Buying a piano
We do have a range of pianos for sale, but it would be impossible to display them fairly here on the internet, – the discerning pianist simply can not buy a piano over the net – a piano is a personal thing and you must try before you buy! If you are needing a quality instrument let us know, tell us your requirements and we will let you know what we have to suit your need. There is no need to panic buy – take your time because, after all, you will have the piano in your home for a long time.
email us : firstname.lastname@example.org All we need to know at this early stage is the use you have for the piano and the intended price range, we can then forward you the details of what we feel is the piano for you.
Following is important information about buying pianos – you are about to make a large investment, the more information you have will help you make the right decision, please read it all!
Not even the most gifted poet can quite capture the joy we feel when beautiful music touches our lives. Certainly personal joy is what playing the piano is about. Thus, selecting your own piano becomes as much an emotional event as a rational decision.
The heart of the matter comes down to the sound of the piano. Even a very inexperienced student, when striking a chord or two, senses the difference between the dutiful, machine-like response of a mass-produced piano and the sonorous, richly textured sound of an instrument lovingly made by hand.
In the world today there are many pianos – . The reason a piano touches the emotional chords is the quality of materials, the heritage of genius, and the devoted craftsmanship with which each instrument is endowed.
So the first step is to play the piano. Listen to the sound. Then listen to your heart.
“With the modern piano, the fullest spectrum of sound and palette of tonal color can be at one’s disposal. The piano is capable of not only large sonorities, but also the softest and most intimate whisperings.”
A piano is a very tactile creation. One can almost feel the music through the keys. And the superior instrument has both exquisite sensitivity and precision literally built into it.
As you consider which piano to purchase, you owe it to yourself to sit down and test each one. It should be effortless, noiseless and instantly responsive. You will be able to trill and repeat notes cleanly, as fast as your fingers can move.
An investment is a possession acquired for future benefit, with the expectation it will increase in value. Once you judge a piano from this perspective, the field is dramatically narrowed. You need to buy quality and the best you can afford at the time. Invest in a quality instrument and the return you enjoy in musical perfection is limitless. Its appreciation in monetary value, moreover, is not only predictable but very satisfying.
Forbes magazine calculated that over a ten year period the retail value of a Steinway concert grand increased by 200%. Steinways built between 1929 and 1958 now sell for 5.8 times their original prices, while those built from l959 to 1978 are selling for 2.8 times their original value.
Indeed, few things in life – including fine paintings and classic cars – compete with the investment performance of a quality piano.
Other piano makers would prefer you not judge their instruments against a benchmark of value. Because the comparison invariably proves an expensive quality piano is, over time, the least expensive piano anyone can buy.
Children instinctively appreciate the quality of a superior instrument. Quality instruments can help them learn faster, play longer because they enjoy the sound so much more, and inspire them to stretch to the limit of their talent.
And what is true for young talent is true for those old enough to enrich their own future. There is no finer gift for a child, or one that promises more joy and pleasure for you, than a lifetime of incomparable music.
Buying a piano is exciting. The piano is capable of being one of the most important investments a family can make. It can be a gateway to the arts, a vehicle for educational and mental discipline, a central focal point for family activity, a canvas for creativity and fuel for the soul. Piano Services goal with every customer is to make the purchasing experience a pleasant and rewarding one.
Most people reaching have never bought a piano before, so this page is set up to help people recognize and avoid some of the “sounds-too-good-to-be-true” claims and other sales-related mischief employed by some high pressure dealers in their marketing and/or presentations.
With almost any high value item, there are professional dealers and there are… not so professional dealers. Piano Services promises your buying experience will be free of the following (and any other) “gimmicks to avoid”. If you need help separating the wheat from the chaff, please don’t hesitate to ask us for a valuation on any piano you are looking at in any other place.
Hopefully the following won’t occur during your shopping experience, but if it does, you’ll be ready for it!
Everybody loves a bargain – so getting a piano via TradeMe seems like a good idea. It could be, but there are a few things to think about first.
1: Why is the piano on TradeMe? Generally most pianos on TradeMe are there because the Professional Piano industry do not want that particular piano. People who work in this industry generally have first pick of the pianos (the seller ring up wanting to know the value, if its a worth while piano, the professional tuner has the opportunity to purchase it). TradeMe within the industry is known as the “piano grave yard”.
