So you’re in the market for a piano to start piano lessons or to upgrade from your existing piano or keyboard? Here’s some buying tips for purchasing a piano.
Piano or keyboard? See this previous post.
TYPES of PIANOS
Broadly speaking, pianos come in three forms: spinet, upright, or grand pianos. See the differences here. There is a false notion that grand pianos are always good and upright pianos are always sub-par. That is simply not true. Factors like the state of repair, brand, country of origin, and maintenance will impact the kind of piano that works best for you.
NEW or USED
Again, the answer is murky. An all-wood, well-maintained used piano is usually better than new piano with a poor build quality, plastic pieces, and a thin sound. Likewise, a Steinway piano that was left in a garage for 50 years will never make a lovely sound again. Better to have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, rather than assume that new is better or that one brand is always good.
So with all this murkiness, where do I start?
Let’s start with the easy questions.
- What is your budget for this piano?
- What are your goals for the purchase of this piano? Are you hoping to develop a more professional tone (grand) or are you hoping to begin piano lessons (dealer’s choice)?
- How much room do you have for this piano? Grand pianos take up a lot of real estate in a living room.
- Do you care about the case of the piano? Some times a piano may look rough or have dings in the wood, but have a lovely action inside.
- Is wood tone or finish important to you?
Once you have determined these questions, it’s time to begin browsing. New pianos are usually purchased from a music store. Used pianos might be purchased from a music store, inherited from a family member, or purchased from a private seller. There are pros and cons to each way. Regardless of new or used, here’s what I look for when I look at pianos.
- What brand is it? I tend to enjoy older American pianos like Steinway, Baldwin, or Mason & Hamlin. I enjoy newer Japanese pianos like Yamaha or Kawaii. There’s a few brands that I would never, ever, ever purchase. You can contact me for those.
- What does Larry Fine or the Piano Buyer say about the value of the piano?
- Does it include a bench? Does it include the move? First tune? Tunings for a year?
- What do the hammers look like? Dusty, rutted, and frayed? Best to turn away.
- What do the strings look like? Broken and rusted? That piano is busted.
- What does the soundboard look like? Shrunken and cracked? Take that piano back.
Here’s my number one piece of advice when purchasing a piano:
Truly, you can lose big if you purchase a piano without assistance. If the seller does not want you to bring a piano technician to the purchase, walk away. A tuner WILL charge you to look at the instrument, but it is still infinitely cheaper than restoring a piano.
Interested in being connected to a tuner or have a specific question? Contact Julia for more information.