Put some music on your vacation

If you plan to sing along this holiday season, someone should bring a piano. Or maybe a guitar. As we all know, Santa Claus can never carry a melody. Nonetheless, vintage musical instruments have long been a popular category for collectors, and the range of options is nearly endless. Let’s stick with modern times as we hit some high notes below.

At the dawn of the 20th century, the piano was unquestionably the instrument of choice for wealthy households in the Western world. Long before wireless broadcasting and the digital age, a piano in the living room was the primary source of home entertainment. The demand for pianos was high and the choices were many. The best ones were made in Germany and had names like Bechstein, Steinweg and Blüthner.

The first flutes like this made in the USA from a silver/brass alloy would last a lifetime.

In America, Henry Steinway was at the top of the piano makers, dominating the home market for much of the last 150 years. Steinway was born in Germany and trained as a piano maker before bringing his family to America in 1850. He landed in New York and three years later founded Steinway & Sons. After the Civil War, he established Steinway Hall in New York as a showcase for artists and instruments. It turned out to be a brilliant move, linking as it did the Steinway name to top quality musical performance.

Meanwhile, competition continued among piano makers, with those in Europe focusing primarily on quality while those in England and America focused on innovation. There were foldable pianos for yachts, pianos made to look like furniture, and furniture made to look like pianos. Around the turn of the century, the player piano, or pianola, was developed, allowing households lacking musical talent to enjoy semi-live entertainment. The piano keys were pressed down through clever use of air pressure with strategically perforated paper rolls generating the melody. Many American luthiers rallied to this new concept and pianolas were exported by the thousands to Europe until the start of the Second World War.

Les Paul guitars are still made today.  Those from Gibson can cost thousands of dollars while others made overseas cost much less.

OK, so much for the pianos. They are large and unsightly and probably require more space than you have on the floor. The guitar was another staple of early home entertainment, and its history extends to 16th century Spain and even earlier. Evidence of stringed instruments actually dates back thousands of years with ancient versions first appearing in the Middle East. The development of the modern flattop guitar is usually credited to CF Martin while Orville Gibson gets the credit for the archtop guitar. Electric guitars appeared in 1931, finally ruining the hearing of an entire generation of music enthusiasts. Other notables in the evolution of guitars include Les Paul and his Gibson solid body guitars and Leo Fender with his introduction of the Fender Telecaster in 1951.

Among collectors today, Les Paul and Leo Fender are the two most sought after names. Les Paul was an accomplished guitarist who helped Gibson put his name to a new line of guitars beginning in 1952. In the late 1950s the Les Paul Sunburst was introduced, an innovative electric guitar that had been manufactured for less than three years old and considered a commercial guitar. fiasco. Redesigned in the early 1960s, it was revived with much greater success, and Les Paul guitars are among the most recognized guitars on the planet today.

Likewise, Fender Telecasters were introduced in 1951, making them the world’s first successful mass-produced electric guitar. Along with its cousin Stratocaster, these remain hugely popular with enthusiasts with rare models selling well into the five figures. Guitars from these two legendary manufacturers are beautiful, versatile and played by many of the world’s most prominent artists. If you’re looking for a guitar, either for yourself or for a gift, you can’t go wrong if you keep the names Les Paul and Leo Fender in mind.

Mike Rivkin

Mike Rivkin and his wife, Linda, are longtime residents of Rancho Mirage. For many years he was an award-winning catalog editor and authored seven books, as well as countless articles. Now he is the owner of the Palm Springs Antique Galleries. His column on antiques appears on Saturdays in The Desert Sun. Want to send Mike a question about antiques? Write to him at [email protected].

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