2: Has TradeMe hurt the professional Piano Tuner? There are at times potentially good pianos on TradeMe that traditionally a piano tuner would have bought to do up, get working correctly, spend heaps of time repairing and then sell as a speculation piano, waiting some time to get their money from the work they have done. Now what happens is that the public buy the pianos and then get us to do the repair work, which we get paid for immediately – a far better option for the tuner. This is why I love TradeMe!
3: Do professional Tuners sell pianos on TradeMe? Some do and they come up with some very creative reasons why their piano is the best. What the buyer needs to know is if the professional tuner is a member of the Piano Tuners and Technician Guild or not. Buying from an un-registered person is like buying a second hand car from someone who is not a member of the Motor Trades Association. A investment in piano and musical education is too big for the piano tuner to ride a horse.
TradeMe was a freighting thing when it first hit the market but is has now settled down and has found it’s place within the piano industry. Sometimes the public will have a piano listed on TradeMe that is not selling – their next action is to contact the professional tuner asking them to sell it or buy it. If a piano has been listed on TradeMe , our company policy is to never bring the piano to our showroom for sale. Experience has proven that any un-sold piano that has been listed on TradeMe will never sell in a piano showroom – the investment value of the instrument has been destroyed by the failed TradeMe listing.
The following activities certainly don’t take place in every city of New Zealand, but they are popular, age-old tactics often used in assisting unsuspecting consumers to prematurely part with their hard-earned dollars.
Gimmick 1 The Traveling Circus: Weekend sales at random locations such as armories, vacant buildings, alleys, etc. ( The Portable Store)
Gimmick 2 Free In-Home Lessons With Purchase
Gimmick 3 Used Pianos From $499!
Gimmick 4 The On-going Store Closing Sale (“Save 60%…70%…80%!”)
Weekend sales at random locations such as armories, vacant buildings, alleys, etc. ( The Portable Store)
Piano sales that travel from location to location every week are often frightful experiences featuring high-pressure sales tactics with fictitious discounts. These sales typically have huge overheads featuring astronomical advertising budgets and moving expenses, which can only be recouped by high prices. With retail prices inflated to mythical levels, the ensuing “negotiations” may entice you to perceive that you are getting big savings, when in fact, you may be still be paying much more than you would have at a competitive storefront. In some instances the fiercely “negotiated” price is actually still MORE THAN THE TRUE RETAIL PRICE!
Additionally, the salespeople as these events are well-heeled in the school of theatrics. They profess to be concert pianists, music teachers, piano tuners… anything except the master showmen they so often are. The environment created is one of unprecedented urgency, preying on the feeding frenzy often created by the noise of clashing piano demonstrations – hardly the way to evaluate a multi-thousand dollar musical instrument.
Making matters more difficult, these traveling pianos are rarely in good enough tune to judge tone. After weekly moves in bouncy box vans, the regulation is invariably out of adjustment and the condition of the cabinets often reveal their tales of woe.
To top it all off, the whole event is staged as some sort of unique, wholesale-type opportunity, when in fact there IS a dealer behind the scenes, whether or not it is disclosed in the advertising campaign. The intention is to make it look like a one-off event, removing as they say the overheads to produce considerable savings. This is hardly the case. In fact, unheard of entities are usually disclosed as the “sponsor”, while phone numbers are conveniently missing from the ads so the only way for you to gain additional information is to drive there and get thrown in the ringer.
Despite extraordinary claims of customer service, buy-back policies, and terrific deals, these lofty promises are often not met, if they even existed in the first place. These theatrical events are well-oiled product-moving machines featuring high budgets, high pressure, high margin, and low service.
These activities prey upon consumers’ lack of knowledge about pianos. Be assured at these portable stores (which is what they really are), your best interests are hardly being properly addressed, let alone served.
Let the buyer beware.
This is like someone choosing your babysitter for you. Choosing the right piano teacher is an important as choosing the right piano. Unless they are willing to allow you to select the teacher yourself, with them footing the bill, take a pass on this offer. And if they ARE willing to do this, why don’t they just take the cost of these lessons off the price of the piano in the first place?!
Most reputed piano dealers could have them starting at “free”, but they wouldn’t deliver them to their worst enemy. Pianos advertised for “$499 on up” redefine the term “eyesore”. They know it. You don’t – at least not until you actually pay a visit to the offending showroom/warehouse/ home/garage sale to see the old upright. It is at this point you are lead to exponentially more expensive instruments. Other times, the $499 special may be almost respectable looking, but inside looms a Piano-Shaped Object (PSO) with one foot in the grave, and the other clutching onto a bass string. In neither case will you be walking out with a $500 piano. With any luck, you’ll at least walk out wiser. Put it this way: a really nice piano stool, delivered, can cost $499. If this is the price range you were thinking, save your money.
