By Gregory Cheng, RPT
This is the final article in the series on piano evaluations by Gregory Cheng. Be sure to also read Appraisals: It's Not That Simple and Thorough Piano Inspecting.
Once you have completed the piano inspection, you should prepare a report on the condition of the piano. It is important to remember your audience when writing an inspection report. You are not writing for another piano technician, and even if your client is a piano teacher or music professor you should keep your language out of the technical realm and make your report readable for a general audience.
Your letter should be in a professional business letter format with the date you wrote the letter, your address, and your client’s address. View a sample here.
The regarding line should be centered and bold. It will include the make, model, serial number, finish, and the original date of manufacturing. When looking up original manufacturing dates, do not trust the internet unless it is coming directly from the manufacturer’s page. I recommend owning a copy of the most recently published Pierce Piano Atlas.
Your salutation should be in the formal greeting using Mr/Mrs, or Dr/Professor, etc.
The first paragraph should state the date you inspected the piano, refer to the full make, model, serial number, and the original manufacturing date. Continue with the purpose of the inspection and current status of production or manufacturer’s end date. Finally, end with the overall condition of the piano.
Dear Mr. Smith,
On April 8th, 2019, at your request, I inspected the Yamaha C7, serial number 85-----, in satin ebony finish, originally manufactured in 1969 by Yamaha in Japan. The Yamaha C series of pianos was discontinued in 2012 and replaced with the CX series. This piano was confirmed by the Yamaha Corporation of America to be a United States Market piano and not a “gray market” Yamaha. The piano has ivorite keytops. The piano’s overall condition is fair.
The next paragraph or two should define the overall condition of the piano. If it is in poor condition, you should state very clearly why your inspection yielded this report. Cite specific parts of the piano, but write in general terms that everyone will understand. Instead of saying, “The action is suffering from verdigris and has no aftertouch,” try more common terms like, “The keys are sluggish due to excessive friction.”
There is a balance between good information and too much information. Your letter should be concise and should only contain information that is most pertinent to your client. Do not include filler information for the sake of looking more knowledgeable. For example, you should mention the current pin torque readings and if it is good or bad, but there is no need to get into what pin torque is or lecture on what good pin torque should be.
The keyboard action requires maintenance and restoration. The hammers have deep string grooves and have been worn flat. One or more of the hammer glue joints have failed, causing the hammer(s) to be loose at the end of the shank(s). The balance rail pins are rusted, and there is excessive side play at the front of the keys. The sides of the sharp keys have been worn down to the bare wood. The ivory keytops have yellowed, and some of the key tops are cracked. The key-stop rail is improperly installed and is missing parts.
If you are including pictures with your letter, you need to label them properly and cite them in the paragraph. You do not need to use all the pictures you took on the inspection, just the ones most pertinent to display the condition of the piano. The photos should be attached after the document. When I do an inspection, I probably take 100 photos of the piano and all its parts, but including 100 photos in your letter is unnecessary. I typically do not include photos unless absolutely necessary, with the mention that additional photos can be provided on request.
The last paragraph is the action to be taken depending on the situation for which you are conducting the inspection. Your choice of words here is critical. An estimate for rebuilding must include dates the price of the rebuild is accepted and contact information of the rebuilder. You don’t want a customer coming out of the woodwork ten years after you have done an estimate demanding they pay a ten-year-old rebuild price.
Finally, your closing paragraph should contain your contact email and phone as well as a thank you. You could also mention that you have more photos available upon request.
Do yourself a favor if writing and editing is not your forte. There are plenty of online services that will proofread and return a clean copy for you to send to your customer. I use https://www.scribendi.com/ Their turnaround time is reasonable as are their prices. There are other such services as well. Grammarly is also easy to use and very affordable.
Including values in your evaluation should not be taken lightly. Before you assign a monetary value to a piano, read Appraisals: It's Not That Simple to be sure you know what you're getting into.
If the piano you are evaluating has ivory keytops, you should include a disclaimer.
Retail market values can vary considerably over time based on the supply of and demand for pre-owned pianos in the marketplace. Due to the legal obstacles regarding the sale and resale of ivory, [COMPANY NAME] cannot give an actual value for this instrument. However, based upon the condition of the instrument, the current economic conditions, and the current asking price of instruments of similar age and condition for sale, we estimate the retail value for a similar instrument, without ivory, would be $____*. The value of such an instrument to a dealer (wholesale value) would be substantially less, as any dealer would need to, among other costs, pay to move, prepare, repair, market, and warrant the instrument, then pay a commission to the salesperson who sells it, while also making a reasonable profit.
*this value was determined by retailers, not the technician.
If your evaluation includes an estimate for a repair that a third party will be doing, you should word the estimate very carefully being sure to include the information from which you got the quote.
A local, respected, piano refinisher J--- S-----, barring any unanticipated complications, quotes $----- plus cartage and tax totaling in $-----*. This would include refinishing the piano, polishing the brass hardware and repairing stripped screw holes and replacing any missing screws.
J--- S------ can be reached at ###-###-####
*this value was provided by the refinisher, not the technician.