One might think that buying a piano would be fairly simple, play it and buy it if you like the sound. In a general sense this is true. But, when the brass tacks come out, it is very much not true. There are quite a few little items that come into play that, if ignored, will find you buying a pile of junk. The one very large rule to follow when considering the purchase of a piano is to have a Registered Piano Technician, not a piano tuner, check the thing out before you buy. Additionally, after he checks the piano out, allow some time for him to do a little research about what he has found.
Types of pianos
Before the ins and outs are gotten into consider the two types of pianos offered for sale. No electronic pianos here, just the real deal. There is the Grand piano and the up-right piano. Within each of these two types there are several sizes of piano. For the Grand piano type, the intermediary sizes include: parlor, baby, medium, semi-concert and concert. Each is generally distinguished by its length. Within the up-right piano category there are: spinet, consol, studio and professional.
Cars and food shopping
This comparison, when translated to shopping for a piano, is not all that far off the mark. If you consider shopping for a car, certain companies make a generally superior car, but certain models just don’t make it or brake down quite a bit. In other instances, a food company may sell its premium products for more, but changes just the tiniest of things and sells it under a store brand name. Most people would indicate that the German automobile manufacturers make a superior car, but where do they get some of their less critical parts? In each of these examples the same comparison could be made to pianos. The company may be in America or Germany, but is the company German owned and are the insides of the piano made by that company? Perhaps they are using a cheaper parts manufacturer from someplace where piano manufacturing is thought of as a pipe dream? All valid issues when choosing a piano, and good reasons to have you Registered Piano Technician along for an inspection, just like your car mechanic.
Who’s good and who’s not
Following the car analogy, good piano makers come in and out of favor over time. Volkswagen was hot when it came out, went out of favor and is back again. Thinking about pianos, Germany is generally hot for pianos although you’ll need to make sure who owns the company at the moment. The United States is generally good but in some cases they have been influenced by Asian companies outsourcing to them for cheaper parts (yes, you read correctly.) Japan and Korea were on the outs but they have slowly improved their quality through buying other non-Asian piano companies. The real important country to stay away from, at the moment, is any piano made in China.
Who, what, where and when
Chinas’ poor reputation raises perhaps the most important aspect of this writing. There is a number on every piano. With this number your Registered Piano Technician can tell you everything you will need to know about that particular piano. Where it was made, who owns the company, when the company changed hands and where the actions were manufactured. The number is sort of like a VIN number for a car.
25,000 pianos and counting
Some have suggested that over the last two centuries there have been well over 25,000 brands of pianos. That is brands and not models, brands. With this in mind it is rather difficult to give a solid representation of what to look for when you are searching for that one piano based on brand. Not wanting to return to the car analogy, but, if you sit in the right car you just now that that car is the right one for you. A piano is pretty much the same idea. When you play it you just feel that the sound and action just works right for your fingers and ears. Remember that you are the one that will be hearing the piano the most. You are the one that needs to like its sounds.
A few word description on a few pianos
Baldwin-a good piano, Bechstien-high end, Boston –very good, Charles Walters –high quality, Knabe –medium quality, Kranich & Bach –current model not so good, Steinway – a good piano but sounds to taste, Yamaha – wonderful, Wurlitzer – not so ok. Thanks to marbeth.
Buying the piano
The real thing about buying a piano is to play it and enjoy the sound. Have it checked out buy somebody that really knows their stuff. You are buying the piano for yourself and not as an investment. Pianos hold little value except to the owner/player.