The claims of “limited inventory” often subtitle the event – yes, limited to what the manufacturers can continue to pour into the store during the “sale.” Rarely are these events closely monitored by the governing agencies, so the veracity of the sale’s claims can often be challenged and easily refuted. Rampant claims of 60% savings or more should insult a consumer’s intelligence. Remember, the funding of a media blitz for such a sale needs to be recouped, as this event isn’t being held out of the goodness of the dealer’s hearts! In many instances, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price is shelved in favor of a dealer-created “suggested list” or “regular price” which is nothing more than a heavy inflated, fictitious price from which these “discounts” can be claimed.The most amusing part of these events is that if you did some history on the company hosting the event, you may find out that “store opening” and “store closing” sales are a regular part of their marketing – with one happening within months of another. In other words, “let the buyer beware.”
The piano is capable of being one of the most important investments a family can make. It can be a gateway to the arts, a vehicle for educational and mental discipline, the epicenter for family unity, a canvas for creativity and fuel for the soul.
The following list of FAQs are age-old in the piano business and timeless in their validity. We hope these will help in your search for a piano. Not all may be applicable for every reader, but all of our answers are brutally honest. So if you’re in need of some answers, the buck starts here!
- How much are used pianos? That question is about as difficult to answer as asking a car dealer, “how much are used cars?” Just as there are used cars resting in back yards needing cost-prohibitive restoration, there are vertical pianos and grand pianos in basements, living rooms and even garages all over the world needing cost-prohibitive restoration. In both cases, an accurate answer might be, “free, and any price up from there.”
Similarly, there are good-quality, “low-mileage” used cars that might cost tens of thousands of dollars… as well as good-quality used pianos costing that much or more! The big difference is that with cars, most people at least know the brands, know the features they want, and have many consumer publications to help them out.
Indeed it is true that the piano is a much more obscure product, with very little, if any, accurate and/or thorough information to assist in the process of ascertaining the value of a particular used piano. It becomes all the more important to establish a working relationship with a reputable member of the PPTG.
- How can I establish value when looking at a piano? What makes one piano better than another rarely meets the eye, yet such intangibles can cause prices to hit the ceiling… or the floor. If you are considering a used piano, a trustworthy PPTG member is of paramount importance, as they are your only liaison to happiness with your piano.
- How much is my piano worth? Get it valued on our valuation page. It is an impossibility to begin to discuss even a “ballpark” range for most used pianos without it being dismantled and in front of the person being asked to evaluate it. Pianos can contain upwards of 12,000 parts, 10,000 of which need to move within their neighboring parts with tolerances of <1/1000th of an inch… for decades!
You can describe how beautiful the case is… its magnificent history in your family and how well it was cared for… how much of an antique it is (almost always a detriment)… but neither you, nor we, can tell in an e-mail or a telephone exchange if the piano has developed a cracked pin block, tuning instability, bridge cracks or other countless internal atrocities, capable of inflicting thousands of dollars in repair bills.
It is also for these reasons that buying a piano privately can be so dangerous. It is more often the case that the seller simply doesn’t really know the condition of their piano and what problems it has developed over the years. Valuations will help determine value from any one of the following perspectives:
- selling it to a friend or relative
- selling it on the open market
- replacing it with a current, identical make/model
- replacing it with a current, similar make/model
- trading it in
- donating it to a non-for-profit institution
- restoring it / assessing damage
- insuring it
So while we enjoy helping folks with pianos and piano-related topics, helping establish the value of a piano that we physically don’t have in front of us is something we can’t do, this is why we use the range method in our on line valuation service.
No accurate assessment can be made unless we see the instrument.
A spinet piano stands less than 39″ tall (from the floor to the top of the lid) and has an action mechanism much different from its taller relatives – the console, studio and upright.
Consoles tend to be between 40″ and 44″ tall; studios are usually 45″ to 47″ tall, while uprights are generally 48″ or more. All are classified as vertical pianos, which distinguishes them from the horizontally-designed grand pianos.
Why does height matter? Generally speaking, the taller the piano, the longer the strings are, the bigger the soundboard is and the better the action is. These features help the taller piano to perform and sound better than the shorter one – providing all other factors are equal (brand, vintage, condition, etc…).
