Buying a piano can be an intimidating
prospect. If you’re an experienced
player, you know how important a high-quality instrument is; if you’re just
starting out, you may not be sure what to look for. We've assembled some tips to help you get
Renting vs. Buying
Even if your long-term plans include
purchasing, rental can be a great option.
It gives you the opportunity to
try out an instrument before committing to purchase, and some dealers will
allow you to apply some or all “rental credit” towards purchase. Rental is very popular for parents whose kids
are starting lessons, too.
Your first decision
in choosing a piano is the type: vertical, grand, or digital.
Vertical pianos get their name from the fact that their
strings run vertically: if you open the top you’ll see the strings running from
top to bottom. Vertical pianos are designed to fit compactly against a wall.
The classic shape and efficient design of grand pianos make them the most prized
of all pianos. Grand pianos have several inherent advantages over vertical
pianos. Their horizontal, gravity-assisted actions allow them better control
and faster repetition of notes. Their open tops allow more efficient tone escapement.
And their large, shaped soundboards produce fuller and clearer tone.
Many people who don’t play piano at all
purchase grand pianos for a variety of reasons, including decorating,
entertaining (particularly when outfitted with a player system), investment,
piano plays and sounds a lot like an acoustic piano. The primary difference
is that the sound is generated electronically instead of with felt hammers,
strings, and a soundboard.
While serious players tend to prefer acoustic
pianos, beginners may have fun imitating such sounds as whistles, drums, and
guitars on the digital piano. Meanwhile,
headphones prevent beginners from interfering the others’ activities in the
home. Digitals tend not to go out of tune, and they may be connected to
computers to allow use of musical software.
Pianists who play in rock bands often prefer
digitals because of their capacity for sound boosting through separate, large
It’s difficult to shop for pianos simply by brand names. The main reason is that most manufacturers
make pianos with several different levels of quality.
To be sure this practice is not unique to the
piano market. General Motors, for example, has built a wide variety of
vehicles, from the Corvair, Vega, and Chevette, to the Corvette, Cadillac, and
Hummer. They are all GM products, but there are significant differences in
quality between them.
Likewise most piano manufacturers, including
Baldwin, Yamaha, Young Chang, and Kawai, build a variety of qualities. When
considering pianos from any of these manufacturers, it’s important to know
which quality level a model is. Ask the
salesperson and stop to research the models you’re considering online.
Where to Buy
To make a wise piano selection you need to see
and compare a broad selection of pianos. Good piano dealers know this and
provide a big display of piano models to choose from.
Pianos must be close to one another for you
to hear the differences between them. It’s virtually impossible to compare the
sound and touch of pianos that are in different stores. Consequently you’ll
find it easier to make your choice from a store with a large selection.
The old saying, “You can judge a man by the
company he keeps,” adapts well to the piano market: “You can judge a piano dealer by the brands
he keeps,” and “You can judge a brand by the dealer who keeps it.”
Your sales person should always start by
asking you questions. He or she can’t make an appropriate recommendation
unless he/she finds out about your intended use for the piano, your tastes, and
your budget for the purchase. Beware of any sales person who recommends a piano
to you without asking you about these things. No piano is right for every
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