As lovely and elegant as pianos can be, and as many memories one might have of plunking away at “Heart and Soul,” if you’ve got one that doesn’t work and aren’t willing to spend the money to fix it, it just turns into a huge piece of furniture taking up room in your home. Since the value of used pianos, uprights in particular, has gone down in recent years, owners are starting to dump pianos instead of trying to fix them or giving them away.
The New York Times says it’s becoming increasingly common for piano movers to turn into piano dumpers, as owners of used pianos call them to dispose of non-working instruments. Sometimes the movers take them apart to sell off pieces or even burn them as firewood.
All those working parts that come together inside a piano to produce beautiful music are also very expensive to repair, and require the attention of skilled experts. There are less of those technicians around these days, however, while music lovers can get a kick from less expensive digital pianos and keyboards, as well as cheaper imported pianos.
“Instead of spending hundreds or thousands to repair an old piano, you can buy a new one made in China that’s just as good, or you can buy a digital one that doesn’t need tuning and has all kinds of bells and whistles,” the editor and publisher of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer tells the NYT.
Unsurprisingly, many people have grown attached to these instruments, whether because they used to play it at grandma’s house when she was alive, or because we can remember peeking at the inside of a piano and marveling that such a huge mechanism could create such delicate sounds. But when grandma dies or your apartment becomes too small to accommodate an upright piano, the dump is sometimes the only way to go.
Since pianos usually last about 80 years, with the peak of piano-making in America hitting between 1900-1930, thousands of pianos are now arriving at the age where it’s time to go.
One piano moving company said it brings around five to 10 pianos a month to a debris transfer site, where they’re pushed off the back of the truck one by one. It costs the owners $150 per piano to get one hauled away, while it can cost thousands just to fix one.
The founder of a piano adoption web site says he tries to find homes for unwanted pianos, but that’s not always an option, despite the outcry from piano lovers who have seen videos of dumped pianos.
When owners ask where a cherished piano is going, he said, he tries to avoid the subject or tells them it will be put up for adoption.
“The last thing they want to hear is that it’s going to a landfill,” he said.
For More Pianos, Last Note Is Thud in the Dump [New York Times]