For the beginning student however, a spinet piano can serve as an excellent “stepping stone” instrument providing it has been properly restored.
Which is right for you?
The acoustic piano is not for everybody. The digital piano is not for everybody. If you are unaware which one is right for YOU and/or YOUR family, it is important for you to consult a vastly knowledgeable and musical dealership who is clearly invested in selling both acoustic and digital. In fact, the quickest dealerships to dismiss in an attempt to gain unbiased information on this issue are those who do not actively sell both. This will help remove an obvious ulterior motive from dealerships who sell only one or the other, or carry only a few of one of the categories as “props” to help sell what they truly are in business to sell. In many areas, this may be difficult to find.
The method used to help determine which is right for you begins with an important consultation about what you are hoping to accomplish with the instrument you seek. You can then be enlightened as to the features of acoustic, digital and even “hybrid” pianos to further fine tune (no pun intended) those needs. More often than not, this can raise important issues that you may have never thought of, which can drastically change what you thought you might have wanted or secure your confidence in the original product you sought.
In many cultures, music education is almost a birthright, a compulsory component of a child’s education which parents enforce alongside the “three R’s”. In New Zealand culture, this sadly is often not the case.
Learning to play an instrument is often considered a recreational activity, to which parents wish to expose their children; however, they may not place it any higher on the priority totem pole than say, rugby or gymnastics. Which parent are you? The answer may largely play a part in what type of piano you should consider for your child(ren).
Have you ever, as an adult, said that you wish your parents would have offered you lessons or wish your parents would have made you stick with it? If so, then please don’t ever let your children say that about you!
Your children are growing up in the Microsoft Generation, the world where almost every activity offers more instant results than learning to play a musical instrument.
TV, computers, video games, sports, MTV, pop culture are all part of today’s life in most young people. Some of these activities can be argued are important in some capacity, yet all vie for the same daily time slots that could have been spent practicing an instrument which could have culturally enriched a child’s life.
With all of these factors, the parent’s role in their child’s musical aptitude is ever on the rise. These social changes should be examined to determine how they might affect your effort to musically educate your child in today’s world.
That said, learning to play the piano on a good digital piano is the equivalent of snowboarding instead of skiing. Both snowboarding and skiing can get you down the hill, but snowboarding is the more popular means by which younger people prefer to do it these days. In general, they tend to relate to it better, especially those children who spend a great deal of time on the computer, as digital pianos are actually distant relatives to the computer and are even capable of being connected to a comptuer for enhanced learning. Families who limit their children’s exposure to and participation in the world of pop culture may be better suited with an acoustic piano.
Music education has varying levels of importance in different cultures as well as in different homes on the same street. We want to let you know that no matter how you choose to treat music education in your family, it is important you intelligently choose the proper instrument.
(sometimes these are called the Apprentice piano because they have not been put together by the highest skilled persons on the shop floor nor made for the higher quality export market)
Are you looking for a used Kawai or Yamaha, or have you found one you’re considering purchasing? Before you make any down payments, the following could be the most important information you’ll ever read regarding your upcoming piano purchase.
Gray Market or used Japanese pianos, as strange as it sounds, are starting to find their way into many homes and dealerships in New Zealand. Their prices are attractive but not much else is. Piano Services do not sell Gray Market or used Japanese pianos but we do have great pleasure in providing service support for these pianos because they do create us alot of work and income! We wish everyone well with their piano purchase and hope everybody ends up with the piano of their dreams.
Q: “What are Gray Market used Japanese pianos?”
A: Gray Market used Japanese pianos are pianos that are transshipped into a geographic region other than the one for which the piano was specifically designed and manufactured.
Q: “Why are they in the New Zealand?”
A: Because there is a great demand in this country for used, Japanese-made pianos, while there is an almost non-existent availability of legitimate, NZ-used Japanese pianos.
Q: “How do they get here?”
A: It started afew years ago as an experiment in getting rid of excess inventories in Japan. Most of them are shipped in by companies that had previously been in the business of importing other Japanese products.
Q: “Why are there so many of them available overseas when I can’t find any here?”
A: Well, first of all it is important to understand that “overseas” refers specifically to Japan. This distinction is made because for many, many decades, Kawai and Yamaha have dominated the Japanese market with virtually no competition from competing nations or manufacturers.
