Did You Know?
Approximately a quarter of a million new
pianos are bought every year in the U.S., and nearly one million old
pianos are sold.
Buying a new piano is quite an investment. There are a list of points you need to keep in mind while making such an investment.
First of all, you need to determine the purpose of buying the instrument. If you or your child is learning the piano, there's a range of pianos for you. Or if you require one for your studio, school, or professional use, then there's a whole range of pianos for you.
The qualities and price differ as per the purpose of the instrument. Don't forget to consider the space you have before buying a piano. The room acoustics play an important role while playing.
Things to Look for When Buying a Piano
You need to select a piano that has the musical tone that you like. The best way to know that is by visiting retail music stores. You could always consult your music teacher as well as a piano technician.
Sizes of an Upright Piano
A spinet is the smallest of the vertical pianos, standing at 36" to 40" in height. Like the vertical piano, a spinet too has vertical strings, but its hammers are in front of the strings, which move horizontally to strike them. Unlike the other pianos, a spinet's action hangs at the back of the keys, which are mostly placed below them.
This is the shortest upright piano, with its size ranging from 36" - 40" in height. This is ideal for people who live in a limited space, viz., apartments.
This piano is a slightly larger spinet. Its height ranges from 40" - 44". It has a decent quality of tone.
This piano ranges from 43" - 47". It is vastly used for learning and practicing. It is often used in studio pianos.
This is the tallest upright piano with a size ranging from 47'' - 52''. The professional upright piano stands tall in comparison to a grand piano.
A vertical piano is also known as studio upright piano. It stands between 40" to 47" in height. Unlike the grand piano, it has hammers in front of the strings, which move horizontally to strike the vertical strings. Actions rest on the back of the keys.
Sizes of Grand Pianos
It is the most popular and one of the smallest grand pianos, hence the name. Baby grand ranges from 5' – 5'4" in size. It is also the most popular choice among those who live in limited quarters. Don't let the size fool you. It is one of the best pianos for beginners on a budget.
The size of the medium grand piano ranges from 5'5" - 5'9". People often use it at home, but mostly, it is used in schools and practice rooms. Many prefer this piano for the size of it.
Living Room Grand
This piano is best suited for large living rooms, hence the name. Its size ranges from 5'10" - 6'1".
This is also known as the smallest of the concert grand pianos. Its size ranges from 6'2" - 6'9". This is ideal for those who require a rich bass. It is mostly found in recording studios or recital halls.
Music Room Grand
This also known as medium concert grand piano, and is vastly used in recording studios, mid-size concert venues, and institutions. Its size ranges from 6'10 - 7'10. These pianos have the key length of a concert grand piano, which is 21'' - 22'', which gives its player a better control.
The daddy of all pianos. You will find these at symphony halls, major concerts, and venues. It stands the tallest at 9", hence, bestowing it with the title of being the ultimate piano.
The grand piano ranges from 5" to 9" in height. Action rests on the back of the keys, and unlike the other two types of pianos, the grand piano has horizontal strings with the hammers lying below the strings, rising to strike them.
Guide to Buy a Piano
You need to select a piano that has the musical tone that you like. The best way to know that is by visiting retail music stores. You could always consult your music teacher as well as a piano technician. You can consider the following grades.
♬ Grade 1 pianos provide the highest quality of performance. However, they are very expensive. They are suitable for the most advanced professionals and meant for artistic uses. This will set you back between $14,000 to $90,000.
♬ Grade 2 pianos are high-performance pianos. Don't be fooled by the grade; they are just as good as Grade 1. They are suitable for home as well as for professional and artistic uses. They can range between $6,000 to $50,000.
♬ Grade 3 pianos are of customer liking. They are mostly of Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, and U.S. makes. They are best for beginners and perfect for home or institutional use. They come to your doorstep after high quality control standards and excellent warranty service. They also come with enhanced and advanced features. These pianos are fairly easy on the pocket as compared to the previous two, and can cost you around $3,500 to $34,000.
♬ Last but certainly not the least, Grade 4 pianos are of medium quality. They are of high-quality Chinese make, with imported materials from the U.S. as well as Europe. However, you may want to be a little cautious while buying this piano. It can cost you around $2,500 to $19,000.
♬ To make it simpler, choose a piano that gives you more cabinetry and finish choices, complimentary tuning, moving, and the best manufacturer's warranty.
