01 May 2024

There's No Such Thing as a Cheap Piano

"Buying cheap to save money is like stopping the clock to save time. Neither works."

--Napoleon Hill

(C) Cable-Nelson

Sometime in the late 1950s, my Mother purchased a Cable-Nelson spinet piano and enrolled me at the Edward Cullinan Studios in Benton Harbor, Michigan. 

While less well-known than Yamaha, Bösendorfer, and Steinway & Sons, Cable-Nelson was a successful manufacturer who built well-made instruments. They survived the Great Depression and manufactured various brand names until the 1980s.  

Although I was unaware then, Lydia Bredholt, a pianist, taught me the importance of quality products (Cable-Nelson) and people (Edward Cullinan). Over time, I also learned that high values and culture are obtainable, no matter one's status in life. 

In 2004, that same Cable-Nelson piano was loaded on a rented trailer in Florida and carried away to our daughter Jordan's home in Virginia. Later, our grandchildren will play, too--nearly 60 years after its original purchase.    

More than weekly piano lessons and practicing (who likes to practice?), our Mother knew that attempting to play Swans on the Lake or The Man in the Moon from John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano (First Grade) opened the door to a world of creative expression that would provide a lifetime of enjoyment. 

That includes composing and orchestrating songs for our grandsons and granddaughters with the help of arranger Jerry Nelson.

"Without music, life would be a mistake," said Friedrich Nietzsche.

Cheap can be expensive

Recently, it was decided to replace the Cable-Nelson piano. A decade-old digital baby grand was found online, and it happened to be owned by someone nearby. Looking for a good buy, the price was agreed upon, and the piano was delivered to our home. 

However, it only took a short time for a $400 instrument to become an $800 transaction. The keyboard needed work, and the electronics were updated. The piano's computer system will require additional upgrades, the cost of which remains to be determined. 

Nevertheless, our 10-year-old grandson, Andrew, visited and admirably performed the theme from Star Wars. Additionally, the ebony piano is an attractive piece of furniture in our living room. 

So all is not lost. 

Piano lessons

Buying a piano is like buying a used car--it's a challenge for anyone.

LivingPiano.com says, "You can buy a piano cheap or get one free, but the amount of work you have to put in them varies greatly."

"Choosing the cheapest option may mean sacrificing quality, which can lead to additional costs in the long run," writes Matt Heller, who advises on these purchases.

The conclusion is that we will pay now or later (as I am doing), but we will pay.

Everyone likes a bargain--especially the well-to-do. But sometimes, within reason, paying the price to get what we want is necessary. Buying fewer but nicer things makes that possible.

May is a month of commencement and a time to reflect on the generosity of those who cared for us most. While they pass, their legacy lives.

As the Swedish group ABBA sang, "I say thank you for the music, for giving it to me."


©  Bredholt & Co.