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Piano Buyer's Guide

Buying a piano can be a daunting task for most people  – we thought we’d help with a how-to-guide for buying a piano.

So what are the first questions you need to ask yourself?

Most people decide on either an acoustic Piano or a digital (Electric) Piano, later in the month we will be writing a guide for Digital Piano Buyer’s Guide and Acoustic Versus Digital Pianos. Other factors to take into account are whether you want a grand piano, high-end piano or a piano for a school or musical institution. For now we’ll take it that you have settled on an upright piano for a student at the start of the learning curve.

The next step is to decide on a budget. Theoretically you could be lucky buying a “starter piano” for a few hundred pounds from an auction, friend or newspaper but this can be very risky as you really don’t know what you are buying.

The piano could be defective requiring a lot of money spent on it, it could be beyond economical repair or may even be a danger to your home because of woodworm infestation. The “fear factor” can be removed by buying from a reputable dealer like Henderson Music who has been in business for over 40 years.

New piano prices start from around £2,000-00, include a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty and provide long term peace of mind particularly if buying from a piano dealer with a long established reputation. Where possible get an opinion from someone you know who has had a good experience with a dealer. A good review travels fast – A bad review travels faster!

There are of course “previously owned” or “second-hand” options which could also be considered which are very good choices and offer long term solutions for buyers who want good quality, an instrument with good lifespan but with savings due to accumulated depreciation compared to the price of a new equivalent Piano. Without the protection of a manufacturer’s warranty it is important that you only consider these pianos which have a good retailer warranty. If the Piano is as good as the dealer says it is then his recommendation should be backed up with a good warranty!

Typical good buys second-hand would be Japanese made Yamaha and Kawai Pianos. Those over 20 years old may have lost some of their tone but will still be okay if in good condition and have been serviced regularly. Good examples of these Pianos range from £2,500 upwards.

The optimum height of an upright Piano is 120cm. This size will have good string length which is an important factor in determining the Pianos tonal qualities. Other important factors governing tone is the combination and quality of woods, wools, felts and strings used in the Pianos construction.

The final important ingredient is the Piano Artisan/Technician whose experienced ear and craftsmanship will bring out the best in the instrument through voicing, regulation and tuning. All of these attributes will determine where the piano will rank musically.

In terms of cost German made Pianos would be at the most expensive end of the market with upright Pianos starting from £8,000-00.  Japanese made Pianos have prices starting at £4,000-00 ranging up to the higher category uprights (120cm and above) starting at £5,500-00 and above.

Chinese manufactured Pianos start at £2,000-00 approx. and will suit those students at the beginning of their musical journey. Historically with lower production costs and less costly components these Pianos have their place in the market place however a trade up to a better quality instrument may be considered after a few years when the student has progressed to the more advanced Examination grade levels.

Where limited budget and space dictate then most manufacturers have Piano models from 108cm which are modern styled and are less dominant in a room compared to the taller upright Piano models. With restricted string length these Pianos usually have less tone but will be less costly than the higher category models.

The advice of a piano teacher or experienced Pianist can be helpful when choosing a suitable Piano as they will have a knowledge of good “tone and touch” both of which are central characteristics of a good instrument.

As to the care of your piano, its acoustics and accessories we’ll back to in further articles.