♬ Negotiate with the dealer to give you a trade-up policy, which will give you the full purchased price of your piano when you desire to upgrade to a higher quality one.
♬ You can also pay a little more and get an extended manufacturer's warranty.
Purchase a piano privately. You can do that by looking for them in the classified ads in the newspaper. Do not buy a piano online. Internet will come in handy while locating a piano dealer. Find a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) in your area, who could guide you better while buying. Take the help of a professional while buying a piano as it will reduce the risk buying a faulty piece. He will also help you to evaluate and negotiate the rate.
Inspect Every Part of the Piano
Get acquainted better with the parts of the piano. Ignorance can lead you to buying a broken and expensive piano.
The posts should be solid, heavy, and strong enough to give it adequate support. It should be in proportion to the rest of the piano.
Base strings are wound with a wire to add weight and reduce unneeded string vibrations. This allows the short strings to produce deeper notes. There are around 7,500 working parts called the action. They play an important role while playing the piano.
It is made of core stock laminated with fine wood or thin veneers. Again check if there are any cracks or chips.
Piano hammers are formed by forging layers of felt onto a wooden hammer, which is later molded under tremendous pressure. Take a close look at its finishing.
Piano keys lay on a key bed, balanced by a center pin, and bushed with a kind of fine wool; this helps for proper clearance. The black keys are a fine quality of molded plastic, whereas the ivories
are (no longer made of ivory) are made from a similar material, which prevents it from cracking and turning yellow. Play them and see if they are too hard or light.
Though many pianists prefer two pedals, most pianos have three. The right pedal is known as the sustain pedal
. When lifted, it lifts the dampers away from the strings, allowing the tone to sustain even after the keys are released. While resting, the pedal prevents the strings from vibrating. Take a look at each pedal to ensure its finish.
The pedal on the left is called the soft pedal or una corda pedal
. It mutes the tone either by shifting the action slightly or by shortening the hammer's travel.
The base pedal is situated in the middle of the above-mentioned two pedals. It meant for sustaining bass tones only. In most grand pianos, the third pedal is the sostenuto pedal
, which is meant to sustain tones.
It is an irregularly-shaped piece of cast iron that is bolted to the back of the frame. It holds one end of the piano strings, and anchors most of the twenty tons of pull exerted by the taut strings.
The soundboard is one of the vital parts of the piano. It is the back of the instrument that translates the vibrations into the "tone" of the piano. See to it that it isn't broken, or has developed or is developing cracks.
Treble and bass bridges
The treble and base bridges are also vital parts of a piano. These are long pieces of maple, which are attached to the soundboard. Don't get confused when the salesperson says Strung back
; it is the part of the piano that is responsible for amplifying sound and balancing the tension produced from the strings.
Tips While Buying a New Piano
☞ Take an experienced piano player along with you.
☞ Ask a professional technician about your doubts.
☞ Try out several pianos and ask the salesperson to play the same instrument. Pay special attention to how the keys feel when you press them down. Observe when the salesperson plays; check if the keys go down about 3/8". If it goes further down, it will be tiring to play and eventually won't work correctly. Check whether they are stiff or loose. This is called touch. You'll need it to be easy to touch and easy on the ears. Listen to the instrument carefully.
☞ Take the size of the instrument and the room you are planning to place it in under consideration.
☞ Move the keys far enough sideways to check if they hit each other. If so, then that is a sign of missing felt or dry felt and will eventually need to be fixed.
☞ Play all keys from one end to the other, to ensure all keys are light, consistent, and all notes make a sound.
☞ Open the piano and examine the strings and other action parts. Check whether all the strings, hammers, and dampers are in place.
☞ Check the level of the hammers. Watch if it wobbles.
☞ Check if you hear a zinging sound on the release of the keys. It often means that the dampers are hard and need to be replaced.
☞ Longer the strings or the bigger the soundboard, the better the tone. Choose the tallest upright or the longest grand piano that you can afford.
Take your time for choosing the piano. Do not rush into buying the instrument. Browse several stores and brands as this will give you a better knowledge of all that is available in the market. Play them all and listen to them closely. Try and negotiate the rate. While checking the warranty, it should offer both parts and labor. Also, ask if the warranty can be transferred to a new owner―this is in case you decide to sell the piano; this will increase the instrument's resale value.