Purchase of a Piano
A Quality Piano is one of the
very few investments that can be handed down for
several generations, and yet be used for the
enjoyment of each and every one.
There are many things to
consider when purchasing a piano. These include not only
budgetary considerations, but also its purpose and where
it is to be located.
Most people have a budget within
which they need to stay. Although those budget numbers
will vary considerably for each of us, the principle
of getting the best quality possible within your
budget is paramount in the purchase of a piano.
The serviceable life of a piano often exceeds 50
years. Many high quality pianos will last up to 100
years – and then get rebuilt to last 100 more!
Therefore, if you get the right piano to start with,
then you may never need to get another one.
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Acoustic pianos fall into three primary
price or quality ranges. These are the high end hand
made pianos, high end mass produced pianos, and entry
level mass produced pianos.
Hand made pianos
include brands such as Mason & Hamlin, Bösendorfer, Fazioli,
Steinway, and so on. Yamaha
and Kawai also make high end hand made pianos. This
group of pianos will start in excess of $50,000 for
a grand piano and around half that for a vertical
High end mass produced
pianos are made to exacting standards, with
high quality materials. A piano of this type should
last for generations and be a joy to play, even for
the most discerning of players. These pianos will
start in the mid teens and can range upwards of six
figures for grand pianos and start at around $8,000
for vertical pianos.
Entry level pianos
are generally of a good quality but would not be
considered “performance” pianos. They are suitable to
learn on and, if properly maintained, should give many
years of good service. However, if the player is
aiming for Carnegie Hall then a better quality piano
will be needed at some point. Entry level grand pianos
will generally start at around $10,000 and verticals
will start at about $6,000.
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Everything pertaining to new pianos will
apply to used pianos. However, there are extra things
to be aware of when considering a used piano.
The age of a piano may be determined by
the piano's serial number. By referencing the
manufacturer and the serial number a technician can
find the age of a piano. Although the age of a piano
alone is not the sole reason to purchase (or leave) a
piano, it is good to know as pianos do have a finite
The inside condition of a used piano is of
utmost importance. Many older pianos have excellent
cabinets but the contents do not necessarily match
the cabinet. Reputable dealers will put a warranty
on their used pianos. If you are looking at a
private seller's piano then you should get it
checked by a piano technician before you purchase
Here is a quick checklist which will
help to narrow down a search for a used piano. A
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There are many different types of piano
available today. These include Grand, Vertical, and
Digital. Each of these groups can then be divided into
Grand piano can range from concert
grands, through conservatory grands, right down to
baby grands. The concert grands can exceed nine feet
in length, and baby grands can be as small as 4'8”.
The size of a grand piano is measured from the back of
the piano to the front. Virtually all grand pianos are
about 60” wide.
With all else being equal, the longer the piano – the
better the sound. This is not just a matter of being
louder, but it is also quality of sound. This is
similar to driving along the Interstate in different
cars. A small car with a little engine will drive
quite happily at the speed limit, but a bigger car
with a big engine will do the same speed much more
comfortably. In the same way, a larger piano will
sound, and play, better than a small one.
In fact, a high quality large piano will not only
allow you to play louder than a small piano, it will
also allow you to play quieter. The total dynamic
range will increase with piano length, not only the
quality of the sound.
The “Action”, or working mechanical parts of the
keyboard, of a grand piano is more efficient than that
of a vertical piano. This is because the downward
pressure on a key (note) pushes the hammer upwards to
strike the string, and then gravity and bounce pull it
down again. The vertical piano has to transform the
vertical movement of the key to a horizontal movement
for the hammer. The hammer then needs strings and
springs to pull it back from striking the string.
This allows for more control and a faster response on
the grand piano. The result is that the person playing
the piano is able to play with more feeling and
expression, thus making better music for everyone.
Just as a longer grand piano is better
than a shorter one, so a taller vertical piano is
better than a short one.
The tallest pianos made today are about 52” from the
floor to the top of the piano, the shortest are about
42”. The shortest pianos made in the USA were about
37” tall and (thankfully) are no longer made. These
short pianos are called “Spinets”
It is generally recommended that people do not
purchase spinet pianos due to the difficulty (read
“expense”) in servicing the mechanical components of
the action, and other problems associated with such
Sometimes purchasing an inexpensive piano can cost
more by the time it is made and kept playable. In
addition to that, someone learning to play the piano
cannot learn the required skills required for musical
expression if the piano is not capable of responding
to the piano player. Many years of piano lessons have
been compromised because the student was trying to
practice on a piano that could not adequately respond
to the player.
Digital pianos have been around since
the early 1980's. The quality has improved
phenomenally in that time. A modern, high quality,
digital piano is an instrument well worth considering.
For a serious piano player or student considering a
digital piano there are several things to consider.
The touch of the keyboard is extremely important for a
piano player. Marketing terms such as “touch
Sensitive”, “Weighted Action”, “Light Weighted
Action”, and several others can have several different
“understandings” when used by sales people and
marketers. It is important to know exactly what is on
a particular digital piano before making a decision.
The quality of the piano is very important with a
digital piano. Even top end manufacturers such as
Yamaha have different ranges of digital pianos, and
sometimes the specifications may be confusing.
A good quality digital piano will have a parts and
labor warranty of several years. They will also have
“in-home” service if there is a problem, rather than a
“return to manufacturer” warranty.