with this, but it is quite an expense for me, since I have not even finished university yet (hopefully a year to go); I was planning (and still am) to wait until I get my own income and buy myself a much finer instrument after saving for a few years, and I guess the main choice is whether to wait longer and have a decent instrument in the meantime, or be stuck with the Clavinova while I wait. She also wants to sell her old violin, so this can help the expenses (even if we don't buy a piano, she wants to sell the violin anyway, since she has another one). My father is certainly against it, being more financially responsible than her, and I am not surprised that he is, but I would say we are quite comfortable financially, since, before my mother recently quit her job, she made a more than liveable amount of money, yet my father's income dwarfs that. The problem is that if I don't buy it, I may very well regret not taking advantage of such an opportunity-- as I've said, I've played lesser instruments that were more expensive, and this one also comes with a warranty and free first tuning. If I do buy it, though, I may regret the greater debt. I don't have to pay off my debt while I'm still in school, but I have no idea how easy or hard I'll have it afterwards.

Offline huaidongxi

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there is an archive for Nordheimer piano serial numbers and you should be able to confirm the period of its manufacture.  the numbers went up to 278xx, out of business around 1960.  they'd ceased as an independent maker in 1927, when Heintzman purchased them, so the pianos from '27 to '60 were made by Heintzman.  there are plenty of pianos still around from before '27, and the nordheimers in the first quarter of the 20th century were among the best made in Canada.  one source lists the serial # 21000 starting the year 1925, #22100 for 1930, if that helps you date the piano you're considering.

a few points of interest in your comments.  your own experience counts quite a bit, and you think it's a better piano than some you've played that were more expensive. 5'8 is at the upper size for small grands and there are some very well regarded pianos of that size, like steinway M's and the mason&hamlin model A.  you noted that its restoration work seemed to have been done well, and the tone seemed a bit bright.  a good technician would probably be able to change the tone closer to your preference if the origin is the hardness of the hammers combined with the piano being out of tune.  (s)he would also be able to assess what has been restored, and what you might expect in terms of future maintenance issues, given the likely age of the piano.  $6000 is not cheap for any piano, my guess you're in Canada, where there are still a number of Nordheimers around, and you might feel better if you found out if additional expenses will be required in the future.  old pianos aren't for everyone, but the best are very soulful and unique.  those of us fortunate to have great examples of pre-depression artisanship would not exchange them for modern pianos.  in that respect, the $6000 might be a good opportunity for you.

Offline alexjr1543

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I did not end up buying it. I called a technician to look at it (one who my piano teacher trusts), and he observed that the soundboard, pinblock, and frame were in good condition, and the hammers and dampers were new, but two of the strings were new as well, meaning the previous ones broke, and some keys made a slight buzzing noise, so he advised me not to get it. In fact, I don't even know why I made this topic, since I was going to do that anyway.

Offline huaidongxi

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just for your information and fun, you might look at the Mason and Hamlin model A's on ebay that have asking prices below $6000. in Laguna Beach the owner claims it's been perfectly maintained. regulated, voiced, asking $4900.