Conversely, Kawai and Yamaha pianos have only been sold in New Zealand since the early sixties with a tremendous amount of competition. It stands to reason that far more Kawai and Yamaha pianos are bound to become available in Japan with the kinds of numbers they have produced through the years in Japan. Other contributors to the glut of used Kawai and Yamaha pianos available in Japan include:
1) . . . the resistance to buying a used piano in Japan by Japanese families. Unlike in other areas, the selection and purchase of a family piano is one of the most vital purchases a Japanese family makes – far too important to condescend to buying a used one.
2) . . . damaged pianos. If selling a used piano to a Japanese family is difficult, try selling a damaged one. While we might welcome these discounts, Japanese families often don’t consider it an option.
3) . . . trading up. Their success with and dedication to musical studies as a country is far greater than almost anywhere in the world which leads to more trade ins, even if it requires dedicating more space in their small homes than most would ever consider allocating in their living rooms.
4) . . . universities. Practice rooms in Japanese conservatories are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fierce competition among the students along with the limited number of practice rooms available require the practice pianos to be used up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This kind of wear is exponentially greater than a residentially-used piano. These pianos get traded in every five to ten years for identical new ones. This process keeps the university’s maintenance down and also helps in the recruiting of new students (with the promise of there being new pianos in the practice rooms).
There are few takers for these pianos in Japan, despite the efforts to sell them by reducing their costs to a fraction of a new one. So they get a makeover and get shipped to a market where they can be sold more easily.
Q: “Who buys them?”
A: Most often it is the piano stores who are not Kawai or Yamaha dealers. Kawai and Yamaha are powerful names in the marketplace which represent a large portion of all new pianos sold in the world. Since the availability of legitimate, used Kawai and Yamaha pianos is so scarce that dealers are almost forced to carry these Gray Market or used Japanese pianos, even if their business ethics might have encouraged otherwise.
Q: “How are they different?”
A: For starters, the pianos that are coming in from Japan were specifically designed and manufactured for use in Japan’s own domestic market/climate. Pianos are extremely environmentally-sensitive instruments and in many cases are not capable providing trouble-free service once shipped into a geographic region other than the one for which it was designed. For example, when Yamaha first began importing pianos to the United States, back in the early 1960’s, their engineers were unaware of the level of dryness that exist in that country. As a result, most of those pianos suffered loose tuning pins within the first of couple of years.
In response to the problem, Yamaha sent teams of factory personnel all over the country, and repinned literally thousands of pianos. They learned their lesson the hard way. The experience led them to the development of computer-controlled drying kilns, as well as other manufacturing procedures, so that pianos destined for the U.S. Market would be better built to acclimate themselves to our environment. Similar problems to those in the early 60’s are being reported all over the country with gray market pianos that are trying to acclimate to their new climate.
The wood that is used for the soundboards, rims, pin blocks, actions and other case parts is specifically dried down to a much lower moisture content in the pianos that are destined for anywhere outside Japan. The wood in pianos designated specifically for Japan have twice as much humidity, or more representing a significantly shorter kiln time, thus a great cost savings to the manufacturer. Japan is the only region where Kawai and Yamaha can be certain their pianos will exist in significant levels of year-round humidity, therefore they can forego the additional costly drying time that would be needed for all other markets.
The effects of improperly seasoned wood are certainly not limited to pianos; however their effects are often far more profound and critical on pianos than on say, furniture. Most wooden products don’t have the need to be, nor the luxury of being, kiln dried. There is no other product that is required to withstand 40-60,000 pounds of constant pressure while allowing many of its 10,000 parts to move within 1/1000ths of an inch to each other. When tolerances like these are disturbed, the problems can grow from ill-fitting and warped case parts, to intermittent buzzes, squeaks and rattles, to cracked or separated soundboards, bridges, pin blocks, and rims.
You should also be aware that if any work has been done to these pianos it is certainly not top-notch work, as cost savings would have been their primary goal, not high-quality restoration.
Q: “Why don’t I want one?”
A: It is important to realize that by purchasing a Gray Market or used Japanese piano, you are not buying the same quality instrument that a new Kawai or Yamaha would offer, for half the price. Technological advancements and dedication to quality have continued to improve Japanese pianos to reach new levels in musicality and durability.
