So you want to buy a piano…
Your choices are:
1. Buy a new piano.
A new piano is an attractive choice. In this society, we tend towards replacing something when it breaks or when it seems “Old-Fashioned”.
This is a relatively new ideal. Not too long ago, an entire service industry was founded on repair. Now, cobblers and tailors are rare, bespoke boutiques. There used to be a Radio Shack on the corner where you could buy vacuum tubes, capacitors and resistors, and needles for the record player. Now, if you do need something repaired, you send it back to the manufacturer who just throws your broken item out, and replaces it with a new one.
I’m not making a value judgement on the technology itself, mind you. The “good ‘ol days” are gone for good. No one in their right mind would trade the internet for the three-channel cathode-tube T.V.
However, the true cost of this modern age is environmental. It is undeniable. To throw away a “Thing” not only results in landfills filling up, but in the raw material to make a thing becoming scarcer. To make a new thing, more raw materials must be mined, dredged or smelted, resulting in even more destruction. Even to make a new wooden thing means either felling virgin forests or planting new ones – which is a slow process which cannot keep up with the pace of demand.
A case in point: England in the Neo-lithic era was densely covered in native trees. Modern England has trees only where they have been planted. Where did the trees go? They were fashioned into temporary disposable things which no longer exist. Why were trees replanted? Because they look nice. The fabled Sherwood forest covers a mere 1.5 square miles, yet it attracts a million visitors per year. Half of that forest isn’t even forest at all, it is actually a neighbouring area of dry lowland heath which was incorporated into the protected area so that visitors would have a place to park and picnic. Currently in England, new trees are only planted on private land. Public land is few and far between.
But, I digress.
If you buy a new piano, the new material it is made from has to come from somewhere. Raw wood, iron ore, and wool felt are somewhat recyclable, but the synthetic glue, plastic, chemical finishes used on new pianos are not. On top of this, the processes used to produce them results in toxic waste.
Then the finished piano has to be transported. Over 90% of new pianos come from the far east. If you see a new piano at a cheap price, just imagine what must have transpired to get that piano from there to here. Not only did the environment suffer, but I can guarantee you that many human beings had to suffer along the way.
That cheap new piano is not recyclable. It WILL end up in a land fill. No one will bother to repair or rebuild it in the future because it is, well, cheap.
2. Buy a used piano.
If you buy used, your choices are:
1. Buy a piano made outside of North America.
Environmentally speaking, this is a somewhat better choice – If the piano was hand-made, using natural materials, even better. It still had to come a long way to get here, though.
2. Buy a North American made piano.
This limited choice is further limited by the sad fact that few north American Piano manufacturers were able to compete with the influx of the cheap far-east makes without drastically sacrificing quality. In most cases, they have gone the way of the milkman. The only piano makers who have survived are basically like the aforementioned bespoke boutique craftsmen – The United States currently produces roughly 3,500 pianos a year. China, over a half-million. As a result, to find a good, used, locally-made piano is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Also, If you buy used, you have further choices:
1. Buy a piano from a friend, a neighbour, or on-line
Buying a used piano is like buying a used car – if you don’t know pianos, you don’t know what you are buying. A seller is motivated to sell, and too often this means a certain amount of prevarication regarding the item’s quality or condition. If you are not a piano expert, you should ask someone who is, before you buy.
2. Buy a piano from Paul Hahn & Co.
We are literally True Piano Experts. We don’t sell new pianos. We basically sell one thing, and one thing only: Service.
Yes, we sell pianos – used pianos that we have serviced – either reconditioned, refinished or rebuilt.
We do not sell new pianos that have either made the long and environmentally expensive journey to get here, or the aforementioned boutique pianos with the necessary high price tag that comes with a custom item.
If you can afford to buy a new Steinway, by all means, support American-made craftsmanship. However, we believe that craftsmanship is timeless and worth preserving. We sell Steinways and Toronto-made Heintzmans and Nordheimers from their golden era which we have lovingly restored. We do this in-house, by hand, and have been doing this for over one-hundred and six years.
We believe that selling our rebuilt pianos, which we warranty and will continue to service for the years to come, is the environmentally and historically responsible choice.
We also believe that it is the best musical choice as well!
Paul Hahn & Co. – Saving the world… one piano at a time.
- Jamie Musselwhite.