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
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.
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
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 piano.
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 $8-10,000 and verticals
will start at about $5,000.
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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 smaller groups.
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
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
The tallest pianos currently manufactured 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 expense in servicing the
mechanical components of the action, and other problems
associated with such small pianos.
Sometimes purchasing an inexpensive piano can end up
costing more by the time it is brought into playable
condition. Someone learning to play the piano cannot
learn the required skills for musical expression if the
piano is not capable of responding to the 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 may be an instrument
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
However, the lifespan of a digital piano will not be as
long as a quality acoustic piano.
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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, which should be good - as long as
the dealer is still in business.
If you are looking at a used piano then you should get
it checked by a piano technician before you purchase
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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