Another factor to consider is that there is absolutely no factory warranty coverage on these pianos. These pianos vary in styles and this can range from cabinet styles and finishes to internal components. There are many models and styles, built for other areas of the world, that are quite different than what is sold new here. As a result, parts support can become a rather complicated affair for the piano owner, since the technical support departments are unable to assist with such matters. (Yamaha recently and publicly announced that if a parts order is requested for a serial number that was a Gray Market or used Japanese piano, they will not provide parts or service – nor should they given that specifications and parts often differ in products sold in different countries. Kawai will likely formalize a statement to the same effect. Without being able to get parts, repairs will be extremely difficult if not virtually impossible.
Q: “But the dealer said he will guarantee it for many years . . . “
A: Of course there will be a warranty offered, but you will never know the extent of the warranty until an expensive repair is needed – a pretty risky endeavor for such a large purchase, especially since Kawai and Yamaha can’t provide parts. Any warranty offered is coming from the dealer, not the manufacturer, regardless of the age of the piano. The fact that the dealer knows the potential hazards of these pianos yet continues to offer them should be the first clue as to the extent of the warranty. Furthermore, many of the repairs would constitute an entire rebuild or refinish job in order to match the standards of the original craftsmanship. Cosmetic repairs such as repairing a bubbled or cracked veneer are especially challenging, considering that there are strict governmental regulations against the spraying of polyester in New Zealand (Polyester is the durable material responsible for the glass-like finish found on Japanese pianos, much unlike the lacquers used on most furniture products.)
Q: “The dealer said it was traded in to him . . .
A: . . . or that it was bought from an estate sale or a little old lady . . . anything besides the less-appealing truth. It is unlawful for the dealer to misrepresent where the piano came from, yet this frequently occurs because the dealer certainly doesn’t want to tell you it came from a Japanese conservatory, that is if he even knows where or how it was used in Japan. It is more likely that you will here a story about how the piano was traded in to the dealer for whatever reason or that they purchased it privately (thus limiting his liability to have known its prior history in case its origin is discovered ex post facto). The idea of asking the dealer to produce a proof of origin is futile, because any dealer who is going to carry these instruments, might not hesitate fabricating an invoice showing a favorable background.
Q: “How do I know if the piano I’m looking at is a Gray Market or used Japanese piano?”
A: For starters, if the instrument in question is a two pedal piano, it is almost a dead giveaway it came from the Japanese domestic market, as Kawais and Yamahas sold in New Zealand for the past thirty years have had three pedals. That does not mean, however, that a three pedal piano is immune from being a Gray Market or used Japanese piano.
Final word of caution:
Gray Market or used Japanese pianos are available to any dealer who wants them in New Zealand at prices no different from one another. Dealers with high standards typically stay far away from them for many reasons, not just because of the questionable longevity of the pianos. The manner in which these pianos are gathered abroad, bought and sold, and distributed is undesirable to say the least.
Importers and resellers of these pianos are often buying these instruments sight unseen, from a “grade” scale that has no international or common standard. If you have any question as to the potential dilemmas and horrors that you have come across by a wholesaler purchasing sight unseen from abroad, let alone a reseller and subsequent merchant and end-user purchasing the same piano sight unseen, please consult a PPTG member to find out if the Guild can help or advise. There is an adage in the piano world that “the more severe a problem, the less likely a layperson or even a player can detect it”. If the price sounds too good to be true (meaning significantly under market value for other similar used pianos), it probably is.
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The following is…..
The Piano traces its ancestors back to the earliest stringed instruments; the keyboard was added in the 12th century. Since the development of the true “pianoforte” in Italy in the 18th century, the piano has made itself right at home anywhere music is played. It blends well with other instruments, and it is the ideal solo instrument.
Learning to play the piano puts you in touch with melody, harmony and rhythm–and with the whole range of human emotions, from Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata to rollicking ragtime.
Maybe you know all this.
Maybe you’re ready to buy a piano.
How do you go about deciding which is the best one for you?
First, keep in mind that you will be listening to, and looking at, your piano for a long time. The average lifetime of a piano is about 40 years, and you will probably have it long after you have sold your present furniture, house and car. Pianos depreciate very little. A used piano built 10 years ago and maintained well will cost almost as much as a comparable new piano. So buy the best piano you can afford. Especially, don’t try to economize on a piano for a child who’s starting lessons. Making good music on a quality instrument is the best way to keep a young pianist interested.
Which type Of Piano Is For You?
Almost since the first piano was built, manufacturers have been trying to make it smaller. This has been no easy task, because good tone in a piano requires certain minimums in length of string and size of soundboard.First, the size of the original grand piano was cut by the use of stronger frames and an innovative system of cross-stringing, Then, in the late 1800’s, the upright or vertical piano was developed, sending the space-consuming bulk of the instrument up along the wall, rather than out across the floor.
This was so successful that today some larger professional-quality uprights can have equal or better tone quality than many small grands.
Eventually, even the upright was shortened, and in some cases ingenious scale design compensates in tone for the loss of size. Still, this rule of thumb generally applies: the larger the piano, the better the tone.
The grand piano ranges in size from five to nine feet (concert grand). It tends to be more responsive and powerful than a vertical piano; a top-quality grand is the best investment if the pianist is aiming for concert performance, or if space and money are unlimited. But if the choice is between a so-so grand and a good vertical, choose the vertical. These range in size from 36 to 51 inches in height; all of them require the same amount of floor space, about 5 feet by 2 feet. The largest of the verticals is the studio piano — 44 inches or taller — a type that is becoming quite popular. Verticals 39 to 42 inches tall are called consoles. The smallest of the verticals is the spinet, a popular choice because of its small size, from 36 to 39 inches high.
Once you’ve chosen the size piano that’s right for your space, aspirations and pocketbook, decide what style piano you want. Verticals have elegant cabinets and are particularly adaptable to styling, but remember that piano styles are slightly more conservative than other kinds of furniture. Look at the music rack and leg designto determine whether the style will be compatible with your furnishings. A piano cabinet whose design contrasts with your other furniture can be as attractive as one that blends with it.
While finances surely will figure in deciding what kind of piano you will buy, at least consider a top quality new piano. If you do decide on a rebuilt or used one, exercise all the caution you’d take if you were looking for a used car. Don’t buy a used piano for any reason unless you check with a qualified tuner-technician. A 250-year-old violin, well made and well maintained, is often a magnificent and valuable musical instrument. A 100-year-old piano, however, may not be so magnificent although if you are willing to pay the price most old piano’s can be refurbished.
Shop Wisely: It’s An Investment
A piano is an extremely complicated mechanism that depends on the proper distribution of tremendous weight, top-quality materials, impeccable craftsmanship, and unflagging care to produce good music. Unlike some musical instruments, the piano has profited greatly in tone and performance as a result of recent technological improvements, and modern pianos are far superior in many ways to their predecessors.
In the past, the lumber used in constructing pianos was dried and cured in manually controlled kilns. Sometimes the temperature was ideal, and the lumber was cured properly; sometimes it was not. Today, electronic controls keep the temperature and relative humidity of the lumber kilns at the optimum level at all times, assuring properly cured wood for your piano.
You should approach buying a new piano with the same care you’d bring to any important investment, especially if you’re not familiar with the various manufacturers (there are more than 50 different brand names of new pianos on the market).Go to the showrooms of the dealers you’ve selected Keep in mind that a piano will sound brighter in a large bare showroom, mellower in a small carpeted and draped room. Particularly if you don’t play the piano (and even if you do), go armed with a good idea of what goes into making a top-quality piano. Try not to let a salesman’s fancy playing distract you from the nuts and bolts you came to inspect. Reputable dealers can be expected to help you select the right piano for your needs, and then stand behind it, but you’re best off if you can make an informed choice.
If you decide to buy a piano, enlist the aid of a qualified tuner-technician. There’s often a fine line between a “real find” and a piece of junk. And that fine line may take the form of a hairline crack in a vital part of the piano or in some other technical flaw. The tuner-technician is really the only person qualified to tell you whether a piano is worth buying.
Some dealers, rebuilders and technicians have good buys in used pianos, but for the most part you’ll be looking at pianos in private homes.Inspect a used piano at least as rigorously as you would a new one. Try every key with the right-hand pedal depressed to check the tone, and make sure the keyboard, pedals and hammers don’t stick or squeak. Bring a flashlight and open the top. Look to see that all the hammers and strings are there and in good condition. Make sure the hammers aren’t moth-eaten and check for rust and dirt.
Ask who has had the piano; if it was a serious pianist, the instrument probably got care. Write down the brand name and serial number and ask your technician to find out how old it is.
When you find a likely piano have Piano Services inspect it.
When you begin your personal inspection of the piano you are thinking of buying, look at some of the technical aspects of the piano design so you can compare “apples with apple”.
Start with the back. there will be five or six vertical posts that serve as stays against the frame, giving added strength to resist the tremendous pull of the strings inside. The posts should be heavy and strong enough to provide adequate support in proportion to the rest of the piano.
Next, check the soundboard, a wooden board at the back that translates the vibrations of the strings into the “tone” of the piano. The soundboard is one of the vital parts of the piano, and is is made of spruce in many top-quality instruments. The fine, straight grain in spruce is ideal for conducting sound.The ribs on the back of the soundboard should run from one edge of the soundboard to the other for support.
Inspect the plate – an irregularly-shaped piece of cast iron bolted to the back of the frame. It holds one end of the piano strings, and anchors most of the 18 to 20 tons of pull exerted by the taut piano strings.
The treble and bass bridges are another of the piano’s vital organs. These long pieces of hard maple are attached to the soundboard, transferring the vibrations of the string to the soundboard.The bass strings are wound with wire to add weight and reduce the frequency at which the string vibrates. This allows the use of relatively shorter string to produce deeper notes.
At the top of the plate, the strings are wound through and around tuning pins. These are set into the pin block, constructed of layers of carefully seasoned hard wood which grips the pins in place for tuning stability.
The working section of the piano is called the action. There are inbetween 7,500 and 9,000 parts here, all playing a role in sending the hammers against the strings when keys are struck.Grand pianos all have horizontal action, and upright pianos have vertical action. There are two kinds of vertical action–“direct-blow,” which pushes the mechanism that controls the hammer, found in taller pianos; and “indirect-blow” or “drop” action, which pulls the mechanism in lower silhouette instruments.
Piano hammers are formed of one or two layers of felt forged onto the wooden hammer molding under tremendous pressure. If a dealer talks to you about a 9-pound hammer as opposed to a 12-pound hammer, hemeans the weight of the sheets of felt that were used to make the hammers.
By the time you see the piano in the showroom, it has been tuned at the factory several times, starting with the “chip” or rough tuning before the mechanism is even locked into the cabinet. The last fine adjustment, called “voicing,” includes the regulation of the hammer felts for individual notes.
Now, you can take your head out of the inside of the piano, and consider the externals again.
The piano keys rest in the key bed, a perfectly flat well in the front of the cabinet that keeps the keys level.Each key is balanced by a center pin, and “bushed” with fine wool for silence and proper clearance. The “ivories” are rarely ivory anymore, but a fine molded plastic that won’t crack or turn yellow. The black keys are made of a similar material.
Most pianos have three pedals, but most pianists need only two. The sustaining, or damper pedal on the right lifts the dampers (which in a resting position prevent the strings from vibrating) away from the strings so that the tone is sustained after the keys are released.The pedal on the left, called una corda, mutes the tone by shortening the distance the hammers travel or by shifting the action slightly so fewer strings are hit. Many pianos have a third pedal for sustaining bass tones only, On most grand pianos and some uprights, the third pedal is a sostenuto, which sustains selected tonesat the pianist’s discretion.
Finally, there’s the cabinet, that handsome piece of furniture that will take a prominent place in your decor.Modern cabinets are made of core stock overlaid with thin veneers of fine furniture wood. Many grains and finishes are available and modern finishing techniques assure excellent appearance and easy care for years.
Once your new piano is in your home, find a place for it where its mechanism won’t be exposed to abrupt changes in temperature. Don’t put it next to a frequently opened outside door or in front of a picture window, and don’t put it near heating ducts or radiators. A temperature of 20 degrees Celsius and a 42 percent humidity is ideal for a piano. Talk to Piano Services about controlling these factors. Climate control devices can be purchased to help the piano with the correct humidity.
After you move a piano from store to house, or to any new environment, wait a few weeks for it to become acclimated before having it tuned. The first year, tune it four times, with the change of seasons, and have it tuned at least twice a year after that. A piano’s continued good performance depends on regular maintenance.Dust the outside of the piano about once a week with a soft cloth, following the grain of the wood, and clean the keys with a sponge dampened with water or a very mild soap.
Don’t tinker with the inside of the piano; don’t use bug sprays or mothballs inside, and don’t try to oil it yourself. Also, don’t set drinks or flowers on top of the piano. If liquids spill inside, they can cause metal parts to rust and wood parts to stick.
Have the inside cleaned professionally once every three years. Technicians find dust residue very useful when assessing the condition of a piano, please do not vacuum or clean the instrument yourself as you will remove vital information.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your piano is play it often.